Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wow! Now There's A Rebbi Who Needs To Retire!

As many of you know, I am often critical of the Yated and some of the articles/letters that are found in it. However, there is one part of the Yated that I am actually starting to enjoy reading -- The Chinuch Roundtable. Each week, The Chinuch Roundtable features a question from a parent or teacher about chinuch and the proper approach, followed by responses from about six to ten professional mechanchim. While I have to admit up front that (aside from my experience as a parent) I have no background in chinuch, I usually find myself in agreement with the roundtable participants.

This week's letter (I'm sorry, I don't have it with me, so I can't quote it verbatim) is from a parent of a child (the letter doesn't specify the age) who sometimes causes trouble in class. The rebbi decided to punish the child (I think we can generally agree that a disruptive child does need to be disciplined) by having him write lines -- 1500 times! When the child failed to turn in the assignment, he upped the ante -- he told the child that he had to write "I will be more responsible" 5000 times!! Five. Thousand. Times.

To their credit, each and every participant in the round table criticized the practice of having children write lines as a form of discipline -- even if it it's only fifty lines, let alone the absurd number of lines that the rebbi gave the student.

That being said, I'm really surprised that there are teachers who are so out of touch that they think that any child (even a teenager) can really complete such a task. One participant of the roundtable actually remarked that the task was not a punishment, but a sentence. I can't even begin to fathom the enormity of the task that this rebbi laid before the child. 5000 times! Aside from it being a waste of two hundred pieces of paper, it also does nothing to improve the child's attitude or disposition. All an assignment like this can do is breed anger and resentment for the rebbi, the school, and possibly yiddishkeit in general.

We all know that there are good teachers out there and bad teachers -- my kids have had their share of both -- but they've never had anyone who proposed such a mindless, pointless, demeaning task as punishment. I think that this is clearly a rebbi who needs to leave chinuch and go on to something else. He clearly has no idea on how to relate to children.

Do any of you have any stories about bad punishments that you or your kids received? Or how about creative punishments that were especially good and helped you to change your ways?

The Wolf


Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

I agree with you 100% on this one.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Are you kidding? When I was in Yeshiva, punishments were mostly corporal- you know, smacking, hitting, kicking (yes, you heard right), and of course we had lines too.

The problem with most Yeshiva rebbes is that they have no qualifying background in education. The only experience in education they have is their own experience as a student. They haven't studied concepts or theories in education, done any teaching internships under supervision, been exposed to the curretn state of the art of student psychology or management. They're just handed a gemara and shoved into a classroom of kids, and have to cope. There are no qualifications for being a rebbe. Basically, you go through Yeshiva, beis medrash, and you have no collegiate aspirations or job skills, and you hopefully know someone in Yeshiva administration who offers you a low paying job. So it should be no surprise that rebbes are dealing with kids this way. They don't know any other.

BrooklynWolf said...

You know, I may be in the minority here, but I'm going to come out with it anyway.

Some of my son's Rabbeim have been just bad. And others have been quite good. And I highly doubt that *any* of them went to college, took formal education courses, etc. I think that a Rebbe's effectiveness in the classroom is probably more determined by his temperament, approach, ability to relate to children and creativity than any formal education.

That's not to say that Rabbeim wouldn't gain from having some formal education, but I don't know that it is the be-all and end-all when it comes to teaching Torah.

The Wolf

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

yea, I think most important is to be able to have patience with the kids. There will always be trouble makers, and the rebbe has to know how to deal with them. Not to have a temper and hit them and not to let them get away with it. But the perfect balance so that they should learn a lesson, but yet not be embarrassed or feel hatred toward the rebbe.

Critically Observant Jew said...

I wonder what would happen if that kid wrote the following:

for (int i=0; i<5000; i++)
System.out.println("I will be more responsible");

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

lol, I didn't even think of that.
But the kid had to probably hand it in handwritten.

BrooklynWolf said...

Critically Observant,

I actually saw that in a Foxtrot strip!

The Wolf

Pesky Settler said...

I (and probably your Eishet Chayil) had 2 secular studies teachers in 7th grade. One, upon catching you chewing gum in class (which was forbidden in school), would make you wear it on the tip of your nose for the remainder of the day.

I also remember one year in high school. Our 'lashon teacher' made a girl stand in the corner of the room. The particular corner was right next to the door, which opened into the room. At some point during class, the principal walked in, opening the door wide, left it open and stood in front of the door. It trapped this girl between two walls and the door.

Which had a window in it.

She started making faces (right behind the principal and we all start cracking up. The principal of course has NO idea why we find whatever it was she was talking about so funny.

Until she turned around.

Critically Observant Jew said...

No, I'm wondering what would happen to the kid if he did that. Would it be the similar scenario as the famous Olomeinu Episode?

G said...

Laps, running laps...effective in the extreme.

I speak from experience when saying that I can guaran-damn-tee that whatever happened...won't ever again.

Zach Kessin said...

It seems that some professional development might be a good idea. Some of these rebbis probably would be much better teachers with a little bit of development and education.

I never went to a yeshiva (or any other jewish school) but I still had a few really bad teachers. My 9th grade history teacher jumps to mind. There are bad teachers everywhere.

-suitepotato- said...

There's a certain something to be said for having a way with a thing. Dealing with chinuch is not different from being a pulpit rabbi really. You have to engage others with a concept you want to get across and do it effectively. People act from self-interest whatever that is. A rabbi, a teacher, etc. needs to find a way to relate the subject to the person in a way that connects.

You can't really teach that very well.

In secular education it is a dirty secret that the majority of teachers come from the bottom 25% of college/university graduates. They say that those who can't do, teach. So when you get a good teach who really knows their stuff and does really good at relating the material and connecting with the audience, prize them and learn from them.

I personally think such teachers should be audited by would-be new teachers so they can see the elements being used and perhaps find a more effective way at implementing those things given their own unique personalities and ways.

ProfK said...

It's still Adar and I don't rant in Adar, but you tempt me sorely to do so anyway. When you say "In secular education it is a dirty secret that the majority of teachers come from the bottom 25% of college/university graduates. They say that those who can't do, teach." you are being guilty of gross exaggeration based on no reliable statistics and repeating that old canard about "those who can't," which has been around for centuries, and which is no more true now then it was the first time it was chanted. I wonder how Plato, a teacher, and Aristotle, a teacher, reacted when they heard it?

All any one can say with any degree of accuracy is that there are low achievers in every profession. I have taught for many decades now and some of the teachers I have worked with were inspired educators and some were not. No different then the editors I worked with in publishing nor with any other field as well. Mentoring, which you allude to, is not a new concept and has been used for at least two decades now.

Oh, and just for the record, I graduated phi beta kappa with a 4.0
average, and was not an ed major. Being an ed major is not a prerequisite to becoming a teacher. I chose to teach not because I couldn't do anything else but because I wanted to. I am hardly unique.

Oh yes, a freilachen Purim.

SuperRaizy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SuperRaizy said...

pesky settler-
I remember that teacher. She's the same one who used to inspect the students' desks to see if they were neat, and dump the contents onto the floor if they weren't. She scared the hell out of me.

OK, eeees-
Time for you to figure out who I am now.
Happy Purim!

Ahavah said...

Actually, sentences works well in moderation, just like everything else. My sons had a very healthy aversion to being assigned to write them - I think 200 was the most ever assigned, and that was for particular incident that I wanted to make 100% sure would never re-occur - and it didn't. It works far, far better than a "time-out," which as near as I can tell boys just use to figure out what their next exploit will be. Now all I have to say is "How many sentences do you want to write?" and they reply, "None!" and then I say, "Well, then you'd better change your strategy because the one you're using isn't working," and they get my drift. Works every time.

Commenter Abbi said...

I think it depends on the kid and age. My girls HATE when I count. I have no idea why, but even if I threaten to count, they immediately do what I've asked. I'm sure this will wear off soon, but for now it really works.

Ahavah said...

My sister uses the counting thing - it just never worked for us. I think the key is to know your children and what they don't like - and use it against them LOL.

Commenter Abbi said...

ahavah- i'm with you on that! when my little one doesn't want to lie down for a nap and insists on standing in her crib, i tell her i have to close the door if she's standing. sometimes, she doesn't believe me and i close it. After 30 seconds of crying, she lays down and is asleep in another minute.

I definitely agree with you.

Anonymous said...

I think the largest number of lines I was forced to write in my yeshiva high school days was 1000, though it was later reduced to 500. As far as bad punishments go, the worst (from a chinuch perspective) that I recall was having to write several thousand words from Mesilat Yesharim.

Anonymous said...


Just out of curiosity, do you normally go by your English name?

If you'd rather not discuss this in public, you can email me at (Note: only three Es)

SuperRaizy said...

Yes I do.
And our girls recently created an earthshaking display together.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly who I suspected you to be :).

Anonymous said...

IMO - punishment should be both punishing and productive. Writing sentences is a waste of time, ink and paper.

Why not copy a chapter or parsha from Chumash or history book?

Anonymous said...

I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.... I used to be a teacher.....

AidelKnaidel said...

I completely agree. I think that a lot of today's chinuch and people who are proud to be in chinuch really need to get a reality check and learn that what they are doing is simply the opposite of what is good.

Moshe Klass said...