What Can You Do?
There is a lot we can all do collectively to improve the level of Tefilla for our students, who represent the next generation of the Jewish people.
Tefilla is a personalized experience at the end of the day, and there is no one format that fits all. Every good educator also knows what is good for their students and what “makes them tick”. In my opinion, there is a lot we can all do collectively to improve the level of Tefilla for our students, who represent the next generation of the Jewish people. Here are some suggestions:
- Bring the subject of Tefilla up in Professional Development and Staff meetings. I cannot emphasize enough the power of a single educator even on an entire system. Administration and Boards will make changes based on financial realities and also based on teacher feedback, when received through the correct channels. The key is to be honest and know the proper channels of communication in your system, to instill a change in the Tefilla or any other educational challenge you face. Sometimes, that task may seem daunting, but if you don’t make your claim, the chances of change are even more slim to none. Take a stand, take initiatve!
- Set up a working incentive system for the entire class. Tefilla should be rewarded not on an individual level, rather on a class or group level. Tefilla is personal, and therefore as a teacher in a classroom, or a facilitator in a youth group setting there is no real way to judge who had a quality Tefilla and who was just physically present, but spiritually not there. Find an incentive program that complements your students, which is tasteful, productive and most importantly helps motivate your students to take Tefilla seriously. The goal, of course, is to wean them off of incentive programs and get “with the program”. That will come in time, especially if your system is working. In the meantime, as our Sages teach us, מתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה.
- Don’t be afraid of Trial and Error. As educators, we want to get it right, ALWAYS. That is simply not practical. There must be an element of trial and error to our work, especially dealing with such a delicate and complex subject as making Tefilla relevant. Try new Tefillot, new tunes, or even ask some of the students what Tefillot they really like and why. Don’t shy away from decreasing the amount of Tefillot they say, and increase the quality. As my former Principal in Kibbutz Lavi used to say as a mantra – if you don’t fail, that means you aren’t trying.
- Find out what Tefilla models work in your area. Though The Tefilla Project has developed a working framework for student engagement in Tefilla in a variety of schools and locations, there are many other models that are currently working and successful. Find out what works for those groups, and how you can implement their principles into your Tefilla setting.
For more information about creating a Tefilla system, and how to improve the level of Tefilla for your students, contact Rabbi Ariel Tal at – firstname.lastname@example.org