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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

How to be an Incredible Teacher


Taanis 6

Isn’t it amazing how in one family you can have a child who is a genius and incredibly dedicated to her studies and then the next kid just hates school and is always scoring poor grades?!

That was the story of the Goldberg family.   Shaindy, their eldest was consistently top of her class.  Her head was constantly buried in a book and she loved school.  Her little sister, Eva, however, absolutely detested going to school.  They couldn’t get her out of bed in the morning.  She never seemed to have any homework.  And this was a kid of all but seven years old – Sally and Henry dreaded the day when they would have to deal with her as a teenager!

All that changed when Eva entered Rabbi Eliyahu Glatt’s third grade class.   Rabbi Glatt is the most incredible teacher I have ever met.  Suddenly, Eva was loving school.  She was scoring straight A’s and she adored reading.   All thanks to Rabbi Glatt!

What makes a good teacher?

In the second paragraph of the Shema, the Almighty offers the following blessing: “I shall provide the showers of your land in the right time, yoreh (early rains) and malkosh (late rains) and you will gather your grain and your wine and your oil.”

Why are the early rains called ‘yoreh’?

The Rabbis offer three reasons.
1. Yoreh is from the word ‘l’horot,’ meaning instruction.  Rain doesn’t just water the field.  The first rains also instruct people to plaster their roofs, to bring in their fruit which are drying outside and to take care of all their needs prior to the onset of the heavy rains.
2. Yoreh is from the word ‘l’ravot,’ meaning to quench thirst.  The job of the first rain is to saturate the earth and water it to the great deep. 
3. Yoreh is from the word ‘lirot,’ meaning to aim and shoot.  The first rain falls directly without violently being blown around stormily.  Instead it falls gently. 

You’re probably thinking, ‘Yoreh also sounds like Torah.’  Are the words related?  Of course they are.  Torah comes from the word ‘l’horot,’ meaning instruction, as the Torah is our guidebook.   And so the first meaning given by the Gemara behind the word for ‘early rain,’ is instruction or teaching Torah. 

We may not all be a Rabbi Glatt, but we are all required to teach Torah.  This obligation is found in the first paragraph of the Shema, where we read, “And you shall teach them to your children.”  In fact, our Sages explain that anyone you teach Torah to becomes your spiritual child!

So how do we become effective Torah teachers?  The Talmud offers three directives.
1.  The first rains don’t just water the fields; they take care of all of the needs of the people.  Similarly, a good teacher truly cares for her students.  It’s not just about the subject matter – a good teacher is involved personally in their students’ general lives and wellbeing.
2.  The first rains don’t merely sprinkle the surface of the field.  They saturate the earth to the great deep.  Similarly, a good teacher doesn’t just give her class and hope for the best.  She works hard to ascertain that the material has completely permeated the students’ entire being.  Once that happens, she can rest assured that they have truly understood the lesson.
3.  The first rains don’t move about frantically; rather, they descend gently.  Similarly, a good teacher understands that she must teach calmly if she wants the students to absorb the material.  One of the most important requirements of a good teacher is the attribute of patience.


You too can be an amazing teacher!  We all have a mitzvah to teach others.  Find children to teach.  Find adults to teach.  But remember that teaching is a skill.  Practice the methods of horaah (instruction) described by the Talmud and they will say of you “yoreh” – he shall teach!