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  • If Your Student Were Gifted…

     PassionforWriting updated 3 months ago 7 Members · 21 Posts
  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 16, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Hello Fellow Masterpiecers,

    I have a story idea about an artistically gifted adolescent student whose school artwork hits the limelight, causing her school staff to struggle to react appropriately to her sudden recognition.  Knowing there are some teachers on the forum, have you encountered a gifted student before?  If so, how would you as a teacher react to your student’s giftedness being recognized and acclaimed?  I’m talking about being catapulted into fame beyond a school setting.  How would the rest of the school staff intervene?

    Just trying to feel out if my story idea is a viable one.

  • Elisheva Halle

    August 16, 2020 at 4:28 am

    I have taught in the past, although I never had a student who became famous…I would imagine that part of a teacher’s duty would be to keep things as normal as possible and treat everyone equally.

  • Mali

    August 16, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Agree with Elisheva. It sounds wild for a frum setting, but so fun. As a teacher I’d probably be very concerned with the jealousy of other students and the future of the kid herself…

  • riva pomerantz

    August 16, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Since this is fiction–and a great idea, at that!–I would suggest you consider using the teacher’s reaction to propel the story forward in some way. There’s no “right way/wrong way” for a teacher to react. It would depend on the teacher and her personality. If this is a student who has been underperforming and is not on her teachers’ Good list and then suddenly she gets tons of amazing attention and compliments from the staff, that could create tension in the story as the girl finds herself wondering why she has become a sensation when she’s exactly the same person she was before becoming nationally recognized. The story could tell a story about valuing people vs. accomplishments. Just a thought…

  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 16, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    Elisheva, Mali, and Riva, thank you for sharing your valuable insights.  I will expand a bit more on my question for clarification purposes.

    My story protagonist is an eighteen-year-old gifted girl who kept a low profile throughout her school years until she paints a mural on one of the bulletin boards in the school hallways as part of a school project.  I was thinking that the school staff would be concerned about her sudden acclaimed status for modesty purposes.  Would it make sense for the school staff to remove a gifted student’s painting from the school premises in an effort to shield the student from the public eye?

    All of this will play a part in the protagonist’s disbelief of being unworthy, unlikeable, and disconnected because she’s so different from everybody else.

  • Elisheva Halle

    August 17, 2020 at 12:25 am

    Wow, what an interesting story idea! I can’t wait to read it! One thing I want to clarify: is her acclaim only at school, as the mural is at school, or does her fame spread beyond school?

    As a teacher, I couldn’t see myself purposely doing this BUT it could be that a teacher can become concerned. If a girl with an already fragile ego finally gets attention for a piece of art, there is a chance that she will start to attribute her self worth to her art; she would acquire a dependency of sorts, and it could be that a teacher who senses this would want to remove the artwork.

    I could also see this issue coming up in a school play; a girl with a stunning voice or exceptional acting skills gets a lot of limelight. What’s a teacher to do if you know this attention will be bad for the girl’s development and sense of worth?

    Your story can be an exploration of this topic; like Riva said, there is no right or wrong. Different teachers would react differently to such a situation- but you def have created a compelling dilemma

  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 18, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Elisheva, thank you for your support!  I hope I can flesh out the story and share stuff with you in the future.  For now, the story is still in its infancy stage.  I am currently working on the backstory before moving forward.  But at the same time, I want to make sure my story idea is plausible.

    To answer your question, yes, the protagonist’s fame goes beyond a school setting.  Way beyond!  I’m thinking that maybe a teacher’s reaction isn’t warranted in such a situation as teachers are required to report to a higher figure of authority, like a principal.  So perhaps a teacher would vote against removing an exquisite piece of art adorning the school halls to advocate for her student, but her position may be overridden by the school’s superior governing body.  Have you or anyone else on the forum experienced such a phenomenon?  Non-teachers are welcome to share their thoughts and opinions as well!

    The issue of basing self-worth on one’s art is a good one, but I wanted to highlight the issue of becoming famous in terms of modesty.  Since the protagonist is an eighteen-year-old girl, a sudden celebrity status can be viewed as scandalous.  I wanted to know if a school governing body would be compelled to make a collective decision to prevent the student from increasing her popularity.  Removing the mural bulletin board is the first step to terminate the whole balagan.  Makes sense?


  • PassionforWriting

    August 18, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    Wow! I would love to read such a story! I think it makes sense, it terms of modesty.

    Also, I understand that you’re making this into a story, but I’m wondering if it really happened? If yes, as someone in the education field, I would definitely praise her privately and not withhold it. I would also try to find a way to praise her publicly without making other girls jealous. But that’s probably not for this thread. Or is it?

  • riva pomerantz

    August 19, 2020 at 12:23 am

    Wow, what a fascinating plotline! This is such an interesting topic to explore and definitely would take some hashkafah research. I remember reading about a frum student at a frum, mainstream high school who achieved some kind of national fame and was in the secular limelight for some kind of achievement (don’t recall what it was at the moment). I guess there definitely is some kind of tznius element in this and it would be so fascinating to hear how that plays out. Go for it!!! And please share more with us!!! 🙂

  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 19, 2020 at 1:12 am

    Passionforwriting, my story idea is purely fictional, though Riva just pointed out that there was a frum girl in a similar scenario I’m planning to write about.  So I guess it’s the idea isn’t as singular as I thought.  Thank you for your encouragement!

    About your suggestion of trying to find a way to praise the student publicly without making other girls jealous, you can totally go ahead and extend on that.  This thread is open for all sorts of brainstorming!  I know I specifically set out to ask about the removal of the student’s artwork, but I already gained clarity on that.  I had in mind to create the setting in a chassidish girl’s school but omitted that significant detail in my initial post!  I was made aware that such a setting is appropriate for the plot point I have in mind.

    Riva, thank you for cheering me on and sharing your take on this thread!  I would love to learn more about the frum student who was flung into the secular limelight you read about.  Because once I read the article, I will try to work out my plot so it won’t resemble the story that occurred in real life.  Maybe anyone else on the forum is familiar with the story?  No pressure though!  If you can’t jog your memory, I’ll just move on 🙂

    While we’re on this thread, I’m going to go a bit off-topic and ask another question.  How do teachers create healthy relationships with their students?  I am trying to sketch a picture of the protagonist’s view of her relationship with her teacher (the story will be written in first-person POV).

    Thank you ALL for your thoughts!

  • PassionforWriting

    August 19, 2020 at 3:09 am

    Thank you for clarifying! It sounds like it’s going to be an amazing story!!

    How do teachers create healthy relationships with their students? Love love love the question!!! It shows that you want to create and form loving bonds with your students (or perhaps you would like to learn more about that for the future. Either case, this is sooooo needed!!

    I would first say to create an open and safe environment where every student feels valued, loved and feels they can ask any kind of question (of course related to the material) without fear of being judged, mocked or ridiculed.

    I would also used lots of praise, positivity and and just a loving atmosphere. I would say statements like “that’s a great question,” or “great comment” and perhaps even mentioning their names. It makes them feel like a million dollars!

    In terms of discipline, I would use a firm, but loving hand. I could go on and on, but these are just a few of my thoughts.

    Fiction Fangirl, we need teachers like You!!

  • Elisheva Halle

    August 20, 2020 at 4:56 am

    FFgirl, what an intersting question, and one I’m thinking about since, IYH, I’m going to teach a high school class this year.

    I took Rabbi Feigenbaum’s teacher training course this past year and he said that the only time he had fired a teacher (as a principal) was when he saw a teacher was trying to use students to feel her self worth. She was pressuring students to try and open up to her and holding them hostage after class. It sounded like she needed the students to confide in her in order to feel good about herself.

    In any healthy relationship, each person has a separate identity outside of the relationship, but each also enhances the other ( think: “From my students I have learned the most…” I hope I’m quoting that right). The teacher is a person first, not a teacher first. She has her own life, goals, dreams, but she takes her students seriously and respects their thoughts, opinions, questions and grows from them and helps her student grow. She helps her students grow by giving advice that is not just feeding them her life experience, but taking into account her student’s desires, temperament, personality and life circumstances.  The teacher realizes there is no one size fits all answer.

    I hope this was helpful! Hatzlacha, can’t wait to see how the story pans out!

  • Chaya F.

    August 20, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Fiction fangirl! I must congratulate you for captivating my heart into something I would usually pay no attention to – and that is fiction 🙂 But today you surely piqued my interest, as I saw this topic jump to the top, and being in chinuch for almost 20 years I would like to give some input.  ( I dont know when u actually started this thread though…)

    Firstly, this sounds like an amazing story line and, like I said before, I’m really not the fiction fan type, but this story line feels so realistic and fun to read that I can’t wait to see your story in print IYH And hey! I may start to develop some passion for fiction-  I just did! – so stay tuned if I actually write something, it’ll be to your credit!

    You haven’t given us much detail as where you were heading with this – I’m not sure if you were going to suspend her – hurt her feelings and then you have that hurt girl finding her way back? Or were you going in the direction of the girl having a clever, compassionate teacher that would help the girl understand how valuable she is and how she wowed everyone with her talent and help her understand how being a celebrity is not in sync with yiddishkeit so perhaps she can advise her to redirect her talent and do something amazing with her gift of Hashem and perhaps open an extra curricular center where she can expand on her talent and teach others or she can be hired to run a drawing school workshop – you name it!!

    So here’s my advice – I really advise against singling out, that this happened in a chasiddish school, because you are putting your story then into a box – it will become a place of judgement that in a “chassidish” school this is not okay…  But what does this have to do with chassidish?  If becoming a celebrity is against the hashkafa of yiddishkeit it’s not okay even in a more left wing Bais yaakov! However if you will place this in an out of town Bais Yaakov, where you have all types of  girls ( including chassidish) and all types of teachers and so many of the teachers themselves have parents that are balei teshuva, or are one themselves – so they know and understand what the goiyish world is like cuz they’ve been there- and they have a developed sensitivity to mitigate these issues in a very professional and loving way – you may be able to wave through the path of building ones self esteem yet helping her through the maze of understanding that its not in sync with yiddishkeit.  I am totally against the idea of tearing down a beautiful piece of artwork that a student painted! And tenfold more so if a student didn’t make it in school academically and or socially – I would call it very much “shfichas domim!” And totally unprofessional!

    My next thought was, that being an artist and gaining fame, may not be hashkafically wrong. You would need to consult a rav to ask if it does pose a threat to someone’s ruchnius. If you want it to be that the talent that’s bringing her fame is not in sync with yiddishkeit I would suggest it’s something more pronounced.  But in a way I happen to like the fact that it’s her artistic talent – because then it may be easier for the teacher to praise her student and use it as a building block to build her self esteem and she wont be shunned for being the celebrity. She has the chance to redirect her talent.

    Lastly regarding self worth and talents.

    I see talents as a way of expression.  I myself love creativity and I’m very drawn to adapt a new talent every now and then.  Whether it’s creating large balloon sculptures, airbrushing, fruit carving, running a school production – you name it! My mother, who is extremely talented would repeat in the name of her mother, that was an accomplished artist that “If it’s possible for someone else to do it then it’s definitely attainable and you can do it too! So you get the idea how we were raised! So I want to think abt this correlation between talents and self worth. Give me some time.

    As for now, wishing you hatzlacha in your writing journey!




  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 20, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Passionforwriting, your zeal is so energizing!  I am trying to understand a teacher’s perspective of student relationships to help drive my story in the right direction.  I don’t know if you teach, but do you believe it is normal/healthy for skilled students from healthy homes to crave a close connection with a teacher?  If yes, why?  If no, why not? I can see how struggling students from not-so-healthy homes would desire a mentorship in school to replace absent/broken parental relationships at home.  If this is a psychology-orientated question (I have a feeling the answer may be transference-related), feel free to spin this thread in a different direction.

    That would lead me to my next question of whether you (or anyone else) think(s) that scheduled one-on-one time with every single student would be beneficial for overall student success?  If yes, should one-on-one time with students be a mandatory requirement for teachers?  How would a teacher schedule themselves to address the needs of every student as a יחיד as well as the class as a whole?  I want to know if creating such a scenario in my story would be realistic.

    Elisheva, mazel tov upon your new high school teaching position!  I believe the school you’ll teach at couldn’t have chosen a better candidate!

    Thank you for mentioning the interesting angle of having a teacher identify themselves through their students (think of the Enneagram type three defense mechanism).  I would think it’s usually the other way around.  Since my story will probably be written in the first person POV, readers won’t be privy to the teacher’s thoughts, only the protagonist’s thoughts analyzing a teacher’s reactions.  I’m not sure if I would fashion my teacher character in this light as it wouldn’t correspond with the other plot points I’m outlining.  But maybe one of the protagonist’s previous teachers was like the one you mentioned?  That would make the protagonist weary to open up to a teacher again!

    *cheers while taking notes*

    Thanks for working my brain up, Elisheva!

    Chaya F. (and everyone else!), I am flabbergasted at your enthusiastic responses.  My story idea came out of left field (thank you Hashem!) and I’m flabbergasted at how fast it is unfurling!  Getting feedback from someone with 20 years of chinuch experience to credit verisimilitude is…incredible.

    About creating a chassidish protagonist for my story:  I have no intention to single out a fictive chassidish school’s reactions to my protagonist’s giftedness as you’re a 100% right that such an occurrence could possibly happen in any other school.  However, I do believe there is a shortage of books with chassidish characters and that’s a shame.  Exploring giftedness in chassidish circles would be an interesting venture.

    About tearing down a student’s artwork from the school premises:  I keep circling back to the point where there may be tzniyus elements involved.  Whether the protagonist’s artwork garners the attention of an acclaimed artists’ association which urges her to appear at their upcoming exhibition, or her piece is set to be auctioned for a renowned museum, or she is approached with a proposal to create a joint gallery with a prominent artist, all these situations can lead her to either become involved with secular artists or even Jewish artists but of the opposite gender.  I am still contemplating which route to take because that would propel the story down a specific path.  I want to be as sensitive as possible when writing delicate material, but I would expect a stringent response from the school governing body if things get out of hand.  Does any of this make sense?

    I know these questions sound like I’m trailing off course but I’m just thinking out loud to help shape my story.  Thank you for bearing my rambling!

  • Jane Whittier

    August 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Dear Fiction Fangirl,

    If I were the girl and the school destroyed my picture, I would consider that very harsh and it would not be good for my Yiddishkeit. Nor would I understand what this had to do with tznius. Thess schools have prductions, halls full of artwork, choirs.  It is not considered untzniusdik for a girl to display her talents to other girls within the framework of the school.  Now I didn’t grow up in Beis Yaakov, but my daughter did, and I am pretty sure she would also find it harsh.  I do think that the principal could refuse to have reporters in the school, or could refuse to let a profession photographer take a picture of entry into a national contest, or could refuse to allow her to enter the contest. In all of those I see the tznius issue.


    All the best,


  • PassionforWriting

    August 20, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Thank you, Fiction Fangirl for your compliment!

    I’m very passionate about psychology and how it relates to the classroom. I’m an assistant teacher, and no professional, but I do think it’s normal for an emotionally healthy student to have strong feelings toward her teachers. I don’t think that strong feelings need to be a result of some sort of pathology. As you said, it could be transference, or it could simply be that she sees something in her teacher that she admires and desires to have or emulate.

    To your next question, I think it would be amazing for teachers to have 1:1 time with their students to just schmooze and reflect on the student’s success and things she may be struggling with. That said, I honestly don’t think it’s realistic given the number of students she’s teaching, the amount of material to be taught and the limited resources we have.

    So how can a teacher schedule in time in way that’s realistic?

    I remember reading a book titled “Today You Will Learn” by Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg where he noted an anecdote where he or a different teacher (I don’t remember) wrote a note/letter to each student welcoming them. So that may be more realistic.

    Or, I’ve heard that some teachers have a suggestion box where students can write a suggestion and the teacher read it out loud or to themselves. But there are probably many more creative and simple ways this can be done.

    And I like Jane’s comment and her viewpoint of it. I do think it would cause attention to her, but at the same time, it’s important that we make it a point of acknowledging students’ artwork/accomplishments, but to do so in a sensitive way. Perhaps the teacher can point it out privately and explain that although it’s beautiful, it would draw the wrong kind of attention and defeat the purpose, and that it has to be taken down.

    Or, taking it a step further, it can be used as an opportunity to find ways to bring out the other students creativity. Yes, there are so many options here and I’m curious to see what others think.

    And, Mazel Tov, Elisheva on your job!! I agree that they could not have picked a better teacher! Your insight, intuition and kind nature will make you an amazing teacher!

  • PassionforWriting

    August 20, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    In case anyone’s interested, I thought I might share the link to view Rabbi Ginsberg’s website where you can see his books and other resources he offers.


  • Elisheva Halle

    August 21, 2020 at 1:05 am

    Thank you FFgirl and Passion for writing on congratulating me on my new job. I’m very excited about it!

    It’s interesting how you bring up 1:1 time with students- because it is true- many students turn to teachers as mentors/parental figures nowadays when they lack role models at home…I was thinking recently that it should be mandatory for teachers (and rabbanim and rebbetzins- or anyone in a mentoring position) to study psychology. There is so much psychology to be found in Torah- but the same way that mussar used to be learned through Torah study but eventually became its own study, psychology is the same way, especially with the breakdown of healthy parent-child relationships.

    I have seen many teachers give bad advice because of lack of knowledge in psychology. I think that many students would benefit from 1:1 time with teachers, and if schools can sponsor such a program- amazing! But the same way therapists don’t do it for free- teachers shouldn’t be expected to- although most teachers go above and beyond and form a connection to students outside of school. But a teacher’s time is limited, esp if she has a family. I think many schools have school therapists for this reason.

    But, it is true. A teacher nowadays is not just a teacher. She is a teacher and therapist, and mentor and parent. That’s a lot of hats to wear.

    Hatzlacha with your story, FFgirl! We’re rooting for you!

  • PassionforWriting

    August 21, 2020 at 1:22 am

    You’re welcome, Elisheva! You’re going to be great!! I’m excited for you students, if I may say so 🙂

    I so agree with your sentiment that many teachers inadvertently hurt their students because they aren’t equipped. I would even go so far as to say that it’s mandatory for each school to provide there staff with some kind of training. Teachers play a vital role in a child’s life, and wear many hats, as you mentioned and their job should not to be taken lightly.

    It would be my dream to work with a few people and create a DBT curriculum for all school-aged children. So much of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is life skills that many people are sorely lacking.


  • Fiction Fangirl

    August 25, 2020 at 2:32 am

    Jane, thank you for sharing your reaction to my fictive situation.  I’m glad to hear you would view the removal of artwork from the school premises as ‘harsh’.  That’s exactly what I want my character to feel.  You suggest that the principal can refuse reporters from entering the vicinity and throwing the student into the limelight.  What happens if the student painted the mural after school hours and ended up falling asleep in the school hallway only to have the early morning cleaning crew snap a picture of her artwork and upload it on a social media platform?  That was my initial idea for this particular plot point.

    Passionforwriting, thank you for sharing your perspective on teacher/student relationships and normalizing mentor/mentee relationships.  This is a question for everyone:  Do you believe teachers know their students well enough?  Students, do you believe your teachers knew (or knows) you?  I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    I’m still contemplating whether this novel should be YA or adult.  Settling on a genre would help me decide whether my POV should be first-person present tense or first-person retrospective.  Does anyone have a particular POV/tense they consider to be their favorite?



  • PassionforWriting

    August 25, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    You’re welcome!

    Good question, Fiction Fangirl! It’s hard to know… I would say that it’s definitely not black and white, and a lot of teachers really can pick up on what their students’ needs are and if what they can do, and some can seem to know, but unfortunately don’t realize how much they don’t know. So I would say that it really depends on the teacher and student…


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