Building intentional community online

!שנה טובה (Happy New Year)! Long time no blog. We’ve missed you!

Taking the Enrichment Center online has been a learning experience, to put it lightly. I’ve been growing and learning with your children for quite a few years (thank you for letting me love them, too). So this change has felt like an even bigger learning experience for me. Changing our context has caused me to think critically about what I take for granted.

I miss children carefully crawling out of the van holding a very delicate school masterpiece that they can’t wait to tell me about. I miss children talking excitedly together about their dance classes or soccer practices. I miss children sharing about vacations, weekend plans, Lego sets, and favorite books. It’s in the spare moments–as children enter in the afternoon, on the way to the social hall, sitting next to a child after Shirah/Tefillah (Singing/Prayer)–that these details are shared.

That’s the stuff of community. Before we can even begin to wrestle with Jewish texts and share ideas about big topics, we start at the very beginning by getting to know each other, finding shared interests, and building relationships. Those found moments, where children share glimpses into their life outside of the Enrichment Center, do not transfer seamlessly to Zoom.

Forming intentional community is one of our primary goals at the beginning of every year. This year, more than ever, we’re putting in time and intentionality to create a trusting, warm, supportive community online.

Here are some of our strategies:

  • Check-ins: We start every session with an opportunity for children to check-in with peers and their morah (educator). Children want to tell us about how their day of remote learning is going or about their weekly ukulele lesson.
  • Mixing it up: We’re mixing up children every which way into small groups. Each session the groupings are different. Children are learning to share and speak with every other child in the group.
  • Sharing and Connecting: We conclude each session with an opportunity for children to briefly share what they’ve created with their peers and a morah (educator). Children listen to their peers, ready to speak aloud about shared feelings, experiences, or ideas. Morot (educators) enter the conversation to invite all children and support making connections.
  • Going slowly: We’ve slowed down our pacing to give ourselves ample time for sharing and connecting.

It isn’t a perfect system, and I have a lot to continue learning, but it’s a start. I look forward to putting in the work to build a beautiful community with your children this year.

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