On Teaching: Do No Harm 2

Do No Harm

by Joel Lurie GrishaverJoel Lurie Grishaver

The Chofetz Chayim teaches:

If after giving a situation much thought, a teacher comes to the conclusion that a particular student has a behavioral or learning problems and feels that it will not be possible to deal with the problem without the involvement of the principal, other teachers, or the student’s parents, then the teacher should speak to the necessary parties without delay.

But, the teacher must do so only out of concern for the teacher’s good and not out of anger or frustration. This could be extremely trying when the student in question is disruptive and frequently upsets the teacher.

Difficult as it is, teachers must not take student’s behavior personally. The disruptive student is, in most cases, not fighting the teacher; he is struggling with himself as he deals with the challenges of life. (Chofetz Chayim, A Lesson A Day—From the Concepts and Laws of Proper Speech—Day 60)

There are two great lessons in this little passage. Teacher’s love the locker room where we talk about our students and do a combination of play by play on last week’s game and anticipate this week’s competition (between teacher and student). We do a lot of harm to our students slowly and subtly as we prepare and debrief our lessons. If we have to worry about our students when they are not around, imagine how we have to treat them face to face. The second is his last insight about not taking “failure” personally. While it is a teacher’s obligation to self-evaluation every lesson from the standpoint of his/her presentation, one cannot and should not evaluate an individual student’s failure to respond. This is a very freeing truth.



  1. Nice article on doing no harm. Thanks for sharing it. One question- in the second paragraph, is that correct that the teacher is supposed to contact other students only out of the teacher’s good? Shouldn’t that be for the student’s good? I’m confused. Thanks again Mattes

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