Volume 49 Number 29
                    Produced: Tue Aug  2  4:55:41 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Richard Schultz]
Aramaic, Systematically
         [Allen Gerstl]
New Teachers and Jewish Education
         [Chaim Shapiro]
The State of Jewish Education (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Chaim Tatel]
Teacher behavior
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Teacher Quality in Jewish Day Schools
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Teachers who throw kids out of class/Jewish educational systems
         [Ari Trachtenberg]


From: Richard Schultz <schultr@...>
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 17:20:57 +0300
Subject: Re: Aramaic

In mail-jewish Vol. 49 #27, Ira Bauman [<Yisyis@...>] writes:

> I went to Yeshiva in the sixties.  When I was in high school, I
> questioned why our education in Navi was minimal, our Aramaic and our
> conversational Hebrew, non-existent.  The answer I always got was that
> when you learn gemara, you absorb those disciplines as well.

I remember once hearing the story about the yeshiva bochur who was all
excited about his amazing discovery of this neat book that not only had
*all* of the asmachtot in the Gemara, but put that them together in a
way that actually made narrative sense!  [asmachtot = Biblical supports
for positions taken by rabbis in the Talmud]

> Thirty five years later, I can prepare a blat gemara, but, according
> to my Israeli chavrusah,my knowledge of Nach and my conversational
> Hebrew are both laughable , and my best friend is Marcus Jastrow.

I would opine that it is not actually necessary to understand Aramaic
grammar that well in order to understand the Talmud.  The Talmud, if you
look at it carefully, isn't really written *in* Aramaic -- it's a
collection of Hebrew texts strung together with Aramaic connecting
words.  If you learn the meanings of the Aramaic connecting words,
you've learned a good portion of all of the Aramaic you need to
understand the structure of the Talmudic arguments.

				Richard Schultz


From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 06:22:16 -0400
Subject: RE: Aramaic, Systematically

R' c.halevi <c.halevi@...> wrote

>... And my question still stands. The method Zvi described is, IMHO, a
>poor second to formally teaching Aramaic as a language.

I strongly agree with the above; however we must deal with the reality
of the situation.

A few weeks ago we visited Cleveland, Ohio to attend a wedding.  I took
the opportunity visit the Hebrew Academy to pick-up a catalogue of
excellent elementary school teaching materials available from that
school for teaching dikduk to children. I got the impression that while
one of the renouned senior staff members of that school was holding the
fort in teaching dikduk properly, that Hebrew grammar wasn't generally
being well-taught in many other Jewish elementary schools.

If such is the case with Hebrew grammar - we won't even get into spoken
Hebrew as ESSENTIAL as such is but which is for the most part being
sadly even more neglected- kal ve-chomer as to Aramaic. Until a large
enough number of parents decides that they want such instuction in
Hebrew (and Armaic) for their children and until they are willing to
make a concerted effort against the counter-pressures of educators and
others who may oppose them (and even be willing to consider starting new
schools) that such will not be part of the standard curriculum in most

I've reluctantly come to the sad conclusion that we have to contend with
the reality of the situation and do the best we can. After-school home
instruction and tutoring may be the only realistic (although difficult
to implement) alternative.  Using a textbook such as that of Rabbi Frank
is certainly second best to having proper class instruction plus using
such a textbook, but such may be the best that can be done.



From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 09:50:17 EDT
Subject: New Teachers and Jewish Education

There have been quite a number of studies produced over the last few
years about first year teachers and the trials and tribulations they
face.  Contrary to Frank Silbermann's implication, they are not
unprepared due to lack of education (exclusions, such as emergency
license teachers in California do exist).  They are unprepared, because
nothing one learns in the classroom can completely prepare one to teach.

That being said, having studied education for the past 10 years, courses
such as teaching methodology and especially ed psych are indispensable
for all teachers.  To put it simply, you can't teach if you don't
understand where the kids are coming from!

Chaim Shapiro


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 08:57:52 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: The State of Jewish Education

me (responding to comments that new Jewish teachers have inadequate
pedagogical preparation):

>> From what I've read, people don't learn how to teach in secular
>> schools of education, either.  New public school teachers say that
>> they learned what they know about teaching during their
>> apprenticeship -- when they were thrown into the classroom unprepared
>> (and perhaps assigned a senior teacher from whom to seek advice).

Carl A. Singer <casinger@...> V49 N26:

> Even if the above assertion about secular school teachers was true
> -- it doesn't address the situation in Jewish Schools -- it's like
> saying he may be dumb, but so is his brother.

My point was that, in the absence of college programs that teach
students how to teach children, there is not much religious schools can
do to better prepare its teachers.

> Go to any college school of education website and you'll see what a
> comprehensive curriculum for teachers includes.

At least you'll see the titles of the courses.  But do these course,
as taught, have value?

I suggest you read _Ed_School_Follies_, by Rita Kramer to discover how
sad the situation really is in secular colleges of education.  She
visited a wide variety of education programs, from small rural programs
to the most elite schools which offer them.

Frank Silbermann	New Orleans, Louisiana		<fs@...>

From: Chaim Tatel <chaimyt@...>
Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 11:51:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: The State of Jewish Education

>Carl A. Singer <casinger@...> V49 N23:
>> Back to the subject at hand.  What teacher-oriented training and
>> apprenticeship is required of our Rebbes?  In many cases the answer is
>> none.  They don't know about curriculum design, classroom management,
>> different learning / teaching styles .... and the list goes on.  They go
>> directly from Kollel (learner) to classroom (teacher).

Carl, not everyone has the experience you describe.  Believe it or not,
there are actually some very good teacher training programs.

As a talmid (student) in Ner Israel (Baltimore), I participated in the
Machon Teachers' program through Torah Umesorah. The program lasted two
years.  During that time, we had classes in content, classroom
management, educational psychology, methods, etc. Aside from practice
teaching sessions, there were also written and oral exams.  In the
second year, we also participated in student teaching under the guidance
of Master Teachers at Talmudical Academy and Shearith HaPleita in
Baltimore.  The teachers and schools were impressed enough with my
performance that they offered me a position as "permanent"
substitute. When the Program concluded, we were graduated with a
certificate and Teacher's License from Torah Umesorah.  These documents,
plus really good references from Rabbi Dr. Joe Kamineztky helped me get
my first teaching position at Hillel Academy in Binghamton, NY.

Chaim Tatel


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 09:24:50 -0400
Subject: Teacher behavior

Just a few of loose stories relevant to Bernie Raab's last posting,
about behavior of teachers in schools:

(1) I never knew my paternal grandfather, but my father told me that he
was a very dignified and strict "old world" type (born in Hungary).  My
father told me that once, in grade school (which would have been
somewhere around 1900-1905), a female teacher disciplined him by hitting
his knuckles with a metal edged ruler.  My father came home, and hid his
cut and bleeding knuckles so his father would not see them.  But -- his
father knew something was going on, so he calmly asked him to show his
hand.  When he saw the wounded knuckles, his father asked what had
happened.  My father admitted that the teacher had disciplined him by
hitting his hand.  His father simply, and calmly, said something like "I
see" and that was it for the evening.

        The next day, his father showed up at his school and entered the
class room.  The female teacher stood and asked him who he was.  He said
"I am Harry Goldfinger's father."  Then he asked: "did you hit my son
with a metal edged ruler yesterday?"  She confirmed that she had done
this.  My grandfather then used a round house punch to flatten her,
nearly knocking her unconscious.  He then calmly left the room.  I
hesitate to think what law suits would be flying today, but in the early
1900's this settled things simply and adequately.

(2) A student I know was in a college literature class.  There were
studying "Madame Bovary" by Flaubert.  The teacher commented in class
about an episode in the book in which a dog dies.  She said that this
symbolizes the death or absence of G-d, since G-d is dog spelled
backwards.  My friend commented that they were reading a translation
from the original French, in which Flaubert had written, and that in
French G-d is D-ieu and dog is chien -- no linguistic relationship.  The
teacher got very angry and said that "Flaubert was very familiar with

(3) A friend of mine who is a now a psychiatrist was in a class on
psychoanalysis.  The professor (who is a psychiatrist) spoke of the
difficult patients have dealing with their anger towards their parents.
My friend commented that it must also be difficult when a patient feels
anger towards G-d.  In my friends words, the professor "went ballistic."
She turned red in the face and said "how dare you talk about G-d in my
class.  There is no G-d, and I dare you to prove there is one!"  She
continued for some time before she calmed down.  To this day (years
later) the students from that class still talk about the incident.

(4) One evening, when my older son was in high school, his Gemara Rebbe
called me at home.  He said he wanted to tell me what had happened in
class.  "Pinchas shlugged me up (disproved my argument)," he said.  He
sounded thrilled and very pleased with what had happened, and said that
he wanted to tell me so I could "shep nachas" (impossible to translate).
I thanked him for the call.

-- Andy Goldfinger


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 07:03:57 -0700
Subject: Teacher Quality in Jewish Day Schools

I am a teacher in middle- and high-school, and I have worked in public
school (where I am now), Jewish schools, and a nonJewish private school.
I also know about salaries/benefits from job searches, for positions in
a variety of schools where I have not worked.

Without a doubt, Jewish schools offer the worst benefits to their
employees compared to any other schools that I know about.  Salaries are
sometimes better than nonJewish private schools (though never enough to
make up for the benefits, particularly health/dental insurance and
pensions).  Salaries are always lower than public schools for teachers
who have more than five years of experience or education beyond a
bachelor's degree.  Also, hours requirements in Jewish schools are often
far greater than in any other school.

What this adds up to is a system in which a teacher who has any
experience or advanced education, can do much better to be *not* in a
Jewish day school for her/his career.  Therefore, there is often rampant
turnover in secular subject departments at Jewish schools.  Teachers in
Jewish field (Tanakh, Talmud, etc.) have fewer options, and may stay for
longer in underpaid positions.

Whatever the problems are with teacher-training, child-supervision,
quality-of-education, etc., many of them can be traced IMO to schools
that are dealing with constantly shifting sets of teachers.  How can any
school implement meaningful reform or have a clear educational goal,
when there is no stable workforce?  Also, no school can attract the best
possible candidates [especially with a shortage of qualified teachers
out there] if they are not offering competitive salaries/benefits.

I'm not sure what the solution is, if any.  The salary problem in
nonJewish elite private schools is often countered by excellent benefits
or on-site housing or very short hours--none of which seems to me to be
an option for any Jewish school I know.  The salaries in public schools
are underwritten by the government.  Catholic schools often have a pool
of clergy who are "supposed" to teach there, and who might be willing to
put up with junky benefits/salary either because of faith or because
they don't have families to support (due to Church-imposed celibacy).

With the already-too-high day school tuition costs, schools are
reluctant to put more funds toward teacher training and continuing
education.  This is not true of nonJewish schools--for instance, my
current [public] school recently under-wrote several classes for me to
further my coursework in Education.  This training has already led to
some enhancements in my teaching, but of course not to any bottom-line
benefit to the school.

By the way, I find it dismal and shocking that kids are getting hit by
teachers (or parents, for that matter) in the year 2005.  But as you all
know, I find a lot of things dismal and shocking.  :) Frankly, I have a
sense of noblesse oblige that would never condone a bigger person using
violence on a smaller person.  It's not always easy to find another way
to communicate, but as it says in Pirkei-Avot, the strong person is one
who can control his/her own self.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 11:26:50 -0400
Subject: Re: Teachers who throw kids out of class/Jewish educational systems

> From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
> If a college student could be as devastated as I was, I cannot imagine
> the damage done to an elementary school student by this kind of teacher
> abuse. Does it still go on?

It does ... I almost got kicked out of my calculus class in high school
because I refused to follow the teacher's method of proof (which was
mathematically wrong, but pedagogically easier to understand).  It is
important for students to learn early on that their teachers, leaders,
rabbis, etc. are not infallible (just look at Moshe rabbeinu, the
greatest prophet among Jews, and his failings)... they can serve as
guides of wisdom and learning, but, ultimately, (I know I'm beating a
dead horse here) you are responsible for your own actions and

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


End of Volume 49 Issue 29