22 - Situations - And the Quick, Impatient Person Cannot Teach

“A teacher should not be angry or short-tempered. He should instead be calm and reply to everyone and to every question. If his answer is not clear, he should explain again until people understand.” Otherwise, his students will remain ignorant

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create
z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.

Last week’s stretch of the week was: Look for a way that you can help in your community, and take a step toward doing it.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Situations Lesson #22


 And the Quick, Impatient Person Cannot Teach

 ×•×œ× הקפדן מלמד

V’Lo HaKapi’dan M’lamayd

Perek Bais, Mishna Vav

Story: (based on a true story)

The best teacher I'd ever had in school was my 4th and 5th grade chumash teacher Mrs. Speilman.  She was a lovely soft spoken woman that actually lived down my block while I was growing up.  In addition to teaching at the Bais Yaakov five days a week, she also gave a Shabbos afternoon shiur for any girl between the ages of 10 and 14 who would like to attend.  She was a unique lady respected by all, and try as I might, I can't remember her ever raising her voice to any of us girls.  However what stands apart from all the memories I have of this wonderful teacher, was her unique and gentle way of handling and teaching her class lessons of respect.  

Mrs. Speilman had a serious weight issue.  For those of us that had grown up in her neighborhood, we'd been used to seeing her obese size and the accommodations she needed to make and thought nothing of it.  We simply saw beyond her limitations to the wonderful teacher that she was.  Until that one year when a new girl, Shira, moved to our neighborhood and joined our class.  She wasn't a very respectful girl and right away she began making fun of Mrs. Speilman behind her back to us girls about our teacher's need to always sit down, use a cane for walking, and have special dresses made especially for her.  She would slyly poke fun at Mrs. Speilman's size and Shira began to have a following of girls who also started to joke about our teacher behind her back.  Though we all thought they were being secretive about it, it must have eventually reached Mrs. Speilman's ears because one day, instead of our usual class assignments, she presented us with a lesson that has stayed with me to this day. 

Sitting at her desk in front of us, she quietly pulled out a secular newspaper and made a big production of turning several pages as if looking for a story and finally finding it, she turned and folded the paper, put on her reading glasses, and began to read.

"According to a recent study from the University of Chicago Psychology department, it would appear that blond haired girls age ten or eleven are significantly less intelligent than brown haired girls the same age..."

She stopped reading, took off her glasses and addressed us.  "Well, how do you like that?" she asked.

No one spoke, especially blond haired Shira.  Mrs. Speilman just starred at us. 

"No comments?  No one has anything to say?  Does anyone believe this?  Could this possibly be true?" she looked directly at Shira.  Shira squirmed in her seat.  

Slowly some girls began to comment, and before long there was a heated discussion between brown and blond headed girls on whether or not they were smarter than each other.  Then Mrs. Speilman got everyone's attention and called for quiet and began to tell us that what she really read was a fictitious article, that there was no such study, and that blond and brown haired girls are equal in intelligence depending on individual intellect.  She further explained that she did this little "lesson" to prove a point to us all.  That singling out someone based on a physical attribute wasn't kind or fair, and that she wanted us to understand and feel what that would be like.  Then she kindly urged us to refrain from any sort of behavior like that because HaShem created everyone the way HE wanted them to be, and that to ridicule something HaShem created would be such a horrid aveira and she wouldn't want us to ever do such a terrible sin.

Shira, nor any other girl in our class, ever made fun of Mrs. Speilman ever again.  As a mother now, I can imagine so many other teachers who might have handled such behavior with a phone call home, with a strong word, or with sending a student to the principal, etc...  But Mrs. Speilman was a respected, calm, clever model of a Bas Yisrael; a true teacher in every sense of the word.  

Pirkay Avos:

"הוא ×”×™×” אומר:  ...ולא הקפדן מלמד..."

"Hu haya omer:  … V’lo hakap’dan m’lamayd…"

"He (Hillel) used to say:  …And the quick, impatient person cannot teach…" (Perek Bais, Mishna Vav).

An irritable teacher shames his students and inhibits them from asking questions.  Therefore, writes Rabbainu Yona, “A teacher should not be angry or short-tempered.  He should instead be calm and reply to everyone and to every question.  If his answer is not clear, he should explain again until people understand.”  Otherwise, his students will remain ignorant or, worse, misguided.

In addition, K’nesses Yisrael on Pirkay Avos states that the students of an angry teacher will model him and act angry themselves.  Furthermore, an angry teacher makes mistakes, since anger causes a person to err.  As a result, he will misinform his students.

After the incident of the Ai’gel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, Moshe moved out of the camp, together with the Ohel Mo’ed, the Tent of Meeting.  HaShem then told him to bring the Ohel Mo’ed back to its place, so Moshe moved back to camp.  R’ Abahu explains that after Moshe moved out of the camp HaShem told him, “The Jews will say that I am angry at them and that you are angry at them as well.  Now, if you show them how angry you are by moving the Ohel Mo’ed from the camp, what will happen to them?  Bring the tent back to its place, and if you choose not to do so, Yehoshua bin Nun will serve in your place” (Berachos 63b).

Although Hillel states that an impatient person should not teach, his seventh-generation descendent, Rabi Yehuda Hanasi, instructed his son, Rabban Gamliel, to “throw fear into your students.”  How can this contradiction be resolved?

The answer is that a teacher must evince a certain reserve so as to maintain respect for the Torah and assure that he himself will be given the proper measure of deference, for “fear of your teacher should be like the fear of heaven.”  If his students lack this awe, he will be unable to properly guide them.  Nevertheless, he may not lash out at them in a quick dictatorial manner, but must remain patient instead of being overly makpid, a kapdan. 

(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

In what other situations than school can people be "teachers" that deserve the same respect?

What are some examples in which an angry teacher or parent can interfere with the student or child's learning?

Describe ways a teacher or a parent can maintain respect so that she will be given the proper measure of deference.

Stretch of the Week:


Make a point this week to try and be extra calm and even tempered in a situation you know yourself to get angry about.  Take deep breaths and try and relax instead of getting hot under the collar!  Note the reactions of the others around you.  


Stretch Of The Week