Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: In a discussion with our high school curriculum director, I inadvertently made a negative comment about the way one of our teachers runs her class. I mentioned that the teacher was well meaning, but because of her personality, she runs the class very loosely and we waste lots of time. This affects us badly because we don’t end up learning the subject matter properly.

It later dawned on me that what I said can be damaging to the teacher because, as far as I know, this is her source of livelihood. I now feel badly about my thoughtless comment.

In order to correct my blunder, I asked my classmates that if and when anybody inquires about this teacher they should offer only positive information.

Was it indeed a transgression? If so, how can I correct it?

A: If it is indeed true that you are not learning the subject matter properly because of your teacher, then you were allowed to share this information with the curriculum director with the constructive purpose in mind, (following the conditions for lashon hara l’toeles), even if this will lead to the teacher being fired.

In a case such as yours, however, it would be preferable to first speak to the teacher and explain to her how to rectify the situation (even though there is generally little chance that your comments will make a difference). Only after you’ve spoken to her and nothing has changed, are you permitted — and maybe even obligated — to tell the director or principal about it, in the abovementioned manner. Accordingly, b’di’eved — if you’ve already spoken, you haven’t transgressed the prohibition of lashon hara.