by Lauren Oblon,
Old York Road Temple-Beth Am
To me, being a TAP teen has taught me valuable skills and newfound understandings when working with children specifically with physical and learning differences. I have gotten the opportunity to learn and communicate with many different types of kids throughout this program, and have come to gain certain techniques in the teaching process of these children. I have spent two years as a teen assistant at my synagogue as I am learning more strategies as a result of becoming a Tap teen. This year I have been assisting the fifth grade, along with working one-on-one with a seventh grader as we prepare for her bat mitzvah. Often, I am able to pull certain students to work on a specific concept as they are in the midst of passing their prayer goals. Many of the students in my fifth grade class struggle with behavior and staying on task, as well as my seventh grader. Through my TAP training, I have learned how to help and communicate with the kids when these situations occur, and relate with other madrich who might be experiencing similar issues.
One of the most important strategies I have taken away from my TAP training has been to always remain patient and adapt to the learning style of the student. During my TAP training, I was exposed to many guest speakers where we were put in situations to think beyond a normal teen, and opened up a new world of thinking. For example, my second day of training, a guest came in and gave us a plain sheet of printer paper, as she read off vague directions of how to build a paper airplane. Not only was it hard to keep up with her pace, but I had a particularly hard time trying to replicate exactly each step she was reading. From that simulation, I realized this particular feeling is often the feeling many children face when learning in school. My role as a TAP teen requires me to think outside the box and always adapt to the broad spectrum of learning styles.
I have found in more situations, incentives and positive motivation encourages the children to thrive in their classes and become more energized to learn. This offers them a reward for the future in return for behaving and completing a goal the teacher has set for them. In many instances, there is room for the children to grow as students, and it may entail our role as a madrich to take the opportunity to create a game or lesson to make learning more accessible to all students.
On the days I am not a madrich at my synagogue, I am also a volunteer for an organization called the Friendship Circle. I participate in programs within the Friendship Circle called Friends at Home and Sunday Circle. Each week I visit my buddy with special needs at his house. In my case, I have been visiting my buddy for the past two years, as we continue to have fun together and grow closer despite his disabilities. His name is Adam and has a mild form of autism. I also participate in Sunday Circle which is a similar atmosphere. On Sundays, I volunteer with children with special needs, for a full day of activity packed fun. The intent is to make the kids feel that they are not different, and have a day of excitement to create a distraction from anything that could be bothering them. With the lessons and skills I have under my belt with my TAP training, I am often able to incorporate these techniques with Adam and my buddies on Sundays. Through working with the Friendship Circle, I have gotten the opportunity to learn to communicate with many different types of people from nurses of the children with special needs to children who are completely non-verbal. However, despite the challenges I have always been able to find a way to communicate and express thoughts and feelings.
There is a vast responsibility put in my hands as I always remain a motivational and encouraging TAP teen, while setting a good example as a human being. While teaching Hebrew and helping out in the classroom is a main focus, I also teach the students that well being, as it is also a key lesson. I am proud to be a TAP teen and look forward to what’s to come!