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The Teacher’s Greatest Lesson

By Rabbi YY Jacobson

It was some number of years ago that one Johns Hopkins University graduate professor assigned his students an interesting research project. They were to investigate the background and environmental circumstances of two hundred boys from ages twelve to sixteen and predict their chances of success in the future. Beginning their longitudinal study, the students consulted social statistics and considered the background of these students, from which they compiled data. In conclusion, they arrived at the estimate that 90% of these two hundred boys would spend some time in jail for one reason or another. This statistic was fully understandable considering the life situation of these boys. Very likely, they would end up falling into this future. Twenty-five years later, a second group of Johns Hopkins graduate students were given the assignment of testing the prediction of the first group of students. Returning to the area of study, they tracked down one hundred and eighty of the original two hundred boys, and discovered that only four of them had ever been jailed. Looking further into the resulting information, they wondered how these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime for a quarter of a century, had an astonishingly good record. The boys, who were by now grown men, responded that it was thanks to a teacher they had. “I had a teacher,” was the commonly heard refrain time and again by the men. Interviewing them as to who this teacher was, in 75% of the cases, it was the same teacher who was being referred to. By now, she was middle-aged and had moved into a retirement home. Extending the question to her, they asked what she had done to so remarkably and positively impact this group of boys. What teaching methodology or character traits did she have which so significantly charted such a bright future for these kids who, quite likely, would have otherwise ended up behind bars? “I really don’t know,” she repeatedly remarked. The researchers continued pushing her, however, in the interest of finding out what she had done. But she was without words. “I really did nothing,” she said. Until finally, almost speaking to herself and mumbling under her breath, she whispered in a sigh and smile, “I love those boys…” And then, the researchers understood what this teacher’s secret method had been. It was almost a matter of fact… “I love those boys…”

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