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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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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

Anyone can treat a difficult or misbehaving student as garbage. Anyone can just throw him out. But it takes a teacher to transform him into the gedolim and nashim tzidkanios that Rav Shteinman envisions.

If a mechanech does not realize what treasures sit directly before him, chas v’shalom, he may claim he only agreed to watch “silver coins.” But in fact he has before him the purest gold. He has before him neshamos kedoshos.

Rav Shteinman was determined that his listeners truly understand the importance of never dismissing, ignoring, or overlooking any student.

“Let me give you another example,” he told them. “You know that Rav Chaim Volozhin established the yeshiva in Volozhin, which existed for exactly seventy years. The yeshiva had roshei yeshiva – Rav Chaim Volozhiner, and then his son Rav Yitzchak, and then a son-in-law of Rav Chaim, and another son-in-law, and then the Netziv.”

He sighed. The Netziv led the yeshiva for fifty of its seventy years. “Yes, the Netziv, who had not been particularly well thought of [mi’techilah chashvu alav she’hu lo kol kach], turned out to be very special. Because of the Netziv, for fifty years all of Volozhin existed and thrived.”

Give heed. Teach with your heart. Love your students. You never know, the next Netziv may very well be sitting in your classroom.

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

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