By Rabbi Zalman Shneur
Our children are listening. They listen when we complain about our unhappiness with the education system. They listen when we argue that the teacher was wrong to give out homework. They are listening when we rant about a school decision we disagree with.
They are also listening when we reminisce about our favorite childhood teacher.
What stories are we telling our children?
In a Sicha marking Beis Nissan, the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe Rashab, the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasizes the importance of how we speak about education. The Rebbe Rashab was the founder of the Tomchei Tmimim yeshiva system – Chabad’s flagship educational institution. On this date, the Rebbe said, it is an obligation for Chasidim to talk about how Tomchei Tmimim impacted their lives. Not just to reflect on their Yeshiva days. To speak about their Chinuch and the meaningful experiences that shaped them.
In the world of Chinuch there is an unfortunate trend to focus on what’s wrong. The stories of past hurts and mistakes. And these stories are valid.
But there is also so much good. Acts of daily heroism by teachers who give of their heart and soul to their students. Educators who bend over backward, say the exact right thing at the exact right time. Teachers who change their students’ lives forever.
Teaching can be a stressful, demanding, and undersupported field. But by only focusing on the hardships, we are jeopardizing our future.
Want to reverse the trend of teacher turnover in our schools? Start talking about the dedicated teachers who stayed.
Are you worried about the future of mechanchos entering the field? Sing the praises of our teachers who have battled through challenge after challenge and continued to put their students first.
With our words, we can transform the culture of criticism by putting the spotlight on moments of excellence. We can inspire the next generation of educators to go the extra mile because they know that the community will have their backs.
The value a culture puts on its teachers has a tremendous impact not only on who enters the profession but also on how committed and motivated they are. Let us start celebrating our educators as one of the most important and esteemed professions in our community.
Because they are.
Having just sat down at the Pesach Seder with our families, our core responsibility is Vihigadita Libincha – to tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim to our children. It is a story that has sustained our people through generations. And the story is not summarized. The Haggadah goes into great detail to create an immersive experience. Because our stories are powerful. Our stories also create our reality.
We cannot suffice with general platitudes when we speak about the mechanchim who have impacted us. The act of sharing our own personal, specific experiences with Mechanchim who have transformed our lives creates a culture of valuing excellence in Chinuch. It creates the narrative that our teachers are our superheroes.
It all starts with a story.