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Dear Dr. Yael,

Why are rabbeim and teachers in our community underpaid? I believe that ALL teachers deserve to be generously compensated but particularly those who are passing on the tradition to the next generation. Think about it, a shortstop for the Yankees will make more money for a few games than a rebbe will make for an entire year. Some actor will make more money for playing two hours on a movie screen than a dedicated rebbe or teacher in a yeshiva will make in a lifetime! While I understand that those artistic professions take years of intense study to master, so does becoming a rebbe and a teacher so why are the secular and artistic professions so much better paid than yeshiva educators who are equally well trained. Why doesn’t the Jewish community assign a greater status to transmitters of Hashem’s word than to actors or engineers? Many of the most qualified young men and women in our communities do not want to go into chinuch because it is a profession that is so low paying.

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What are your thoughts about how we can improve the economic situation of those that our passing down the mesorah to our children.

I am also concerned about the method of education in our yeshivas. It would be so advantageous to have higher and lower tracks in the school system and help our students to have educations that are both challenging and good for their self-esteem. Perhaps, it is best to have tracks that are not based on perceived educations levels. Tracks can be based on students’ talents, strengths, career interests and their particular style of learning. Also, high-school students can be given choices as to which track to follow. With the choices can come increased motivation and sense of purpose, which can also result in greater success. Here are examples of some tracks that a Jewish school can have: art, science, Jewish leadership, math, health care, hands on learning and chavrusa style.

An art track can include displaying knowledge of Torah and other subjects through the visual, dramatic and musical arts, with more emphasis on this for grades instead of tests. The science track can emphasize all the scientific knowledge of the world and of humanity that can be derived from Torah. This track can emphasize research and experiments that integrate the sciences and Torah. The Jewish leadership track can emphasize higher level Jewish learning and the ability to express knowledge and to develop chesed projects within the Jewish community and also how to reach out to the rest of the world from a Torah perspective. The health care track can emphasize knowledge of the sciences that would be particularly helpful if someone wants to enter a health profession in the future.

I hope that someone takes these ideas to heart and that, as a community, we emphasize the strengths of students and always recognizing that they do have great strengths and talents and that it is our job as educators to discover it.

A Concerned Parent

 

Dear Concerned Parent,

Thank you so much for your vital letter. I agree with you that rebbeim and teachers should be compensated far more than they are receiving; however one would have to ask, where would the money come from? As it is, most parents are paying an exorbitant amount for yeshiva tuition and are having a hard time keeping up with the cost. Since I am not a school administrator, I cannot tell you how the tuition money is spent although I believe a large percentage of the money goes to administrator and maintenance costs. I hope that the bulk is going to rebbeim and teachers’ salaries. The only way to ultimately increase teachers’ salaries is to raise the value society places in the role rebbeim play in the religious development of the students and the inculcation of Torah values.

While your educational ideas sound interesting, I am not sure how a school would be able to implement this kind of curriculum. Sure, tracks can teach every subject and have some emphasis on the areas of interest that you mentioned; however, by law, there is a certain curriculum that schools must follow. In an ideal world, this sounds wonderful, but I would have to wonder how well rounded these children’s education would be.

On the other hand, your idea touches upon new education theories. Within the new theories of education, there are ideas about teaching children multi-dimensionally; that is, teachers are beginning to learn to teach children via many modalities (e.g., drawing, music, dance, drama, mathematics and language). Short, Kauffman and Kahn (2000) state that when children are using different modalities when reading literature, they generate new ideas, increasing their understanding of the material. A child can read a book and either write a book report, draw something to indicate their understanding and creativity, act in a play that they wrote based upon the book, etc. This takes thinking to a whole other level, while focusing on the children’s uniqueness and resourcefulness.

Many times teachers read books to the children so that they can focus their attention on the information to be able to answer questions based on the book; this is called efferent stance. However, research has shown that children may benefit more from an aesthetic stance, where the reader draws on past experiences, connects these experiences with the text, and often takes pleasure in the beauty of the literary art form and becomes an integral participant in the unfolding events of the text.

Short, Kauffman and Kahn (2000) write about an experiment where two teachers encouraged children to employ various modalities in response to literature. When one of the teachers interviewed her students, they reported that this helped them express their feelings and allowed them a safe place to put anything out in whatever way they want. Thus, this also assisted children in talking about their emotions. Many of the new education theories are somewhat similar to your ideas and should be utilized in the school system.

Thank you again for an interesting letter. I ask you, dear readers, to please share your thoughts about how to increase the salaries of rebbeim and teachers and incorporating creative educational modalities so that our precious children can benefit from an excellent education. Thank you and hatzlocha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.