by Amelia Goode, Keneseth Israel

When I went into my first TAP workshop I didn’t know what to expect. I only knew one person who would be there, and I wasn’t sure what type of learning we would be doing. I was excited but skeptical; little did I know that the skepticism was not necessary as I loved TAP right away.

TAP training is not like the teaching assistant (or madrichim) training I have received at my synagogue. Those usually consist of watching Google Slides presentations and talking in Zoom breakout rooms, and while helpful, are not as fun or engaging as TAP. In our first workshop, we did hands-on activities that helped us to relate to the students we would be working with. For instance, we did an activity where we had to try to create a paper snowflake by following instructions. The catch: the instructions we were given were vague, we could not ask questions, we were not supposed to look around and see what others were doing, and we did not even know what we were making. Naturally, we all ended up being confused and ended up with different creations. However, the next time, when we were assigned to make paper airplanes, it was a completely different story. We were given specific instructions, could ask questions or look around, and knew what we were creating. This time, we were much more successful, and when we discussed the lesson, we all walked away with a first-hand understanding of how hard it is for people to learn without clear instructions. We all learn differently, and we need to help accommodate each other so that we can all be successful.

A photograph of five teens wearing masks, discussing a large piece of paper with indistinct text on it that they are all sitting around.We also learned other valuable information, like what is helpful or unhelpful in a classroom, what responsibilities madrichim have, and how practically anything can be made into a fidget or a fun and educational game for those who need it! Before lunch, we were even given a bag of fidgets and other helpful items to use in our classrooms, and after lunch, we came up with creative ways to use them outside of what they were made for. Not only did the workshop open my mind to seeing the world through the eyes of students with disabilities, but it helped me to become more open-minded of all of the different ways there are to help and teach.

I came to TAP to learn, but I was hopeful that I would make some new friends too. It was hard not to, with everybody being so friendly and welcoming! For example, at one point, we were circling around and looking at Torah portions that emphasized the importance of supporting people with and without disabilities. During this activity, it was easy to become acquainted with the other people in the group. I also met new people during partner activities, and at lunch, I found a nice group of people (all people who I ended up connecting with through Jewish Geography). At the end of the day, I was talking, laughing, and joking with my new friends.

TAP is a program like no other and I am proud to be a member of it. No matter where my life takes me, I will always remember the things I have learned and the friends I have (already) made through this first workshop, and I will always be proud to have been a TAP teen.