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Focus on Torah Day School of Dallas: Meeting the Students Where They Are

Grades K – 8
by Chana Ruderman, Principal

Face to Face Takes On New Meaning

If anyone had proposed moving Torah Day School of Dallas to a distant learning model, both parents and teachers would have laughed.  TDSD has always prized itself on building the strong relationships that are a foundation for success in life.  While we incorporate technology in many aspects of our regular program, our students generally do not own Internet-compatible devices and don’t bring them to school.  Learning at TDSD is face-to-face and focused on building the whole person.

Nevertheless, when schools were ordered closed in Texas on Friday, March 20, TDSD pivoted immediately.  Administrators had done some advance preparation with teachers as this news was not entirely unexpected.  Unlike many public school districts, we did not add a week of break to allow teachers to prepare.  Teachers scrambled to send home all possible necessary materials on Friday afternoon, with more pickups arranged for Sunday.  By Monday, March 23, lesson plans for all grades and subjects were in place and learning through platforms such as Zoom and WebEx had begun.

Parents a Vital Link

Soon after, TDSD had produced colorful master schedules outlining a 9:30-2:30 program for each grade.  Each Sunday, parents drive by the school to pick up necessary paper materials and to drop off completed work.  They receive an e-mail with a link to a multi-page weekly schedule for each grade.  Every teacher is teaching “live” through Zoom or WebEx each day.  Remarkably, almost 100% of students are participating.

Teachers search for ways to go above and beyond to make as much learning happen as possible.  These include:

  • Judaic learning for older boys every evening as well as all morning.
  • Small group reading sessions through Zoom for our K-1 students to ensure that these emerging readers get instruction tailored for them.
  • One-on-one and small group daily sessions continue for students with special needs or who simply need extra help.

All About Appreciation

TDSD’s 7th graders are creating beautiful written projects on the subject of COVID-19.  These include daily journals, and summaries of news relating to the medical aspects of the virus, issues around communication, and economic impact.  They also include a note to a pandemic “hero.” Students mailed these in addition to including them in their report, and some received grateful responses.  They will add poetry, a letter to the editor, and other elements to give a complete picture of life during this time.  These will be projects the students will save to show their children and grandchildren. TDSD is incredibly grateful to its devoted faculty—whose learning curve exceeded all expectations—and to our dedicated parents, who have responded to the situation with understanding and support at home.


The Preschool
by Becky Udman, Preschool Director

Connecting Like Never Before

Connection and safety – these are the foundation of the TDSD Preschool.  Trained in the practices of Dr. Becky Bailey, Conscious Discipline, every teacher in the TDSD preschool spends her days connecting to every student in a very personal way, unique to who that student is and what is important to that child. 

We have a lot to teach and many developmental milestones to hit, yet our core belief is that “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”   It is for this reason that all classes, from our young toddlers to our emerging kindergarteners, have many connecting rituals woven throughout their day each and every day.

Sky’s The Limit

When children feel safe and connected there in no limit to what they are capable of learning. When the coronavirus forced us to reinvent the way we teach and connect to our students, we weren’t sure how to continue what we had built this school year.  At the onset of trying to create a platform and a format for preschool learning, the teachers all echoed each other saying, “We teach by being next to the children; we are connecters and that can only happen with live interaction”.

Our next challenge was trying to reconcile our strong belief that screens and children are not a positive combination. After some trial and error and working with each family’s individual needs, we have created a schedule that is allowing our teachers to both connect and teach without forcing screen time on young children at dedicated times.

Each teacher creates weekly packets that serve as a companion to her daily prerecorded videos. These videos allow the parents to choose a time when their child is most ready to focus and interact. Although the videos are prerecorded, the teachers have put a lot of connection into each video, speaking about children and asking questions that have the children responding or sending videos back to their teachers that are shared with the group. Each class has an erev Shabbos party on ZOOM as a way to connect to their classmates as well as a 1 on 1 slot weekly with their teachers.  Teachers also spend much time with parents helping them feel comfortable in their new roles as “Assistant Morah”.

Becky At Her Best

TDSD Preschool director Becky Udman A.K.A. Morah Becky adds supplemental material to what the classroom teachers have in place.  “I am not sure if the videos that I have created began for the children or me; I miss the children so much that I needed a way to fill the void for myself. I feel a special connection as parents send me pictures of their children watching my videos and playing along with me.” Aside from a daily video for the children Morah Becky Udman also sends out a daily video for the parents. “Each parent is navigating their current situation with ups and downs; my daily parent videos give parents tools and perspective, and hopefully some humor.”

Morah Becky was asked by many parents if the videos could be shared with other people outside of the TDSD family. “We all want to be there for each other during this challenging time, and if anything, if what I am doing can be of help to others, of course I want to share.” All of Morah Becky’s videos are available on her website www.beckyudmanparenting.com free of charge, and are formatted for the general public.

“I have always said that I am so privileged to work with such a committed and professional  group of teachers, but seeing the way they have extended themselves over the last eight weeks and the extended  hours that they have put into this new way of teaching, makes me not only feel privileged but inspired by their love and dedication,”  said Becky Udman.

You can learn more about Becky Udman’s teaching methodology at https://www.beckyudmanparenting.com/

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