Welcome to our new series: Shule Teacher Spotlight! Throughout the year, we’ll interview as many of our Shule teachers as we can so the whole community can get to know them a little better.
Meet Mona Pollack: Mona (She/Hers) is the current Alef (1st) grade teacher and former BWC Interim Communications Manager. She also is also one of the chairs of the Israel-Palestine Coordinating Committee.
BWC: Why do you choose to teach Shule, of all the things you could be doing on a Sunday morning?
Mona: Growing up, my Jewish identity was really important to me, but I didn’t have the best Hebrew school experience. So, being a part of a community where I can help build the world, and the Jewish schooling experience, that I didn’t have myself. Shule ties together all the things I love about Boston Workers Circle – it’s super empowering and exciting to see the kids engage with secular, radical Jewish history.
BWC: That’s really wonderful! What brings you joy outside of Shule?
Mona: I really love my bird Sami. They bring me a lot of joy. And I’m teaching them Yiddish! They’ve mostly learned to say “You’re so cute,” because that’s what I say to them the most – I need to really up my game with Yiddish compliments if I want them to learn more Yiddish. I also really like learning Yiddish myself, as well as secular Jewish history – as an adult learner, those are both topics that really excite me.
I also love some super nerdy stuff! I read and watch a lot of fiction and engage with online communities around it on an intense, practically academic level. For example, there are some really great queer shows coming out of Thailand right now, and when my favorite show this year was airing, I would take notes as I watched so I could write blog posts afterwards – that’s how excited I can get over fiction!
BWC: That’s so cool! Bringing it back to Shule, what are some of your favorite parts of the Shule curriculum?
Mona: I teach the Alef class, so the main focus of the year is learning about Jewish holidays and the Jewish calendar. From a secular Jewish perspective, it’s really grounded in the seasons and how the earth really dictates the rhythm of the year. It’s really fun to figure out hands-on activities for the kids to really engage with the material, and I’ve actually learned a lot about holidays I didn’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to when I was growing up. It gives new meaning to the holidays for me, and it’s amazing to watch the kids get really engaged with the crafts and to engage with them over the questions they ask and comments they have about what they’re learning – it’s pretty fantastic how sharp six and seven year olds are!
BWC: What’s a favorite lesson of yours to teach?
Mona: I really love teaching the Havdallah lesson. We talked about it as something that helps with a transition, moving from the sweetness of Shabes to the rest of the week. And transitions are something that kids this age grapple with all the time, so it was something they could really connect with. One kid shared a way he makes transitions easier – after hockey practice, he goes to a friend’s house, which makes it easier to leave hockey, and then his friend’s mom always gives him a candy cane when it’s time to leave, which makes that transition easier. It’s really pretty neat to see the kids connect the concepts we’re talking about to their own lives.