By Chelsea Khakshouri
Since she was in eighth grade, Jennifer Plotkin â11 has worked on Sunday mornings as a teacherâs assistant. According to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple website, the Ozrim program is to “deepen your Jewish education, develop leadership skills and become an educator”.
“They choose to get paid money or collect community service hours. They get as many hours as they work, which would be over 100 for every Sunday in the year,” Head of the Ozrim program David Green said.
Ozrim, plural in Hebrew for “helper” or “assistant”, is ozer in the male form and ozeret in the female form. The Ozrim apply to the program just like they would a job.
“We have an application with a few short essays, and then we select them from the pool based on their qualifications and their interest in the program. We treat it like a job, so we look closely at the applications, follow-up with references and an interview,” Green said.
“We basically work as teaching assistants. Sometimes this means cleaning up after lessons and passing out supplies, but we often take more responsibilities. For example, each of the Ozrim are required to plan and run a lesson on their own sometime during the year,” Plotkin said.
“They are asked to do anything the teacher needs to help in class,” Green Said. “Sometimes those are tasks like setting up class and lessons, moving kids from location to location, or doing impromptu first-aid. Itâs great, especially in younger classes, to have someone to apply a band-aid for a frightened little kid with a skinned knee.”
The teacher assistants are given an opportunity to connect with young children and make Hebrew school a fun experience for them, Plotkin said.
“When I first began working as an Ozeret, I was kind of nervous about how to act around the kids. Eventually, I learned that even though they are young, I can still connect with them the same way I do with people my own age,” Plotkin said.
The program is “designed for eighth through twelfth graders to take on leadership roles in our community while experiencing transformative personal growth” says the website. Students must be enrolled in another one of the high school programs offered before being given a position and must attend an educator training and leadership development seminar before beginning work.
“There is a regular seminar that introduces topics like Jewish history and religion so our Ozrim know what they are teaching,” Green said.
“We cover child development and a little psychology. We teach Ozrim pedagogic techniques, and focus on how to recognize different learning styles in kids and work with them effectively.”