Lauren Hannani culture editor
For the first half of the day, they sit with the rest of the students at Beverly, listening to the teacher’s instructions and taking notes on the day’s lecture. But after school, they switch to the other side of the classroom–taking on the role of teacher’s assistant at an elementary school.
This group of students works at religious schools, including Sinai Temple Religious School and Temple Isaiah. Some of their responsibilities as teacher assistants include helping the kids catch up on classwork they might have missed, solving problems that arise between kids, and grading homework.
“I sit with them and help them with their classwork, I sing with them during services, I play with them during recess…I’m basically just like one of their friends,” senior Chloe Levian, who helps teach a third grade class at Sinai, said.
Senior Jonathan Tansey, who is a teacher’s assistant at Temple Isaiah for a fifth grade class that meets Tuesdays and Sundays, also views the students more as buddies than his tutorees.
“I love it. It’s a great job in that it doesn’t feel like a job; it just feels like I’m hanging out with kids,” Tansey said.
Tansey also feels like he is helping the fifth graders “define their Jewish identities” by listening to their opinions and valuing their Jewish knowledge.
“I think I do that by valuing their thoughts and opinions as equally to those of the teacher or even the rabbi,” he said. “By doing this, their confidence in themselves and their beliefs is only reinforced, never diminished.”
One of Levian’s favorite parts of working with the third graders on Sundays and Wednesdays is singing songs and laughing with the kids, which reminds her of the time she went to religious school at their age.
“I love the first 30 minutes [of class] on Sundays because we sing our prayers in really fun little kid tunes that were my favorite when I went to religious school, and we all have our arms around each other for the slower songs and are jumping around for the more upbeat songs,” she said. “It’s honestly my preferred way to start the new week, even though it means I have to wake up early on a Sunday morning.”
For junior Celine Emein, who works at Sinai alongside Levian, the most meaningful part of the experience so far has been helping the kids feel more confident in their work.
“I think the most memorable part would be when I help a student with their Hebrew reading,” Emein said. “I’ve been doing many one on one readings with the students who need extra practice, and I’ve really been enjoying it.”
Emein also thinks that her experience as a student has helped her find more effective ways to teach and support the students.
“I think since I am still a student at Beverly, I am able to connect to the students more and really help them,” she said. “I understand and pick up smaller things that a teacher would not really notice.”
Although Levian admits it is difficult to sacrifice her days after school and on weekends to work, she is proud that she was able to take on this job and continue to learn as a result of it.
“When fourth grade me was asked, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I want to be a Hebrew school teacher.’ It’s crazy at the age of 16 I was able to accomplish that goal of mine,” Levian said. “Yes, my future aspirations have definitely changed, but I feel like I’m making younger me feel proud in a way. And if I was able to complete this aspiration at a young age, it makes me feel hopeful for my future endeavors.”