Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: Before I went out on maternity leave from my job as a math teacher, I told my principal that it would be preferable that my substitute follow a specific method of teaching that is acceptable in our school. When I returned, I found that the substitute had used a different method which is not in accordance with school requirements. Did I do the right thing by hinting at this to the principal?

A: The question does not give us the following information: 1. Did the principal actually instruct the substitute to follow this method of teaching? 2. Is there a significant difference between the methods? 3. And mainly, is it problematic to go back to teaching in accordance with the acceptable school method after the substitute’s tenure?

If the differences between the methods are insignificant, and most importantly, there will be no problem continuing in the former method, it seems that ideally there is no reason to tell the principal about the change the substitute made. This is because one should assume that the method she used was easier for her or that she was familiar with that way, and it was therefore beneficial for her students that she taught in that manner. (It is possible that this benefit is greater than the gain that would have accrued from not veering from the accepted school method.)

There is thus no real fault involved, especially since the instructions given were that it is important that she use the school’s methods, and not that she is obligated to do so!

However, b’di’eved, after you already shared the information with the principal, it can be said that it didn’t constitute lashon hara, because after all, the principal will understand that no real wrong was done, especially since it is possible that the principal didn’t even pass on the message about using that specific method of teaching.

If there is a significant difference in methods, and it will make the continuation of the subject difficult, then it is clear that one must tell the principal. This is because, in any case, if the principal didn’t pass on the message to the substitute that she should use this method of teaching then she won’t blame her, but rather learn a lesson not to forget important messages. If she did pass on the message, and the substitute didn’t follow instructions, the principal should be aware of it so that she could decide how to deal with her in the future.

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.