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The Jewish Report Editorial

Inspiring teachers create successful adults

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While the reaction to our story on the minister of international relations and cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, on last week’s front page might seem like the obvious thing to write about, I think we have said enough for now (see page 1).
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 23, 2019

I am far more excited about the tribute we have paid to some unique and amazing teachers who have changed people’s lives at Jewish schools. The truth is that these are just the tiniest fraction of the incredible educators we have had, and continue to have, in our midst. Their stories, and the impact they have had on young minds, is a microcosm of the essence of what makes us who we are.

As Jewish people, we may scrimp on many things, but never on educating our children. We make sure that they get the best education we can possibly offer. Sometimes, this is at the expense of many other things that might make our lives a little easier.

But as my parents – and I am sure most of yours too – told us, “the one thing nobody can take from us is our education”. They made it known to me that I was going to get a good education no matter what, so that I would be able to become a contributing member of society.

Reading the stories of those teachers brought back memories of the teachers who had an impact on my life.

There was an amazing teacher in Grade 5 who told me how creative I was. She told it to me in a way that I believed her. There was also an English teacher in high school who always commented on my ability to write stories or essays. If it wasn’t for them, would I have the courage to write this for you now, and to guide this team in putting this newspaper to bed every week? Who knows?

As adults, we may look back at school, and think getting through school is easy, but it isn’t. And, the pressure on our young people is immense. Frankly, I think it is way too much and our children would benefit from less pressure and more inspiration.

What I do remember, though, is that when you have one of those inspiring English teachers who bring Shakespeare to life and make it thrilling; and maths teachers who make geometry fascinating, the pressure seems to fade. So, too, does the fear of exams. As does the heavy dread of having to go home and study. If someone has inspired passion in you for a subject, even late-night swotting isn’t going to get you down.

A great deal of what we become in our lives is shaped by those who stand up in front of us in the classroom day after day. Those same people can undermine our confidence too.

How many of us were told by a teacher that we were not numbers people, and we should stick to words or languages? I’m one of those. It has taken me a long time to realise that I’m not that bad with numbers. The influence teachers have on us is immense.

And, while we have only 10 teachers in this edition, we salute all those teachers who bring out the best in our children, and who brought out the best in us.

This leads me to another story in our newspaper this week dealing with unemployment, and what our community is doing to find jobs for people. The unemployment figures are staggering, far worse than most countries in the world.

Right now, there are 6.2 million unemployed, and 237 000 who were employed in December who no longer have jobs. There remain 16.29 million employed. The most staggering figures are those of the youth, with 55.2% of young people in this country unable to find employment. What does that say about our future?

The truth is that no matter what promises are made to us by our new government, no matter what actions are taken against corruption, unless we sort out unemployment, we are heading for disaster.

Most parties made bold promises about employment in their election campaigns, including the ruling party, but I don’t believe we can wait around for them. They certainly don’t have a great track record.

And while in our story on page 8, you can see how much our community is actually doing to help, for me, it ties in with teachers and education.

If the general (not private) education system in this country was at a high standard, and teachers across the board were inspiring young minds in this country, we would be in a different situation.

We would be bringing young adults into society believing that they could succeed and, most importantly, believing in themselves and their abilities. These young adults would be able to inspire respect and trust in potential employers. Many would also believe in their ability to create their own businesses and employ others.

Education and employment go hand in hand. If the education system works well, and we have exceptional teachers, our youngsters will go out into the world and make it work. If we don’t have that, we are setting our children up to fail.

At our schools, we are fortunate. While not every teacher is going to make their subject a favourite, and not every subject is going to appeal, we are giving our children the best of the best.

No matter what happens, this will stay with them. They, too, will one day look back and remember those handful of exceptional teachers that had an impact on their lives and the choices they made.

Here’s to a country of inspiring teachers!

Shabbat Shalom!

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