Dear Matzav.com Editor,
Thank you for making Matzav.com a place that helps us grow as Yidden by highlighting what is important and explaining why it is important to us. Matzav.com has become a primary place for the frum community to exchange ideas and feelings with people we might never otherwise meet. Regarding a recent discussion as to whether the ‘matzav‘ in our girl’s high schools puts too much pressure on the students, I’d like to share the following.
I have had the great privilege of being affiliated with a large Bais Yaakov high school as a student, teacher and parent. In the teachers’ room, faculty members often joke that the ‘extra’ has taken over the ‘curricular activities.’ But, as people truly concerned for the full development of our students, we recognize that the non-academic aspects of school are not just nice frills, but are actually lifesavers for some girls. Our school has knowledgeable and devoted mechanchos and secular studies teachers who strive to help the girls grow in yedios and self-study skills. This provides wonderful opportunities for the academically gifted girls to develop their abilities, to reap satisfaction, honor and credit, and to share their gifts with others in peer tutoring programs. The extensive chesed program has so many different ways for girls to gain a sense of belonging to the klal by contributing to its welfare. Shy and outgoing, leaders and behind-the-scenes workers, are all given scope for their kishronos.
Numerous artistic productions and dramatic and musical presentations further enable girls to use all aspects of the kochos given to them by the Ribono Shel Olam to learn and to express that which a Yiddishe tochter must know. Sometimes, the performances by the students themselves can teach something to the whole school in a way that the most gifted teacher cannot do within the confines of the classroom.
As to the topic of pressure: Having all these activities available, on top of the expected academic performance, surely could create pressure. The girls often stay in school until the wee hours of the morning, preparing their extra-curricular work. Then they feel they do not have enough time to do justice to their studies. And they are often right.
On the very first day of school, I tell my students what the requirements are for doing well in my class. They are further told that I do not like hearing the phrase “take into consideration” regarding their myriad other obligations. We all know that time is a limited resource, so we need to make choices regarding its use. If they and their parents feel that helping at home has higher priority than studying for my quiz, I cannot impose my ‘values’ on their parents’ chinuch. But they must acknowledge that there is an opportunity cost: If I take the time for X, I cannot devote too much time to Y. And who says they must excel in all areas of life? Do we adults expect that of ourselves? Does every man expect himself to be a talmid chochom, a skilled handyman, a leading member of Hatzolah or other chesed organization, a wise father, a devoted friend to countless people and a Rockefeller-like breadwinner all in one lifetime?
Why can we not encourage our daughters (and our sons) to try to do well at every task assigned to them, while realizing that we are equipped by Hashem to do better at some than at others? A 60% on an exam is not a catastrophe if it is the result of a conscious decision to do chesed, prepare a play, be mekarev a shy classmate, help a kimpeturin, bake a cake for a younger sibling’s birthday – any one of which can be worthwhile pursuit. If we candidly discuss with our children their kishronos and in which areas they can expect to struggle/succeed, they will be more accepting of themselves and less likely to feel the pressure of having to do well at everything all the time.
Regarding the recent growth of some girl’s high schools which seem to put emphasis solely on yedios and academic development, I wonder if they are trying to produce female yeshiva bochurim. Don’t laugh. At a recent seminar for educators, one mechaneches complained that her eighth grade students were so immature since they asked for stories to explain some concepts, while the teacher felt she had to push yedios. Certainly, yedios are important; how can one fear a Yiddishe shtub without them? However, there so many aspects of personality and character that need nurturing; why focus on just one?
Perhaps it is the demands that are inappropriate to our resources that creates the pressure.
Trying to Make a Difference in the Matzav