Who is going to teach our daughters?

A recent  Open-Mic by Shaina King  sparked a lively discussion about the the reasons for the dearth of qualified teachers for girls and the impact this has on our daughters’ education. 
What do you think? Join the conversation below. 


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Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner |
August 27, 2019
LAST UPDATED 4 years ago

Comments (16)

  1. Avatar

    My daughter would have gone into Chinuch. She is a talented wonderful teacher. The first year she came back from Israel, she became an assistant to ‘learn the ropes’, and ‘get her feet wet’. She also enrolled in college as a STEM major, in case the Chinuch thing did not work out. Well, she spent almost 3 years as an assistant. The school would not hire her as a teacher. nevertheless, she was fought over in each teacher’s classroom- because of her warm skills and devotion. She subbed many times for teachers that were out. But, they never offered her a job. The final straw was when they after 2 years hired an new 19 year old- and made my daughter the assistant- because the new teacher was clueless.
    So she quit. She did not want to start over again in another school, and soon discovered that tutoring is a lot more lucrative.
    She is finishing up her degree, while tutoring around the community- making money hand over foot.
    So here was a talented young lady able and willing to do what it took to teach the next generation. But, the school had other girls to hire for whatever reasons I don’t even want to know.
    School’s loss. Oh Well. Good thing she covered her bases.

  2. Avatar

    What happened to those who want to teach and stay in teaching? Not only just as a means to a better “profession” before they get their degree. What happened to hiring those girls/ women? They have passion and heart. Look at them, they may just surprise you

  3. Avatar
    Yehudis H.

    I liked this article; because it’s announcing the emperor has no clothes!

    “girls need well-paying jobs to support bnei Torah — has also spawned other unintended consequences” – If the ideal is presented as a woman taking on the man’s role to financially support the family and not raise her children, so as to enable the husband to learn, what is meant by “unintended consequences”? Either “daas Torah” is behind this or it isn’t.

    “When a Jewish girl sees no loss in her children spending full days at daycare so she can work, that is a failure of her chinuch.” – Is it? Oh, I agree with the statement, but with girls getting the message that the most important thing is their husband’s learning, well, something has to give … The men’s learning is on the backs of their kids. Infants are placed with babysitters so postpartum mommy can get back to work so husband can learn. If women were separated from their infants, babies and toddlers to work, by order of the government, we would be praying for the end of the gezeira. Instead, women are signing up for this and are validated by their communities for doing so.

  4. Avatar

    True and well expressed!
    As I overheard a serious yungerman say recently “he is ready to do everything it takes so that his wife can sit and study….”
    How the tables turned and we don’t even know the goal of living anymore.
    Maybe we should get the mothers back to keep house and the men to bring parnassah.

  5. Avatar
    Esther West, Passaic, NJ

    When I returned from seminary, so many of my friends became teachers. Now, with over two decades of chinuch habanos experience (on the elementary, high school, and seminary levels), I am devastated as I watch the decline. So few girls consider teaching, and if they do, it is generally only until they finish their schooling in their chosen field. The salaries are so pitiful that most responsible, caring parents can’t encourage their daughters, in good conscience, to choose chinuch as their “career.” As one well-known administrator said to me, “There are only two types of girls becoming teachers today — those who are so farfrumt that they won’t consider anything else and those who are so lo yitzlach (incapable) that they can’t do anything else.”
    What a sad commentary. As a mother of daughters, I cringe when I think of their future teachers. Morahs today are expected to be mothers, fathers, therapists, coaches, and so much more. Who are we entrusting our precious children to?!
    As more and more mothers are “out in the world” and home less and less with their children, the job has become much more demanding and the payment is certainly not commensurate. In many communities, a rebbi who makes a chasunah gets $10,000 and a morah gets a hearty mazel tov wish (and if she’s lucky, flowers or chocolates).
    What does the future hold? It behooves us to discuss this and take action. When will we, as Klal Yisrael, wake up and realize that we are headed on a course for disaster? Who will educate our future progeny? We have so many beautiful innovative initiatives and organizations. Are we so focused on the trees that we are losing sight of the forest? Maybe we need to rethink the current status quo. Or future generations are counting on us.

    1. Avatar

      Is it reasonable that “Morahs today are expected to be mothers, fathers, therapists, coaches, and so much more.”?
      If a woman can earn five times her teaching salary as therapist or coach, why on earth would she waste her time coaching in the classroom? If she is blessed with many children of her own to parent, why should she dedicate so much of herself to other children, rather than dedicate her life to her precious responsibilities?
      Why should any young lady invest her entire life playing mother, father, therapist, and coach when she needs to focus her energies on building a home of her own? Is it reasonable to expect our best and most talented to sacrifice everything to assume impossible responsibilities?
      Let’s be honest: No teacher can ever be all of the above descriptions to every student, maybe not even to one. Children need mothers and fathers to do the job of a mother and a father, and a licensed therapist will do less damage at therapy than any well-meaning, sweet but untrained teacher.
      Maybe it’s time to stop placing impossible expectations on our teachers and take responsibility for that which only we can do for our children. Teachers should be trained in education. They need to be intelligent and kind menschen and role models. To demand more than that is ludicrous. Good therapists should be therapists. We need them out there. And teachers should revert to the age-old model of teaching for the sake of education.

      1. Avatar
        Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner

        I have a very good friend who loves to teach and is a dynamic gifted teacher. As her therapy practice grew her teaching hours all but disappeared. She still tries to teach whenever the opportunities arise. She is candid about it all boiling down to dollars and cents.

    2. Avatar
      G. Grossman

      Publishing the administrator’s quote — with little nuance or exploration — does a huge disservice all around.
      Picture a young teacher reading that. How does that make her feel about herself and her choice of career? Picture parents reading that. How can they have faith in or respect for a school system featuring teachers who are either farfrumt or lo yitzlach? And how can they effectively partner with teachers who they see as either farfrumt or lo yitzlach?
      The teacher shortage is real, and absolutely should be discussed in Mishpacha. Please do it responsibly.

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    Leah. S.

    As a teacher of almost 25 years, here’s my perspective:
    I had always wanted to become a teacher. I had absolutely no desire to look into any other profession. Money nor lack of it would change my aspiration. I also wanted to marry a ben Torah who would learn in kollel.
    My husband learned in kollel for four years. I do not come from money and neither does he. My parents and in-laws split our rent ($600 over 20 years ago!). We spent our shanah rishonah in Eretz Yisrael and while there we did not eat fleishigs except on Shabbos, we didn’t go out to dinner every week, we didn’t splurge on iced coffee, and ice cream. We lived like a kollel couple on my salary as a teacher’s assistant and a tutor along with my husband’s stipend. We lived with a budget and within our means. And we did not feel deprived! We were living our dream!
    You might say, “Well, that was over 20 years ago, get with the program!” But I maintain my opinion regardless. A kollel couple is moser nefesh for Torah! We don’t see too much of that today because either the non-wealthy want their kids in designer clothes and shoes in order to keep up with everyone else, or the wealthy are able to support. Where’s the mesirus nefesh?
    When we returned to America, I taught part-time so I could raise my children. I looked for sales, we budgeted and made it work in kollel for three more years. It was never a thought to try to find a more lucrative position.
    Women need to raise their children, not entrust them to foreign babysitters. Men are supposed to support their wives, not the other way around (check the kesubah). I always feel guilty when looking down on kollel couples where the wife works all day to support her husband. After all, he’s “in learning”! But with the mother absent from her kids’ lives, running on a hamster wheel to try to keep her head above water, I can’t help but ask, “Is this what Hashem wants?”
    The woman is the akeres habayis. If she is gone eight hours a day, she is not there for her children. Even if she beats them home from school, she is busy doing all she couldn’t do all day and is depleted from all her long hours. So how present is she really?
    My point is two-fold: I don’t believe we’re lacking teachers due to the dismal pay, because teaching has always been my passion and if it’s truly someone’s passion they’d make it work! So why do we lack young women with passion to teach? I have no real answer for that other than currently passion is lacking in many areas.
    And second, the materialistic “needs” of our generation are so strong that it’s too challenging for many people to do with less, so at the expense of their children’s welfare of being raised by Mommy they take a high paying job to support their husband and fulfill those “needs.”
    I’d love to be proven wrong and hear from people who haven’t given up on their passion to teach, at the expense of their children and have lived in the true spirit of a kollel couple.

    1. Avatar

      I was a classroom teacher for the first three years of my marriage, while my husband was in kollel. Between my $22,000 salary and the 10k he brought in on the side, along with being on various programs, we scraped by. But the goal was always to move onto something more lucrative (a therapy) and not spend the rest of our lives relying on handouts. Plus our growing family comes with growing expenses.
      Nowadays it’s pretty much impossible to live as we did. Rent in our neighborhood is at least $1,500 a month for a small one-bedroom apartment. Once you add in insurance, tuition, and regular household expenses— you’ve pretty quickly passed a half-day teaching salary. And those are all basics; it’s not about choosing macaroni over chicken or the cheap Maclaren stroller over the UPPAbaby.
      Secondly, even if these girls found a way to make it work, the reality is, many of them wouldn’t get dates from boys who want to learn. My husband and I dabble in shidduchim and we’ve had many mothers who won’t even look at a girl’s résumé if she’s planning to teach. Even my own mother-in-law would have passed me over had my résumé not explicitly said I was going to be leaving the classroom and specializing in a better-paying field.
      My husband now works as a rebbi and his school treats him wonderfully, with a nice salary plus Yom Tov bonuses and Pesach subsidies. If only our female teachers had the same level of salary and support.

    2. Avatar
      D. Tessler

      I’d like to add my two cents, having taught in the Bais Yaakov system for a couple of decades.
      First, the lack of passion is not the problem. It’s the maintenance of said passion. Spend a couple of years in a classroom, and you’ll understand how hard it is to keep that fire burning.
      The kids today are not the way kids were years ago. I know every generation says that, but the kids today come with parents who are demanding, and sometimes unreasonable. Children aren’t stupid, and they know how their parents feel. That gives them the courage to behave in ways that were unheard of in the classrooms of years ago. It’s likely that any graduate today, having come from that kind of classroom, knows exactly what they’re up against and thinks, why bother? If parents are worried about their children’s teachers, they should start being more supportive, and less combative.
      Then there’s the kollel issue. Let’s just say the ability to be a passionate, fantastic teacher does not depend on a husband learning in kollel. And neither should a teacher’s salary. That should reflect her valuable work, regardless of whether her husband is a doctor or rebbi, or if she’s single.

    3. Avatar
      Malka L., Lakewood

      As a young, passionate teacher, this really hit home with me. I’ll tell you why all the passionate, young teachers like myself leave after a few years: If you’re a passionate teacher, then it’s not what you get paid that bothers you, but how much time and money you’re spending that drives you out.
      When I walk out of the classroom, my job is not done. I spend hours on the phone with parents, preparing exciting lessons, conferring with my students’ therapists and social workers, grading tests and report cards.
      Any passionate teacher who’s doing her job well will tell you that they spend more time preparing than actually teaching. I also spend my own money on supplies and incentives, since the school budget does not allow for much. Does any secretary use her own money to buy a laptop to do her work with? Any accountant voluntarily do extra work into the wee hours of the night and not get paid for it?
      So yes, the hours of actual teaching are great, but the amount of time spent after takes away from the laundry and supper making, leaving me wondering if I should leave the classroom and get a full-day but no work-after-work job.
      However, my husband and I feel very strongly that it’s the mother’s place to raise a family, like you said, and our rav agreed. So I’ll b’ezras Hashem be staying in the classroom, my fifth year of teaching, where I love what I do and look forward to greeting my students every day. My husband will be leaving kollel to get a job, so that I can keep teaching and be home part of the day with our kids.
      I strongly agree with your question of “Is this what Hashem wants?” but teaching is not the perfect answer for family life. Passionate teachers get burnt out from all the extra unpaid hours, even if they feel that they’re doing what Hashem wants by raising their family!

      1. Avatar
        Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner

        I have watched many a passionate young lady leave the teaching field after finishing her masters in _________. They left sadly with the commitment to wanting to earn better salaries. Any principal will concur and report that many talented and passionate young women will flit through the school before they begin their careers. It is a rare wealthy girl that will stay with the field. It is an even rarer that a truly passionate young woman will stick to her guns and teach. ( I proudly have such a niece) It is a poor reflection on the aforementioned lack of mesiras nefesh and materialistic needs when that young woman is rejected in shidduch because she has chosen this hallowed profession, as the next letter writer wrote.
        It is but a memory when seminaries regularly boasted a “Teacher’s Cetificate” at the end of the experience. I regularly was a guinea pig for model teacher during my years in Breuers as we shared a Campus with the Rika Breuer Teachers Seminary. It was known far and wide as bastion for chinuch Habanos in America. Girls flocked there and many wonderful teachers give much credit to a seminary that is now part of history.
        Twenty + years ago, I attended Bnos Chava Teachers Seminary, where a Mrs. Brettler prepared us to go into a Hebrew Language class. Boruch Hashem, most of my friends, including, Adina Rosenbaum stayed in the chinuch world.
        The majority of seminaries today no longer offer teaching tracks. Instead, there are head hunters from businesses in the frum community that actually go to Eretz Yisrael and recruit the best and the brightest to start with them at fine salary immediately upon their return to America.
        Be it materialism, or be it true it needs for parnassah, The seminaries have followed the trend Our girls no longer view teaching as an attractive life option. We need Sarah Schneirer!!!

  7. Avatar
    Adina Rosenbaum, Passaic, NJ

    I have been a high school teacher for over 20 years. I always watched proudly as some of my best and brightest students chose to become teachers; those positions were treasured and earned with pride.
    That situation has changed dramatically. I see those same girls today maybe teaching for a year or two while they pursue advanced degrees and then giving up their teaching positions to become therapists, computer programmers, or accountants.
    Not many girls are choosing teaching as a long-term career. Many would love to, but feel they can’t. This forces the schools to seek and retrain new teachers year after year. It’s a situation where everyone loses out: Our students are not getting teachers with experience, many schools are taking whatever they can get…. but even worse is that our daughters are giving up a career so beautifully suited for a frum wife and mother.
    The reason for this situation is the feeling of desperation our girls feel to bring in a strong paycheck, which is compounded by the shidduch system. As someone deeply involved in my students’ shidduchim, I have had more than one mother tell me that her son is looking for someone with a good career and is therefore not interested in a teacher, whose salary cannot sustain a family. How sad!
    I know there has been a kol koreh and much publicity for the increase of salaries for the rebbeim. But why hasn’t the same initiative been done for the teachers? They are also supporting families, often with husbands in learning. Soon we are going to find ourselves in a crisis, because you will always find men available to go into chinuch from the ranks of our many kollel yungeleit (who wives are inevitably working as therapists….) but soon you will find there are no more girls to fill the ranks of teachers, and then where will we be?

  8. Avatar
    A Concerned Mother

    Someone, finally, has voiced what has been in my mind for many years.
    Like the character Rivka, I returned from seminary inspired not only to teach but to reinvigorate the system to reach all students. After some years of study and research, I taught teaching methodology in several schools. My earlier students would complain of their inability to find jobs, but my later students apologetically explained that they “couldn’t afford to teach.”
    I was even once accosted by a parent who accused me of being “too inspirational” as her daughter needed to find a sensible, well-paying job to land a ben Torah.
    After 20 years of teaching, I began to gear my lessons to cultivating “educated mothers,” since a poll of the class revealed that no more than two or three girls were planning to consider chinuch as a viable option. Principals have begun calling me, precariously close to the school year, begging for teacher recommendations to fill vacant slots.
    Outside of the classroom, I am a mother of several daughters. Every parent knows how essential each teacher is in their child’s year and life. We don’t have to wait as long as a generation to see the trend that the author speaks of, it has already begun. Whether an individual girl should teach is a question for daas Torah, but without a doubt, it is our daughters who are the losers here.
    I have no real solutions other than to advocate for school choice, which would possibly allow us to pay our teachers a competitive salary.
    I would like to end by thanking my daughters’ teachers, who have done a wonderful job. Please keep it up! I still have others entering the system!

    1. Avatar
      Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner

      The previous two writers shared excellent points and certainly concluded with highlighting the need to bolster the salaries of Moros. I recall, at my graduation from Johns Hopkins University with a Masters in Special Ed, that one of the presenters spoke at this very issue as a United States ethical misjudgement. He cited the statistics coming out of China, we know they boast some of the finest academia in the world. The school system there offers their best and brightest students incentives to enter the teaching field. Once in the field, the educator’s salary is clearly competitive with all other top professions.
      If this is reflecting on our frum community it is coming from the lack of focus on the need for the best and most talented to teach our children. Human nature is such that the greater monetary value that is placed on something the more it treasured and coveted.
      It is sad to see that our Moros get shifted to the lowest paid in the chinuch world. I fully agree that their needs to be a kol koreh to find ways to increase their salaries.
      As my friend Adina Rosenbaum writes, the pressure of paying bills falls on both parents in the typical frum lifestyle and the “Stay at Home Mom,” rarely exists even in families where the husband is working.
      Certainly, we in Kal Yisreal should give better value to the women who will be giving our daughters the keilim to be the future women to lead nshei Yisrael!!!

Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner is the rebbetzin of Congregation Kneseth Israel (The White Shul), and menaheles of Machon Basya Rachel Seminary, both in Far Rockaway, New York.

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