Elementary and Early Childhood students are not coming into school on Friday, because of a “professional growth” day for the teachers. It is common practice in Yeshivos to have at least one less day of learning during the school year, in order for the teachers to become even better teachers, by learning new techniques and developing even more positive mindsets towards their students.
Let’s analyze why this justifies the Bitul Torah and interruption in the children’s routine. When a person is involved in a helping profession, such as teaching, or nursing or mental health services, he or she can become emotionally involved with the people with whom they are working. Burn out is potentially a real problem, and those in the helping professions require renewal to avoid such an outcome. When working with others, and when trying to improve one’s skills or develop better attitudes and new ways of looking at things, different techniques need to be mastered. And, as is common in almost all professions and industries, the teacher needs to remain current with new ideas, new suggestions of approaches that work, be they for the individual or the group. Time and energy needs to be focused on achieving these three goals of emotional support, improved attitude and learning new skills. The children are clearly the beneficiaries in this process.
What about “professional growth” for parents? Are we really providing our children with the best parents possible if one day follows the next and we don’t attend to our own emotional needs and potential burnout? Do we possess an attitude that is positive, do we see misbehavior as a learning opportunity to guide our children on the proper path? Can we keep our spirits up and our voices down after our three year old spilled his third cup of the meal, the six year old is crying about her homework, and the nine year old is wailing she has nothing to wear? (We haven’t even mentioned teen aged children!) Do we have the skill to navigate a child’s social difficulties, sibling rivalries, academic challenges, bedtime nightmares (for the parents)?
Who more than parents need “professional growth” opportunities? You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to find and take advantage of opportunities for enhancing your strengths in all these areas. Make sure you have some time away from the `war zone.’ Learn Mussar, exercise, go to Shiurim and find support groups to keep your body and mind strong and vibrant. Read parenting and relationship books, find and attend parenting classes and cultivate relationships with veteran parents (could be your own!) who can offer sage advice and guidance for specific issues with your children.
Parenting is not a profession, but it should be a calling and a passion that deserves every bit of focus, skill-building and enhancement as any career, technical skill or academic discipline. The rewards to you and your family will be eternal.
Best wishes for a wonderful, growth-filled Shabbos
Rabbi Kalman Baumann