Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, like so many academic environments in and around our region, is more than just a building. It is more than just four walls where teachers and students gather to learn.

Rather, we are a community of engagement, a community that encourages our students, faculty and administrators to gain knowledge from one another, to socialize and to enjoy the daily general and Judaic studies that we offer. 

Fortunately, the enjoyment of learning will not change even in this new temporary socially distant world. Thanks to connectivity, our Beth Tfiloh community, along with educational communities around our region and our country, can enjoy instructional continuity even without physically being together.

“School at home” is how I like to characterize our new existence and we all need to make adjustments, settle in and plow forward. Keeping kids engaged, connected and learning means different things to different divisions. No matter the age of the student, a routine is priority one. We have suggested to our families that kids wake at the same time each day on school mornings (M-F), that they eat a healthy breakfast and create a quiet space designed for learning and study.  Each of our divisions is communicating with parents and students via daily emails sent ahead of time so everyone can prepare for the week ahead.  Assignments, homework, and regular assessments are continuing as scheduled. 

At Beth Tfiloh, like at every school, we are aware that distance learning will present challenges, but also unforeseen benefits for children and parents alike. 

Here is how we are advising our students and families to plow forward at Beth Tfiloh:

  • Preschool engagement should continue in the form of virtual sing-alongs, story time and suggested indoor and outdoor physical play activities. 
  • Lower school children will have more questions about what is happening in our world, what the duration of this new norm will look like, and how we can go forward.  We are suggesting structured learning time balanced with an opportunity to be creative and move for this age group. 
  • Middle and high schoolers may worry a bit more about how this pandemic will impact them.  When will life return to normal? How is this impacting my social and academic world?  It is important to answer these questions with honesty and compassion.
  • High Schoolers should also recognize that the anxieties and worry they are having about the college testing and AP process is shared by all of their peers. The college testing companies are mandating certain changes so no student will be at a disadvantage since the entire system will be adjusted to fit the new reality.
  • Adults don’t know the answers and, while that is unsettling, it is important for kids of all ages to know we are in this together as one community. 
  • It is important to remind kids to continue their own self-care and to engage in activities that bring them joy, though these activities may be modified for now.

Through it all, our teachers are supporting kids educationally and emotionally.  These are unprecedented times, but we need to be sure our kids continue to learn and ensure that their emotional health stays strong, too.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky said it best on how to properly practice social distancing: “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how me might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”

This reminds us to stay connected amidst our separation, to not forget those in need of “warmth and concern.” At Beth Tfiloh, we are encouraging our school and shul community to embrace this philosophy.

Similar to our traditional school day, school at home is guided on the pillars of our Jewish beliefs. It is important to remain positive and in good spirits, and rely on our faith to guide us through. Until we can greet each other in carpool line or throughout the halls of our beautiful school, we need to know that we remain connected to each other and keep each other company — even from afar. 

And don’t forget to wash your hands.

Zipora Schorr

Dr. Zipora Schorr is director of education at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.