The level of success a teacher has with each student is
dependent to a great degree on the quality of his relationship with the child’s
parents. The closer they work together, with mutually agreed upon goals in mind,
the greater are the teacher’s chances of success. (Rav Chaim Friedlander z"l
in Mesilos Chaim B’Chinuch p. 72).
Parents should inquire as to their child’s behavior, learning
level, habits and needs in school and work in conjunction with their child’s
teachers in order to enable their child to maximize the academic and behavioral
benefits he reaps from the school program.
The Tanah tells us (Avos 4:14) that a key
factor in a child’s success in Torah is the amount of honor/fear he shows to his
teacher: "…ומורא רבך כמורא שמים." – "…and the awe of one’s teacher should
be as the awe of Shamayim [Hashem]".
Not only is the student enjoined to have awe of his Rebbe,
but in addition, the Tanah compares the awe of a teacher to the awe of
Shamayim, for the child is enjoined to show awe of his Rebbe for being the one
who merits to transmit the word of Hashem to him.
When a child fulfills this obligation, and shows awe of his
Rebbe as he would of Hashem, he will see his teacher’s words as representing the
word of Hashem. This leads to a great appreciation of his teacher’s Torah. The
child will see the learning not merely as an academic exercise, but as a
transmission of Hashem’s Torah to him.
A student who ignores the Tanah’s teaching and sees
his Rebbe as a mere transmitter of information which could be gotten as well
from alternate sources, will receive only the technical aspect of his Rebbe’s
teaching, without feeling that it emanates from a holy source. The more a
student respects and has awe of his Rebbe, the more respect and awe he will have
of the Torah he teaches him.
The level of respect a child will have for his Rebbi is very
much dependent on the way the child’s parents relate to his Rebbe. Rabbi
Chaim Friedlander z"l (ibid p. 73) explains that the more honor a child sees
his parents have for his Rebbe, the more the child will honor him and be able to
learn from him, both in Torah and in yiras shamayim. If, on the other
hand, parents speak in a belittling manner about their child’s Rebbe/teacher,
even if they do so infrequently, they are, in effect, preventing their child
from being able to learn Torah from his Rebbe. Rabbi Friedlander adds that even
the slightest negative comment can have a terrible effect, for a child tends to
blow his parent’s statement way out of proportion.
Even without demeaning or critical comments, a parent who
assesses the work of a teacher in front of his child, and certainly if the child
is asked to give his opinion about his teacher, reverses the child’s role from a
student, who should humble himself before his teacher, to a judge, who freely
and authoritatively evaluates the work of the teacher.
A parent, therefore, should not ask his child, “Did your
teacher teach well today?” or “Is the principal a nice person?” By doing so, he
is causing the child to stand in judgment of his teacher.
Alternate ways of asking a child about his day in school are:
“How was your day?” or “Is there anything that happened in school you would like
to tell me about?” Another option is, instead of asking his opinion about his
day in school, a parent can ask his child about his own accomplishments in
school. For example, a parent may ask, “Did you pay attention in Mishnah class?”
or “Were you on time to class after recess?" or "Did you understand the math
If we really want our children to be worthy of sitting as
judges someday, then now we need to ensure that they act with humility
and respect and concentrate on judging their own actions, ensuring that
they themselves are acting in line with Torah principles and that they fulfill
their obligations as students as best as possible.
We learn from the above that a parent’s question has
tremendous power. It can encourage a child to faithfully fulfill his
responsibilities or it can lead a child down a path of conceited, condescending
and irresponsible behavior. The more respect a parent has for his child’s
teachers, the more likely he will ask his child the right questions.
Some parents discuss their financial situation with their
children. High tuition costs many times generates criticism about the school
charges. While a parent may be innocently expressing a truly difficult financial
situation, the child may take it a step further and look to criticize the school
and school authorities if he feels that he is not getting his "money’s worth".
The child, instead of being thankful for what he gets, begins to demand and
expect. This eventually leads to chutzpah and ridicule and leaves a sour
taste on the tongue of all who hear the child’s complaints.
A parent should be aware that all that he says in his home in
front of his children is bound to effect them and to be repeated by them in one
format or another. He not only will
cause his child to misbehave, his own critical talk will be
revealed. This we find in Gemorah Sukah (56b), that at the time of the
Chashmonoim, Miriam bas Bilga, the daughter of a Cohen, left Yiddishkeit and
married one of the Greek princes. She entered the Temple with the Greek armies
and banged with her shoe on the altar, complaining that it swallowed up the
Jewish people’s money for naught and did not protect them in time of need.
When the Chashmonoim defeated the Greek armies and the Rabbis
heard of the belittling comments of Miriam bas Bilga, they fined her whole
family, disallowing it to do the holy work in the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemorah
asks, "Is it fair to fine the whole family because of the act of one girl?" In
response, the Gemorah explains that she would not have belittled the altar, if
not that she had heard her father belittle the service in the Beis Hamikdash (Rashi).
It is not only because a child can’t hold a secret that he
repeats his parent’s words outside the home, but also and more importantly,
because he ingests his parent’s comments and they become part and parcel of his
attitudes and personality.
A different reaction of a child to a parent’s verbalized
financial worry may be to become anti-social. I remember a situation where a
student refused to participate in a Yeshiva event because he didn’t have the
means to contribute his share. When told that he could participate nevertheless,
he became self-righteous and said that he felt it was wrong to participate
without paying his share. All this against the beckoning of his Rebbe to join
the other boys. Finally, he succumbed and came along. If he would have refused
to participate, it could have led to an increasingly problematic social
situation, leading either to depression, obstinacy or belittlement on the part
of the boy, depending on his own make-up.
A parent, as well, should not give marks to his child’s Rebbe,
labeling his as good, bad, bright, fast, slow, uptight, warm, cold, etc. These
descriptions or rather labels can dramatically reduce the child’s respect and
awe for his Rebbe. The child will not respect his Rebbe’s scolding or other
educational exercises, but will consider his Rebbe limited in his ability to
objectively educate his students.
True, there are likely to be differences of opinion between
the child’s parents and his teachers, however these differences should be worked
out between the parents and the teacher alone. The child should
definitely not be a party to these discussions, adds Rabbi Friedlander.
In order to maximize a child’s educational experience in
school, a parent must come to terms with the educational framework and its
teachers and administrators and work together with them to maintain a high level
of student respect for the teaching staff. In this way, the teaching staff will
become one which the child will want to learn from and will be able to intake
all the good the staff has to offer.