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Showing posts from March, 2012

Four More Questions

1. Why is this student different from all other students?
2. How does one tolerate her incessant queries?
3. How could I diffuse her classmates' frustration?
4. What can I, personally, gain out of this experience? [Credit to Rochi and Rivki]


Shoshi* is in Seder-mode all year long. She doesn't miss a thing and questions every detail of my lecture until it is absolutely clear to her. Most teachers and classmates are bothered by her endless queries. Not me. She charmed me on day one with the most gorgeous smile ever, so I am completely won over. Besides, I admire her sincerity (and focus!).

Pirkei Avot teaches that the shy student will not learn (לא הבישן למד). I've seen it time and again. Students are too often afraid to raise their hands. I wonder about it...

Perhaps they are lacking poker chips that day and are afraid of sounding dumb. I've tried to assure students that asking is harmless, to no avail. Teachers may be known for giving pat answers, or simply missing the …

The Same Path

I walked from the main building to the school's entrance twice today. The first time as a teacher, the second time as a student. Well, to be totally accurate I was chatting with my collegue, but as I was seeking her advice it was more of a mentoring situation.

This morning Vicki* brought me to the art room (located near the entrance) to show me her canvas-in-progress. Vicki is a student in my 11th grade Chumash class. This is my third year teaching her, so I already knew that she would have a hard time remaining focused. I also knew that she liked to doodle in her notebooks. Two years ago, I encouraged her to take illustrated notes during my lessons. I just wanted her to have an idea of what was going on in class, really. At the end of the year, Vicki wrote a lovely note thanking me for "encouraging [her] artistic side".

When I saw Vicki's name on my class list, I knew what my action plan would be. Vicki would research the details of Noach's Taivah (Noah's Ar…

Like Mother, Like Daughter

It was two and a half hours of one family after the next. Some mothers came alone, other parents came as couples and still others brought their daughters along. It was parent-teacher evening, one of the most tiring yet most productive events in the school calendar.

"Esther* has a hard time staying focused..." my voice trailed off.  I smiled a sad smile as I watched the mother's eyes wander off to the corner of the room. My audience had lost focus. 
Like mother, like daughter.
Does she stand a chance?

Family connections are a funny thing. Students are regularly compared to their siblings (and mothers!). Younger sisters are often "figured out" before they've had a chance to prove themselves one way or another. It is almost expected that they will have similar scholastic and social abilities.

The funny thing is, I don't see it. Last year I taught two sisters concurrently, but I did not uncover their familial relationship until parent-teacher evening. I finishe…

The Joy of Writing

I sat down on a long winter night
And watched as my tasks piled up to great height
I let the pen in my hand just flow
Will it go fast of maybe quite slow?

Then a saying popped right into my mind
It shattered my thiughts and its message did blind.
הלשון הוא פולמוס הלב “the pen is the tongue of the heart”
Let’s look at that line and pull it apart:

To me it does mean that when I sit here like this
With a pen and paper, overflowing with a writing bliss
Really what’s flowing on all these lines,
Is what’s lying in my heart much deeper than coalmines.
Then when the words quickly fill till room there’s no more,
I could understand what the tool called writingis really for:

To express what lays deep down within
And letting it out as if pokingwith a pin
To tell you my most deepest thoughts
And fill it all up till we’ve filled all the spots

Shoelaces and yiddishkeit

It was ten minutes into the lesson. The door creaked open as two girls headed apologetically towards the back of the room, "Sorry, Mrs. Shore* just dismissed us."

Rochi* looked frustrated. Mrs. Shore is an opinionated teacher, always sure of herself, who excels at lecturing her students into oblivion. Rochi is a thinker. She always has her own perspectives and is not too shy to share them.

They must have had another confrontation.

"What's up, Rochi?"
"Have you heard of this shoe thing?"
"Tell me"
"I mean, who cares which way I tie my shoes?!?"

I allowed myself a small smile. "Interesting. The shoe-tying business reminds me of a fascinating story. There was a young boy in a Gan Yisroel camp..."

I love watching how their ears perk up at the promise of a story. The actual story is irrelevant, as is the whole how-to-tie my shoe business. What really grabbed me was how the rest of the lesson panned out.

I knew there must be a …

To quench the thirst

"I have a headache" "Did you drink too much?" "No, I didn't drink enough."
Purim was lovely, thank you for asking. We spent several hours driving around to extended family members to share the simcha. Each stop was only a few minutes and followed a similar script:

"Look who's here!" "What a darling duck costume / princess crown." "Say cheese! Snap, snap. [Pass around Shaloch Manos packet] "Have a lovely day!"
Then, we'd walk back to the car and buckle up the babies. I would gratefully sink in to my seat... and then the pounding would commence. "I forgot to ask for water again!" We had a whole laundry basket full of packages to distribute in the back seat. There were forty cans of soda, but not one bottle of water. 
Why do we spend so money on junk food and forget about fruit/veges/water? Hey, if you're giving a basket full of chocolates you can count me in! But bamba, chips, pretzels... not my …