I am not trained to be a teacher. Unless you count the eleven years of parenting, of course. But, I am not counting real-life teaching. I am talking about trained in education theory with a degree kind of teacher. I took only one course in pedagogy in college and that was because it was required. I guess I did teach a little in college, if you can count listening to speeches on how to rush a fraternity. But I only taught one basic public speaking course and that was so I could work my way through graduate school.
It wasn't until much later, when I had children, that I thought I could be a teacher when I grew up. But, as a stay-at-home mom, that just isn't in the cards for me right now. So, when the opportunity to teach Religious School arrived, I jumped at it. I can read beginning Bible stories and talk about the heroes and heroines of the Torah without too much difficulty. And then I would be able to call myself a teacher.
The first couple of classes I taught were not difficult at all. They were fun and the kids and I had a good time getting to know each other. But it didn't take long for the frustrations to begin to settle. I had issues with one little girl in the class. I couldn't get through to her. I tried sitting directly in front of her. I tried directing all my questions to her. I tried to ask her to share her thoughts first. It didn't take long for me to give up on that tactic. First of all, it didn't work. Second of all, I felt like I was ignoring the other students. Third of all, I got very tired of inane, completely out there responses.
I am not talking about answers that could be considered good guesses. I am talking about off the wall, no where near the question kind of answers. For example, if I were to ask who went before Pharaoh and demanded to have the Jewish people set free, she would respond with, "Ummmmmm, Noah!" and roll her eyes in the process. What made me really angry about this is the fact that this child's parent sat in on the class. This parent was there every day and did nothing to help her refocus her mind. This parent did nothing and said nothing when I moved my chair and sat directly across from her. This parent said nothing when I would call on this child to the exclusion of the other students. I spent a good deal of time discussing this frustration with my co-teacher. She very correctly pointed out that in order for one to truly learn, one must take an active role in one's education.
The concept that education is an active sport really hit home with me. As a "teacher," I want to see my students succeed. I want to do everything I can to help these students succeed. But at some point, isn't it more fair to them to encourage them to do the work themselves than to keep spoon-feeding them the answers? It seems like it would help my students to learn more effectively if they have to participate in the studies.
The hardest thing for me to do when I am teaching these classes is to sit through the silence that comes after a question like, "What do you put on a Seder Plate?" We go around the room and each student answers..."Egg!" "Karpas!" "Moror!" "Shank bone!" And then from my inactive participant..."Ummmm...chometz!" Yeah, we spend days preparing our homes by removing chometz to put it on our Seder Plate. Now, if this round of questions had taken place before Passover and before we spent two weeks studying Passover, I suppose I could see the confusion. But, this was after Passover, after two weeks of classes, after two Seders, and after review sheets had been sent home. After this incident, I told this child (and the rest of the class) that I would review this material one more time, but this time I would like each of the students to actually pay attention to the words I say. I was answered with a huff and a series of rolled eyes.
I am out of ideas. I am tired of the disrespectful attitude that this student brings to class. I try to be sensitive to the difficulties of being a young girl. I know it is tough to make the switch from "regular" school to "religious" school, but as a student, you have to be willing to at least try. You have to at least be willing to embrace your own education.
If you at least do that, you are one step closer to becoming an active participant in learning, and in life.