Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav – November 1, 2013

Q: As a playgroup teacher for boys, principals often call me to inquire about children who have applied to their yeshivah kindergarten for the upcoming academic year. Parents give my number as a reference and generally know that the principals will call me. Sometimes, however, they are not aware of it.

Principals usually call me after they’ve interviewed the child and are concerned about learning or social issues they’ve picked up on, and thus ask me direct, detailed questions about the child and his problems.

It would be wonderful if I could offer only praise and compliments about my students, and say nothing about their faults that could possibly ruin their chances, but I understand that being honest is an inseparable part of my job.

My questions are:

1. Should I try to minimize the issues as much as possible, or is it permissible to say the truth?

2. If the parents later ask me what I said about their child, what can I answer?

A: When a principal in a yeshivah interviews a child and has suspicions of learning or social issues, he must investigate. It is for the benefit of the child to be placed in a suitable class and not suffer during his school years, and important to prevent unnecessary anguish and complications on the part of the yeshivah. The teacher must therefore share the information with the principal, to the advantage of all involved.

However, because it is difficult for a preschool teacher to determine the extent of the problem, and there are many aspects to consider, and it is common for boys to improve in a school setting, it is recommended that you present the problem in the most minimal way, and not reveal too many details. You will thus save yourself from possibly speaking lashon hara that does not serve a constructive purpose.

If parents want to know what you told the principal, you can tell them the truth without fear, because it is for their benefit. If you feel uncomfortable telling parents the truth, you may give them an evasive answer, according to the situation.