Definition in Educating
MyLife Essay Contest 2017
Definition. It seems like such a simple word. The way we define the details in our lives and those of the people in our care are the way we shape ourselves, our future, our view of the world, and their self, their future, and their interaction with the world. Redefinition changes the way we view the choices we have and the actions of others. When we redefine events and people to see them positively and unbiased we no longer need to hold onto prejudices, biases, frustrations that frequently occur when educating. In this essay I will show how the Maamar of the Previous Rebbe, Reb Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, entitled “principles of Education and Guidance,” defines the role of an educator. Whether educating in a formal classroom setting or educating when raising children, chassidus holds the key to the definition of our jobs as educators. This perspective will reshape our future, not only your future but the future of the entire Jewish nation.
Talents-inborn vs developed, virtues vs. deficiencies
Each person is born with their own G-d given set of talents, with which to express their soul. Talents either effect the physical, such as a painter who creates a canvas filled with beauty, or it can effect in a spiritual way, such as a orator who brings forth the feelings of his audience.The more one works on his talents the more the talent will exist. If a person is in a position of educating he can choose to define himself as an educator and open his talent of educating. If he works on his talent he will reveal it; in fact the more he toils on his talent of choice the more it will blossom and be refined. How a person will define himself as an educator and use his talent of education will be delineated below.
The Maamar defines a teacher as an instructor who clarifies concepts through examples, develops students abilities, conceives ideas, all in the realm of understanding. An educator, by contrast, puts his main efforts into transforming the essential character of the student. When, for example, the mother as educator acknowledges that each child of hers is born with the nature of being pulled towards the physically beautiful and eye appealing facets of life she will not expect him to be perfect. She will understand his “wild” character as part of an opportunity for her to educate him to go in the path of Torah and teach him the Torah’s values.This should naturally prompt her, the educator, to dig deeper and find the core of what is necessary to rectify the failing that she sets out to correct..
Introspection-the Preparation for Educating
Self love comes from the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination. It propels a person to not only ignore his flaws and deficiencies but to project them on others and go so far as to ridicule the person he sees the deficiency in, not realizing that he is actually talking only about himself! When a person finds himself seeing failings in others, especially when he discusses them with those around him, its time to introspect.
How can a person run from this negative behavior of seeing deficiencies in others? The Rebbe has told us that a Chossid is a lamplighter. He lights the path in front of him with the light of Torah and Mitzvos. By doing a full internal self examination he prepares himself to do his job as an educator. One of the most rewarding work a person does is to transform evil into good, ugly into beautiful, coarse into refined.The Rebbe gives us his word that we can take our coarse negative traits and change them. How do we know this? Our Rabbis have taught us, “An oath is administered to him (before birth) to be righteous…..” We can take our habits and natures and turn them into good, praise-worthy and righteous traits. We can elevate our character and use every part of it to serve Hashem and make this world a place filled with goodness. We can redefine ourselves as good! The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged each person to have a mentor, to introspect with a person higher in level, of the same gender, to uncover the root of his failings and work together on transforming them into assets and positive traits. When an educator redefines himself and turns his negatives into positives by facing who he really is, only then can he have a real effect on his student.
An educator by definition must impart the lessons he wants to give over to his student in a pleasant, polite and appealing way. This will etch the lessons on the heart of the student.The Previous Rebbe emphasizes this point, explaining that when a person in the position of an educator yells as his student (or child) or puts him down with derogatory words or facial expressions in order to “teach the student,” in reality he is only putting himself down and making a bad impression that can last as far as a lifetime and will have absolutely no positive effects whatsoever.
Assessment of the Student’s Character
So, how does one go about assessing the student’s essence character? The base of all character assessment is to know that all people have a soul that is pure and complete. An educator must analyze the following:
- Assess the student’s natural capabilities.To expect a student of lesser capabilities to rise not to his best but to his brilliant classmate’s best level is to put him in a position of failing or even worse of going off of the direction your are trying to set him in. A student’s best should be applied to him only and that is the goal he should reach. Obviously this is different for every student, and accurately defining the student’s abilities is key to his growth.
- Look at where the student is holding in life. As written in the Midrash Rabbah in Koheles, “At one year old, a child is like a king…at two and three years old, similar to a pig;….at ten years old, he jumps like a kid goat…” It is here that the Previous Rebbe gives clear guidance on how to educate a child and what is expected of him, delineating a parent’s and teacher’s job from a tender age into adulthood. A young child by definition needs to be taught cleanliness. He needs to be shown how to eat with good manners, how to refine his mannerisms and behaviors. It’s our job to teach the child in our care how to be human! Instead of reprimanding children when unrefined, teach them! If we can look at every moment as a teachable moment (instead of a reprimandable moment) we can help them blossom into the beautiful souls they are.
As a child grows older we redefine our educational goals for them. We first move on to teaching blessings, directing their attitude towards learning to be a healthy positive outlook, to honor their parents and teachers and of course to respect others. Before Bar/Bas Mitzvah the educator moves his focus to fulfilling the Torahs commandments, going to shul, studying diligently, proper use of his time etc. Imagine if we could encourage all of the above mentioned goals, not forcing them on our student and/or child, but with lots of love, showing them the beauty in the opportunities the Torah has set forth for them.
- Assess their status in society, as well as their place of residence. Wealthy people are by nature self confident, have a high self esteem, live large, and possibly arrogant and demeaning. Poor people, on the other hand, are humble, regretful, broken, undervalue themselves and lose hope. Each quality has its positive and negative side. If a person uses his qualities for Torah, for doing good, for self refinement, each quality can be turned into complete good.The job of the educator is to tailor the lessons to the life of his pupil.
When a person embarks upon a job they need to know clearly what the job is and what they need to do to fulfill this task. It is the boundaries in our lives that shape the direction we take. By following the guidelines of chassidus on how to educate the people we love and are entrusted with, we have the power to mold them in a positive direction.This is practically done by first and foremost knowing who you are. Look inside yourself and refine the way you act, think and feel.
In our students we should be constantly reassessing the age and stage of the student. Know where your student comes from, how much they are capable of, and most importantly, believe in the beautiful soul that you are entrusted with and its ability to rise above all of the inborn and imposed challenges he faces. Give him the belief in his abilities and talents. Build on his positive strengths. Help him rid himself of his ugly and coarse nature, bringing forth the Godly light that shines strongly and emanates from his pure soul.