Tag Archives: school

Begging For Validation


I never answer my door – unless I know you’re coming. Someone can bang away all they’d like, if I wasn’t informed of your arrival, I’ll become selectively deaf to your hammering. If you really want me to open the door, just call my house, tell me your standing there waiting for me, and I’ll be ever so gracious.

Seems really rude, I know. But I have my reasons (whether you agree with them or not)
1) The only people knocking on my door who I’m not expecting are collectors
2) I don’t keep any cash in the house
3) I think it’s an easier let down to think no one is home, than to be told they have nothing for you

It’s not a big deal, really. Most collectors will knock once or twice and leave if there’s no response. The problem arises when the collectors are not bona-fide meshulachim, with shtars from the Vaad, but when they come in a more miniature and menacing form – children.

Kids are the worst. They knock – persistently. They don’t wait, pause, give you moment to walk across your kitchen to receive them; it’s just knock – knockknockknock – knockknock –knockknockknockknock. And they don’t leave if you don’t answer the door. They peer into windowshades and start knocking all over again. Also, they’re generally neighborhood children, so they know my car, and whether they saw me leave or enter my home recently. You’d think they’d pick up after 3 years that I don’t answer the door. But they are a dogged bunch.

You know what, even if I did keep cash in my house to pass out when benevolence strikes me, I wouldn’t give to children. And further, I don’t intend to allow my children to collect. It may be standard procedure in Lakewood, I just think it’s bad chinuch.

The position of a meshulach, to have to go door to door to procure necessary funds is degrading. It’s embarrassing, and is only undertaken in the most dire of circumstances. And so it should be. To just ask of another person, another person in which you have no regard for each other, is the epitome of taking – and if the most Godly behavior is giving, then taking in such a manner is its contrast, and thereby ungodly.

My question is, why are school, organizations and parents encouraging children to engage in such behavior. Yes, I suppose in many cases the causes are worthy, but do you want to teach your children to just ask a random stranger for money, to take away the human mortification of the deed, and further embed it into their sociological structure of acceptable behavior? There are other ways to encourage a child to fundraise for a worthy cause without them soliciting door to door.

And then there’s this story.

I was on the phone with my sister while it happened so I can attest to its veracity. Her 6 year old daughter came over to her and requested 11 dollars.

“Why do you need 11 dollars?” my sister asked suspiciously. “Is this for a school trip of project?”

“No,” her daughter replied simply, “It’s for Rochel.”

“Why do you have to give 11 dollars to Rochel?”

“She’s collecting for Organization Blank Blank”

My sister got a litter confused here,

“Why does she need 11 dollars specifically?” my sister asked, voice rising, getting slightly indignant, “I can give her whatever amount I see fit.”

“Well, she want the Gameboy prize, and she needs 11 dollars.” My niece answered plainly.

My sisters eyes popped (I’m assuming they popped, I didn’t see her, but I know her expressions)
“You can give her 25 cents –from your own money!”

And my niece, totally not following what happened, stated simply,

“But she needs 11 dollars.”

My sister then put her hand on her hip and wagged her index finger at her daughter (once again, just speculating here), and said sternly,

“I’m not giving tzedakah, so Rochel can get a prize. If she wants a Gameboy, let her parents buy for her, I’m not sponsoring it, especially not with my tzedakah money.”

I’m not sure if my niece understood the message, but she definitely grasped her mother’s tone of voice and dutifully walked away.

“Did you hear that?” My sister asked me, returning to our conversation. “The chutzpah!”

And I agree.


So, would you let your child go door to door collecting?


Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Parenting, Slice of Life


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Instead of the Concession Phone Call

A long time ago, I became friends with Jennifer. You know Jennifer, she leaves nice comments on this blog, and makes me feel like someone is actually listening to my drivel.

It’s a funny story how we became friends. Well, not really funny, ha ha, but more like, unlikely. She wasn’t my type, I wasn’t hers (still is that way). Aside for “types” we really have a lot in common, reading, writing, drawing, Harry Potter and a wicked sense of humor (well, mines not that awesome, her’s is).

She was G.O., main part in play, nah, I shouldn’t tell you that about her, you’ll get the wrong picture, thinking she was this uber-glamorous, popular charmer who we all secretly hated. No, Jennifer, was – no still is, one of the nicest, kindest people I know. Can never say no to anyone. Really generous, sweet, smart, eager, and all those kind of qualities, the REAL nice girl qualities, she also happens to be super-talented, but it’s so by the way with her, that we were able to forgive her her awesomeness.

Anyway, in 9th and 10th grade, while I frittered away class time, sleeping, making extraneous bathroom trips, and being an overall failure, Jennifer diligently took notes, answered questions, and was of course a model student. Except when she wasn’t – which was when she was writing stories with me. We’d write a paragraph or two, and pass ‘em back and forth, waiting to see what twist the other one threw, stretching the imagination. A lot of them were Harry Potter fan-fics, and we once wrote a story that was a lot like Mean Girls, but Mean Girls hadn’t come out yet – it did later, and I felt cheated of intellectual property, but never mind that. We wrote a lot stuff; it was fun, we each have some of it stashed somewhere in our parents’ houses. And we made a bet, with no real stakes, just a mental competition, of who would publish a book first.

Well, this past Thursday, Jennifer won. “Not My Kind, I Don’t Mind” published by IsraelBookshop, available online and in Judaica stores is written and sorta illustrated by Jennifer (she made all the clay figures, and then a graphic artist placed them nicely on the page).

“Not My Kind, I Don’t Mind”, is a really cute story about acceptance and love, with a nice moral at the end, a moral that I learned in 9th grade when I became friends with Jennifer. Maybe if the book had been around when I was growing up, I’d have made friends with Jennifer a little earlier instead of moping around with an attitude problem.

Check out the book, and even better, buy and enjoy it!

It being a success will keep my ego in check 😉


Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Slice of Life, Writing


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My Problem With Averages

Opening up a school has been a dream of mine for as long I can remember…well at least going back to 6th grade. Every year since I began envisioning the perfect educational model, my views on what constitutes model education evolved.

In 6th grade more vacation was my primal focus. I later started railing against uniforms. I matured a bit, and vowed to get interesting teachers, who knew their subject like their own child. I swore not to play politics or money. Most recently I’ve been advocating a school for the average child.

Of course, I could never promote my school on that platform; no one would enroll. Nobody is going to publically admit that they believe themselves to be mediocre. Actually, I don’t think anyone would consider themselves a candidate for my school, but they would surely know plenty other wonderfully average people that would make terrific students for my establishment.

Nobody truly believes that s/he are average. Every person imagines s/he have some redeeming quality or talent that puts him/herself the above the line, but somebody, or actually most people, have to be among the average. It’s just basic statistics.

As a high school teacher for the past 5 years, employed in three different (very different)schools, I have witnessed one common link between them all. They love to recycle, and I don’t mean going green. When it comes to any positions, privileges, committees, jobs, whatever term there is – the schools always referred to a small pool of students. Those students who exhibited that X factor (or their father’s checkbook) early on, earned themselves the spot of go-to girl.

These girls throughout their high school careers have ample opportunity to develop coveted skills for life: leadership, delegation, organization, brainstorming, creativity, self expression, confidence, just to name a few. They get to be on top of the totem pole, ahead of the pack, the prized few. The other girls have two options, follow them or despise them.

Yes, I know, that a success in high school does not equal success in life, but giving opportunities, safe risks, a place to try and fail without drastic consequence is a high school’s obligation. And our schools are falling very short of this goal. The Jewish High Schools rule extra curricular like a dictatorship, who’s in who’s out, who’s on top, is all by their say so, even the G.O. “elections” aren’t safe – who do you think selected the candidates. Extra curricular should be run by students and supervised by adults. Kids give each other more chances than any adult ever would.

Going back to success outside school, how many people do you know who “blossomed” after graduating high school. Suddenly they “came into themselves”. People see them as the capable talented adults that they are – and very often ALWAYS were. They were simply never given a chance to show the world who they were, because the adults in the world were too busy with the same tried and true students.

So that’s who my current school is for, the child who deserves the chance, deserves an opportunity, deserves someone to say, “I believe you can”, but won’t receive it, because they have the unfortunate lot of being “average”.

Anyone want to back this venture?


Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Teaching


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Making A Mark

red pen

Image by etcher67 via Flickr

I was a bit of a trouble maker in my younger years, and if I wasn’t making trouble, I found some already made to get caught in. In this story, I made it though.

I didn’t like Mrs. Smith, my second grade English teacher. She was smelly, had long thin white fingers and there were rumors that she wore a diaper (I may have started that rumor, I’m not sure). There are more stories involving Mrs. Smith and her supposed diapers, but that’s not this story.

In this story, I took a math test, and on a whim (yes, you can have whims when you’re 7), I wrote in big block letters in the back,


I knew it was wrong, and stupid. I showed it to a few girls lining up to hand their papers in. Their eyes got wide in horror, but then excitement, “Do it, do it!” they said. (Hey, all the fun and none of the risk, I’d probably egg someone else on too) I remember the adrenaline rush as first I hesitated to put my paper on top of the stack on her desk, then plunged the paper down, and scampered off.

By the time I walked off the school bus and my mother was asking about my day, I had totally forgotten my mischief.

A few days later, Mrs. Smith announced that she was handing back our tests. Bolting upright in my seat, I remembered my impishness. The desk started to feel very hard and uncomfortable; I didn’t want to face my stupidity. Mrs. Smith was already calling out names for girls to come collect their papers. Soon it would be mine.

“Brenda Stein”

She called my name like everyone else’s. Like I had done nothing wrong. Was this a trick? Slowly I removed myself from my desk and in opposition to what I felt like doing, which was hanging my head low, and shuffling along, I brazenly perked my head up, smiled big and sauntered to the front of the classroom. Mrs. Smith looked at me briefly, and then at my paper, and handed it to me. Her eyes didn’t say anything. I was a little disappointed. Nothing?

I don’t recall my grade, knowing my history, probably better off not remembering so I can retain some self-esteem. This was the paper I had written those cries for attention on, wasn’t it? There hadn’t been any other test; I wasn’t confusing it with another. Quickly, I flipped to the back of the test to examine my profound  commentary.

It was still written there, bold and brash as ever.


But wait, there was something. I looked closely, and then again. She added an “s” and a period. Apparently, in my haste to make a fool of myself, I left off the “s” to Mrs., and left it reading, “I hate Mr Smith.”

She just corrected me, in her red pen, marking an error I made.

An error I never made again.




Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Memoir


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The Futility of Secrets

There are Lamed Vav tzadikim nistarim; what happened to the women?

 This question was typical of the many very deep and philosophical conversations I have with my husband over dinner.

 We though quietly for moment and then decided we couldn’t speak for previous generations, but in today’s day it’s impossible to be a tzadekes nisteres (If that’s the right word for it)

 This is for the few simple reasons; let me edify you.

 With today’s shidduch crisis, if you’re a girl, and you have a good quality, you better broadcast in on Primetime TV (primetime? TV? What’s that?), not even to get an edge over other girls, but to be in contention at all. So even if you pride yourself on your clandestine charity work, I don’t suggest that you do so in this critical stage in life.

 Then if by rare chance, you made it though shidduchim without revealing your tzadekes status, getting your child into school will.

 You thought shidduchim competition was bad? Forget about it. Take any pride you may have had, get down on your hands and knees, beg, and grovel for your child to be accepted to your third choice school.

 If you don’t let them know what a beautiful, amazing, phenomenal person you and your husband are, how solid your yiddishkeit is, how Torah is the cornerstone of home, and that your chinuch is exactly on par with whatever the schools ideology is, short of performing miracles (on second though, performing miracles is not a bad idea) dream on about your child’s formal Jewish education.

 If on even the slim to nil chance you still did not have to reveal your lofty status….your children are back in shidduchim and you’re on display again…azoy geit dus.

 I’m sure there are some of you out there who may be insisting that you were able to maintain your covert charity. All I say to you is, You’re a Narcissistic Benefactor, a contradiction in terms, if there ever was one.


Posted by on December 2, 2009 in Jewish, Shidduchim


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Now What?

What next?


I attended my last graduate class tonight. I got back my thesis. I thanked my professors. I said good-bye to my classmates. And my question is, now what?


I have a great job in my field, so I don’t feel the need to find something where I can utilize my skills.


I work part-time, so I suddenly have large blocks of time cleared from my schedule, from the time I spent in class, and the time I spent doing course work. What do I do with it?


My mother wants me to get another job, but I don’t want to give up my morning, and anyway I couldn’t get a mindless office job, so any additional job would mean more pressure, which I had enough of this year.


I suppose I can develop my curriculum more, but really that’s not going to give me enough to do. I can start reading again, but even that won’t give me enough.


I should start an independent project, but what should it be? Should I finish drawing on my walls, so they are completely covered. Should I write a book(about what?). Volunteer somewhere (but where?). Should I go back to school (for what?).


What else can I do with my time?


Any suggestions?


Posted by on December 24, 2008 in Uncategorized


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Tried and Failed

They broke out play in school yesterday.


That meant that instead of teaching 3 periods yesterday, I taught one.


A friend of mine is heading the play, so I sat in on a few try-outs.


It was camp all over again.


Except this time, I knew the girls, they were my students, and I felt bad for them.


I wanted to explain away every bad audition the second the girl left the room.


“She’s really brilliant!”

“You should know she’s an excellent writer.”

“That girl is the sweetest thing ever.”

“She’s very organized.”


As though their other assets would make up for their obvious lack in talent.


My friend wasn’t impressed.


Still, I ask.


Why do they try out?


Posted by on November 4, 2008 in Teaching


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