web analytics
September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Teaching Students, Not Subjects

If a teacher thinks his task is merely “to teach” – that it is no great thing to teach, that “anybody can do that” -- he must immediately be set straight.

Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman

Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman
Photo Credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

If every teacher is to safeguard his students with such care, how much more negligent is it to expel a student from yeshiva? How much more negligent is it to treat such a soul in such a way that he or she will then remove himself or herself from our community?

That teacher should not think for even a moment that he will not be asked in the world to come, “Why did this young man leave the community? Why is this young woman no longer frum? Why is that young person on drugs?”

What will that teacher answer? What can he answer?

And in the gaping silence, he will be asked, “If this were your own son, would you have thrown him out? For that is what you should have thought at the time. This is like your son – your son!”

* * * * *

It is not enough to presume that because a child is attending yeshiva his home is filled with Yiddishkeit or that she is treated with love and respect. That is why each talmid must we watched closely and with care. The rebbi must be mindful of his charges; he must be mindful of everything. More important, he must teach with love and compassion, with a pleasant and joyous countenance. The way to treat students is with compassion and mercy, not rigidity and anger.

When I met with the faculties I had the privilege to lead, I always shared with them a simple truth: We all make mistakes. To err is human. And in almost every profession and circumstance, it is possible to make a mistake and then correct it. Except when it comes to a child or student we turned off by our negligence, inattention, or abuse.

When we extinguish the flame of learning in a young soul, it is not easily – if ever – relit. There very well may be no second chance.

There is no more important message a faculty can receive than to nurture that flame in every single student. And yet even when Rav Shteinman addressed his audience of hundreds of educators I can imagine there were those who listened impassively, all the while thinking to themselves, “It’s easy to talk about all that in the abstract. What about those of us in the classroom? What about us, the ones who have to deal with students who misbehave or act out?”

“What about the student who is immersed in the Internet?” a rebbi asked Rav Shteinman.

Such questions have merit, but it is astonishing to me how much of the ills of society are now blamed on the Internet. Of course the Internet poses many dangers and challenges. But were there no problems before the Internet?

So would Rav Shteinman have responded, “Of course throw out the student immersed in Internet! Of course throw out the student who acts out!” Or would he have asked, like Rav Ovadia Yosef, z”tl, “Whom are you throwing out? A rock? Some accumulated trash?”

Rav Ovadia knew the challenge of teaching in a classroom. When he confronted a rowdy, disruptive or uncooperative student he did not view that student as “the enemy” but rather as the unique being God intended. Rav Yosef was passionate in his defense of such students:

“Don’t throw them out. We are dealing with nefashos! This is dinei nefashos. Our rabbonim only addressed dinei nefashos when there was a Sanhedrin, 23 chachamim…. You throw him out and what will be with him then? You know what will be? Do you accept responsibility for what he will become?

“Therefore, you must love him and smother him with love – bnei Yisrael whose future is to become gedolei Yisrael. To bring them closer with sweet words…this is how we bring them into the Torah fold.”

Rav Shteinman responded similarly to the Internet question. Each student is to be considered on an individual basis; each situation demands discussion and analysis with a chacham.

The most important thing, he emphasized, was to not demean or demoralize (not to be me’zalzel ) any talmid, to never to dismiss any talmid as hopeless.

In his response, Rav Shteinman showed why he is a true gadol – a visionary who can see clearly and respond to the demands of the times.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Teaching Students, Not Subjects”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Port of Oakland, without any docked cargo ships. Is this its future?
Port of Oakland Loses as ZIM Moves to Friendlier Shores
Latest Indepth Stories
FE_PR_100112_22Learning_CableTV425x282

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Narendra Modi

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

ISIS terrorist

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas speaking in Ramallah, July 1, 2014.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

Shemita is about relating to each other by temporarily eliminating gaps of wealth power & status

David transcended adversity to become a leader; Who are we to make excuses for a lack of greatness?

sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience

Last week the president announced a four-point plan. Unfortunately, there’s little buy-in from our European and Middle Eastern allies. Here’s my own four-point plan that may be more palatable to our allies.

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

Home is Milwaukee where their congregation, Beth Jehudah, and community always await their return.

A murderous uprising is taking place in Israel; On the roads, In the mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

“It’s a lousy column and a dishonest one,” Halberstam wrote. “So close it. Or you will end up just as shabby as Safire.”

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Jonah and the Whale (2012) 23 x 23, bronze relief by Lynda Caspe.

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

Eisenstock-082914

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

What defines kana’ut these days? Throwing rocks at passing cars on Shabbos? Burning an Israeli flag on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?

One who may leave his wife an agunah is not included in the general rule that we may not imprison on Shabbos.

“Fulfill my requests for good, grant my request, be mindful of us for deliverance and compassion…remember us for a good, long life…give us bread to eat, clothes to wear…”

Too often, as parents and teachers, we think it means talking at our children, delivering to them good and worthy content that they should simply hear and assimilate into their minds and hearts.

I was singing, dancing, jumping and, sweating. Just joy and happiness. One child on my shoulders after another. What happiness! And then, the little boy on my shoulders – he could not have been older than six – began to cry.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/teaching-students-not-subjects/2013/11/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: