Monday, March 06, 2006

Teach Your Children Well- Part 1-Da Boyz

My younger brother attends one of the typical Yeshivas in the community. Recently, my mother was unavailable to fulfill her carpool duties, and I willingly filled in. In the car, the boys recounted their day. I was astonished at some of the stories they discussed- like when a kid threw something that accidentally hit the teacher. Or when the teacher called the kids idiots, and they just talked back. Although the kids in the car behaved well, tremendous lack of Derech Eretz for the faculty was made extremely apparent to me through their stories, which part of me wanted to not believe.

I immediately felt compassion for these teachers, prepared or not, intelligent or not, qualified or not, from what they endure daily. Not only are they making these teachers' lives miserable, the frustration must spread to their families as well. Another important factor is Chillul Hashem, which is possible to commit with Jews and Non-Jews alike. However, when I hear that they have non-Jewish teachers, I am afraid of what image they have constructed of Jews from their hurrendous experience working in Yeshivas.

After I dropped the kids off, I turned to my brother and asked, "Do they teach, like, Middos, or Derech Eretz in your school at all?" "No," He replied, practically falling into the trap I didn't even know I had laid, "We don't have time- we're too busy learning Gemara, Chumash, Navi..." I wasn't surprised by his response, but I realized that my question should have been rhetorical.

I don't know about you, but last I checked, "Derech Eretz KADMA L'Torah." It comes even before learning Gemara!! But in our image-oriented society, nobody asks, "Is the boy a Ba'al Derech Eretz?" Nope, it's, "Does the boy learn well? How much Shas can he memorize? How well can he read Rashi?" While Torah and Gemara are of extreme importance, I think the system is lacking tremendously in this area. Torah teaches us Mitzvos, and Gemara teaches us Halachos, and ways to think. However, that is not their sole purpose. They are there also to teach us Derech Eretz and common sensical Middos.

So if they are sitting learning these Kadosh texts all day, and still behaving in such a contradictory manner, something is lacking in the method. They should be acquiring Derech Eretz in the process. If they are not, then set aside time to emphasize their importance from early on. More importantly, set examples. Teach the children. Chinuch at home is important as well, but when they spend the majority of their waking hours in school, it is imperative that they are taught Middos and Derech Eretz there.

I hate to break it to you, but kicking the kid out, or making the kid write over the Mishna will not stop him from acting up again. The time normally wasted to gain control over the rowdy class will be time well spent teaching positives, instead of penalizing negatives.

Disclaimer: I know I am neither a parent nor teacher, and I do not run a school. However, I do believe that if Middos were emphasized throughout the schooling years--meaning, AFTER Pre 1A, the kids today would behave better, and with more respect. I'm not offering anything new-just my views on the topic, and my disdain on the people that allow these kids to grow up and treat teachers worse than their cleaning ladies.

23 Comments:

At 3/06/2006 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless your brother is younger than fifth grade, there is no way he learned Navi.

 
At 3/06/2006 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he goes to a typical yeshiva in Brooklyn, there's no way the kid learns derech eretz at home, which means that even if the rebbe mentioned it, it wouldn't help much.

 
At 3/07/2006 1:23 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

I couldn't agree more, today you're a gaon if you know shas by heart by the time you’re 20. Never mind you don't know the words’ please’ and ‘thank you’.
We learned so much Gemarah in school yet when I got married I realized how little halachic knowledge I had.
Luckily I got some manners from home.
It's unfortunate that not more emphasis is put on derech erets, and when remembering all we did to the teachers, knowing it gets only worse, I can only feel sorry for them.

 
At 3/07/2006 9:34 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I went to public school and have taught inside the frum schools (out-of-town) and quite frankly the behavior is so bad that it is incomprehensible. In public school, behavior and derech eretz is expected, not "taught." In the frum schools derch eretz is taught and bad behavior is so ingrained that I'm not sure that the frum teachers even know how bad the behavior is.

Behavior comes from the top down and, quite frankly, many of the administrations have created an environment where bad behavior (especially towards the non-Jewish staff) is the norm. The administration openly shows their lack of respect for the secular staff (which may include frum people) by excusing the kids late from kodesh to go to chol, by pulling kids out of a chol class for some project that they wouldn't pull them out of a kodesh class, stripping the chol teacher's authority when a kodesh teacher or administrator excuses a kid from a chol class or test, and just plain making excuses for their bad behavior.

I've seen the students I've worked with act perfectly nice and polite outside of class, while inside they picked fights with me, walked out of class, and were just plain brats. It is time to demand better, because quite frankly, I'm not paying $15,000 a year for my child to treat others disrespectfully and get away with it.

 
At 3/07/2006 12:32 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Anon #1-wanna bet? He asked me for help a few weeks ago in Navi class. Doubt he made it up.

Anon #2-What makes you say that?

Prag- What you're saying is very common. We're taught that our husbands will know less about Hilchos Shabbos and Kashrut and all that, so "listen very carefully."

Sephardilady-you have the experiences to prove it. I'd have loved to fabricate something like what you just said, but no need-you have the truth. I was kinda saving this for Part 2- Da Galz--but, I HAVE heard teachers (in a Bais Yaakov) say that their public school students treated them better. It's heart-breaking.

 
At 3/08/2006 2:02 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

I agree...
We almost drove one teacher to suicide...
Looking back now..I feel guilty..but I always wondered..How desperate can a person be to want to teach in a Yeshiva?
We used to kill our teachers!

 
At 3/08/2006 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Da Galz--but, I HAVE heard teachers (in a Bais Yaakov) say that their public school students treated them better. It's heart-breaking.
>>>>>>>
A frum person I know who just started teaching part time in a right wing Yeshiva was warned by the Right Wing English principal that the kids don't care about English Studies and are worse behaved than his public school students. The principal didn't approve of this, of course but said- their parents are right wing, so they don't care about English Studies. That casual automatic correlation scared me so much.

 
At 3/08/2006 6:38 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Anon-that IS scary. Because the teachers are fighting an uphill battle-alone. In the old days, they had the parents on their side, but they're all alone. Although I was only aware of the situation you mentioned pertaining to boys. Unless you speak of a Chassidish school.

 
At 3/09/2006 6:23 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon--I would actually disagree and say that the principal does tacticly approve of the behavior because there is plenty that can be done about it but isn't done.

If the administration wants to take a stand against the behavior there is plenty that can be done: excusing the kids to go to chol on time, not pulling kids out of chol for this or that reason, having the principal observe chol classes from time to time, grading on a curve and grading tough, taking away priviledges based on behavior and performance in chol, allowing the teachers in chol to be autonomous.

There is plenty that could be done, but is not done. And, the kids are not just suffering for it academically, but they are suffering in derech eretz also.

 
At 3/09/2006 7:47 AM, Anonymous aj said...

I remember talking to a friend who went to a different high school than I did. I was telling him (in a positive manner) about my history teacher, who always put in messages, trying to encourage us to make aliyah. My friend said to me "Why don't you ask him why he doesn't do it". I responded that, actually, this teacher was moving to Israel after the school year, my friend said "Why don't you tell him that you won't make aliyah because you would never want to live in the same country as him" I was taken aback by this comment. I remember not understanding how one could even think something like this. After discussing this with him further, I realized that he couldn't even conceptualize having a positive relationship with a secular studies teacher (even one who was himself religious and was teaching Jewish history). All of his stories about how they treated their english/math/history/etc... teachers were offensive, and made me wonder how the rebbeim did not know - until I realized that, although they would probably not condone this behavior, the disrespect shown for secular studies teachers implictly allows this behavior to occur

Oh, and I learned Navi through 11th Grade (and had the option of learning it 12th, but I chose Ketuvim (Iyov) instead)

 
At 3/09/2006 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW-some yeshivos do do it right. Per Rav Pam, a certain Brooklyn Yeshiva emphasizes their chol department because as Rav Pam so rightly asserted-if you let these boys act like animals for two hours a day-it's going to carry through somewhere...you can't assume that they'll be perfect children all day and for just a couple of hours they'll have the opportunity to act like animals and then they'll on ce again be perfect...it can't be!! mentschlechkeit must be carried over to every part of one's life.

 
At 3/09/2006 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem could be Brooklyn, not just the yeshiva.

 
At 3/09/2006 4:21 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

It could be Brooklyn. But, the chutzpah level is pretty high in plenty of communities far from New York.

 
At 3/09/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger Jewboy said...

Yeah, I think that the way a lot of boys in yeshivos treat secular teachers is a horrible chillul Hashem and bad training for these boys' middos. The heads of yeshivos need to try to implement a higher level of respect for all teachers.

 
At 3/10/2006 7:22 AM, Anonymous aj said...

as Rav Pam so rightly asserted-if you let these boys act like animals for two hours a day-it's going to carry through somewhere...you can't assume that they'll be perfect children all day and for just a couple of hours they'll have the opportunity to act like animals and then they'll on ce again be perfect...it can't be!! mentschlechkeit must be carried over to every part of one's life.

Obviously this is better than not bein a mensch, but my problem with this statement is that it says the only reason to be a mensch in secular classes is because behavior carries over -- not because it iis important to act with derech eretz towards a man/woman who is spending time attempting to teach the kids something, and it is important to respect adults or any teacher - whether the material is necessary or not


The other main problem is that I think it is hard to teach respect for secular teachers when the subjects they teach are so insulted throughout the day (I remember that my Junior High School Rabbanim would over needlessly insult and make fun of secular studies (even when it had no connection to the Gemara/Chumash/etc... that we were doing at the time). If you then attempt to say "The class is a waste of time at best, and harmful for your neshama at worst, but have respect for the teacher anyway", I don't think the cognitive dissonance can be handled by most pre-teens/teens.

 
At 3/10/2006 2:15 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Great comments AJ. The disdain shown for general studies (the word secular should be banned since secular means devoid of G-d and that is certainly a misnomer, I'll try to start by banning it from my own vocabulary) is extremely problematic. I never witnessed a teacher in public school degrade the subject matter of another teacher, whether that subject matter was math, driver's ed, or physical ed. I'm sure that if a teacher did that, the teacher would have been severly reprimanded for obvious reasons. The degridation in frum schools is on two fronts: verbal and non-verbal. Both are unacceptable.

I don't think that the poster got Rav Pam's statement correct. I've seen the statement somewhere else and it was more to the effect that da'as Torah believed that general education was important enough that they took the time away from the Torah studies to make room for it, so it needs to be treated seriously. That is a totally different concept.

 
At 3/11/2006 7:47 PM, Blogger Josh said...

From what I've seen of Charedi kids, it's not just a wild attitude towards secular classes. It seems whenever they are not learning, they let all that pent up energy explode. I don't know if it's because their focus on sitting and learning leaves them anxious to run around, or if their parents just have too many kids to bother controlling them. It also seems to be a problem that schools don't make many steps to discipline kids, worrying too much about donor fallout and the lack of alternative schools for problem children. So instead the whole place becomes a zoo.

 
At 3/12/2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Jewboy said...

David-You seem to think that the fact that people might be desperate to teach in a yeshiva justifies acting like animals to them. Are these the values you will impart to your children?

 
At 3/14/2006 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the administration wants to take a stand against the behavior there is plenty that can be done: excusing the kids to go to chol on time, not pulling kids out of chol for this or that reason, having the principal observe chol classes from time to time, grading on a curve and grading tough, taking away priviledges based on behavior and performance in chol, allowing the teachers in chol to be autonomous.

>>>>>>>>>>>
The person I was referring to was "just" the English Principal, not the school principal.

 
At 3/15/2006 11:43 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Hi anon,
If the person is "just" the English teacher, there probably is not much that can be done except fight the other admin tooth and nail.

I just didn't return when asked. There is no reason to put up with being treated like garbage.

 
At 3/15/2006 5:52 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

These anecdotes are just plain sad. How can the educators defend this? People being treated like garbage by children?? Where is the Chinuch???? I just can't fathom this!

 
At 3/19/2006 10:26 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Michelle--May I suggest that you sign up as a sub and try to get a few week assignment. The experience will be enlightening and hopefully educational for the future.

 
At 3/28/2006 7:06 PM, Blogger shani said...

hey that sounds scary..and when these boys start dating, whadyou think happens? seriously- i think when the boy gets into his high teens, he usually gets more mature and turns into a mentch, even if he never was one before..so theres hope-trust me, i have 5 brothers..

 

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