Dear Readers,

As this is an inaugural column, the first of many more, please forgive a few personal comments and indulge me as I take the liberty of introducing myself, my objectives and my expectations. My hope is that I will spark some interest and you will decide to click on the icon again.

I direct the central/education Chinuch Office of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational and outreach arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. A few basic stats; our 2005 school directory lists 128 early childhood centers, 79 elementary schools, 48 high schools, and 19 institutions of higher learning in the English-speaking world. There are well over 20,000 students enrolled in these schools. If the recent past is any guide, the new directory which will אי"ה be published in December, will show a significant increase; our schools are growing by leaps and bounds.

The statistics are meaningful because to many it is reassuring to know that there are so many educators and parents who face similar challenges and problems. We all learn from shared experiences, a fact which brings me to the essential objectives mentioned at the outset. We will share information and perspectives about new (and old) educational thinking, and curricula, we'll discuss Jewish parenting issues and we highlight some of the unique successes of our schools. I hope you find the future contents of this column interesting and will visit again.

Parental Role in Welcoming New Teachers

One of the most alarming problems in education in general and in Jewish education in particular is the dearth of good teachers. Other professions are more attractive; they pay better, their professionals are more respected in the community and they are not as prone to public criticism, even scorn, by those they serve. What is true in society at large is mirrored within the Jewish community, albeit somewhat mitigated.

Rabbi Dovid (not his real name) during his first week as a Rebbi in a major day school was criticized for his classroom management scheme, for giving too much homework, for not giving enough homework, and for not smiling enough. He was tough enough to let it pass without any real damage to his self image. A newly minted early childhood teacher came home in tears when all the work she did over the summer to prepare her room, received not a single comment. What these stories have in common is obvious.

The fact is that Jewish educators have it much better today than those of the previous generation had it. A teacher of Jewish studies can make a respectable living. And, while parents may not be more complementary than those of the yesteryear, they do have a better grasp of the difficulties a teacher faces, the hard work and selfless effort necessary to succeed. They also are for the most part better educated themselves and have a better understanding of the complications inherent to the educational process. For today's parent it is perhaps an error of omission rather than one of commission.

How wonderful it would be if every parent would make a special effort to make an encouraging comment to his/her child's teachers during the first week of school. How much more productive it would be if, as parents, we were as quick to complement as we are sometimes critical. May I be so bold to suggest that the some goes for the school administration; they should be on the receiving end but more importantly on the giving end, to their teachers.