Monday, June 14, 2010

Reporting Live From Room 10

I'm about to start proctoring, the mood is typical - as is the scene. Kids come late and want to start right away, books have to be collected. Some have the books, some don't. Some have one book, some another, one boy has both.

This morning in Shul I saw Leonard Lopate's book on New York, randomly. Then I took the 15 minute walk to my ride and waited. We talked about school facts and conjectures. The baby cooed in the backseat. We discussed how men need to be told to talk to babies and women just know. Also, how men need to be told to talk and women just know.

In confluence, at 7:30, my alarms went off and my cleaning person rang my bell. I look forward to returning home to the smell of Pine Sol. More than I do for cleaning my apartment I would pay Anjelica to teach me to be as full of joy as she is.

During my work the Ipod shuffle played Coronach and A Gift of Roses, two lesser known Jethro Tull tunes. The latter was followed by a hidden track - The Secret Language of Birds. A nice way to walk a day open.

I ate breakfast while waiting for my ride. I looked over my schedule while she dropped her son off with her mom. I enjoyed the conversation we shared.

Today I'm proctoring this one exam and then answering questions for my Gemorah students taking my final in two different (timed, untimed) rooms. Later today we have a sendoff for the wonderful Tony Mastandria, a dear colleague and friend who is leaving after 13 years of hard work. I Will miss him deeply. Sigh.

Tomorrow there's a department meeting and a send off to a colleague making aliyah, and another more elaborate send off on Wednesday to another colleague. Things won't be the same without them.

I have one more final to write for Friday, three more finals to give. Grades have to be finished soon. Some kids owe work, negotiations are ongoing. At the end of next week there's promotion day and the final meeting of the year. All we can do is hope.


Anonymous lavender garden said...

What is your style of teaching? To what do you attribute your excellent reputation as a teacher, and what is your method for keeping your students engaged?
Just wondering- as we are in the chinuch field, as well, and like picking up successful ideas from successful teachers

June 14, 2010 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

If I had contact info for you I could reply offline and be more candid.

I am honored and flattered to hear that I have an excellent reputation. It's something that has to be earned every minute of every day.

Even in my very early days of teaching it struck me as funny (definitely not ha ha) when teachers said, "Don't smile till X-mas." Eventually I discovered that those teachers never smiled anyway.

Before my first day at the school I've been at for the past 14 years (poo poo poo) a friend of mine directed me to a book called Asserive Dicipline. I found it on the Barnes and Noble shelf and looked through it.

Next to it was a book that caught my eye called Two Parts textbook, One Part Love. I put back the former, bought and imbibed the latter, and that about sums it up.

I think a classroom is an extension of the world. Children are human beings. People are people. Many issues labelled as kid issues are people issues. I've taught eighty year olds and forty year olds and all the ages down. People are people.

Everyone appreciates positive reenforcement. Honey works better than vinegar. Everyone wants and responds well to respect. It's best to be honest, open, and most of all real. You can't fake a lesson, a story, a passion. That's a big part of the key to teaching.

When my mother passed away suddenly on X-mas weekend I had to - amoung myriad other decisions - deal with what I'd do when I went back to school. I knew it wouldn't be appropriate to just cry and talk about my mother. I also felt that it would be false to just teach the regular material, the regular way and ignore the reality of which everyone was aware. In my Gemorah class I decided for the time being to focus on mishnayot of the masechet we were learning - as mishnayot are learned in memory of a recently lost loved one. (This fit for this level class.) In my Chumash classes, in which we were learning Devarim, I switched to the death of Moshe, which was in our curriculum (and which many teachers didn't get to in the end) as it fit. I could be real and teach in a serious, sophisticated way at the same time.

I could write endlessly on this topic, so it feels. It's time to say farewell to Tony Mastandria, a dear colleague. He is real and invested and has been at this for about 50 years. That's impressive, that's a teacher. Tony is one of my heroes - a true mentsch and dear colleague. G-d, I'll miss him.

June 14, 2010 at 3:34 PM  
Anonymous lavender garden said...

thanks so much! i am going to check out that book !

June 15, 2010 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

"...More than I do for cleaning my apartment I would pay Anjelica to teach me to be as full of joy as she is."

Neil, if you're still reading Seraphic Secret, you'll know that he had Dennis Prager as the speaker at this year's Ariel Avrech Yahrzeit lecture. Apparently he spoke about happiness being a mitzvah, not an emotion. It will be posted online soon enough; maybe that's something to check into.

I believe joy can be found in the smallest details in life that one day we take the time to notice!

June 15, 2010 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Lavender, when you check it out don't be thrown my my small t in text - Textbook is capitalized.

Pearl I own/read the book he wrote, Happiness Is A Serious Problem. I get that and work at it. The Anjelica thing is different, joy is more than happiness. Some people have a joy de vivre, a bubbling over joy...

June 15, 2010 at 9:46 PM  

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