Through the Eyes of my Students

As we start to move into more routine scheduling in our California campus, we start to focus on the events, both routine and special.  We look to make the space beautiful and we stress over the many steps involved in shifting the space from one usage to another.

For example, the transition from regular Shabbat services to the Seder on Pesach (Passover) seemed monumental, even though all it really involved was moving chairs and tables and then setting the tables up into the structure we wanted for the Seder.  There were so many things that absolutely needed to be done.

And it was an absolutely crazy time for me.  I knew it would be.  I had seen it coming more than a month out.  Well, it had been crazy for a while, but the pitch was going to be “over the top.”  I warned as many people as I could.

That is why there has not been a blog in way, way, too long.  I am only now starting to make a wee bit of headway……….

So here is a blog.  More soon.

I’ll talk about the craziness a bit, and then the amazing gift from my students.  Then future blogs will pick up some of the pieces that lie scattered around me.

The craziness was seeing that the end of the semester was April 25, midnight.  Pesach (Passover) started the evening of April 21, which meant a Seder on April 21 and 22.  I knew at the blog on the 3rd that trouble was a-comin….

The end of the semester meant 4 classes of term papers, research projects, and visit reports (4) to grade (plus exams – 4; and prezis – 3 or 4; and discussions), all of which would come to a huge climax as the semester came to its close in the coming weeks.  This semester I have 4 wonderful classes I am teaching.  Sizable classes, fortunately all at the St Lucie Pruitt campus (that was the nice part).  Three classes that met on Tues-Thurs and one class that met on Monday nights.

We were also still working on completing the floors, getting a kitchenette installed (as in from bare pipes/outlets and no appliances).  We were going to host our first memorial service in the building, and the 2 (oops, it will be 3 – see the coming blog) Seder gatherings.  So I warned the students.  And I warned the congregants.  And I warned Bill.  And I warned my dissertation chair.  And anyone else who might listen.

And I told myself that I would do everything that had to be done on a strict priority/deadline consideration basis.  If it did not have to be done and did not fit in the time frame, there was a better than likely chance it would get delayed.  Many things did.

In all of this, we made it through the grading process – just.  Grades were submitted just in time.  And there was a wonderful gift in the process.

I left the visits as the last thing to be graded.  I checked them to let the students know they had “credit” for them, but saved them for feedback for last.  Because of an oddity of how the visits are graded, the credit is critical, while the feedback and actual score are not.  So this was a smart move for me, yet something that needed to be done before final grades could be submitted.

So there I was grading them in the last minutes before Pesach.  The students are required to visit 4 different faiths: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu (a function of what is available locally).  They have a choice of 4 synagogues (2 in town), 4 mosques, 1 Hindu Temple, and many churches.  A few will go to the more distant Temples, but most will pick one of the two here in town.  Many have come to ours over the semester, a few have come several times.  We even had a few at our Seder gatherings.  The parents of two students came, in fact, one without her daughter.

And I have not really given it much thought, especially since we are now in a more “regular” space than we were last semester.

But that was not the case at the very beginning of the semester.  We moved from Lakeside at the very start of the semester.  I had forgotten about that!  But students that came to services did not.  They wrote about those times.  They wrote about the one service at the home of a congregant when we were “between” Lakeside and the California Campus…..

And they even wrote about the two services we held in the new space before the Torah Walk…..  they told about how special it was to see the Torah in its traveling bag….  how lovingly it was treated.  That’s the colored bag on the right up at the top of the blog…..  They talked about how we sat it on a chair and put the chair into our circle and how the kids treated it.  Wow!

And they talked about Shleppy, who is often a part of things.

And I sat there and laughed and cried.  It was an amazing thing to see our congregation described through their eyes and words.  How accurate and how off!

Example: Reported: One student said that we wear skirts over pants.  What happened: After our Torah Yoga at 9:15, I put a wrap-around skirt over my yoga pants that morning until I had time to slip into the ladies room and make the change more complete.  We break between the Torah Yoga and the service at 10:15 for a little fruit and cookies while I change…..

And so I learn from my students – so much.

And I get to remember how far we have traveled in the few short months of this semester.

More soon!

Thanks for reading!

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