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With Graditude and Appreciation to Our Teachers and Rabbeim

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As we conclude the 2022 school year, many of us in the day school/yeshiva community  spent the past several weeks speaking at and participating in graduations, moving-up ceremonies, and assemblies – an integral part of a school’s end-of-year tradition.

For many of us in Administration, these engagements required the delivery of multiple speeches, Divrei Torah and messages of inspiration and chizuk to graduating students to their friends and their families.  For others, it also represents an important rite-of-passage signifying growth and accomplishment; and, the beginning of a new and exciting chapter along the academic and social continuum.

Last week, at one of our school’s graduation ceremonies, I had the honor and privilege to publicly recognize and acknowledge our faculty for their amazing teaching, instructional leadership and impact on our student’s lives.  It was a relatively brief message and acknowledgement, but one which I felt inspired many.  For that moment, the spotlight of attention was shifted briefly from students to teachers.

I began my remarks by focusing upon the fact that education does not happen in a vacuum.  It requires a committed, dedicated and knowledgeable faculty who are passionate about their craft and at the core of their being is a love for children; and they are deeply concerned about their student’s academic, social and emotional growth.

During my presentation, I proceeded to ask each teacher to stand at their place (in the auditorium) upon hearing their names being called and to accept the well deserved applause and standing ovation which followed (this was followed by presenting them with a modest token of appreciation).

The smiles on the teacher’s faces and the body language of students and guests were beyond palpable. They truly exemplified an institution’s honor and respect for its teachers. Some teachers and guests were teary-eyed, others were smiling stoically ; some were exhibiting modest expressions of acknowledgement and others joined in the audiences applause. It was all beautiful and it represented the true diversity of character, personality, emotion and achdut among our faculty. Transcending all of these responses was a deep and profound sense of appreciation and proud gratitude for the public recognition.

That night, while driving home from the graduation, I began to reflect about how often we (self included) write articles, blogs, papers and offer presentations about the personnel crisis in our schools as well as how we fret and bemoan the reduction in teacher availability, teacher recruitment efforts and retention practices as well as the lack of available financial resources in order to attract and retain the “best and the brightest”  teachers in our schools.

It dawned on me that while these conversations were many, and rightfully so, in comparison, they eclipsed the powerful and profoundly meaningful conversations about the evolving role of teachers and Rabbeim….and their impact on our students.

This  stark contrast and reality strongly suggests that our day school and yeshiva community must  begin to reconsider new meaningful ways in which to publically honor and celebrate our teachers and Rabbeim for their work, dedication, passion and sacrifice. The keyword here is celebrate – not just during graduation celebrations, teacher appreciation week or during PTO/PTA  Chanukkah celebrations. Rather, It should become an integral part of the school’s culture as well as  its  value proposition, mission statement and school philosophy.

So next time we extend a heartfelt mazel tov  or yasher koach to our teachers and faculty, let’s  be mindful of how they have devoted their personal and professional lives to educating our children; and what it actually takes for them to be recognized as purposeful and inspiring teachers in 2022 and beyond.

Several important realities to always remember:

  • Teachers sacrifice much personal and family time and space to be the best they can be; and, they prepare continuously in order to ensure effective and meaningful classroom instruction and student engagement;
  • Teachers have chosen the teaching profession over all over vocations because of their passion for children, teaching and learning;
  •  Teachers treat each child with respect, dignity and kindness irrespective of background or circumstance; and provide many of our students with safe spaces for reflection, sharing and understanding;
  • Teachers greet and welcome their students each morning with bright and sincere smiles and brief words of encouragement; and almost always take notice of those students who require that extra smile or happy face or those who may have had a “rough ride” at home the night before;
  • Teachers for better or for worse, are making themselves available to parents, day and night) in order to respond to the increased frequency of parental concerns, questions and inquiries;
  • Teachers always hold their students accountable for their academic progress, yet are not overbearing and often modify student expectations based upon the disposition of the student or exceptionalities;
  • Teachers teach and exemplify  Yirat Shamayim  as they model and enforce middot tovot (respectful behavior)  and serve as true role models by the manner in which they talk, dress, act and respond;
  • Teachers keep a keen eye on those students who skip lunch or are too shy to play with others during recess or PE; the health and physical well being of the student is always paramount;
  • Teachers must continuously assess the academic progress of their students in order to ensure their academic growth and development; and are patient as theyUu
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    respond to the academic, social and emotional needs of all students in the classroom; and,

  • Teachers continuously infuse and inculcate Jewish values, Torah concepts and and morals which endeavor to create and develop upstanding members of our community.

Is there any other job, vocation or profession in the world that demands and expects so much ?  The answer is obvious.

So, the next time you are planning to thank your child’s teacher or Rebbe, think about what that “thank you” actually implies and suggests.  Think about the variety of ways in which that teacher or Rebbe impacts on your child’s life; and think about how transformative that relationship is and can become.

Those powerful two words –  “thank you” may in fact go a longer way than you ever anticipated or imagined.

” Teachers open our eyes to the world. They give us curiosity and confidence. They teach us to ask questions. They connect us to our past and future. They’re  the guardians of our social heritage. We have lots of heros today – sportsman,  actors, media personalities. They come, they have their fifteen minutes of fame and they go.  But the influence of a good teacher stays with us. They are the people who really shape or life”                                             

 ( Dr. Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, From Optimism to Hope, p.132)

“The True Guardians of a Community are the Teachers”                                                                         (Pirkei Avot)

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is currently Principal of the Hebrew Academy Community Day School in Margate FL and Executive Coach and Consultant. He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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