Great Partnerships Produce Great Advice

Dear Parents,

A fascinating feature of the story of Avraham in this week’s Parsha is his relationship with and his seeking advice from three non-Jewish friends, Onair, Eshcol and MamreThe Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 42:8) details the advice given by the three, advice that Avraham sought after Hashem instructed him about the Bris Milah.

Avraham sought advice from those obviously not as great as he, not invested in the outcome like he, and not connected to Hashem to the same degree.Different Mefarshim explain how it was possible for Avraham to seek advice about whether or not to follow Hashem’s directives (The Taz on the Torah explains it was not a command but rather Milah was presented by Hashem as an `option.’ Therefore Avraham had to weigh the impact the performance of Milah on himself would have on everything else he was doing to raise the banner of serving Hashem) What is most noteworthy is the fact that Avraham sought advice from those obviously not as great as he, not invested in the outcome like he, and not connected to Hashem to the same degree.

We could say that what Avraham was hoping to gain from his colleagues in seeking their advice was a different perspective.  Life is complex, people are complex, and figuring out the best way to do things is never simple. These three men, obviously people of stature, clearly loyal to Avraham and undoubtedly great in thought and deed, were deemed by Avraham as having something valuable to contribute to his decision.

We have reached the point in the school year which can be described as the end of the beginning.  Teachers and students have gotten to know each other somewhat, routines are in place and serious learning has begun.  This is the point at which communication between teachers and parents can have great value. Accordingly, our divisions are conducting Parent-Teacher Conferences this week and next.

…conferences provide a golden opportunity for both teacher and parents to seek advice from each other.How should parents approach the opportunity to speak with the teacher?  There are several things not to expect at our conferences:  You are not coming before a judge to hear a verdict being handed down on your beloved child.  You are not visiting a doctor who will pronounce some diagnosis.   Parents should not be looking for shortcomings in the curriculum or instruction.  The teacher will not be simply reciting a string of negative anecdotes describing poor performance.

What conferences do provide is a golden opportunity for both teacher and parents to seek advice from each other.  Parents are the experts on the child, while the teacher is the expert on learning, the school experience and the process of education.  No conference should be one-sided.  Progress comes from the honest and respectful give and take.  Being judgmental or critical will inhibit valuable insights that potentially could emerge from the other side.

Progress comes from honest and respectful give and take.Avraham and his chaveirim obviously had a great deal of mutual respect despite their different worldviews, interests and values.  Avraham valued the opinion coming from a dramatically different vantage point.  It completed the totality of his view on the issue before him.  Parents and teachers are already on the same wavelength – a robust and productive conference will round out each side’s understanding and insight and will, with Hashem’s help lead to productive steps to enhance the child’s performance, school experience and ultimately success in life.

Looking forward to sharing Nachas, insights and great suggestions.

Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos, 

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