Back to school

I can’t imagine what direction my life might have taken without Arlene Tuttle, my 6th grade teacher. With just the right blend of intelligence, humor, sarcasm, discipline and love, she taught me to love learning and to love teaching. I may have only been 11 years old at the time, but she clearly left an important impression on my life. I often think of her, especially as I prepare to walk into a classroom of sixth graders tomorrow.

Tonight, on the eve of a new school year, I think about the influence that teachers have on their students. And I think about the influence that students have on their teachers. Growing up, I was told on many occasions that I should be a rabbi. But it took the right person making the same suggestion in the right moment to change the course of my life. (Thanks, sis!)

We have as much power to “make or break” our teachers as we do our students. The right acknowledgment can validate a person’s life choice; just as the wrong remark can move someone to abandon a lifelong dream.


Our sages teach that “all is in the hands of God except for the awe of God.” In other words, everything is in God’s control, except what isn’t. What is not in God’s hands is that which we control: our words, our actions, and the consequences thereof.

As we walk into our classrooms, we must be cognizant of the power we have to shape others’ perceptions of themselves. As teachers, as students, as classmates, may we conduct ourselves with the understanding that we are shaping the classrooms of today and of the generations to follow.

May we grow in knowledge, wisdom and compassion together!

Rabbi Craig Scheff

3 responses to “Back to school”

  1. Lydia Katz says :

    This should be required reading for all teachers. Such wise thoughts and so true.

  2. Gordon Liebergall says :


  3. Ruth Hess says :

    I sent your column to my friend Arlene, and she cried. She loves you as much as you love her.
    She was a great teacher and so creative.


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