Dear Dr. Yael,
Disclosure: Before anyone reads this article, they should be aware that it doesn’t apply to every yeshiva as I don’t know every yeshiva. The article is based on my own personal experience, and what other people have shared. It is also not intended to insult anyone.
I have a very important issue that I would like to discuss, and it effects every child in our community. I am seeing a trend of yeshivas only valuing certain students. Students who fit into their neat box do great, but any other children, whether they are brilliant or need a lot of extra help, often are put down.
I have an elementary school child who is very bright. He is bored in school and sometimes this leads him to make trouble. While I do not condone his behavior (there are consequences at home when he misbehaves), I also do not understand how the school system has not found a way to build on his strengths. I know I am biased, but my son has a lot of strengths. I truly believe that if his rebbeim, teachers, and principals focused on his strengths and built him up, they would have very little need for discipline and negative interactions. I actually see that when he has a rebbe or teacher that appreciates him and values him, he usually behaves beautifully and has a great year.
I do not understand why any adult would want to push a child down. I know my son will, im yirtze Hashem, be ok because we build him up and counteract a lot of the negative he gets in school, but why should any school want to destroy a child? What do these schools do with the children who actually have serious issues if this is how they handle someone who is overall doing pretty well? What is going on with the yeshiva system that we are pushing more and more children away from yiddishkeit each year? We obviously have a need for schools that specialize in helping children that are being pushed away as those schools exist. Many of those children are thriving in those schools because of all of the love, patience, and positive feedback they get in these schools. Why do we need to hurt children, push them away from yiddishkeit, and then try to save them? Why can’t all the yeshivas love our children and make them feel special? I guarantee you that no one ever goes off the derech because their teachers or rebbeim made them feel loved and cherished. Some rebbeim say terrible things to children and the principals stand behind these rebbeim. Why?! It hurts me that the chinuch system is so broken as I see this as a major breach of ahavas Yisroel.
I actually spoke with my son’s principal and asked him to give my son positive feedback often to counteract his previous negative experiences. His answer was that he doesn’t know my son well enough to do this. I asked him how he knows him well enough to give him negative feedback and he had no response. How is this ok?! I know your answer will be to switch schools, but my son has friends and I would rather not do that to him. I also do not know if other schools will be different. I hope other schools are different, but I am losing my trust in the system.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my story and any advice would be appreciated.
A Loving Parent
Dear Loving Parent,
I unfortunately see this daily in my practice as these children often grow up to be broken adults.
Baruch Hashem, your son has a loving family. However, children who do not have that loving family and crave for a relationship with their rebbe and teachers often do not get the love and attention that they yearn for. One problem is that the world of chinuch is tough. Rebbeim are often not paid well and even if they are paid well and are good rebbeim, they often do not have great job security as many schools replace them with younger, dynamic rebbeim. Although there are many men who still crave to enter the world of chinuch, there is sometimes a lack of middos in how the rebbeim are treated and this can filter down to the children.
The other issue is that yeshivas are so busy with creating the perfect learning boy that they fail to focus on the boys’ strengths. In fact, I was delighted to listen to a clip from Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson where he tells a father to go horseback riding with his son instead of trying to learn with him in order to develop a relationship with his child. Rebbeim must see themselves as parents to their talmidim. They must foster a kesher with their students for life. My older son is still very close to his high school rebbeim and he is a rebbe today as well. He went to a high school where his rebbeim were warm and loving and this relationship has lasted. My younger son also enjoys a warm and close relationship with some of his rebbeim.
Even though you did not want this advice, it may be prudent to look into other yeshivas that are more warm and loving and that try to build their talmidim. A rebbe can make or break a child. Please seek daas torah to discuss your situation. I wish you hatzlocha in the journey of raising your children!