Teachers have always been revered and even lionized in Jewish tradition. We have understood from our first days as a people how important teachers are in fulfilling the divine instruction, across every generation, to teach our children the hallowed ways of Judaism.
Perhaps, as families approach the Chanukah and winter break, it is appropriate that we extend our hands in gratitude – literally and metaphorically – to the men and women who actually teach our children? We owe them a great deal.
In A Cup Full of Gratitude for Teachers and a Challenge, on the ejewishphilanthropy website, renowned Torah scholar and educator, Dr. Erica Brown, elegantly reminded us of the seminal importance of this unique expression of thanks. How right she is.
“No matter how much money is invested in renovating a gym, improving school lunches, buying the latest math curriculum or hiring a new principal, a school is only as good as your child’s worst teacher. Only uniformly great teaching across an entire school will produce consistently great learning.”
Dr. Brown points to evidence of a crisis (in the United States) of a dearth of good people going into or staying in the field of education. In response she writes, “the only way to confront the teacher crisis that is hitting us already and will hit harder still is an all-out concerted effort by establishment and emergent Jewish organizations – and not only schools – to say often and out-loud: Teaching Matters. Value Teachers. Become a Teacher.”
The situation for teachers in Canadian Jewish schools may not as dire as the one Dr. Brown describes in the United States. The key point, however, of her cri de coeur does indeed apply here as well. That is: it is always vital to acknowledge the good that teachers do for our children, for us and for helping to ensure our Jewish future.
Thus she writes: “So to all the teachers out there: thank you. Bless you. We need you to grow the next generation of teachers by deliberately planting the seeds now, no matter what grade you teach.” And then she invites teachers to send the reason or reasons they went into the profession to the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership as a way of inspiring others to consider pursuing the same lofty work.
“If you’re a teacher of any subject and any grade, enter our contest. We’re asking you to fill in our virtual board by completing this statement in a hundred words of less and send it over before December 30th to firstname.lastname@example.org. “I teach because…” Don’t forget to tell us your name, what you teach, where you teach and what grade you teach. We will be posting these responses. The top entry will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.”
Dr. Brown concludes her heartfelt plea by reminding us of a certain wisdom that we should carry each day in our hearts as we conduct our lives.
“One hundred years from now, it won’t matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank, or what my clothes looked like, but the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.”