Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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School Diary #2: Ten Prayers for My Students in the New Year

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It is the time of year for prayers for a good year. I pray for my family, friends and loved ones, and my high school students.

This month I returned to the classroom after over 5 years since I’ve taught in a formal classroom. This opportunity came up early in the summer and I decided to dive in again to my old love of teaching English, literature and writing to 9th and 10th grade girls.

Each one of my students is a unique soul.

Here are some hopes and goals that I have for my students. They will work hard in my class and hopefully achieve success. For the 10 months of the school year, I have 10 prayers for my students to find, experience, feel, develop, learn, value, improve, grow, achieve and work…and so much more.

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I PRAY THAT:

  1. … each student finds and experiences her unique gifts. Whether that be writing poetry, essays, decorating bulletin boards or participating in debates.
  2. … each student feels accepted and loved by her teachers and peers.
  3. … each student develops self-control to regulate her classroom behavior.
  4. … each student learns accountability for turning in assignments and being prepared for class.
  5. … each student values the process of making errors and growing from them.
  6. … each student is comfortable asking questions when she doesn’t understand the material.
  7. … each student improves organization skills, including keeping books and papers in order.
  8. … each student grows in her capacity to not only hear, but listen to peers and teachers who are speaking.
  9. … each student achieves the social skills necessary to work in groups with her peers.
  10. … each student shares a love of books and the written word.

I ask G-d to allow me to provide an environment in the classroom that encourages my students to blossom in the 10 ways above. Amen.

Stay tuned for weekly Teacher’s Diary updates.


SCHOOL DIARY #1: First Day of School Jitters (and how to deal)

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My grandson who is seven shared with me the other day that he is “scared” of second grade. Now mind you he’s a very bright student and a confident child…(Spoken like a true grandmother!). But still, he expressed what many of us feel each year as the summer winds down and the new year –with the first day of school and other firsts — creeps up on us.

Fear. Worry. Concern. How will things go?

All beginnings are hard, our sages tell us. As a teacher of high school, I have my own share of jitters in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Will my students do well? Will they behave? Will I have a good lesson planned? And so on.

I shared how I’m also nervous, but not to be a student. I’m jittery about the first day of school (in a few weeks) when I will be an teacher after a 6 year hiatus from that job.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I taught music in various settings. Between 2000 and 2009, I taught high school English in a local high school. Then, in 2009, I “retired” from teaching, partly due to burnout and partly to focus more on my writing career, my grandchildren, and my music therapy career. Sounds like a lot, and it was.

And now, I was approached by the principal of a small school to take on several English and language arts classes. This teaching job of approximately eight lessons per week will be on top of my already full load of music therapy patients.

As I told my grandson, I’m nervous. Why? Several reasons, but mostly because beginnings are often difficult and it’s relatively normal to have butterflies in our stomachs when starting new things. New auditions. New rehearsals. New roles. New anything.

So what do we do when we are worried about starting something new?

We draw on our old experiences and remind ourselves what we did right. And do more of that. In my case, I took out all my materials from years ago, and sorted through it all.

Things are different these days. More material online. Communication between administration, I’ve noticed, is less on paper and more via email and text. Grades are posted online. And students have computers in the classroom.

Kids have things to worry about too. Will they make friends, will they understand the material, and will they get picked in sports? Among other things.

This is also the time before the Jewish New Year, when we pray for a happy new year and lots of good things to come. A  certain amount of concern and vigilance is in order. 
 
Maybe it’s a healthy sign for us to have some degree of anxiety at this time. That motivates us to pray, to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days.

How do you get motivated to do the preparation necessary for good beginnings? Do you have any sense of fear or anxiety when starting new things? How do you cope?


Bubby’s Blessings

Recently, my supervisor at my workplace, asked me what “Shana Tova” means. She is a Christian, but – living in Southern California – is  familiar with Jewish terminology.  Often she asks me to explain certain words, phrases or customs. I told her that it means “Good Year” literally, but is the equivalent of “Happy New Year.” She smiled and said, “May you have a good and happy new year!” And then I told her about “Shana Tova U’Metuka” which means “Good and Sweet Year!” She agreed that all are good to have: good, sweet, happy. It’s all good!!

Which reminds me of how many ways one can wish blessings to others at this time of year.  Some say, “gut gebentched yahr” (German/Yiddish for a “good and blessed year”). Others list all the different areas in life one is to be blessed: health, livelihood, success, etc. In Hebrew/Yiddish it somehow sounds much better:

Gezunt (health), Parnassah (livelihood), Hatzlacha (success), Brachos (blessings), Mazel (fortune), Nachas (pride/pleasure).

I could get carried away giving (and receiving) blessings. It makes me feel good to spread warmth and good cheer around, especially at this time of year. And writing this post, I could  probably list more languages, customs, and styles in various cultures here (in Hawaii they say “Shaloha!” for Shalom/Aloha!”).

But then this post will be way too long.

So instead, I will end with a mini-blessing: whatever the language, whatever the style – may we all have a good, happy, sweet, healthy, fulfilling, blessed New Year!

Amein!


Another Chance

Second Chances are great; we just have to know to use them.

I didn’t make that slogan up. I read it somewhere (And I don’t remember where!), and the author expounded on that topic by explaining how after awhile the excuse or plea to pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease give us one more chance (remember as kids we begged our parents — or more correctly, “I” begged “my” parents…??)  is lame and stale. Eventually, we have to pay up, suffer the consequences, so to speak.

When I played piano for my professor back in college (or at weekly piano lessons as a younger student), I had the urge to start my piece of music a few times. Usually the refrain I would say would go something like: “Wait, let me start again…that doesn’t count..” and with a wave of my hand, I would take a deep breath, and begin the song again on the piano – from the beginning.

Until one teacher said to me, “hey, Miriam, start the piece one time, and keep going….”

Wow. What a concept. He was one tough teacher, but I did learn from that person to move forward, not backward.

So sometimes, we want to go back and correct our mistakes. Other times, we just move forward, and improve the future songs of our lives. Never mind the past. That is history.

On Rosh Hashanah, our rabbi spoke about how this holiday was two days – not one day. Even in Israel, where many of the Jewish holidays are celebrated for only one day, Rosh Hashana is still celebrated for two days. And why not? We need another chance, another gift to be able to pray better, articulate to G-d our praise and feelings, and to just do a better “job” at talking to G-d.

As our rabbi said, just in case we feel we “blew it” on the first day of the New Year, and didn’t get a really good “davening” (prayer session) in to our Hashem (G-d), we get a second chance.

Second chances work for me. I need that extra gift of time to process things, and improve. Revise, edit, and fix things up before turning them in.

And knowing that we (I) did our best is  all we can really want. When we feel secure that we did our best, we know we can move forward with confidence.


An Interesting Interaction

Every once in awhile, something happens to me that is so different from the norm, that I have to ask myself, “What is the meaning of this? Why did this happen?”  Sometimes, (not always), the answer to that question comes to me pretty quickly. Such was the situation the past few days, when a particularly unusual incident happened to me, and by last night, I was pretty clear why it had to happen. Okay – I won’t keep you in suspense. Here’s what happened. Continue reading


Fresh Starts – and a Happy Birthday Wish!

I can’t believe it is September already! Never mind that we (I!) have been counting down the days till date of my book’s release. Never mind all that.  Let’s forget about my book for just a moment (as hard as that may seem for me to do! Oy).

Let me take a big breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. There.

This is a time for introspection.

Even though, I – the grandmother – completely forgot about school starting last week, only to be reminded by my little grandson, “Omi – I started school today!” — still I feel the newness in my bones. The fresh start of the month of Ellul. The time to introspect, take stock of the past year, regroup for the New Year, and pray to the One Above for blessings in our lives.

It’s the month that school starts – that awesome place of newness that we grew up returning to every year – day after Labor Day! That amazing chance to start fresh every year with our new school supplies, new resolutions to do our homework, keep our books nice and neat, pay attention in class, study hard, follow directions….you know – all the “right” things.

And for me – this time of year is that special time that our family celebrates my mom’s birthday. My mom, may she live till 120 in good health and nachas – was born on first day of Rosh Hashanah in Bremen, Germany many years ago (I’ll be a good girl and won’t write her age, even though my mom is not shy about her age). My mom thank G-d defies her age; she is youthful, vibrant, active in many community and family activities, and is even a techno-computer-savvy grandmother.

Every year, our family has a tradition. We send my mother 2 cards in the mail. She gets them – a New Years Card plus a Birthday Card on Erev (day before) Rosh Hashanah – wishing her in advance a happy New Year, and also a Happy Birthday.

Some of my siblings and siblings-in-law write long, humorous and touching; amazing and creative poetry for my mom to read on Erev Yom Tov, and then to savor after shul on Rosh Hashanah itself. I write long, mushy and funny prose. (maybe this year, I’ll try a poem for a change…)

So here’s to a fresh start, Mom. A new year again. A happy and blessed New Year. Nachas from all the kids, grand, great grands, etc. Thank G-d!.

Here’s to my mom- my biggest fan, the one who dares to write cute comments on my blog, even if she has to keep changing her screen-name  so that people don’t realize it’s my mom! (just kidding!!). To the one who has already read my entire book – the one I sent to her from the pre-release carton that came for family only. To the one who validates me, compliments me and believes in me.

I love you, Mommy! Happy Birthday!


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