Dear Rabbi Ross. My wife and I truly appreciate your articles, and we really value your opinions. Since you’re a Rebbe in a Yeshiva as well, we wanted your thoughts on an important Chinuch Issue; namely which track our child should be in. As you well know, there are usually multiple tracks in most Yeshivos. The higher track usually has the serious Rebbe, the lower track has the fun or younger Rebbe. Our son going into 6th grade wants to be in the lower track, but he really should be in the higher one. Does it matter? Should we ask the Yeshiva to change him over? Does he really need the extra hour of learning every day? Or should we let him have a fun year? Thanks in advance! Robert – 5 Towns
Robert, you are asking a very loaded question. There are so many variables involved in choosing a class for your children. In order to keep this answer organized, let’s break it down.
1) What’s best for your child? If he is capable of being in an advanced class, there are many additional skills he can gain. Typically, Yeshivos put a solid Rebbe with this top Shiur, and the goal is to learn on a stronger level. However, even if your son is academically capable, it does not mean he is on at the correct emotional level. If he spends the year dreaming about the “Fun” class, not only won’t he have a fun year, but he won’t be learning either.
2) Who are his friends? The “Chevra” that your son hangs out with will have a tremendous impact on his growth. This doesn’t mean that one track has a better group than the other ones. It just means that you have to know who your son’s friends are. You’re not necessarily looking for the strongest students, rather you’re looking for the kids that will be good influences or have stable homes.
3) Who should he NOT be hanging out with? There’s always that one kid who is just not a good match for your son. This isn’t a “bad” kid, but one that either has a personality conflict with your son, is a negative influence, or bullies him (whether physically or emotionally). Although there are ways to deal with these issues, better to avoid them in the first place.
4) What is the yeshiva’s policy? Every Yeshiva is different. However, there is one thing they all agree on. When parents get overly involved, it almost always backfires. Although you mean well, when you start requesting specific classes or Rebbeim, the Yeshiva will be quite unhappy. If the Yeshiva does give in to you, you should understand they won’t switch your son back if you decide it was a mistake. It’s almost always a one-time deal.
Now that we’ve gone over the main points, let’s take a step back. If your son has been with the same group of boys for a while, switching him isn’t a great idea. If there are extenuating circumstances it’s understandable, but otherwise, leave him where he is.
If your son is asking to switch, you have your work cut out for you. If he’s asking to switch because the other Rebbe is more fun, you need to tell him something like this: “Some Rebbeim are more fun, some are less. We can’t switch around to get specific Rebbeim every year; that’s not the way it works. However, we’re very proud that you want to enjoy your learning, and we will work with you to make this a great year!”
Whatever the reason, keep in mind the following. Under no circumstances should you ever speak badly regarding a Rebbe to other parents. Additionally, if you think that a boy is not a good match for your son, don’t discuss this with other people. You can ask a previous Rebbe or Menahel for their opinion, but leave it at that. Speaking Lashon Hara is not a good start to raising a Ben Torah.
Lastly, I wanted to point out that I strongly disagree with your implication that a younger Rebbe is more suited to teaching Torah. I’ve been a Rebbe for over 20 years, and I know of many excellent Rebbeim that are young and old. Just because a Rebbe is younger does not mean he understands children better or will communicate better with them.
With age comes wisdom. Obviously there are certain Rebbeim that could use a nice retirement party (the kids would be happy to set it up), but to base your opinion of a Rebbe based on his age seems arbitrary. To quote Ronald Reagan when his opponent mentioned how old he was, “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience!”
In next week’s article, we’ll discuss approaches for how to motivate your kids if they are not enjoying the class. (If your child is having issues with his Rebbe/teacher, you can click here to read a previous article discussing it.)
Wishing you all much Hatzlacha with your children!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.