July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My 10th Year at Yavneh Academy

I’m sure we all know the thoughts, feelings and worries associated with first-day-of-school jitters: Will the kids like me? Will the teachers be nice? Will I have to sit alone at lunch? All those questions were racing through my mind as I walked through the double doors of Yavneh Academy, except this time things were a little different. This time I wasn’t an excited and fresh-faced kindergartener, I was a 22-year-old unemployed, recent college graduate about to start my stint as a substitute teacher back at my old elementary school.

Stepping out of my car on my first day, I remember gripping my keys tightly and thinking about the journey that had lead me to this moment. Ever since I graduated from college in May, I’d been looking for opportunities in journalism, but as of October anything permanent had yet to materialize. My father had been the one who suggested working as a substitute until I could find something, which was an idea that I immediately jumped on. Standing by my car then, I remember feeling nervous, but also a little excited about the unknown of what awaited me that day.

As I made my way through the halls to my assigned class, the first thing I noticed was how much smaller the furniture seemed. Whereas I at one point had to stand on the tips of my toes to reach the water fountains, now I had to bend down quite a bit! It was a strange and surreal realization of how much I’d grown, but it was nothing compared to when I was flagged down by my old teachers who recognized me. Speaking to them now as an adult, I was worried at first that they’d see me as the same 14-year-old I was when I graduated. My fears ended up being in vain, though, as they were not only courteous, but respectful as well. Offering me useful words of advice to help me make it through the day, by the end of my first week I had grown to appreciate just how much hard work and dedication goes into their jobs. Their determination to help their students learn was something I really admired about them, and I am incredibly grateful for how welcoming they were to me.

On that first day I was assigned to work in a first-grade class. Walking into the classroom, I was greeted with curious waves from the students, and a warm smile from the teacher, which instantly put off any worried feelings I might have had. The class welcomed me as they went through their lesson plan, and by the end of the day I felt like I had been there since the school year began. Names were soon attached to faces, and I quickly found myself integrated into the classroom setting. Not two hours into the day and already I was acting as an audience to a 5-year-old’s monologue discussing why he loved “Star Wars” so much. I learned quite a bit from that student, especially that R2-D2’s beeps have actual meaning.

The day went off without any problems and was a welcome reprieve from spending all day filling out job applications. Returning home, my parents asked me how my day went, and rather than just mumble a simple “good” as I had as a child, I launched into stories about the experiences of the day and how much fun I’d had. I was so excited to go back the next day, and the coming ones after that.

I had an amazing 10th year at Yavneh as a substitute teacher. Looking back with the benefits of hindsight, I’m sure these children don’t fully understand the warm and nurturing environment provided to them by a Jewish day school. It’s a shame that they can’t quite appreciate how wonderful and useful their Jewish education is and will be. For me personally, going back gave me the opportunity to realize just how much spending my formative years there had paid off for me. In a time when so many parents are questioning the value of a Jewish education, I feel like I am able to bear witness to the incredible passion for Judaism that the teachers imbue in their students. It’s something I never will take for granted.

By Adam Samuel

 Adam Samuel is a 22-year-old journalist in training from Teaneck. When he isn’t busy doing job applications, he divides his time between managing his personal blog, adamssoapbox.blog, and gradually learning how to play piano. He hopes to one day be working in broadcast journalism.

 

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