Rabbi Ross. I’ve been reading your articles for quite a few months, and I am really impressed by how much you have to offer. I have noticed in a few of your articles, that you seem to imply that younger Rebbeim might not be as qualified as the older ones.  I agree, and I’m actually one of the younger Rebbeim. I don’t feel super qualified and it worries me. What would you suggest younger Rebbeim do to improve their skillset?  A local Rebbe.

I was quite hesitant to respond to your question. These emails/articles are supposed to be about parenting, not teaching. However, after some thought, I’ve decided to share a few tips that I think will be appreciated by Rebbeim and parents alike. Please understand, this email might come off a little strong to both Yeshivos and parents.

There is a word that’s constantly growing in the world of Chinuch.  The word is “Happy”, and it’s changing the way we teach. Here’s how it works.  If the kids are happy they’ll learn well and have a great year. Now, in theory, this makes a lot of sense. If the kids are smiling, they will learn  better and come home happier.

Sadly, this concept of happiness is horribly misguided. It frequently comes at the expense of learning, classroom management, and overall discipline. What everyone needs to understand, is that children actually enjoy structure and learning. Furthermore, being strict is not mutually exclusive to children enjoying learning in the classroom!

One of the problems that arises is that Yeshivos are unable or unwilling to stand up to parents. When a parent calls and says that their child is not coming home happy, blame causation is immediately shifts to blamed on the Rebbe or teacher. Is he giving enough recess?  Is he too tough?  Writing assignments as punishments are certainly unacceptable.

The more experienced Rebbeim and Moros are feeling the pressure to conform. I recently spoke to a very experienced Rebbe, who told me the following. “I used to accomplish twice as much, but, nowadays, I need to go very slowly and make sure be careful not to hurt the delicate feelings of the 7th graders.”  What’s next? Political correctness seminars and sensitivity training? I’m sorry, but this is insane!

Newer and younger Rebbeim are being brought in. Many have no experience in the classroom, and are getting little or no guidance. Their main responsibility is to ensure the happiness of the children. If they accomplish that, they’re good as gold. One Rebbe confided in me recently, “I’m more scared of my Talmidim than they are of me.” Rebbeim and teachers are expected to teach at the proper class level and give over a love for Yiddishkeit, but how can they accomplish this, given all of these expectations?

The answer is actually quite simple. Here are the steps.

  1.  Speak to a few experienced Rebbeim or teachers.  Find out from each of them how they control their class. Ask about their rewards and consequences, and design your own program.
  2. Contact the parents at the beginning of the school year. Make them aware that you are excited to teach their children. Explain that you have specific rules that need to be followed, and that it would be appreciated if they back you up.
  3. Tell and show your students that you care about them. They need to hear this and feel that their Rebbe and teacher is truly concerned about them. 
  4. Explain, (in an age-appropriate fashion) that you want them to succeed and that you’re on their side. However, they need to act like B’nai Torah and do the required work.  
  5. Make sure to keep in contact with the parents. Call or text or email with positive nachas reports. Let the parents view you as a trustworthy educator who genuinely cares about their children.
  6. Make sure that your students understand that their parents will back you up if there is ever an issue.
  7. Last but not least, if you do have a problem with a specific child, call the parents before the child gets home. Don’t flip out on the parents, just let them know that you need their assistance.
Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into Chinuch than these steps, but this is a great way to get your career started. I wish you all much success with your Talmidim.

Have a great Shabbos.
YR
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