Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night? I was, but I’ve been taking a course — well, officially I’ve been teaching a course — on this very subject, and now I am not afraid.
Each time my wife and I think we have moved past one parenting issue, a new one arises. Our son starts sleeping a little better? Then meals become a challenge. Our daughter starts listening better? Welcome to potty training!
Reasonable risk seems like an oxymoron. I checked a list of examples to see if it appeared, beside “open secret” or “small crowd.” I couldn’t find it, so I decided to coin the phrase yesterday, on the first day of school.
Picture yourself as an Educational Director or Educator search committee. There is a position open, and you have narrowed the field to two possible candidates. One is dynamic, outgoing, and will be able to involve the students in the educational experience. Unfortunately, his knowledge is suspect and inconsistent. He will make mistakes when he teaches. The other applicant’s knowledge is thorough and deep. However, he is quiet, meek and passive. He lacks the charm and charisma that will engage his students. Whom do you hire?
Are you one of those people who envies teachers for having summers off? It’s okay…I used to be like you, because I was one of those teachers who worked every summer at camp. I learned quickly that teaching hours at camp are even more intense than in school, and when the camp session ended I needed at least a week to recover before returning to my classroom.
I’ll never forget that time I taught the first line of this week’s Torah portion (B’midbar). One English translation begins, “God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai” (Numbers 1:1), from which Jewish tradition spins countless interpretations.
This is the season of goodbyes. I hold my breath while listening to my son say goodbye, with humor and grace, to the school he has attended for “more than two-thirds of his life.” As he recognizes the teachers who influenced him, I remember Mrs. Ivirio, Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Wilson.
There is a famous story in the Talmud that describes several rabbis arguing about whether a fellow’s oven is fit for use. In the course of trying to prove his point, the rabbi who holds the minority opinion attempts to convince his colleagues that he is correct by calling upon God to support him. After the river runs backwards and a voice calls out from heaven that he is correct, his colleagues scoff, saying that they do not determine legal matters based upon heavenly voices. They quote God, who told Moses and the people of Israel that the law is “not in heaven,” but in their own hands (Deuteronomy 30:12).
The Jewish day school I attended for grade school and middle school was affiliated with the Conservative movement of Judaism. It was a member of the Solomon Schechter Day School Network, its headmaster was a Conservative rabbi, its curriculum was based on Conservative Jewish principles, and the rules that governed the school (e.g., kashrut [dietary laws]) were predicated on Conservative Jewish doctrine. The vast majority of the approximately 500 students that made up the school were from families affiliated with Conservative synagogues. Only a couple handfuls of my peers at the Metro Detroit school came from Reform or Orthodox homes.
Each of us is the main character in the story of our lives. We share ourselves with others by telling our narratives. It is through narratives that we often learn the greatest lessons. We live within the framework of tales about success and failure or good and evil. Our self-perception is seen through these accounts.