The Time Having a Predictable Teacher Saved Me a Lot of Studying

This is another gem from Esther. 

In twelfth grade, we had a once-a-week class on Yechezkel. The teacher was a respected woman in the community, but her teaching was… kinda boring. Now, I’ve had teachers with boring teaching styles before. But this one, Rebetzin Wasserman let’s call her, combined a droning voice with repetitions of tired old adages we’d all heard since fifth grade. Plus she taught only in Hebrew, and her Hebrew wasn’t very good.

So basically, for all my goody-goody-ness most of the time, I couldn’t be bothered. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I chatted my way through her class. Which normally would be fine, and in fact some of my conversation mates got away with it. But that was because they at least pretended to take notes. I didn’t. And I sat in the front row.
Which all led to my being kicked out of class one day. I wandered out, dazed and confused (not really) but mostly relieved to be out of that classroom. I spent the period with the girls who always hung out in the stairwell, and was fascinated by this life I’d never known existed behind the walls. At the end of the period, I said goodbye to my friends-for-an-hour and went back to class. Rebetzin Wasserman didn’t give me detention for cutting class or report me to the principal because she didn’t know my name. She didn’t know anyone’s names.
A few weeks later, the year was over and we had two weeks of finals. When the Yechezkel final came around, I briefly thought about getting someone’s notes so I could “study.” But I had better ways to spend the evening, and another final (plus regents!) to study for. So I didn’t prepare at all.
On the day of the test my friends knew I hadn’t paid attention all year and hadn’t asked them for notes, so they knew I wasn’t at all prepared. We knew the test was going to be a format of fill in the blanks and short answers, so they came up with an idea: a suggestion that would help me score something correctly on the test. They advised me to write “teshuva” for every answer on the test.
I did.
I got an 85%.
The Time Having a Predictable Teacher Saved Me a Lot of Studying

9 thoughts on “The Time Having a Predictable Teacher Saved Me a Lot of Studying

  1. Dana Friedman says:

    Wow! It makes for a funny story, but …doesn’t it frighten you that it’s likely none of that’s changed, and people just like this (maybe even the same ones you had) are “educating” people today?


    1. Esther Bernstein says:

      I was in twelfth grade only ten years ago. I know many girls who are in this same school now. Some of the teachers I had are still there, and some of my own classmates are now the teachers. The problem is that the purpose this kind of school has for education is very differently conceived than what most of us reading this blog would instinctively expect education’s purpose to be. So yes, this problem is perpetuated. And yes, it is frightening.


  2. RachelleT says:

    We convinced our 10th grade chumash teacher to let the class make ALL the tests. For every test, we each had to contribute 2 questions so we assigned ourselves to various sections for the test. Ya know, the “al mi ne’emar” and “mi amar el mi” stuff. And we also created a study guide. You’ve never seen such and awesome display of teamwork and achdus, lol. That was also the only year where I repeatedly earned 85+ on my chumash tests. Not because of the questions were easy, but for the first time I was really prepared and felt like I had to do well as a member of the team.


    1. > a know, the “al mi ne’emar” and “mi amar el mi” stuff.

      What’s the point of that stuff? My daughter is starting to come home with it on her chumash study sheets, and I’m debating whether or not to ask the school about it. What value is there in memorizing who said which bit of dialogue?

      My theory is that it’s make-work invented by Bais Yaakov teachers to fill time. Am I being too cynical?


      1. Esther Bernstein says:

        You’re not being too cynical. There is a value to it, in knowing bits of dialogue (my Shakespeare professor in college asked us to do this too). But the extent to which it’s done now, and the arbitrary choosing of lines, is because current teachers have largely lost sight of the pedagogical use of this method of assessment. Many of the teachers who favor “mi amar el mi,” or “who said to whom,” are actually very young, with not much training in education theory, if at all. They may not realize it’s busy-work and useless, but it in fact is just that.

        My advice would be to ask the school about it. You probably won’t change anything, but they should know that someone has thought about this and has misgivings about it.


  3. It’s bad enough that 85% of the answers on the test were the same word, but worse than that is that the teacher didn’t notice that all the responses were the same.


    1. Esther Bernstein says:

      Well, we had our suspicions. She may not have graded it at all and simply assigned random grades to everyone. At least one teacher told us she did that, then said she was joking, but we didn’t believe the retraction as much as the original statement. But we don’t know that happened in this case. The facts we knew were that I wrote teshuva for everything and I got an 85%. Either way, it’s a good/very not good story 🙂


  4. That 85% tells all kinds of story about that teacher and her methods. Wow.

    Also, your classmates and you were certainly learning a lot about how to deal with someone who lacked imagination. Wow… again.


    1. Esther Bernstein says:

      Part of our education was learning how to game the system. Very sad state of affairs. These friends I mention were (and still are) three of the best, sweetest, most righteous people I know. They constantly struggled with wanting to respect the teachers because we were taught to respect our elders and those in authority, while at the same time being smart enough to know that this was ridiculous. They did manage somehow to balance those. I don’t know how they did it, but I have huge respect for *them* for being honest with themselves about the ridiculosity of it all but not getting bitter about it.


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