Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Perspective by Avram Mlotek

Another Perspective by Avram Mlotek

As a rabbinical student, my days are usually spent interacting with sacred texts.  The goal then becomes to translate these texts into real life so that they feel relevant and meaningful.  As someone who grew up in a family immersed in Yiddish culture, I believe the arts in general can be a powerful tool in helping this translation process.  In the same breath, however, I believe the arts deserve their own time and space in educational settings so to foster creativity, collaboration and open mindedness.  

As a current teacher and tutor, I hope to create learning environments that bridge the worlds of learning traditional Jewish texts with dynamic ways of accessing them, while also leave time for creative play.  In studying the weekly Torah portion, students will engage with source sheets and study guide questions, but we'll also use theater exercises and improvisational games to dive deeper into the material at hand.  We'll play with tableau in capturing a moment from the parasha, the Torah portion, that particularly resonates with a student or student pair.  We'll use guided imagery to imagine what specific moments in history might have looked like or felt like.  We'll experience holidays as they come up, as students play with storytelling, each student sharing a sentence of the holiday's background.  Theater tools can bring any subject matter to life and Jewish education is no different.
Designated time for creative play is just as important.  It allows the artist within the student to emerge, and live freely.  Class might begin with a warm up, aiming to bring students into the work they'll later engage in.  Class might end with free time to write creatively.  I've found making the time and space for this type of learning in the classroom setting to be crucially important especially because it gives voice to those students who learn in different ways.  
A teacher's toolbox should includes the panorama of the arts - music, dance, visual art, fiction, poetry, theater, film and the like.  As a rabbi in training who teaches in a variety of settings, this is the "stuff" that helps makes the classroom space come alive.  I'm grateful to CUNY's program in Educational Theatre for helping me further appreciate this and provide me with the support and training necessary to be able to transform the classroom into this type of magical learning space.

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