HOT TOPIC: Can a teacher help students become better people?

Micol Zimmerman Burkeman


Earlier this year, at a meeting of synagogue, JCC and youth group teen directors, we jumped on the meme bandwagon.  You may remember the memes that were going around, particularly the ones featuring rabbis, camp directors, and song leaders, with pictures that captured answers to those great, albeit simplified, existential questions: What my parents think I do, what I wish I were doing, what I actually do.  I noticed that there were few, if any, Jewish educator memes going around, and certainly no Jewish teen director ones, so our group took it upon ourselves to create our own.

The results were playful and fun and yet also very telling.  For many of the memes, one image continued to repeat itself: Robin Williams in his famed role as Professor Keating in the film Dead Poet’s Society.  In this image, the professor is standing on a table and reminding his students about the importance of looking at things in a different way, evoking Henry David’s Thoreau’s famous line “The universe is wider than our views of it.” Telling was not the use of this scene, but rather which caption the scene represented; it was not the “What I actually do” box, but the “What I wish I were doing” one.

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