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if i could

a discussion in class about choices,

mistakes,

decisions,

second chances,

 

and if you could do it over

would you?

should you?

could you?

 

said many students

they’d love

they’d want

they’d die

 

me?

not sure

don’t think

no.

 

wishing when it happened,

that it had gone differently.

that I said something else.

that some things didn’t happen at all.

 

those moments with the pause

of shame

of frustration

of desperation

 

smiles not meaning happiness

but, sarcasm,

but, grief

but isolation

 

people ask,

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Only the good die young”

“She’s so sweet, but suffers so”

 

the unsatisfactory answer:

they can handle it

G-d loves them

it’s a test

 

i don’t know

if i’m a “good” person

if i “handled” it

if i’ve passed

 

i do know i’m here

to-day

just now

this moment

 

because of what

i’ve done,

didn’t do,

gone though,

 

all is

for better or worse,

the good with the bad

the joy in the sorrow

 

i am me,

because

despite

contrary

 

of

it

them

all

 

and i kinda like me.

so no,

so sorry

so, whatever.

 

i choose

no reset

do over

groundhog day.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Musings, Poems

 

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I Am Who I Am Today Because…

I generally ignore WordPress’s daily prompts, except today. It wasn’t an exceptionally brilliant or intriguing prompt, but my mind responded to it, not on a logical level, but a very emotional one, and I feel compelled to write about her.

My 12th grade Navi teacher changed my life. Well, not she herself, I did that, but she was a very large catalyst. I can’t say she was brilliant educator; I slept through most of her classes. She was though an exceptional teacher.

After yet another period resulting in drool pools on my desk and line patterns on my forehead, she called me over.

I stood there hand on hip waiting for her chastisement.

“The Navi speaks to me, TYTT,” she said. “It doesn’t do it for you. And that’s ok. Everyone has different things that pull and inspire them. I can’t have you sleeping through my class though.”

She had started off well, that spoke to me, but not sleeping through her class, wasn’t really an option, my eyes would just glaze over, I couldn’t fight the boredom.

“I’m giving you this sefer,” and she handed me a non-descript book, with a picture of stone staircase on the jacket cover. “I want you to read it, and take notes on it. Summarize it, jot down your own opinions, if you agree, disagree, any questions you have. This will be your curriculum. And your notes, your test. Ok?”

I looked at her questioningly, this seemed too easy, just read a book and take some notes, but I accepted the book, and the task.

The book was R’ Akiva Tatz’s “Living Inspired”.

And that book answered all the questions I never knew I had. And I felt secure in knowledge and not just faith. Things, religion, mostly, made more sense to me.

Thought is one thing, action another though.

I still slept through all my other classes, Historia, Chumash, Beer Tefillah, Hashkafah, Parsha… none of them got through to me, not like that book did.

But I graduated High School realized quite suddenly that no one was telling me what to do. No one was telling me what was right and wrong appropriate or not. I’d have to live my own life, make decisions and choices on how to lead it. And the thoughts finally translated to action.

I chose to be a teacher, and I chose to marry a man like my husband, and chose to live the lifestyle I now lead. And a whole lot of other smaller (and medium sized) choices too. My life wasn’t happening, I was making conscious decisions to make it so, spurred on by the contents of that book. I was living inspired.

I had clarity on the cycles of life, on daas torah, on the conflict between hishtadlus and bitachon and other big ticket questions.

I read his other books, listened to his shiurim and I my life changed, for the ever better.

I owe my wonderful life to my 12th grade Navi teacher. When I invited her to my wedding, I slipped in a little note,

Dear Rebitzen ——-,

I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed, and explained how much I appreciate what you did for me in 12th grade. I know, it seems simple enough, a good idea that panned out: Give a disinterested student an interesting book, have her be involved in something Jewish during your class instead of her drooling on the desk in slumber.

But had you not done what you did, I would not be who I am today. And I would not be marrying the person I am; I have you to thank for that.

By just being the shaliach, introducing me to the works of R’ Akiva Tatz, and from him, R’ Dessler, I am forever indebted to you. Those books changed my perspective on everything, it explained so much, and my life, outlook and actions reflect that.

I hope to share in many more Simchas with you. And anything good, anything of merit, anything I or my husband, or children, or generations to come accomplish, is all because of you.

Thank you,

-TooYoungToTeach

I would have never came across R’ Tatz and his work if not for her. And even if I would have, I don’t think I would have had the patience to fully concentrate on what he was trying to convey. Twice a week, I had 45 minutes of intense depth and inspiration that I got to comment and question. And today whenever I need a little pick me up, when life starts feeling monotonous, I go back to the book – she let me keep it.

I’m a 12th grade teacher now, and on the short Shabbosim, with the long Friday nights, I have my students over for a little oneg. Together we learn Living Inspired, and I love seeing the light behind their eyes, when it clicks for them, the way it did for me back then.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Slice of Life, Teaching

 

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On Changing Roles and Relationships

Mazal tov!

No, I didn’t pop yet, but another one of my students are engaged. This is already number a lot. I could feel old, or acknowledge that teaching 11th grade when your 19, will lead to many married students (with babies) when you’re 24.

It’s kinda weird, I’ll admit it. I still think of myself as really young (and possibly dumb) and they, well infinitely younger, and definitely dumber (well, not dumb, but immature).

For a lot of my students, we’re kind of part if the same generation, even if I played a role that would put me one ahead of them. Think about it, I was really one of their “own”, on the other side, talking as if I knew (and I did –most of the time), telling them when their papers were due, and what was wrong with what they were doing till now (being that, is not grammatically correct, it does not sound “fancy”), and mostly, receiving respect that is usually reserved to the elder and wiser.

The playing field is leveled. And it probably will happen that one of my students’ children will be in the same class as my own, and possibly even befriend my child.

Our names have changed, so maybe we won’t realize it at first when we arrange a play-date, but Jewish Geography must be played, and the truth will out. I’m sure we’ll laugh, and there may be an awkward moment were remember out past relationship, me the venerable teacher, her the currying favor student, and now we’d be equals.

That’s what makes it so interesting – my students, who I taught, now being on par with me.

I never had any young teachers. They were always decades ahead of me, and no matter how much catch up I play, they’ll always be one step ahead of me, and remain – my teacher. A certain amount of respect and distance will always be there. But with my own students – the first few years at least, they can level with me, and I’m not sure if I find that cute or disturbing.

And I don’t know if that makes me vain and self-possessed, or just yearning for the good old days when teachers were always old and frumpy, respectable and respected.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Teaching

 

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This is Only a Test

I got a great compliment today. It was one of those rare compliments that you take to heart, and wear on your sleeve for a while. No one told me I’m beautiful, wonderful and special, that I made their day, that my mother would be proud, or that Hashem is smiling at me.

Today, as I passed by the principal’s office she beckoned to me. I poked my head in, and she said,

“TYTT, you made a beautiful midterm.”

I blushed liked a school girl.

Now, for non-teachers to be complimented on a test may sound odd, but for those teachers out there, you know how difficult it is to create a good test.

A test with enough questions. A test that it neither easy nor hard, but thorough. A test that requires students to think and not just spit back their notes, it’s hard. And quite frankly, a lot of teachers don’t succeed (that you non-teachers would know).

Ok, so yay for me, toot my horn, and give me a Good Job sticker, I made a good test. You want me to shut up now, I get it, but you don’t. See, I used to suck at making up tests, they were awful! Total spit back, too long, too confusing, too too too, oh G-d you don’t want to see my early creations. Necessity is the mother of invention, I planned to continue teaching, and be a darn good teacher too, so my test creation skills needed help, now! And I worked on it.

So it’s not that I was complimented on something that takes skill and effort, but I was complimented on something that I used to be awful at, that I then worked on, and reached a level of being recognized for quality in that area. Now that’s pretty awesome, no?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Teaching

 

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Teaching Honestly

School banner

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All my teachers always told me I was a fabulous writer. I had a definite style, a flair, a way of sounding as if I am talking to you. I believed them. They were my teachers, they were teaching me, and if they approved of me, why should I not approve of myself. While my fellow grade mates struggled with an idea, then how to develop the idea, let alone sound intelligent while doing so, I coasted proudly through every writing assignment. My teacher’s had only praise, the only critique was that I did not write more, my prose was that enchanting.

 

When I got to college, I was really looking forward to Comp 1. Besides, for an easy A, I would enjoy it thoroughly. I mean, look at my transcripts, who would expect otherwise? I do not recall the first assignment; I recall the first grade, a C. To say devastated, to say mortified, to say mad, would not begin to cover it. At first my rage was aimed at my professor, did she not get my writing, my style, my brilliance Is she intimidated by my command of the English language that she feels the need to lower my grade and put me in my place? Then I got to reading her corrections; I made a million and half convention and style errors, and that number is being kind to me.

 

I started really listening, and really working in that class. I listened to my professor, and for the first time, REALLY learned grammar and was held accountable for it. It was the first time I was honestly critiqued and held accountable for my never-ending sentences, liberal use of commas, complete disregard of tenses and excessive use of the passive voice. Now I was mad at my previous teachers. One, why did they have me believe I was more than I was, yes, I had the potential, but I was not fit for the pedestal they put me on. Two, constructive criticism, development of a skill, work, is essential in mastering anything, why did my teacher’s not comment on my many errors, and why did they never really teach the rules in context?

School is supposed to prepare students for the real world, give them tools for success. Tools are not just content knowledge, but knowledge of yourself and your capabilities. My teacher’s did me a disservice. They probably had good intentions, to build my self-esteem and the like, and there is merit in that. However, there also needs to be honesty and truth, because I found out the truth and so will all other students, and where will that beautiful self-esteem go then?

It was a frustrating experience that first semester in college. I finished the course with a B, which is fair. My conventions and could still use a little help, but I am working on it. I did however take away an invaluable lesson that I use in my classroom all the time. Firstly, I give constructive criticism, yes, I compliment and praise too, but I let my students know where they can improve, to make themselves even better. I do not exclude the top students, if anything I address them more. Secondly, I do not excessively praise or give empty compliments just to pump a student up. I am very honest with my students, I will address their potential and let them know where they could be, but never give them the false impression that they are there already, and their work is done. Moreover, my students know this. They take praise from me seriously and with pride, and critiques as aspirations. When my students leave my classroom they know what they can do and where they can improve, which gives them focus and direction. I am doing for them, what I wish my teachers did for me.

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Teaching

 

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Student of the Weak

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...

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Every 3rd grade teacher has a reward system to keep the little brats in line, mine had “Student of the Week”. Thursday’s Mrs. Landau would announce who the best behaved student was for the week, and the following week, they would hold the prized position of “Student of the Week”.

The Student of the week had a lot of privileges. First, she got to sit in the second row, first seat, close to the teacher and door. She also got to run all of Mrs. Landau’s errands: go the office to pick up photocopies, get Mrs. Landau a drink of water, pass out papers and the like. Looking back, we were all just vying to be her personal slave, but back then, there wasn’t anything we wanted more.

Best of all privileges, the Student of the Week got to wear a pin with ribbons on it that read “Student of the Week”. Worn every day, all the girls in the class, grade, and anyone she’d meet in the school during the duration of her reign would know of her accomplishment, of her status.

I wanted everyone to know how great and special I was. I wanted to be Student of the Week. But it was so hard. Every week something happened that I knew would take me out of the running. Once, I came in late for recess, another time I called out. Other times, I whispered in class for my friend to give me a pencil, and then sometime, I didn’t have the right books on the right day, even if she gave us a chart telling us what we needed when. There were also those weeks that I was ok, but other girls were better than me.

Patiently, I waited my turn, waiting for the day where the sun would shine on me, and I would be among the chosen glorious.

Mrs. Landau said that every girl would have the opportunity to be Student of the Week at least once, before anyone got a second chance. So I knew, that even if I wouldn’t earn it, I’d one day, by default come into respect.  I kept a secret class list, and carefully maintained records of who was student of the week, who was still left, and when could I possibly secure my place and validity.

The weeks went by, and my name wasn’t called, but it was ok, there was still time. And then came the week where I knew I would have to be crowned, everyone else had had their moment in the sun. I behaved extra well that week, I wanted to deserve it, even though I knew it was coming to me. I kept myself in check. I didn’t push in line, I didn’t lose my place reading, I kept my desk neat, and none of my pencils rolled noisily off my desk. And on Thursday I waited for the inevitable confirmation.

It didn’t come.  

Mrs. Landau started off saying how excited she was to call this girl’s name, what a model student she was and how beautiful she conducted herself all week, and we should all learn from her. I leaned forward in my seat expectantly, so proud that I had really done it right. But then she said,

“Chani Green, come up!”

She called a different girl’s name, not mine. Not Brenda Stein. She called up a girl who had a chance early on in the year. A naturally sweet, angelic, organized, well-behaved girl. A girl who would have won have won every week if she were in the running. Won it without breaking a sweat, or giving a thought.

I slid down in my seat, embarrassed. She didn’t call me, she had ignored me, and all my efforts, passed me over. I had tried so hard, this was supposed to be my moment, but now it was another to enjoy, again. I was heartbroken, and hurt, I didn’t understand how this could have happened. I calculated correctly, there was no error, this title was supposed to be mine, except it wasn’t.

The next week, Chani Green took my seat in the second row, first seat. And she performed all of my duties. I didn’t try anymore. There was no effort to participate, to listen, to behave, to be. I was cheated out of my 3rd grade dream with no explanation.

The next year, I vowed to start fresh. I would behave, participate, be organized. I had a rough start the first week, but I was determined to make it work. On Monday of the second week of school, there was knock on my classroom door. A small girl with frizzy red hair popped her head in and requested that I come out. Puzzled, I exited the classroom, and when I looked at her, I didn’t see her large flaming hair, put was drawn to the pin on her chest, Mrs. Landau’s “Student of the Week” pin.

Mrs. Landau wanted me to erase my name that I had written in pencil (no pens allowed until 5th grade) in the back of several of my textbooks, the Student of the Week explained. She led me to stack of books and handed me an eraser.

The back staircase was cold on my bottom, where I sat erasing my name. There were other names of previous students written of the white canvas, but she called me. I was a failure of a student, I could never be a “Student of the Week” under any teacher. Having her current prized pupil pull me out of class and reprimand me on her behalf, was a slap in the face letting me know my worth.

There went my year.

And other teacher’s tried. They had their systems, their rewards, their different titles, but they were all the same to me – I never tried to be a Student of the Week again.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Memoir

 

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In Stitches

Stapler

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I wrote this piece about 6 years ago as a sample for teachers in a writing curriculum I was developing for 3-5 grade boys, hence the perspective, subject matter, and style.

I never got stitches in my life. Every boy I know got stitches at least once. Some girls even got stitches. The best is when you can see the scar so everyone knows you got stitches. It’s not that I don’t fall, scrape my knee or do stupid things, I just don’t get hurt enough to get stitches.

The closest I ever got to getting stitches was when I tried to pop a wheelie on my bike. I ended up falling backward and banging my head. All I got was a concussion and three butterfly Band-Aids.

The best time to get stitches is over the summer. That’s cuz when you go back to school the teacher always makes you write what you did during your summer. and then read it in front of the class. Nobody pays attention when I read about my salamander collection, or about how I won a lot of relay races. I don’t blame them.

The stories everyone listens to is when a boy gets stitches. He gets to show everyone his scar, tell all the gory details, and best of all gross out the girls. I always wanted to tell such a story. I’m good at making scary, eewy faces.

I was so excited to go to school this year, cuz this summer I finally got stitches.  I was going to have the best story for the first day. All the girls were gonna throw up! I even wrote the story before I came to school so I’d have it ready to read the second the teacher would ask for volunteers.

Of course, everything changed when I got to school. First in yard I saw Timothy. He was in a wheelchair cuz he broke his ENTIRE foot rock climbing. He was gonna have a better story than me. Then I saw a bunch of guys around Randy. He was telling everyone how he split his tongue in two over the summer. He stuck his tongue out and I could see a thin line going down the middle. He had a WAY cooler story and scar than me.

I was getting upset as I walked to class, but I still had my story all written up, so I could read mine first, and everyone will think it’s cool. At least until Timothy and Randy tell their story. The teacher walked in and she looked nice enough, but had too many teeth.

She started teaching all the boring stuff like multiplication, George Washington, and something call the inverment, and how we should all be green. I was going crazy till finally she told us to take out a piece of paper. I started reaching for my story when she said.

“Instead of doing what you do every year,….”

 Instead? What did she mean instead?! Did that mean we weren’t writing about vacation?

“…We’re going to write about each other…”

What??!!! Each other?! What for?!

“…..the person sitting next to you..”

Next to me? Oh G-d eww it’s Fatty Patty, disgusting!! I think it just might be worth stapling my hand again. I’ll get out of writing and get stitches, AGAIN.

“…remember to only write nice things.”

Nice things?!! I can’t believe this is happening! I have my whole story written out. Why can’t I just give it to her?! I described everything so good. How the blood spurted and the staple came out the other end of my finger. How my sister started crying when she saw it, and that my mother almost fainted. I wrote how I watched the doctor stitch my finger, and he didn’t even have to numb me. IT IS SUCH A COOL STORY!!!

And now I’m stuck writing about Fatty Patty. Maybe I should write that her fingers are twice as big as mine, and if she wanted to stitches a stapler wouldn’t help cuz their so big. That’s a nice thing about her, right? She’s safe from staples.

I hate new teachers who try to be original. Who do they think they’re impressing. Anyway I better start writing, Teacher is coming up and down the rows watching us….

            The teacher just sent me to the principals office cuz I started my paper with the sentence; Fatty Patty doesn’t look so fat when she’s far away. Almost like a picture, when you look tiny, and your whole body is in the picture. She said it was milishis, and I didn’t listen to instructions.

            I don’t know what milishis means, but I know how to listen to instructions. That was nice. Now Fatty Patty will know to stand far away from everyone if she wants to look smaller. I don’t what the teacher is talking about. I don’t like her. Fire her.

            Anyway, so this is the whole reason and story I was sent to you Mr. Principal. Please don’t tell my mom I stapled my hand on purpose.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Writing

 

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My Mama

I went to Kever Rochel the other day. It was an interesting experience.

I was having a difficult time relating to the whole “Mama Rochel” thing, when I can just go “Tatte” at the Kosel.

And then I got it.

Me by the Kosel, is a student talking to a teacher.

Mama Rochel is a mother talking to the teacher by PTA.

When a student talks to a teacher, s/he humbles herself, flatters the teacher, asks in the nicest of ways, begs, pleads, and the teacher nods and listens and appreciates the student having the guts to approach her directly, and will definitely consider what the student asked, explained and said, but when it comes down to it, the teacher will do what s/he thinks is best.

Before we get to PTA, there’s the pre-PTA where the child tells the mother all the issues and gripes s/he has with the teacher.

“Tell her not to pick on me.”

“Her tests are so hard.”

“She doesn’t even know my name!”

Then comes PTA.

There is no greater advocate for a child than his/her mother.

“She’s really smart and creative, you have to give her a chance.”

“Call on her when she raises her hand.”

“She needs a modified test.”

“I think a different approach is necessary.”

“My child doesn’t think you like him/her.”

“You give to much homework.”

“My child really tries, I know you don’t see the effort in the results, you should see her work.”

“My child doesn’t think you even know her name.”

And when it comes to parents’ comments, teachers generally listen, because they know the parent will have no problem calling them again and putting them in their place.

So, yeah, I get the Mama Rochel thing now.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Jewish

 

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10 a day Daily

A writing teacher once suggested that I write down 10 observations daily to develop my “Writer’s Perspective”.  So here are today’s observations

 

1)     I am terribly unphotogenic

2)     The cello sounds incredible cool, as an instrument and as a word

3)     I have developed bags for the first time in my life.

4)     I’d rather have clammy hands than scaly dry ones. (For the record I don’t have either)

5)     Most of my students cannot find a book in the library if the librarian gave them the Dewey Decibel system call number for it.

6)     School Plays and planned curriculum do not go well together

7)     Jewish teenaged girls love when their English teacher’s talk hashkafa, but resentful when their Hebrew teachers do

8)    Jewish teenage girls sincerely believe in a lot of things that they have no intention of following through on.

9)     It is a pain transferring the junk from the pockets of one coat to the pocket of the next

10)Every house, including my own, has a smell.

 

I can probably write an entire post on each observation. So maybe my teacher did have a point…what did you observe today?

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2008 in Teaching

 

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I Like Me (Ergo)

We were having a discussion in class about choices,

 mistakes,

decisions,

second chances,

and if you could do it over again

would you?

 

So many of my students said

they’d love to start over

Do it again.

I didn’t want to.

I can think of so many things that when they happened,

I wished had gone differently.

That I had said something else.

That had known something.

That some things just didn’t happen at all.

 

People always ask,

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

and then the defeating

answer

“because they can handle it and Hashem loves them.”

(that answer never satisfied me)

 

I don’t know if I’m a “good” person

or if I “handled” it…

Hashem loves me,

that I do know,

but I’m here today because of everything,

I’ve done,

didn’t do,

gone though,

experienced…

                    for better or worse,

                    the good with the bad…

 

I am me, because of it…

 

And I kinda like me.

                                                              

                                                                                 So no,

                                                                                 I’m not gonna go for a

                                                                                                              do over.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2008 in Poems, Teaching

 

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