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Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Friday Lesson

I had to go into Jerusalem this past Friday to pick up my daughter after school.
 
As often happens, I pulled over at the bus stop near the exit from our town in order to offer a ride into Jerusalem to people standing there.  This time two people took my up on the offer; a tall, handsome high school boy and an older man who, based on the color of his skin and the kippah on his head, was almost certainly originally from Ethiopia.
 
As we pulled onto the main road I kicked off the small talk.  This is important for the driver to do since local hitchhiking etiquette dictates that everyone stay silent unless/until the driver breaks the ice first.
 
I asked the young man where he went to school (on the off chance he knew our older son).  It turns out he went to a different school and didn't know Gilad.
 
Then I asked the older man if he lived in Efrat or Jerusalem, and he answered that he lived in Jerusalem but worked in Efrat... at the school the young man in the back seat had mentioned.
 
Without thinking I said, "Oh, are you a teacher?"
 
Before the older man could answer, the young man in the back seat said, "No, he cleans my school".
 
There followed a few minutes of awkward silence.  I was embarrassed for the older man and angry at the young man.  I wanted to say something but was worried that it would end up further embarrassing the older man... or inadvertently insulting him. 
 
Let's leave aside for the moment that there is no such thing as an unimportant job at a school, and that there was certainly nothing for the older man to be embarrassed about.  What really got me steamed was that, not only did the younger man apparently feel that there was indeed a hierarchy of roles in the school... but that it was his duty to make sure the older man knew his place in it.
 
After a few minutes of riding in silence I glanced out of the corner of my eye at the older man in the passenger seat, and was surprised to see that he was smiling warmly. 
 
Catching my sideways glance he said, "Actually I am a teacher.  It's true I also clean the halls and bathrooms, and empty the trash.  But I also try to teach by personal example what it means to be a good Jew... how to do a good day's work... and how to take pride in one's work every day.  But like other teachers, I have a problem that not all the students pay attention to what they are being taught".
 
Right then I made a point of having a talk with my kids... you know, to make sure they're paying attention to ALL of their teachers.

Posted by David Bogner on May 8, 2011 | Permalink

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Oh that's a great story for me to head off to bed with. I just want to hug that teacher. If you ever collect him again, please tell him he has a Kiwi fan!

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | May 8, 2011 12:50:33 PM

If you're not friends with the school janitor/s, you're cruisin' for trouble.... He was nice about it, though.

Posted by: Maureen | May 8, 2011 1:52:35 PM

Great story. I hope the pompous, self-important, schoolboy got the message.

Posted by: chairwoman | May 8, 2011 4:32:48 PM

Nice. I, too, hope your other passenger realized what a valuable teacher was with him in your car.

Posted by: Alissa | May 8, 2011 5:24:58 PM

Actually, a number of years ago, I went into one of my sons' schools to talk to the principal, who was out with the flu, as was the vice-principal. A gentleman I vaguely recognized was sitting in for him. I assumed it was one of the other teachers until I was speaking with him for awhile and the asimon dropped, so to speak. I realized it was the janitor. The principal, when he returned commented that the janitor was a talmud chacham with a talent for fixing things, who could do the job of any mechanech in the school infinitely if he needed to. G-d help the school, however, if any of them ever had to pinch-hit for him!

Posted by: 2senseplain | May 8, 2011 6:36:06 PM

Oh, David....you have a lot of "best posts", but this one definitely is up there!

Posted by: Alisha | May 8, 2011 7:07:29 PM

Thank you for the best Mother's Day post I have come across today.

Posted by: Dina | May 8, 2011 9:31:24 PM

David, did you ever notice how many schools address the teachers and administrators formally? Mr. so and so, Mrs. So and so. But the Janitors are always addressed by first name. ( I remember in Frisch in the 70's, I did not even know the last names of the Janitors, Marty and Hank)

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | May 9, 2011 12:23:09 AM

In our school we always called the janitors Mr. .
David, great post. Thanks.

Posted by: SaraK | May 9, 2011 12:34:12 AM

That should be Mr. [first name]

Posted by: SaraK | May 9, 2011 12:34:42 AM

Long time no read. Actually, long time no anything, including posting on my own blog. Glad to return to a post such as this. Wish I had been there to see the student's expression. One word: Touche!

Posted by: Lady-Light | May 9, 2011 12:45:24 AM

What a wonderful man he must be. At the school where I work, the maintenance guy (coincidentally, an Israeli)is one of the warmest, sharpest, and funniest men I know. It's not an easy job, and it should be respected.

Posted by: Raizy | May 9, 2011 6:00:34 AM

What a great story and a great man!

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 9, 2011 5:23:56 PM

Beautiful! What an elegant human being. (And this time I'm not talking about you, Bogner.) I want to be like him when I grow up.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | May 11, 2011 12:59:20 PM

Good story. Everybody has to clean-as-they-go or the trash will bury us all.

Posted by: Dick Stanley | May 24, 2011 8:03:14 PM

That's a great story for me to head off to bed with. I just want to hug that teacher. If you ever collect him again, please tell him he has a Kiwi fan!

Posted by: Affordable Insurance | Oct 4, 2011 7:18:41 AM

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