CHINUCH
 
 
   

The Teacherís Role

By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber

The new school year begins and children and teachers go to school with hopes for a new beginning. What principles should a teacher know before he enters the classroom? How should he prepare his lessons? How much encouragement should he be giving his students? This and more in the article that follows.

 

Many concepts have become distorted through the generations, to the point that today our understanding of them is largely convoluted. One such concept is that of maggid shiur. This phrase is commonly understood to refer to the role of lecturer. Anything beyond that is considered to be the function of mashgiach. But this assumption is incorrect. A maggid shiur, with all due respect to him, is primarily a melamed, though he teaches at a higher level.

 

Aside from his knowledge of the material, and aside from his ability in delivering the lesson, he has to understand what a bachur is; he needs to know his studentsí rate of intellectual development and how extensive their knowledge is, as well as their emotional side. Only by truly understanding the talmid can a meaningful bond be established, allowing the maggid shiur to teach properly and the talmid to successfully absorb the lessons.

 

A maggid shiur needs to know that his role as melamed requires far more than lecturing. He must do all he can in the best possible way for the student to learn well. If he sees that a certain approach doesnít work, he has to make efforts to discover why, and find a better approach.

 

When we speak of another approach we donít mean a better explanation or deeper analysis. The maggid shiur has to find the best way to impart the material in accordance with the student and the type of material. If he finds that the best way of getting the material across is unconventional and perhaps not accepted, he has to use it - even if he raises some eyebrows or is criticized for it.

 

Furthermore, the maggid shiur should not think that he must stand on a pedestal to teach and lecture, exhorting his students while guarding his honor. The maggid shiur must relate to his students in a respectful manner, as one would to a man of great intelligence. Instead of teaching with moral sermons, he needs to provide a personal example, to tell himself that if he, the maggid shiur, would behave as his position requires, the student would learn from his example, he will acquire desirable habits and ways of conduct, both in behavior and midos as well as in learning. The more the maggid shiur demands of himself and provides his students with a rolemodel, the greater his success will be.

 

The Gemara emphasizes in a few places how important the maggid shiurís behavior is to the student. In Maseches Taanis it says that if you see a student whose learning is as hard for him as iron, the fault is the teacherís. The reason is that the teacher disrupted the order of learning. Rashi explains: He put the Gemara before the Mishna. The explanation continues with an emotional perspective: The student finds his studies difficult because his teacher didnít show him a smiling face. In other words, the maggid shiur must look into himself to see what to improve to allow the student to absorb the learning better.

 

What are the principles of preparing a lesson?

 

The effective maggid shiur remembers that the profession is comprised of three essential elements: the teachersí personality, the student, and the material.

 

1) You need a teacher to teach the lesson.

 

2) The teacher has to relate to the student based on the following criteria: the studentís age, his level of learning, his ability to concentrate and his level of vocabulary.

 

3) The teacher must fit the level of the material to the studentís level.

 

The material: How does the teacher make the material age appropriate? When the maggid shiur sees a student with tremendous potential and a high level of comprehension, he immediately desires to raise the level of the lesson, otherwise he wonít, chalila, interest the talented student (who will complain that the lesson is superficial and shallow, and will be bored and tune out).

 

The maggid shiur, in his attempt to raise the level of the class, will generally make this common mistake: He will try to add material, to bring in additional commentaries, quote from here and there, ask questions and present answers. Maybe he doesnít know it, but despite the additional material, the student will consider it a hollow achievement. Why? The student will say: Okay, so Abayei asked and Rava answered, and the Pnei Yehoshua also asked and answered, and then somebody disagreed with him. So what? The maggid shiur pushed in a lot of material, but the general level of the class remained the same.

 

Some students will treat the teacherís attempts to add material very seriously. The additional material puts pressure on them and they write down all the mefarshim with all the questions and answers as though this way, itís all organized. They feel that if they donít do this, they have no place in the yeshiva and they might as well go back to cheider.

 

The maggid shiur feels he needs to prove to his students that heís on a high level and that he knows mefarshim, and that he can be mefalpel too. But in actuality, the level of the learning remains the same as it was in cheider. The maggid shiur only added some variety, which canít be said to have raised the studentís level of thinking.

 

The goal of learning is to create a change in the studentís way of thinking; to get him to think on his own, to be creative. The foundation for creating this change comes as a result of the teacherís work.

 

How to construct a lesson: You set the student up to be surprised by his earlier way of thinking. The maggid shiur shows how things that seemed clear just a moment ago are not clear at all. Things that seemed obvious are not obvious at all, and truly obvious concepts were missed entirely because they were so simple!

 

When the level of the learning and the level of the student correspond, you see a spark in the studentís eyes. Thereís a connection between the teacher and his student and the changes in grasp and comprehension begins. This is the way to construct a lesson and to build a connection between teacher and pupil.

 

The importance of creating a good atmosphere: Encouragement must be an integral part of the lesson. Even in a successful lesson, the student should get a good feeling and should have his self-confidence and his enjoyment of success bolstered. Encouragement is vital, but it must be given properly to lead to good results and not, chalila, the opposite.

 

Some people mistakenly believe that if they exaggerate the praise and compliments they will encourage their students. Sometimes a student on a low level is made into a genius. When he asks a simple question the teacher goes into raptures over it, saying, , what a fantastic question! And you thought of it on your own! You plumbed the depths of the Gemara and this shows you have a great future. When you grow up you will be a gadol like Rabbi Akiva Eiger!Ē

 

Encouragement like this is more harmful than beneficial. First of all, deep inside, the child knows he doesnít deserve this kind of praise. His question, as good and timely as it may have been, was not a brilliant thought, and he feels uncomfortable with the compliments. He knows that his classmates who heard the praise know it was exaggerated. The maggid shiur does not want to create a situation where the slower student is teased because of the exaggerated response of the teacher.

 

In addition, the teacherís praise can put pressure on the student. He can feel that being like Rabbi Akiva Eiger is a real burden. Perhaps, in his naivetť, he will even try to take on the role given to him; but since he isnít Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in the end he will be neither Rabbi Akiva Eiger nor himself! Heíll be nothing, which is a serious letdown. This could be prevented if the encouragement is given without exaggeration.

 

The maggid shiur has an advantage in that he was once in yeshiva. He experienced sitting in front of a maggid shiur, and he can remember how things were and what was considered accepted practice. In his day, along with his fellow talmidim, he observed his maggid shiur and whatever he saw he accepted as the way a maggid shiur ought to behave. Years later, as an adult with the perspective of time, he can examine that approach, see the flaws, and do better.

   

If you see a student whose learning is as hard for him as iron, the fault is the teacherís.

 

 

 

The goal of learning is to create a change in the studentís way of thinking; to get him to think on his own, to be creative.

 

 

 

ďYou plumbed the depths of the Gemara and this shows you have a great future. When you grow up you will be a gadol like Rabbi Akiva Eiger!Ē

 

 

 

Encouragement like this is more harmful than beneficial. Since he isnít Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in the end he will be neither Rabbi Akiva Eiger nor himself! Heíll be nothing!

 

 

 


YECHI ADONEINU MOREINU V'RABBEINU MELECH HA'MOSHIACH L'OLAM VA'ED!

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