Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I am a ….. TEACHER and I Love It!

In the movie Footnote by Joseph Cedar (this year’s Israeli entry for Best Foreign Film Oscar), we see a poignant and at often times painful story about a father and son who, though at odds about life, learning and so much else, are at the end of the day both …… teachers. By the way, I HIGHLY recommend the movie as an insight into some fundamental aspects of our lives collectively as learners and as Jews and as human beings. In a fairly early scene (don’t worry, I won’t give away the movie!) we see how the son wants his father to be someone important and while his father is a college professor, a researcher, a Biblical and philology scholar; he simply states that he is a TEACHER! Who would be proud of being a teacher, according to the musings of the son? As they relate to each other and to their respective worlds, you see frustration of lost dreams, wonder at the value of one’s work and so much else that one contemplates as most, if not all, of his career is behind him. A real Kohelet moment if you will, you know, “Everything under the sun is futile,” “what is the purpose of a man’s labor?” and so on. By the way, I also recommend reading this treatise attributed by many to King Solomon in our Tanach (also known as Ecclesiastes in English) if you have not done so already. There you go, one book and one movie for your summer entertainment (and learning) list! So I have been a TEACHER for the past 37 years (ouch!) and I hope to continue for many to come. Oh yes, I have lectured, published, run schools, run Bureaus of Jewish Education, consulted, and done so much else, but at the end of the day all of these different involvements that pepper my resume add up to TEACHER, this is what I am (and proudly so!) and this is what I will continue to be no matter what chapters play out in my future professional activities. I grew up with the word “Melamed” thrown around a lot. A Melamed is a revered teacher in Hebrew, but the word actually means “to bring about learning.” In other words, in Jewish/Hebrew culture, a teacher is seen within the perspective of facilitating the activity of learning. It is accountable and defined beyond itself, as opposed to English dictionaries who define teacher often as “one who teaches.” Years ago, I was a member of a wonderful organization called the Coalition on Alternatives in Jewish Education. Their motto was “Lilmod uLeLamed” -- “to learn and to teach.” I often joke that I am in Grade 52, that is, I have been in school that long and am still learning. I really believe that the most important thing I bring to my classes, which I refer to as “learning circles”, is my experience as a learner, trying to inspire other learning. This is a process that remains exciting, fresh and new. This is the greatest perk of teaching as far as I can see; the ability to get paid and be a professional whose purpose is to keep learning and facilitating that process for others. This is the TEACHER that I think the father in Footnote had in mind; and this is the type of professional our best teachers are. Oh yes, and by the way, before I forget, this is National Educator’s Week, so go hug a teacher, thank a teacher, or acknowledge a teacher…. And for those of us who are in fact TEACHERS, YAY US! Keep on learnin’!


  1. As a teenager, I learned from a wonderful man (z'l), in his 50s. He instilled in me the love for Judaism. When I went back to my home town in my 30s, this man had gone for smicha, and had become a Rabbi. But I had always called him Moreh Yehuda, and one day,force of habit, I referred to him as that. I quickly apologized, since he now should be called Rabbi. He said to me: "Please do not apologize. Anyone can be a Rabbi, but not too many can be a Moreh. I am honored that you still refer to me as a Moreh."

  2. You forgot your role of MOTHER as well and on this mother's day, it seems appropriate to point out that this has been one of your primary teaching roles. Speaking from personal experience, everything you says seems relevant to your children about five hundred times over. Thanks for being such a wonderful mother and teacher!