Thursday, March 17, 2011

Disturbing Dichotomy

I'v worked in 4 schools. I've previously worked in 3 frum schools ranging from Modern Orthodox to Chasidish. I currently work in a predominantly low income public school. The 3 frum schools had one thing in common- some degree of behavior difficulty. (the chasidish school was slightly better and the little girls were quite well behaved) but the middle of the road frum school and the Modern Orthodox school were complete behavioral disasters. Children talked back, ran in the halls, had physical altercations with each other, wrote curse words on the walls, mercilessly teased one another and sang inappropriate songs at recess. I now work in a public school. The children walk in line. They say "please" and "thank you". They do not answer back. They are quiet, polite respectful. I remember library time in one of the frum schools- it was nightmarish. The kids pulled books out of each other's hands, wouldn't quiet down when the library teacher talked, and answered their homeroom teacher back when she said their time was up. In contrast- in the public school they are absolutely silent. The library teacher admonished one student for having his head turned away during class. 
I don't get it. It's not just in the city where I live either. My friend works in a different city doing special education- she just graduated and was eager to begin work in a frum school. No positions were available. She reluctantly took a position in a public school. She didn't want to be in the "non frum" environment. She even told her mother "I didn't go to a frum college program for this!"  Well- a few months into the year she realized she loved working in the public school. The teachers were polite and allowed her to pull students from the classrooms without fuss. The students were cute and polite. There was no frum "hock" in the school. She could show up with no makeup and a denim skirt and it would in now way get back to her mother or to shadchanim. A slot in a frum school eventually opened up and she was overjoyed- for about a day. The frum teachers rolled their eyes when they saw her at the door. "ANOTHER annoying therapist!?" they made scheduling a nightmare. "You can't see Chana during davening, recess, lunch, Chumash, Navi, math, english or history" and the children were spoiled and badly behaved. She said she loved working in the public school because preparation was easy. She brought in Candyland or Guess Who and the kids were thrilled. Frum kids needed a 3 ring circus to be impressed. After working for a few weeks doing 2 days a week in the frum school my friend switched to full time in the public school. I don't blame her.
 What is going on!? My husband remembers his non-religious, secular studies teachers telling the class "You religious kids behave terribly" I always knew that was a common refrain among secular studies teachers in boys' schools. I has always assumed that it was due to the fact that (unfortunately) frum kids don't always respect people who aren't religious. Which is terrible! I've now come to the realization that they don't respect ANYBODY. Which is awful! Why are the frum kids such terrors and the public school kids so great? Another friend of mine believes it is because "the public school kids get NO attention elsewhere. School is the only place for structure and rules in their lives so they behave there. They aren't so well behaved at home". Ummmm maybe that accounts for a handful of kids. Does it account for well behaved children in different schools all over the country? Granted the public school kids aren't perfect. There are severe issues there that you never see in frum schools. But overall, the general school atmosphere is that of good behavior. Are frum kids behaving badly because of "hismaatus hadoros" and because in the ikvasa d'mashicha there will be an avir of chutzpah? Am I the only one disturbed and saddened by this dichotomy of behavior? Does anyone else notice this?


  1. I find it naive to say that public school kids don't get attention, but Jewish ones do; I would think, if anything, they get equal amounts.

    I would counter that children from "out there" are socialized. They are taught that in order to achieve in this world they have to know how to behave and work with others, and they are definitely instilled with a respect for authority.

    To say that it's ikvisa demishicha is a cop-out; plus, there's chutzpah and there's CHUTZPAH. Many frum children are not taught discipline. Neither is respect for others cultivated. Nor is personal accountability.

    It is sad, but many frum parents seem to have a hands off policy - if my child is misbehaving, that's not my problem. Also, we're frum Jews. I don't have to do anything else. We're chosen; who needs improvement?

    In the end, the parents have to be blamed for this.

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  3. I completely agree with you- the explanations I threw out there, like lack of attention or the end times coming were just playing devil's advocate. It's sad but oh so true that often working with frum people puts you in a role of constant damage control. My sister works in a school where the students are non jews but the staff is mixed- frum jews and non jews. It is absolutely apalling what goes on there. My sister spends half her time and energy doing damage control- fixing what these people mess up.
    Additionally- with regards to education, I believe that another issue is that learning and excelling in limudei kodesh is stressed to the exclusion of middos. And so, these children with lacks of middos become adults with a lack of middos- What people need to understand is that we were put into this world to make a kiddush Hashem. It doesn't matter how tznius you dress and how "frum" you are if you bring chillul Hashem into this world...but I'm now running off on a tangent......

  4. In the end, it is not the jobs of schools to teach middos - if a child doesn't have them from home when he/she enters first grade, chances are things aren't going to improve.

    And I agree with your last thought completely. Nothing matters if one causes others to see observant Judaism in s negative view.

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