May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Nope, It’s a Ptach Teacher

Today, I saw a real-life superhero. You may not have noticed it because she wasn’t wearing a cape or a mask or an awesome utility belt, but the powers she had were far greater than any of those could give her. A child walked into school with a look on her face that has become this child’s norm. I can only describe it as a mixture of lost, sad and defeated. Her hair was flying in every direction, her shirt stained and untucked and her drab-color socks were falling down no matter how many times she pulled them up, almost as if they too couldn’t bear to put in the effort to do what they were supposed to. You see this child, like many we have here in Ptach, needed a little extra TLC. Her parents are going through their own hard time; the details are not important to repeat or relevant. The superhero I am referring to swooped her up and took her to the main office before she entered the classroom and risked being silently (and sometimes not so silently) judged and ridiculed as we all know children can often do toward the kid who doesn’t necessarily fit in. This superhero ran to the store and purchased new socks and hair accessories and proceeded to reinvent this child for the day. She then walked her into class and proceeded to launch into an exciting lesson filled with fun and excitement and the most extraordinary thing happened. The girl smiled. Can you tell me one thing that is worth more than that? “Oh my goodness,” I exclaimed. “You are amazing,” I gushed to the teacher. “What do you mean?” was her response. “What you just did for that girl, that was so special.” “Oh, that, nah that’s just being human.”

As a social work intern working in Ptach, I was amazed daily at the amount of compassion, devotion and sensitivity that was poured into these students every day by the administrators, teachers and social worker. It got me thinking about all of the hidden superheroes that walk among us and look like your average man or woman. The morah that notices the kid who never seems to bring a snack to school and happens to have some pretzels in their desk, the administrator who notices the child who never has a Purim costume and just happens to have an extra one donated in just the right size, the rebbe that sees the anxiety rising in a child who didn’t do well on a test and reteaches it, tests again and changes the mark to be brought home; these are our everyday superheroes who mostly go unnoticed. Do they care that no one says thank you, gives them a trophy or buys them a present? That’s the thing! They don’t. Their trophy is the knowing smile on the child’s face as snack time approaches, the overheard proud words of a child telling others she is “a special queen” for Purim with the prettiest costume, the deep breath that settles into the child staring at his 95 test paper as he tucks it into his knapsack. We don’t live in a perfect world; Galus is all around us and, nebach, many times our precious Jewish children have to suffer because they just got a run of bad luck—academic trouble, emotional issues, social problems, mentally ill parents etc. This is what Hashem wanted for them. We don’t question Hashem’s will and although we don’t know why some children have to suffer, we do know what Hashem wants from us—love and support for all of our children, but most of all compassion and understanding. There is a concept in Buddhism that speaks about how love is a natural thing that we all have, but it is also a skill that we need to work on. It may not always be innate to have compassion. We may get frustrated or annoyed by a student. We may not even like some students, but we can work on ourselves to love and be kind. If we can’t it is a reflection on us not on them. There are those who have the capacity to help a child fly. This is an act of God, this is an act of extraordinary measures, this is what it means to be a superhero, and there are many walking among us; you just have to take the time to look and maybe just maybe you can learn to be one too!

By Shani Verschleiser

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