Thank you for listening.
A Worried Mom
It is certainly true that education has changed over the years and is now world’s apart from my own childhood school experiences. That said, I can certainly relate to some of your concerns. First, let’s do a quick comparison study. When I went to elementary school, there were about fourteen girls in my class. When my daughter and sons went to school, there were anywhere from twenty to twenty-five kids to a class. My grandchildren have somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-two children in their classes. One teacher for fourteen kids seems like the ideal to me. One teacher + twenty-five kids = a recipe for failure in imparting lessons successfully. Sadly, schools and yeshivos today are run like a business, on a profit and loss model. Rabbeim, morahs and teachers have to be paid, school buildings have to be maintained, upgraded and/or built to accommodate the large number of students per class, which often leaves over little or no money to pay those teachers. These not-being-paid teachers work under stressful conditions and deal with unruly children, which deducts from the quality of transmission of subject matter from teacher to pupils, leaving parents to fill the gap at the end of the day.
In addition, every school has one or two teachers who should be forced to take a sabbatical! At some point, an educator may burn out, especially after years and years of teaching the same subject matter. Machines break down with time, stones wear down with age. I’m not talking about abusive teachers who have personal agendas for inflicting harmful tactics in the classroom. They should be expelled from their posts without hesitation.
I share your concern about how your girls are showing extreme physical signs of stress, and your boys being average in their approach to school. Some boys’ yeshivos are more medakdek on Limudei Kodesh than on secular education. I would suggest that if you are the only parent with these concerns, you might want to look into other schools. In addition, have you spoken to your pediatrician about the girls? Does he/she agree with you that there is evidence of physical, emotional or mental deterioration? Does he/she agree with your concerns? If the answer is yes, perhaps the school you have chosen is too high performing for them to survive in and another school more suited to their abilities and temperament would be a better fit.
It’s clear from your letter that you are a loving, caring and protective mother who wants the very best for her children. If more parents would take up the cause of injustice when they see it, perhaps schools and yeshivos would be more willing and able to correct what’s wrong.
To the educators who may be reading this letter, might I suggest the following: Give your students more time and space for recess. Create some exciting school-wide contest to give kids an incentive to excel in a fun and electrically charged environment. Hire teachers who are kid-friendly so their students will want to learn and achieve. Do periodically unpredictable things like “Ice Cream Day,” or “Surprise Anything Day” giving students a break from their routine. Can you imagine how much more excited kids would be to go to school if they knew it was a place where something exciting might happen, and where teachers cared about their mental and physical well-being?
When I was in school our principal, Rabbi Levy, a”h, was, first and foremost, a great teacher, a loving father-image and a role model for us and the teachers. I would hate to think the mold was broken when he passed away.