Jan 19, 2013
Grow Up and Face the Facts
A long-time teacher in Crown Heights responds to the teenage girl who complained about micro-managing in schools.
Dear Chasha C.,
Permit me to respond from your teachers' point of view to your well-written op-ed "Why Micro-Manage Our Lives."
Being a Machaneches isn't all it's cracked up to be. Believe me when I say it's a thankless job. Generally speaking, we don't take on the responsibility because we want to micro-manage (your description) your lives. We have more than enough on our hands dealing with our own families and not to mention health issues and everything else life has to throw at us.
But we do our "job" (as you say, we are Mechanchos – that's our job) because we care. We actually care far too much. Many of us go home thinking: Did I inadvertently hurt a student? Is this girl unhappy or just overwhelmed? How can I help her? How can I make her parents accept their daughter for who she is?
You have no idea what "micro-managing" involves. How about the soul-searching and overwhelming responsibility for the welfare of our students.
Do you really think we spend all day, every day, thinking up impossibly ridiculous rules to try to stop you from having "fun"? Do you honestly believe we have the time to find ways to make your lives miserable, to suck out all the spunk and joy from your very being?
It's time to grow up and face facts. You are often treated like children because that's the way you behave. Why else would you be constantly thwarting us and trying, as you say, to come up with evermore creative ways to break rules?
This isn't a game or a challenge. It's not some comedy show or color war. It's your life and we are here to help you make wise decisions. The path you take in high school will probably determine your future, whether you are aware of it or not.
Tell me the truth: When we explain why our decisions and rules are the way they are, do you accept them? Or will you argue to the point of rudeness? In your heart of hearts, answer honestly.
I am in the midst of such a situation where one of my students refuses to accept an answer and threw down the gauntlet, challenging me until I will give in. I asked her, do you want to be right at all costs and get your own way, or can you keep an open mind and really hear what I'm saying? She made her views quite plain. She insists on getting her way, regardless of my point of view. We are at an impasse and I don't know how it will end. But this I know for sure – there won't be any "winner."
I have been teaching for many years. I may have taught your mother. I love teaching, I can't imagine a better profession. Just today I approached my school, looked up at the sign & said to myself, "I really LOVE my job!" I look forward every day to interacting with my students and to giving them instruction and all the tools they'll need to succeed. But I'm really tired of fighting to make you understand my colleagues and I care deeply about you.
It's not about micro-managing (by the way, don't add insult to injury by patronizing your teachers…yes, we have heard of the word, and many more besides.) It's about making decisions that at this point in your lives need to be made by a "responsible adult." Because that's what we are: we are "responsible" for your welfare as well as for imparting knowledge. Don't think our decisions are easy to make. Don't think we don't care. We care far more than we should.
Life isn't run by committee. It's a hierarchy where there is always someone in charge, whether that's your parents or principal. In the future, there'll be your employer – a boss, a Board of Directors, or a business partner. You will always be responsible to someone and one day, G-d willing, you'll also be responsible for "someones" in your own home and professional life.
We, the teachers, are needed to make decisions and policies in school because, as you so rightly say, many of you are ignored at home and obviously are allowed a free reign to do what you want. We provide that much-needed balance which hopefully will help you make well-thought-out decisions in the future.
If you want to be treated like an adult, you need to act like one.