Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Cheshvan 5763 - October 23, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Special Education
a story by N. Bar

"Nu, have you decided yet what you want to major in?" asked her neighbor, Yael, the one now finishing seminary. Actually, Shoshy wasn't sure what to answer. She had already picked out her specialty years ago, while she was still in grade school. Her cousin, who was also in seminary, was trying hard to decide but Shoshy already knew then that she wanted to go into special education. She cared so much for these special children and had such sympathy for their learning difficulties that she'd decided she would like to be a special ed. pre-school or elementary school teacher.

But that was then, and as often happens, over the years this goal lost part of its appeal and other interesting possibilities came up, so that she wasn't really sure any more what to choose. In her heart, she knew that she had chosen her specialty years ago, but somehow, it wasn't as appealing anymore. Her mother advised her to ask among her teachers and older girls who had studied special ed, but the information left her feeling more confused than ever. The girls who had finished the first or second year of the teachers' seminary had varying opinions. Ruchi claimed that it was exhausting work and whoever could, should stay away from it. "Why should you study special education? It's like putting a healthy body in a sick bed, with all that it entails," she explained animatedly to Shoshy. "Besides, the demand for teachers is much less than it used to be. Why don't you choose an easier profession? Believe me, you'll be much happier for it."

Yochi, on the other hand, encouraged her in her choice. "It's really worth your while, and it can help you with many other areas of education. Of course, it's difficult and takes a lot of effort, but I think your parents are behind you on this and with their support, you'll manage just fine. You know how many girls from my class wanted to study special ed but ended up not doing so for various reasons. It would be a shame for you to miss out if you have the opportunity."

Then there was her good friend, Sari, who tried to convince her to study graphics, a subject for which she herself had registered for. So by now, Shoshy wasn't sure what really suited her from the whole range of possibilities. "Once, when there wasn't much of a choice, I knew what I wanted, but today, with so many opportunities, how can I make up my mind?" she thought to herself.

As Yael was walking alongside her, she exclaimed, "What? You're still hesitating! I can't believe it! A sensitive, intelligent girl like you. I was sure you'd pick special ed. You're so suited for it. I just can't understand why you haven't made up your mind," she concluded emphatically, without realizing how important her words were to Shoshy. The compliments found their mark. Yael thought she had the necessary sensitivity for the profession -- she hadn't realized what was missing in her decision, but now she knew that her mind was practically made up.


The next 2-3 years flew by while Shoshy dedicated all of her time to learning her specialty. As she applied herself with enthusiasm and commitment, she realized more and more how her studies were truly suited to her personality.

But studies are one thing and practical work another. Not everyone who completes their studies automatically finds a job. Not always did those who excelled in seminary and had the special talents required find something in their own field. Every day found Shoshy scanning the want ads for work, running after principals, checking into different institutions, yet the desired position remained elusively distant.

Then one morning, while she was having breakfast, she picked up the newspaper to keep from sinking into boredom or even worse, depression, and she noticed a small ad on the last page.

WANTED: Special Ed Kindergarten Teacher for little girls with mild to medium retardation. Without wasting a moment, Shoshy picked up the phone and dialed the number. After introducing herself to the director of the institution and hearing details about the work and where the gan was located, she made an appointment for the end of the week. But once she put down the phone and reviewed her conversation, she felt that her excitement was really premature.

First of all, the kindergarten was located in an area very far from her house, and second of all, as she remembered, the whole institution was about to close down for lack of funds. She started to wonder if it was worth presenting herself at all. Suddenly, she felt a great surge of diappointment. No wonder they were looking for a teacher -- because of their financial situation, they were understaffed. "Before I go for the interview," she promised herself, "I'll try to find out more about the place. But whom could I possibly ask?"

The first name that came into her head was that of her friend Dassy who used to live in that neighborhood before she got married. She was about to call when she remembered that Dassy's little brother suffered from serious coordination problems. It might depress her to be reminded of them.

Another friend, Shuly, also lived in the area, but she knew that Shuly still hadn't found a job, herself, and would probably feel uncomfortable if she heard that Shoshy already had a job offer while she was still sitting it out at home. Then, all of a sudden, an idea popped into her head.

Yael, the neighbor's daughter who was older than she, was married and had been living in that neighborhood for several years already. Yes, she'd be the one to ask. She was a serious, caring person, and Shoshy could surely count on her to tell the truth about that school. As she was dialing the number, she remembered that it had been Yael, herself, who had encouraged her to pursue special education. It would really be interesting if she also helped me get the job, Shoshy mused. That's what's called closing the circle.

She smiled as she heard Yael's voice on the other end. Yael sounded a bit surprised and even reticent at the beginning, but as they continued conversing, her voice took on a friendlier tone and she promised Shoshy to look into the matter as soon as possible. "You'll be doing me a great favor," Shoshy reassured her.

Reviewing their conversation, Shoshy realized that Yael had sounded very reserved and guarded at the beginning and only after Shoshy had explained her reason for calling, had she thawed a bit. "What the years do to a person," she thought. Then she put aside her impressions and wrote herself a note to call Yael in a few days.

The next day, while shopping in the local supermarket, she met her good friend Rivky. "By the way, you have regards from Yael," she told her as they were wheeling their carts to the checkout.

"Yael? Which Yael?" asked Rivky in surprise.

"What do you mean `which Yael?' Have you already forgotten your good friend? So that's how it is after the wedding, hunh?" Shoshy exclaimed.

Rivky ignored her comment and pressed her. "Yael, really? Where did you see her?" She couldn't contain her surprise.

"I-I spoke to her on the phone," Shoshy almost stammered.

"And how did she answer you?" asked Rivky carefully.

"What do you mean? What kind of a question is that? She doesn't have any speech defects, so why are you even asking?"

"No, she doesn't have any speech problems, but since her baby girl was born with special problems, she just stopped talking. She cut off all contact with her friends. She even stopped talking to me."

"What? Yael's little girl? Are you sure we're talking about the same Yael?" Shoshy tried to convince herself that it was all a mistake.

"Yes, my friend Yael, that's exactly who I mean. Didn't you see her baby, I mean, her little girl? She's almost two years old. When you look at her, you can tell right away that something is wrong. She suffers from developmental problems due to a certain syndrome. Yael took it very much to heart."

Shoshy broke out in a cold sweat and remorse flooded her. Look how sensitive and caring you thought you were. You didn't want to hurt Dassy because she has a brother who suffers from an entirely different problem, and you only made things worse for yourself. You hurt Yael, who's having such a hard time coping with her situation.

Final part next week


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