As children swarm the aisles of stores and stock up on binders and books, pens and pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes, we tend to ignore the most important preparation that goes on in the days leading up to the beginning of the new school year. Teachers are spending their last days of “summer vacation” preparing lesson plans, setting up classrooms, and investing their own time, energy, and even money, for the sake of our children’s future. I know that the teachers at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are busy at our preplanning week preparing for an incredible year of learning!
I remember my second grade teacher Mrs. Einhorn. She introduced me to journaling and encouraged me to write daily. My very first sermon came in the form of pictures and misspelled words in a shiny purple spiral notebook thanks to her encouragement. Mrs. Einhorn made learning exciting to me as a seven year old. That is a teacher’s job. That is each of our jobs! As we read in this past week’s Torah portion, parashat Va’etchanan, and reaffirm daily in the Shema, v’shinantam l’vanecha, you shall teach them to your children. We are all obligated to teach our children. Formal and informal Jewish education takes place at camp, during Youth Group programs, on Shabbat in the synagogue, and at home. Yet, there is no greater opportunity to educate our children than when they are sitting in the classroom, full of energy and enthusiasm, hungry to learn. We thank our teachers for the amazing job that they have done and are about to do in molding our children for the future.
The average salary for a teacher in the state of Florida is $50,180. The average salary salary for a Major League Baseball player is $3,305,393. Something is not right about these figures. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy sitting in front of the television and watching a full nine-inning game, and I don’t mind paying a lot for great seats at the ballpark, but is our money truly being well-spent? It is time that we reinvest in education. Do we want our children’s role models to be overpaid athletes or inspiring educators? Do we want our children to look up to Alex Rodriguez or Mrs. Einhorn?
Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Sages, teaches (1:6) that when one selects a teacher, one also acquires a friend. A teacher is a true friend, not someone who talks to you because you are wearing a certain article of clothing or are a part of the “in” crowd. A teacher talks to you because a teacher cares about YOU – the authentic you – and a teacher spends years helping students figure out who that authentic you is. Teachers bring the subject matter to life. They create a safe space for students to learn, grow, question, and challenge. They push those who need to be pushed and they comfort those who need to be comforted. A teacher is someone you can count on, someone that helps each student be the best person he or she can be, inside and outside of the classroom.
Thank you to all of our teachers at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, and the JJC Preschool for what I know will be an incredible year. Todah Rabbah to all teachers for pouring sweat and tears into all that you do and fulfilling our greatest commandment, v’shinantam l’vanecha, teaching our children.
-Rabbi Jesse Olitzky