Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making an A-S-S Out of U and M-E

The plot thickens.

And I don't mean the plot where the weeds are growing thicker by the day, either.
Although that plot is thickening, too. More rain is on the menu today.

No. I am talking about the Great American N.'s Jewish Education Controversy.
For those who do not want to go plowing through my archives, the short version is that the teaching methodology in N.'s 7th grade religious class at our synagogue was inappropriate. Frustration was mounting. Attempts to communicate with the teacher were ineffective. I made other plans and I took him out in order to use a variety of sources and methods in a number of places to "unschool" N.'s Jewish education. I have have attended meetings, met with the rabbi and met with an education sub-committee. (For the full story follow the two links above sequentially).

The point being that I have withdrawn N. from the Machon (religious education) program.
Tonight I got a progress report for N. from the teacher. You know, the teacher of the program that N. no longer atttends. The one who could not possibly make any accomodations for him.

In the comments section it said in part:

" It is unfortunate that (N.) was unable to take advantage of the Machon experience and live up to the Brit* (contract) of his Bar Mitzvah. Hopefully there will be a method by which (N.) will be able to be be part of the Machon experience through Confirmation. I have no doubt that (N.) will very much enjoy learning about Torah (the Jewish canon) and Mishnah (part of the Talmud)..." (Parenthetical statements mine).

(*The agreement that N. signed was that he would observe Shabbat, Holy Days and Life Cycle events, continue to study Torah and participate in the life of the community and engage himself in the holy task of Tikkun Olam--Repair of the World.)

As homeschoolers and unschoolers, gentle readers, no doubt you recognize the incredible depth of assumption made in a very short bit of writing! Most likely, you have also developed the sensitivity to see it yourself having been the target of such assumptions in other contexts related to your homeschooler's education.

But bear with me, please. It is very therapeutic for me to dissect this out for myself and thus have a good laugh instead of going to bed angry--G-d forbid!
Teacher comments in teacher red and my (wishful) responses in good old-fashioned black.

Warning: The "Nice Gene" on my X chromosome has an inexplicable point mutation tonight.

1. "It is unfortunate..." --From the passive voice used here one might think that it was an act of G-d rather than a pedagogical decision that you made that there is only one way to reach a kid and if you don't, well, it must be his fault. This has "evasion of personal responsibility for your teaching" written all over it.

2. "...N. was unable to take advantage of the Machon experience..." --You mean that you were unwilling to make any accomodations for N.'s disabilities and thus there was no advantage to him being in your class.

3. "... live up to the Brit of his Bar Mitzvah." --Of course, NOW I GET IT! You are the only person in the only program that can possibly teach N. Judaism. Experiential learning, informal learning, the use of innovative texts and programs, the fact that I am quite conversant with Hebrew language, Aramaic, and Judaica count for nothing without exposure to your "Mavenship". Neither does the learning and understanding of other teachers, one of whom has rabbinical ordination and who speaks Yiddish as well! How, well, totally IGNORANT of me, to think I could (gasp!) teach my own child. And to think that N. might really learn something through the actual practice of Judaism! And to think those benighted Chasids might actually know something. What was I thinking? My mistakes in this regard are too numerous to count! S'licha. So sue me.
Or maybe I should sue you? I'm the one who's out the $500 tuition.

4. "Hopefully there will be a method..." --You do mean "I hope there will be a method" don't you? I mean, you are an English teacher for your day job, aren't you? Grammar aside, there are a lot of methods. You refused to use any of them. And the future tense is entirely out of place in this statement. N. has not stopped learning Judaism just because he has stopped attending your class.

5. "I have no doubt that N. will very much enjoy learning about Torah and Mishnah..."
--Ditto the last two sentences above.

Incredible assumptions. Only one assumption is missing. This teacher does not assume responsibility for his failure to meet different learning styles in order to reach all his students.

Sound familiar?

You know what they say about making assumptions: It makes an A-S-S out of U and M-E.

I've had my laugh. Tomorrow I will post some great pictures of N. not learning about Shavuot.


Frankie said...

"I mean, you are an English teacher for your day job, aren't you?"

That above-quoted statement explains it all.

Sigh. Sending hugs your way.

Lides said...

All of this (if happening to a child of mine) would enrage me, but #3 really burns my goat. The arrogance!!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I have tried twice now to leave you a comment, but my anger over the teacher's words is preventing me. Arrogance and pride are the only words coming to mind. Number three was my favorite, it really was. Not being Jewish I could have read that teacher's letter and thought that N. could somehow not "be Jewish" (in good standing) if he did not finish her class. There is something very, very wrong with that thinking. Heaven help us. Literally.

Lides said...

Re-reading my previous comment, I realize it could be understood to mean that I would only find it enraging if it were happening to a child of mine. That is not at all what I meant to convey! This is an outrageous situation, start to finish: I very poorly expressed myself previously -- my apologies!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks, everyone. You know how we women are--I was worried I'd come across too abrasively if you can imagine that!

I did not mention arrogance but I was certainly thinking about it--and pompousness as well!

Beth I understood exactly what you meant. I thought #3 really took the cake!