Is To Blame?
By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber
it seems as though parents have relinquished the job of educating their children
to the schools. Although schools play a significant role in our childrenís
education, giving them all the responsibility is itself irresponsible. Who knows
a child better than his parents, who have been with him from the moment he came
into the world?
When our child returns home from school, our job as parents is to continue the
educational process. Which values should we focus on with the child when he is
First Iíd like to provide some background.
seems as though it was just yesterday that the school year began, and here we
are a third of the way through. Many of us were hesitant before school began,
wondering primarily whether the school our child is in is indeed the right place
for him. Is it proper to reconsider our choice? How does one decide? How can we
know whether the match is ideal? Can we attempt to find a suitable general
environment, and within that, determine the suitability of the friends, the
class, the teacher, the curriculum, the daily schedule, the level of
expectations, etc. And then we torture ourselves as we ask if we made the best
after a few months have passed can we begin to see the first fruits of our
decisions. For some people the fruits of their decisions are sweet, for others
they are tart, and unfortunately for some the fruits are rotten. Actually, it
makes no difference how the fruits taste. We constantly find ourselves going
back to the familiar educational scene, one that is extremely complicated,
sometimes even frustrating.
true that we donít have the power or the tools to control the situation, but
we still retain a spark of hope that perhaps we can do something, inching one
step forward, and then another, progressing slowly, but effectively and
bring two examples Ė extreme perhaps, but characteristic. The child returns
home from school Ė sad, tense, looking upset. Itís a sign that the honeymoon
is over. Without looking into his schoolbag we can guess that itís a mess. The
notebooks and books look worn out. The pages are crumpled, the writing is
sloppier now than on the first pages, and there are no longer straight lines
under the headings in red and blue marker. The first cracks have appeared in the
patience of teachers and the child as well, which are expressed in little crises
here and there. There are no more smiles or attempts to be charming.
parents repeat the old familiar and painful questions: Who is to blame and who
is responsible? At first they try to respond gently, but deep inside they fear
what is to come. They fear the old painful script, the next stage when it wonít
be possible to refrain from mutual faultfinding.
parents blame the teacher, the teacher blames the child and the parents, and the
child naturally claims he is not at fault and doesnít understand what they
want from him and his life. The frustration is enormous: What do we do?
truth is that the child is not the cause of the problem. The problem is the
framework, which creates a situation that does not suit the individual needs of
every single child, with his own special abilities, talents, and feelings.
ones who are truly aware of their childís needs are the parents. They know
what he needs, what the right approach is for him, and they bear the brunt of
the responsibility to supply his needs in the most suitable manner. Parents feel
powerless when they are unable to provide their child with the ideal educational
conditions, and they are pained and feel pressured as a result.
example: The child complains repeatedly that he learns nothing new in the
classroom. He already knows the material from the year before. He wants a higher
level of learning, challenges; but there arenít any. He is extremely
disappointed. He feels as though he is wasting time in kindergarten. He
complains to the teacher, and the answer he gets is that the school, i.e., the
educational environment, was not created specifically for him personally. The
class consists of other children and they donít know the material yet.
answer depresses the child. He feels powerless and having no other choice, he
gives in. He loses his motivation to learn, which had been very high at first,
and he eventually loses any connection he previously had to learning. Then the
old question surfaces again: Who is to blame?
child is not the problem. The system cannot deal with every child individually.
order to pave the way towards solving the two problems we presented, two which
are really one, we first must analyze the school system. We must examine its
good points and what it contributes towards the child, and what its flaws are;
flaws that can actually damage a child.
of all, itís vital that we realize that the less homogenous the group of
students, the greater the differences between them, the harder it is for every
one of them to find his place within the system.
schools have many goals and opportunities which give them power and authority.
Sometimes it seems as though parents decided (maybe feeling intimidated and
helpless in the face of the power of the system) to hand over a sizable share of
their authority to the school.
should be noted that there is an essential difference between backing and
delegating authority, and the conferring of authority that parents do, which is
more precisely, throwing the authority at the school.
do I mean? We often find that parents tell their childís teacher, "We
rely on you completely and give you our full backing for whatever you decide and
say." Thatís called abdicating responsibility, giving utter authority to
somebody else, in this case Ė the school. In other words, this is relinquishing
oneís personal obligations, those which are incumbent upon every parent
regarding their child.
true that the system is powerful, but thatís a far cry from a good reason to
give up all responsibility. The parents know the child best. How can one compare
a teacher who is there for one year, no matter his life experience and teaching
ability, to the parent?
first rule is: Parents must take responsibility and retain their full authority
in everything that pertains to their child.
characteristic of parents to have one general goal. Instead of getting involved
in the little things, they want to grab everything at once. They want it to be
good for their child and for him to be satisfied. They want him to love to learn
and to learn well. Thatís a huge goal, and itís a worthy one. But you mustnít
forget that the road to realizing any goal is comprised of little steps, of
smaller, focused goals. Many steps must be taken in order to reach the finish
smaller goals must be attained together, cooperatively. You must check and see
what the home can contribute and what the system is able to provide. These
little goals are extremely important. You must sit down with the teacher and
decide which specific goals are important for this child. The goals need to be
noted, such as: acquiring skills and habits, providing encouragement and
support, and placing limits.
importance of the goals that seem small and not critical or significant can be
learned from what it says in Tanya in Igeres HaKodesh:
"every single coin joins together to form a large total." Thereís an
advantage to collecting small coins. Itís slow going, but sure and lasting.
Paying attention to the details, focusing on them, leads in the end to a grand
is no different. Every detail should be valued; every stage, every step. Every
goal, even if it seems insignificant Ė because this is the road to success.
There are no shortcuts in chinuch! You canít fly to the end. You get
there only after walking a winding road; you encounter obstacles, you fall and
get up and continue walking.
is accomplished by the collaboration between home and school in order to realize
common goals. Just as the parents must take an active and consistent role in
their childís education, to direct and fill in, they must also understand what
the school system can contribute, and take maximum advantage of whatever it can
school contributes tremendously when it comes to integrating socially, acquiring
human relationship skills and everything associated with that, developing
thoughtfulness and an outlook on life, as well as acquiring learning skills. The
home contributes in the area of values; presenting the child with educational
models, teaching habits, how to handle situations, and developing talents that
arenít in the curriculum.
between home and school must focus and relate to the whole child, not as it
sometimes happens that there is a difference between the "child at
home" and the "child at school." In this latter case, there are
two sets of expectations with two approaches for each one. The result is that
the child finds himself living in two separate worlds with no real connection
cannot allow such a situation to exist! Every educational issue and achievement
in learning Ė in every area, and it makes no difference under whose authority
Ė must lead to a specific, clearly defined goal, which, in turn, leads to a
parents see their preparations the beginning of the school year not as a
one-shot deal with the goal of finding a school for their child, but as an
ongoing work-in-progress in conjunction with the school in order to realize the
greater goal, then the picture is sharper and we have the tools with which to
Ė with G-dís help Ė lead our child in the right direction.
can be faxed to Eretz Yisroel to 03-960-7289)