Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Actors

Written two years ago...after a local education day

Yesterday, I got to teach Sam again.

At a local educators’ day, I was standing outside the door, waiting for teachers to filter in when a young man approached me. “Morah Mary,” he said, “do you remember me? You taught me in third grade and now I’m back to learn from you again.”

Do you remember me? “Of course, I remember you,” I replied as my eyes filled with tears.

I remember one day early in the school year, after class I complimented you on your high participation and the quality of questions you asked. You grimaced and said, “But you really shouldn’t compliment me: I didn’t want to come today. My Mom made me.” I remember writing you a note that evening and explaining that although Mom may have “made” you come to class, Mom wasn’t in our room and she didn’t “make” you walk in with a smile…she didn’t “make” you raise your hand…. she didn’t “make” you help the kid seated next to you…..

I remember that you were part of a group of six friends who thought the best part of religious school was the chance to see your friends and get caught up on each others’ lives. What you had to share with each other was infinitely more interesting than what I could teach. At a parent/student meeting to brainstorm solutions, I remember wryly responding to a parent, “Putting one in each corner of the room might work, but my classroom has only four corners….” After that meeting, you were the student who came up to me to apologize for being thoughtless and disrespectful, and you vowed to improve.

I remember your face when we’d talk about how what we were learning connected with our daily lives – and the way your face would light up when you were able to make a personal connection.

I remember the questions you asked – thoughtful, provocative, eager to put the pieces together.

And I remember the last day of class. You weren’t there. I was so disappointed. I wanted to say goodbye – to find a private moment to let you know how privileged I felt to have had you in my class that year.

Five minutes after class, you and your Mom walked in. You were obviously distraught. Mom explained that you hadn’t wanted to say goodbye, but realized that you had to. We spoke for a moment – you looked at me with your soul in your eyes. I took your hand and remember saying, “Some day, Sam, you’ll be a religious school teacher too – and you’ll be blessed with students just like you.”

What I learned from Sam those many years ago was a simple, critical lesson. I shared it with him and his colleagues in the workshop I taught yesterday – in order to be “master teachers,” we must let our students touch our hearts and be willing to touch theirs in return.

Yesterday I got to teach Sam again – and he got to teach me. Baruch haShem – my life has been blessed!

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