The parenting forum is dedicated this year
to the memory of Mrs. Gertrude Walder a"h
A Career In Chinuch- Part 2
Dear Rabbi Horowitz
Our 21-year-old son just came back from his second year in Eretz Yisroel and informed us that he would like to pursue a career in chinuch (Jewish education). We are very proud of his idealism and we both feel that he is doing this for ‘all the right reasons.’
Nevertheless, we wonder how we can help him determine if he is really ‘cut out’ for chinuch. We are also quite concerned about his ability to support his family in the future. Do you have any suggestions that can help us guide him properly?
Thank you in advance
Proud and Concerned Parents
Part 1 of Response
Setting aside the specific question of your child who wishes to explore a career in chinuch; I think it is an excellent suggestion for parents to have their late-teen children meet with a trained, professional career guidance counselor and start thinking about how they will support their families. After all, teaching one’s child a trade is one of the few obligations on parents specifically mentioned in the gemorah (Kiddushin 29a, 30b). Going for career counseling involves a relatively small investment of money and time – and can be very helpful in your quest to transition your teen to a mature adult. My wife and I encouraged our four grown children to do so when they were in their late teen years and we were very pleased with the results.
Going for career counseling accomplishes several goals. Firstly, it gets children to start thinking of themselves as budding adults, something that is exceedingly helpful in reducing the stress of adolescence. (For more on this topic, please review this column and see the links there to other essays on the subject of teen years.) One of my favorite quotes is “No One Ever Changed the Oil in a Rented Car,” which basically expresses the theme that the more ownership that your teen feels in his/her life, the more likely he/she will be to avoid reckless and life-threatening behaviors. (read this column for context.)
Additionally, going for career counseling allows the process of self-exploration to begin in earnest. It affords your child the opportunity to evaluating his/her strengths and weaknesses, to identify the areas that need improvement and those which are already developed. This is only one piece in the overall ‘cheshbon hanefesh’ which all mussar seforim speak about, but done properly, can be an important component. (Click here for “The Plan,” an open letter that I wrote to yeshiva bachurim about planning for their lives.)
Finally, it allows teenage children to gain a more realistic view of the workforce and the skills they will need to land a job that can support their families. Many teenagers look at the top echelon of entrepreneurs who achieved remarkable success and assume that they will just take a page from that fellow’s book and the millions will just roll in. This is not dissimilar to the thinking of teen athletes who neglect their education hoping to land a career in professional sports – not realizing that only a tiny fraction of people ‘get there.’ Don’t delude yourself that one session with a career counselor will dispel these thoughts, but it is a good first step, nonetheless.
Back to your son and his noble thoughts of devoting his life to chinuch: I would suggest that he look into some of the excellent teacher training programs currently in existence in the frum world. In the more ‘yeshivish’ world, I would recommend the Aish Dos Teacher Training Program run by Torah Umesorah (845-356-2961) and the Merkaz Teacher Training Program. Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate Program (212-960-0186; firstname.lastname@example.org ) is more appropriate for those inclined to enroll in a program that will result in a Master’s degree in education.
Once your son is ready to look for a job placement, a good place to start would be with Torah Umesorah’s placement division (212-227-1000), headed by Rabbi Moshe Possik. Rabbi Possik has been matching mechanchim and schools for decades and has an almost-encyclopedic knowledge of which of the 700+ Torah Umesorah schools across North America are looking to fill positions.
I would also strongly suggest that your son consider enrolling in an ‘out-of-town’ community Kollel when he is up to that stage in life. Chinuch jobs are far easier to get in smaller, ‘out-of-town’ communities – especially for beginners – and those schools are used to acclimating novice rebbeim and guiding them during the critical first years in chinuch. Additionally, in a community Kollel, your son will have the opportunity to blossom and make his mark. He will give shiurim in the local shul, engage in outreach programs and quickly develop the ‘polish’ that will greatly enhance his life – and chinuch career.
© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved