By: Rabbi Shalom Arush
An educator must conduct himself like a merciful shepherd, worrying about the needs of each little lamb. Moses was attentive to the weak lambs in his flock, ensuring that they ate the soft grass before the stronger sheep entered the pasture. He would fence in the mature sheep until the lambs had eaten, leaving them the stiffer grass. So did King David. That’s why Hashem made them the leaders – and chief educators – of the Jewish People.
In the same way, an educator must provide each child with what he needs. He must separate certain children from those who are a bad influence on them and pair together those who would benefit from each other’s friendship, like a loyal shepherd.
Every educator should have a daily prayer that he says for the children whom he is teaching. He should know their full names for prayers and pray for them daily, beseeching G-d to show him how to relate to each and every one of them according to the needs of their unique souls. This reflects King Solomon’s teaching, “Educate the child according to his own inclinations.” Uniform methods might work for the Marine Corps but they don’t work in child education. Each child needs a different approach. Sounds impossible? Who said that child education is easy? The responsibility is prodigious. The educator must tend to the special souls that The Almighty has entrusted in his hands for safe-keeping. Success in this endeavor requires endless prayers.
If the educator will do his utmost, as above, then even if he doesn’t succeed with the child, Heaven will not hold him responsible, for he has done everything humanly possible. G-d does not demand more than what a human being is capable of doing; He’s fully aware of our limitations.
These are the two principles that one must remember well when educating Hashem’s “holy flocks”:
First, every effort and attempt that a teacher makes earns priceless rewards. Every positive life lesson that he merits to instill in his young pupils guarantees his place in the World to Come.
Second, the teacher carries the tremendous responsibility to avoid mistakes or failures when dealing with tender souls. One highly respected educator said, “In other types of work, failure might cause monetary damage; but failure in education can trample a soul.”
An educator should always avoid stern measures, such as punishments and suspension, as much as possible. He must devote maximum effort to educating in a positive and enjoyable way with prayer, songs, stories and prizes. In addition, he should not hesitate to enlist as much outside help as necessary from experienced educators and colleagues, parents of the children and whoever else is relevant. He should never look for the easy or quick solution, for he is dealing with delicate souls. It is easy for the educator to eject the disruptive child from the classroom but no one knows what might happen to the ejected child.
Some children are very active. It’s hard for them to sit still and not disrupt the class. In most cases, the school will demand that the child take Ritalin because they do not want to work hard with this soul.
True, it’s not easy to deal with a hyperactive child. But with sincere effort and combined forces with the parents – accompanied by much prayer and including a commitment from the parents that they will pray for their child for five minutes daily – the child’s problems can be solved without Ritalin.
Many leading educators believe that the problems of these hyperactive children can be solved with a lot of attention, warmth and love – particularly from the parents – and of course, extensive prayer. Do not look for the easy way out and drug the child. Do not paralyze him!
One of the greatest educators of this generation related that she had a hyperactive child. It was very difficult to raise him, but she did not give up; she showered him with attention, warmth and emotional support. Today he is the father of a beautiful family and a Rosh Yeshiva of one of the largest yeshivas in Israel. He does massive outreach work and is unbelievably active, sleeping only two hours a night. All of this is a direct result of his parents’ love and faith in him. This allowed him to channel his hyper-activity in a positive way.
The so-called solution of giving the child a ‘sedative’ puts him in danger throughout his life. When he is older, he may become accustomed to taking drugs every time he experiences difficulty, leading to drug addiction or alcoholism, G-d forbid.
Another important point for educators: It is true that there is always pressure from the administration to cover learning material. But one must always remember priorities. The goal of education is to instill good character traits in our children and pupils: ethics, love of Torah and love of their fellow human beings. With this in our focus, Hashem will surely help us in this hallowed task.