I often receive copies of letters that our alumni send to our teachers thanking them for preparing them for life after TanenbaumCHAT.
One student, for example, wrote to one of her English teachers this week remarking:
I can honestly say I would not be the type of student and writer I am today if it weren’t for you…Your constant encouragement and emphasis on the importance of writing an essay has been a great help in university. As essays are assigned, I look across the room and see the worry in people’s eyes as they read “7 page essay, proper apa format, citing, with a correct thesis and enough supporting evidence for each point.” When asked why I am not intimidated by it, I simply reply that it’s because of you….You never let me give up and always gave me the opportunity to better myself. Thank you for always believing in my abilities to do better.
What I liked about this graduates’ spontaneous testimonial, written around 11:30 pm one evening, is that she recognized that her teachers weren’t just teaching skills, but developing students’ resilience, grit, and persistence. These are habits of mind that cut across disciplines and are important well beyond school.
The impact of our teachers happens because our teachers remember that they are teaching, first and foremost, people–teenagers–and not subject matter. One of our alumni, who recently graduated McGill University and worked as a madricha in Israel on the Native College Leadership Program under the auspices of the Conservative movement, wrote that she is in Israel today because one of her TanenbaumCHAT teachers inspired her love for Israel:
She made the classroom a place of shared experiences, a place of openness and a place of true learning. She constantly welcomed her students to her home to join in on a loving and delicious Shabbat…Her warm and wonderful personality has guided me to Israel and guides me on a daily basis.
I could go on (and in another blog, I likely will continue). However, I’d like to conclude with one more reflection. It, too, is an excerpt from words of tribute about another one of our English teachers. This graduate of Queen’s University’s Commerce program this past spring thanked his teacher for helping him see beyond himself and use his talents in the service of others. He thought back on his Grade 10 English class his teacher introduced him to Arthur Miller’s play, “All My Sons”:
One of the key themes in the play was the importance of social responsibility, and through your teaching style and assigned coursework, I came to see the importance of this value, and always sought to instill it in the work I did and organizations I aligned myself to. Studying commerce in university, I served as a business ethics teaching assistant working to teach fellow business students the importance of social responsibility. Professionally, I have been privileged enough to work at a healthcare company that holds social responsibility as one of its core values, and I specifically sought an opportunity at this organization because of its explicit commitment to society as a whole.
When I think about our mission–to challenge, support, and prepare our students to live lives of high moral character, intellectual curiosity, Jewish commitment, and civic duty–I think about our teachers who help actualize this mission. Our teachers–whether in English or Science, Jewish History or Ivrit–select issues, essays, and books that examine the human condition, expand our students’ understanding of their own humanity and that of others. Students learn to see the world from another’s perspective, think about larger universal issues, and bring about change in the world.
None of this happens by accident. Our teachers are the ones driving our school towards excellence and our students to living lives of significance. That’s the TanenbaumCHAT difference.