40 minutes as a second grade substitute

Right off the bat, I have now idea how any teacher can go through a whole day an not lose their voice. Kol Hakavod to everyone in Chinuch or education.

This week I spent my lunch time watching my son’s second grade class, so his Rebbe could attend a staff Chanukah luncheon. Basically, I was to sit down and watch my son and his fellow friends eat their lunch. I, of course, didn’t really feel like sitting.

Then I told them that before coming in the class I opened my car trunk and found: A case of water, a “Snap-N-Go” baby carset stroller, and a skateboard. I asked the class what they could learn about me from these three items.

Then I asked them what sports teams are in Cleveland…of course they named the Indians and the Cavs. Then I told them a story about a Rosh Yeshiva from Cleveland, R Mordechai Gifter z”tl (whom their second grade Rebbe had learned bei for a number of years), who when in high school at MTA had a collection of Rabbi photos on his dorm wall. The photos were set up as a square with a blank spot in the middle. In this black spot, as I recall, was a piece of paper with the words, “Where will you be?” written on it. This is what he looked at when he wasn’t in class. I explained to the boys that what we see and surround ourselves with says a lot about who we are and what’s important to us.

I asked them why it’s important to place your menorah either in your doorway or by a window? Several answers included: it’s the halacha, so that people know which homes are Jewish, and so that we can let the mitzvah shine. The last answer is the one I used to start a talk about the importance of loving to do mitzvos and so happy that you make your own light. I told them that when people walking by their homes see a menorah or see their family sitting down to eat on a Shabbos night, it sends a powerful message that lights up the world.

After that we played one of my favorite games, called Good News/Bad News. It was taught to me years ago from a Rabbi who as since ‘retired’ from being a ‘Kiruv professional’. Basically you write down a list of all the negative that the class come up with to describe someone. We got things like: weirdo, not good at sports, funny dresser, smelly, come to class late, doesn’t finish homework, etc. All in all, our list included 24 items given within a five minute span.

Then we moved on to the Good News. The class lists all the positive things they can say about someone, such as: he’s smart, nice, friendly, good ball player. We only got to 14 items in the same five minute span. The point, as I explained to the class, was that it’s much easier to find bad things to say about someone than it is to find the good things to say.

Lastly, I paired up the kids in groups of two (yeah, I realized that a pair is a group of two), and had each one say out loud something nice about their partner and then had the partner do the same.

I’d like to think that I gave over some important lessons, but who knows?

Ponder this, and feel free to comment…if you had a short time with your son/daughter’s peers and wanted to give over some ideas that are important to you, what would they be?

3 thoughts on “40 minutes as a second grade substitute

  1. Rafi G

    that is phenomenal. How did you think of this? I think you would have made a great teacher…
    The lesson I think I would give would be to do the right thing, even if you know it will be difficult, even if it might not help, even if others think otherwise – do the right thing.

  2. Neil Harris

    How did I come up with it?
    I had gone in wanting to see what the kids would say about the menorah and had planned on playing Good News/Bad News w/them. The story about R Gifter was totally off the cuff. They seemed receptive (or just happy to have a different adult in class). In terms of my trunk, I only thought of it as I walked through the front door. I hoped it would tie in with the menorah.

    I think your lesson is very important.


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