Today You Will Learn – Mastering Teacher – Student Relationships
Review by D. Weinberg
I’ll admit that when I first saw the title of Rabbi Ginsberg’s latest installment in the “Today You Will Learn” series, I was rather skeptical. “Mastering the teacher-student relationship” ought to be one of the most discussed – and most ambiguous – topics teachers the world over grapple with. And yet reading through the 330-some-page book, I was struck by two thrilling realizations. The first was the way this book, perhaps more than any other I have ever seen on the subject, succeeds in actually breaking down the bombastic achievement its title proposes into bite-sized, fully comprehensible and entirely attainable increments. The second is its thrilling merge of Torah-true hashkafos and methodology with a full grasp of new, modern-day challenges. The result is breathtaking.
I believe teachers today face a nearly impossible task. On the one hand, the challenges they face in the classroom are unlike anything mechanchim of previous yore could even remotely fathom. On the other hand, modern psychology and methodology is in far divergence from our age-old mesorah and sacred beliefs. We do not believe in many an “enlightenment” and “progression” mindset, such as those that have destroyed entire generations before dissipating in smoke in the face of the next fad. Nor have any of these methods proven themselves in the products they yielded. At the same time, the reality is that our children are growing up in a unique generation and in a complex atmosphere. Our children have been born into this new reality, with different mindsets, different capabilities, and different nisyonos. We cannot ignore that.
In “Today You Will Learn: Mastering Teacher-Student Relationships,” Rabbi Ginsberg brilliantly weaves together a tapestry of Jewish thought and modern-day approach that will no longer leave the teacher guessing. In one word, he sums up the mechanech‘s most powerful, basic tool: it is all about the relationship. If the student will grow up in the right atmosphere, provided his five most essential needs and secure in the knowledge of his teacher’s strength and love, the path for his continued chinuch will be cleared.
“Today You Will Learn: Mastering Teacher-Student Relationships” takes this oft-repeated slogan and breaks it down into every teacher’s everyday classroom stage. Rabbi Ginsberg does not merely wax poetic about the need for proper relationships – he will tell the reader how to get there. Step by step, this book holds the reader’s hand, leading him through the maze of human psychology and classroom realities so that everythingin the book is practical, true to life, and fully doable.
“Must I give my students the reason for every decision I make?” “This child can potentially learn so much – why doesn’t he?” “I’ve told him so many times – why does he keep doing this?” In his calm, clear manner, Rabbi Ginsberg addresses many of the questions teachers constantly struggle with, offering not only answers but also the understanding and reasoning behind them. As the reader reaches page 337 of the book, he will be astounded to discover how, step by step, he has become transformed into a better, more confident and successful teacher.
Possibly the most valuable – and telling – aspect of the book is the Study Guide at the conclusion of each chapter. With a few brief questions, Rabbi Ginsberg ascertains that the reader has understood the conceptbehind the covered subject, and that he can then carry it further into the classroom on his own. The “What Would You Do”-style questions, more than anything, serve as a most powerful self-assessment tool for the teacher upon the conclusion of a subject, ensuring that the material was not only read but also fully understood and absorbed. Thus, step-by-step, the teacher is led through a transforming experience in which he will not only learn how to teach, but how to become a mechanech.
Take a deep breath as you open that first page of the book and prepare to dive. You will emerge a completely transformed mechanech, parent, and person.