In my heart of hearts, I was envious of each of them. They were touching souls and elevating spirits
My mother was a teacher. She thrived on engaging her students, relating to them, directing them. Public speaking made her feel strong and alive, and she connected to many people at once through this platform.
Throughout my adult life, my mother has been urging me to speak, teach, and transfer knowledge to others in such an arena.
“Don’t you want to be at the forefront of changing lives?” she would ask. “Isn’t giving over Torah wisdom a most elevated goal?”
But I can’t. I’ve always been painfully shy. To me, public speaking is a close relative to public flogging. And while I love to engage people one-on-one, trying to present to many people all at one time seems utterly overwhelming.
And so, predictably, I ended up majoring in computer science and for many years worked designing software for a big defense firm. As my family grew and I wanted to limit my work hours, I decided to turn my efforts to working close by in a setting in which I could interface with my community. I ended up, of all places, in my children’s school, supporting their educational technology needs.
In line with the groundskeeper and the building manager, I was part of the shadow background. I looked at the teachers as frontline warriors, doing the most important work of the times. I watched with awe as they analyzed each child to try to reach them most efficiently. I admired how they reacted with patience to those kids who needed extra help. I was enthralled by how they passionately inspired students with creatively presented lessons that were works of art.
My job was to make sure their computers worked, so their creativity could be transferred through functional audio/visual devices, and that they had the software to design and create beautiful lessons.
In my heart of hearts, I was envious of each of them. They were touching souls and elevating spirits. I was touching hard drives and mounting projectors.
Then coronavirus brought extreme changes to our educational delivery. Suddenly, the technology support wasn’t just the icing on the cake — the cake could not be mixed, baked, or served without it! Our school had a hybrid setup, a mix of virtual teachers, virtual students, and sometimes, we were all at home, learning and teaching virtually.
I was happy to be part of a major effort to elevate technology tools to meet our goals. I taught staff and students how to use these new tools, supported them when things were challenging, worked with one and all on the common goal: keeping our education system streaming with no disruption.
Each evening, I walked through school, after the classrooms emptied out. I checked the projectors, tested the printers, and made sure the setup was ready to work hard for the classes for yet another day. Every day of learning was a tremendous accomplishment, and every single one of us worked day and night for the greater good. I loved being able to help, and every day as I went to sleep exhausted and worn out, the shadow that I was felt full of light.
Shadows walk in unison with their source. Every turn, every move is followed, almost anticipated in real time by the faithful shadow. The more real and complete the source is, the more robust the shadow.
Those of us who supported our precious mosdos this year, in any way possible and with all our kochos, may wonder if the shadow really counts. But the shadow makes it obvious that there is a source of light, a reflection of the dazzle that our hero educators represent.
My mother watched my efforts with pride. She still tries to get me to teach. But she understands that although I’m not the speaker, the picture seen, the one who takes the stage, I’m content as a shadow, happy to shadow those directly radiating light….
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 759)
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