by Rory Glantz
I am proud to be a TAP teen because it gives me the opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone. When I was first nominated for the position, I was unsure about what it would entail. Not having any prior experience working with special needs children, I was hesitant to have the responsibility of teaching them Hebrew. My experience in Hebrew school was fun, engaging, and educational. How was I going to deliver all of those aspects to a child with special needs?
Our first week of training at the end of August helped me learn how to deal with a variety of situations that could occur. I gained a better understanding of special needs children and what they experience on an everyday basis. It was also interesting for me to learn about it from a Jewish platform. We read texts from the Torah and Talmud about not placing “a stumbling block in front of the blind” and “loving thy neighbor as thyself”. Seeing that even an ancient text like the Torah commanded us to help the disabled helped me to understand that we, as Jews, have a duty help. It did not matter that I had never worked with a special needs child. It only mattered that I was going to learn how. If I failed, I would try again the next day.
Now, I am teaching Hebrew to a fifth grader one-on-one. She has trouble in a classroom setting, and does better when in a quiet, isolated space. I have used many of the techniques that I learned that first week of training- including using Twizzlers and M&M’s to spell Hebrew words, which my student loved. Sometimes, it is hard to keep her motivated and on task, but I try to keep the lessons as upbeat and fun as possible! I can only hope that I am giving her as great of a Hebrew school experience that I had.
Overall, being a TAP Teen has helped me to expand my understanding of special needs and be more aware of children who have them. I have learned about how every student learns differently and we, as teachers, need to cater to their needs in order for them to be successful. I know that my experience in the TAP program will stick with me through the rest of my life.