By Laura Seymour
The end of school is fast approaching. Kids are excited, and so are teachers.
Before things become too crazy with end-of-year preparations, however, why not take time now to thank the teachers; those who care for and educate your children during the school year? Teachers are unsung heroes — they take responsibility for ensuring our children grow into well-read, well-spoken, thoughtful adults who are valuable and viable members of society.
Teaching and learning are inherent parts of Judaism; as I’ve mentioned many times in the past, Jews are known as “people of the book,” and for very good reason. Studying Torah is one of our mandates, our mitzvahs; even after a child becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, he/she is told to continue lifelong learning. Most synagogues and Jewish organizations offer learning opportunities for all ages — from preschool to those in their 70s, 80s and beyond.
This is a lengthy way of saying that, while school might be out for your children, you can build learning experiences in their summer vacations. Education isn’t all about books and lectures. A visit to the Dallas Arboretum can provide a fun learning adventure about plants and flowers; the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History allows children to “dig” for fossils while teaching them about dinosaurs — and even the JCC’s Naturescape offers a lot of great opportunities for different types of learning.
While thinking about, and expressing gratitude, to your children’s teachers, the following blessing from Kaddish D’Rabanon for those educators is appropriate: May you be blessed and strengthened as you have blessed and strengthened your students. May you have peace, grace, kindness, mercy, long life and everything you need.
Here is what our sages have to say about teachers and educators:
A new word of Torah which comes from the mouth of a teacher ascends to the heavens and adds glory to God’s crown. — Zohar
One who is concerned about the coming year plants wheat; one who is concerned about the coming years plants trees; one who is concerned about the coming generations teaches young people.
And for those of you who teach, I’m in your corner. I teach many classes in addition to my other duties at the JCC. It goes without saying that before I enter a class, I must clear my mind to focus on my students. The following blessing is a great help:
“May my love for teaching continually inspire me to enrich and develop my skills. May I have the strength of heart, the purpose of mind, and the gentleness of soul to educate, nurture and guide those in my care. May the daily challenges I face become opportunities for personal growth. As you share knowledge and experience, may I remain open to continually learn from my students.”
Laura Seymour, is director of youth and camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.