BES@home: Keeping Us Together

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While schools around Los Angeles and the nation braced for the potential of an educational fallout from Covid-19, teachers and administrators at Brawerman Elementary School began developing BES@home, a virtual learning platform geared toward maintaining learning in a way that engages students in a meaningful way, while keeping our community connected, a value at the core of our mission. 

As soon as remote learning became a possibility, the staff of both campuses began brainstorming ideas about how to continue learning from home. Teachers gathered supplies, shared ideas of experiential learning, and dove into IT-led professional developments to learn new methods of reaching even the youngest of learners at home on their devices. Administrators along with IT organized technology pick-ups on each campus to ensure all students were properly equipped to begin participating in a virtual classroom. 

To ensure the success of this new program, Brawerman has been all hands on deck. To guarantee access to Zoom and Google Classroom, IT has extended their hours and hosted online tutorials. In order to remain connected with our elementary school students, the Clergy in Residence program has expanded as Wilshire Boulevard Temple rabbis and cantors have led programming across the grade levels. Specialists have provided a litany of activities, videos, and live sessions to supplement the day-to-day learning experience. 

The classroom teachers have worked tirelessly to implement the BES@home plan. From their homes, our faculty have been planning and executing live and prerecorded lessons, hosting whole-class reading discussions, small-group math lessons, and providing innovative and authentic instruction for their students. Many of them are parents with their own school-age children, which requires pulling double duty. Their dedicated efforts have garnered the appreciation of students and parents, which is perhaps best summed up by this comment on a recent social media post: “What you guys pulled off in such a short amount of time was beyond words. The kids were all so happy! Thank you @brawermanelementary for the hard work.” 

This time of year normally evokes different emotions. The last week of school held on campus was dedicated to celebrating Purim. Traditionally, admissions letters to incoming Kindergarten families and outgoing Grade 6 graduates creates a palpable buzz for what next year will bring. Then comes excitement about Spring Break and Passover spent with extended family and friends. This year, however, the uncertainty of an ever-changing public health pandemic colored the lens through which we viewed ourselves—and our lives—at this time of year. Everyone, in some way or another, has been affected by social distancing. The gratitude of parents does not negate their feelings of frustration as they too navigate working from home while supporting their child(ren)’s learning. But at this moment, when news updates complicate our state of mind as quickly as they show up on our cell phone and tablet screens, Brawerman is committed to supporting our students and families in any way we can. When parents enter Brawerman, we tell them we are entering a partnership and that, while we can’t wait to celebrate the good days together, we are here for the difficult days as well. Last year our theme was kehillah, and now more than ever our kehillah kedosha, or holy community, stands together, even as we are forced to be apart.