| Jr. Feature |

My Mother, My Teacher    

 Most kids wonder what their new teacher will be like. But what’s it like if your teacher is... your parent?

Shoshana Gross
School: Arie Crown Hebrew Day School of Chicago
Mother taught: Eighth grade, head of extracurricular


Chavie, Nechama, Atara, and Tova Ribowsky
School: Bais Yaakov of Queens and Shevach High School
Mother taught: Fifth grade Navi, ninth grade biology


Tzvi, Yisroel, Dvasha, and Efraim Rubin
Schools: Tiferes Moshe of Queens, Toras Chaim in Norfolk, Virginia, Torah Day School of Atlanta
Father taught: Subbed in Tiferes Moshe Mishnah and Halachah; main Kodesh teacher, second, third, fourth, and seventh grades. 


What’s it really like…

Shoshana Gross:

Q: Did you get to know all the behind-the-scenes stuff in the school? How did it feel when your mother knew everything before you got to tell her?

Because my mother takes care of all the extracurricular activities, from the time I was very young there was no way she could hide anything from me. I always knew what was going to happen before it happened. And since I don’t like to share everything that happened in my day, it was so much easier — because my mother already knew!

Q: What was the biggest perk of having your mother as a teacher?

Having my mother’s help at home was really nice. But my mother was a very fair teacher. If I had friends over, she’d help all of us. Oh, and when we went on our graduation trip and the teachers all got steak, my mother shared hers with me — even though the students only got hamburgers!

Q: What was the worst part of having your mother as a teacher?

In my school it is very normal to call your teacher for help or even to visit her on Shabbos. It was weird when a friend called or came by on Shabbos and I answered, but she wasn’t coming or calling for me! I had to figure out that she really wanted my mother.

Q: In school, did your mother feel like your mother or your teacher?

Over the year I gradually felt more and more like my mother was a regular teacher. I’m the kind of kid that doesn’t like being in the classroom alone with a teacher. As the year went on, if it was just me and my mother in the room, I would feel awkward and leave the room, just like I would with any other teacher!

Chavie, Nechama, Atara, and Tova Ribowsky

Q: When your mother was your teacher, how did the other kids in your class react?

They felt very weird in the beginning, especially since we had just started high school where everything is new as it is. My close friends who were always in the house were intimidated when they were in the classroom with my mother. It was weird for them — their friend’s mother just turned into their scary teacher! But the awkwardness didn’t carry over after school and Shabbos afternoon, everyone loved coming anyway! Because my mother may have been their teacher in school, but she was just my mother at home.

Q: What was the worst part of having your mother as a teacher?

My mother can be a strict teacher. It was embarrassing when she disciplined our friends. The school has a rule that girls can have their phones but the phones can’t ring. Once, my mother had no choice but to take my best friend’s phone away. I kept asking her to give it back, but she had to follow the school rules and she wouldn’t.

Q: If you could choose to be in your parent’s class, would you?

A: Yes! It was awesome. She noticed more about our classes than we noticed and knew all our friends because she worked in our school. We actually had a time where the school was breaking out this top-secret activity, and my mother came home and said, “Oh, did you play the game yet?” and they hadn’t broken it out yet!

Q: Did other teachers look at you differently because your parent was in the school?

Yes. Because our mother worked with our teachers, our teachers were her friends. Just like you know your mother’s friends, we knew all the teachers beforehand. Then it was very weird because we were friendly with them, but then had to be their student.

Q: If your mother takes you to school, how does it work when you come late?

In high school, our mother taught us in the afternoon, so it usually didn’t happen. But once there was a big mix up with our carpool. We marched into school four hours late with bags of freshly baked cookies that we had made that morning, and it wasn’t a problem!

Q: Do you have any funny stories to share?

Chavie: One day, around Rosh Chodesh Adar, my mother was running really late and one of the teachers said to our class, “If I were you, I’d be sitting in your seats when your teacher gets here, she’s really upset.” I was panicking. My mother walked in and started yelling at the class that a lot of girls cheated on a test and we would all have to retake the test right then. I tried to make eye contact with her but she avoided me. We had ten seconds to answer each question. On the third page, she wrote, “Got you! Chodesh tov, ah freilechen Purim.” It lasted five minutes but it was a scary five minutes.

Tova: On my first day of ninth grade, I walked into bio class and didn’t know what to expect. When my mother got up to my name by attendance, she said, “Say hi to your mother for me.”

Cheat Sheet

Tips for kids who will have their parent as a teacher this year:

Shoshana Gross: Enjoy it. It’s so nice to have even more to gain from your mother. If your friends ever get upset and complain, just keep in mind that it’s normal to feel frustrated at your teacher occasionally, and it’s really not personal!

Tzvi Rubin: Don’t make a bigger deal out of it than it is. Everything will go more smoothly if you treat your father like you would any other rebbi and he treats you like any other talmid. If he doesn’t, ask him to.

Dvasha Rubin: Don’t think too much about it!

Yisroel Rubin: It comes with perks, for example, your father can help you.

Efraim Rubin: Don’t think you are special. It will not help make other people like you more.

Ribowsky Girls: Live it up. Take advantage of every benefit.

My Father, my rebbe…

Tzvi, Yisroel, Dvasha, and Efraim Rubin

Q: Behind the scenes… were you privy to any secret, behind-the-scenes information?

Yes! Our father makes amazing projects. Things like a Chanukah menorah made out of real bricks and mortar. We use power tools a lot in his class. It was really exciting to get to do the projects ahead of time.

We also got to see how much effort teachers put into teaching even when they’re not in school.

Q: What was the greatest perk of having your father as your teacher?

Tzvi: My father is cool and it was good to learn from him because he has a lot of cool stuff to teach. The content and style was different from what I got from other rebbeim.

Yisroel: I often had trouble communicating what I was trying to say and my father knew me and understood what I was trying to say.

Efraim: The best part was being allowed to use more of the power tools, such as the hand drill and impact driver, than the rest of the class. Also, my father taught me how to use the copier and I got to go make copies for the class. As the year went on, my father started giving jobs to the other students, too, and I became more like a regular student.

Dvasha: I never forgot my homework because my father could always remind me!

Q: If you could choose to be in your parent’s class, would you?

Dvasha, Efraim, and Yisroel: Yes!

Tzvi: Probably not. I would rather learn with him outside of the classroom where I can get more out of it than be in a classroom where I have to worry about what the other guys are thinking.

Q: Any funny stories?

Once, my father was teaching about how Moshe and Aharon picked up all the Leviim and shook them like a lulav. To demonstrate, he picked me up and shook me like a lulav. I don’t think any other teacher would dare do something like that, but since it was my father…

Yisroel: There was a boy in our class who claimed he was having trouble seeing the board but never wore glasses and seemed to have no trouble seeing outside of class. One day he brought in a piece of cake. My father made him leave it on a table in the back of the room, right next to me. When he complained that he couldn’t see that day, I tried to send a note up to my father telling him to write, “Yisroel is eating his piece of cake,” on the board. Then we’d know if he could see or not! Unfortunately, the boy in the front of the class was afraid to pass the note to my father and he never got it. I wouldn’t have tried this with another teacher.

Let’s test the teacher…

Question: How did your child feel before having you as a teacher?

Mrs. Gross: Before the start of eighth grade, Shoshana and I were both very nervous. I think she was worried that her friends wouldn’t like me and would think I was mean.

Shoshana: I don’t think I was worried about having my mother as a teacher. I mean, my mother is known as a hard teacher so I was a drop worried about that. But so was every other kid in my class!

Question: What was it like for your child to have you as their teacher?

Rabbi Rubin: When I was subbing for Tzvi’s class, you could feel the tension in the classroom. However, once we moved out of town, having a parent as a teacher became normal. In Toras Chaim in Norfolk, many of the kids had parents in the school, and even in Atlanta, where the school is three times the size of Toras Chaim, it is very normal to have a teacher’s child in the class.

Tzvi: When my father taught me in Toras Chaim, it was really awkward. I felt a little out of place, like I had to be on my toes all the time. And socially it was awkward, too, because I knew that if something went wrong in class, I would hear about it later.

Yisroel and Dvasha: We were very nervous and excited to have our father as a teacher. In our out-of-town school, having a parent in school was pretty normal. A lot of kids had the same experience.

Question: Did having you as a teacher mean your child got extra help with school work?

Mrs. Ribowsky: No! Like I told my girls, I just taught this subject three times to three different classes, I’m not teaching it a fourth time. If the girls had questions on their homework, of course I helped them — but only in the same way that I helped them with any other subject.

Nechama Ribowsky: Before the school year started, I was really excited. I thought my mother would do all the schoolwork for me. But she didn’t! I did get help with one thing, though. In fifth grade, before a test I always asked my mother to test me. Without me knowing, my mother would ask me questions off the actual test! So I guess I got a sneak peek at the test beforehand… but I had no clue!

Having your parent get up in front of the class and teach you and your friends can be nerve- wracking, exciting, or just plain weird. But overall, it seems like it’s not as scary as you would think!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 875)

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