Each year, no matter whether I teach for one school or three, tutor teens or elementary school children, I always end up with some of the most insightful and spiritual Torah students on the planet. A few recent examples ....
I am currently teaching four official, set classes in three different locations, one synagogue, one synagogue classroom, and a library conference room. I also tutor five students in their own homes and three in my home. I was recently doing a unit on Goldilocks has Shabbat dinner with the Three Bears. (Dinner and brachot come after she breaks the chairs, but before she eats everyone's challah.) Bayit בַּיִת (house) is one of the central vocabulary words, and by the end of the story the phrase for synagogue/temple/shul is introduced -- בֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת Beit HaKnesset. I was working with a young student from one synagogue and pointed out to him that the word Beit has the same meaning and same root as Bayit, and I told him about the symbolism of a synagogue as house, and also explained that my Monday/Shabbat synagogues actually IS half a house. We looked at it on Google Maps, and I showed him how the cantor and his seven-year-old daughter live on one side of the two-family house, with the garden and playground on their side, and that the other side was the synagogue. I showed him a few photos of the sanctuary and my classroom and he said that he wished he could live where the Cantor and his daughter live --- a house less than 1/3 the size of his current home. I asked why, and he replied that he would love to visit the Torah every day and say prayers right near the Torah. Needless to say, my heart melted.
Impressed with an eight year old? I sure was. But listen to what a five-year-old said today. This little girl attends school during the day at a small school run by the local Chabad rebbetzin, but also comes to the after-school combined Hebrew School/Religious School that I run on Mondays. Her sister attends, her friends attend, there's considerable crossover between the lessons on Monday and Shabbat morning children's services, so she decided one day that she should come. And so she does. Often she is the most knowledgeable in the class about upcoming holidays and the parsha, but today she surprised me with an observation that would be sophisticated coming from a child twice her age. We were discussing Shavuot and the giving of Torah, and one of the kids talked about Moshe smashing the tablets. Another student knew that it was because he was angry, but no one knew what he was angry about. I explained the incident of the golden calf and then we returned to the issue of Moshe smashing the tablets. The my youngest Monday student then piped up with the most amazing observation. "But Hashem's name was on the tablet and Moshe did a bad thing by breaking something with Hashem's real name and throwing it on the ground." I've never thought of it that way. Have you?
I learn so much from my students!