I Spammed Your Feed, and I’m Not Sorry.


I have a love-hate relationship with the word and all that it holds.
I had a wild ride through my 12 years of schooling, to say the least. I attended a brick and mortar until the end of first grade.
Then I was home-schooled.
I spent the grades fourth through eighth in front of a computer, attending a virtual school.
I went to two high schools, two years each.
I’ve met every kind of teacher, so many administrations.
I thought I hated learning when I was in twelfth grade. It was my last year of traditional schooling, and my brain never showed up for class.
I had no notes, other than for history.
I got good grades by cramming information from my friends notes before tests.
I worked – just enough.
Authority rubbed me the wrong way.
Let’s just say that the whole “good education” thing didn’t work for me. I grew a dislike for so many subjects, for the classroom, for teachers in general.
I remember, distinctly, telling a friend “If in two years, I am a teacher, I will know that I have failed at life.”
That’s how little I respected teachers. That’s how little I thought of their capabilities.
I attended a year long seminary, opting for a program that wasn’t overseas, allowing me an escape from dorm life and a chance at some independence.
That year changed my perspective, big time.
I suddenly discovered, at the age of 18 years old, that I love learning.
I love discovering, arguing, reading, researching and knowing.
I always thought I might enjoy learning if only I was smarter.
I discovered that year that I was perfectly smart enough. In fact, it didn’t matter how smart I was.
Of course, although my seminary was full of great teachers, I still couldn’t escape the bad ones, and there were some classes that reminded me dreadfully of high school. But the good ones were their saving grace by continuously reminding me what a beautiful world it can be if you keep learning.
It was that year that I began to grow more and more passionate about the world of education.
I realized how much was being held back from every child who was bored to tears in a classroom that isn’t working with him. I realized what a devastating tragedy it was every time a fourth or fifth grader complained about school.
I realized what school could be, and how miserably heartbreaking it was that it fell so short of it’s potential.
Subjects that held a wealth of fascinating information were being watered down to a point of insufferably uninteresting, losing students who in a different sort of classroom would drink it in.
It was around this time that I discovered an organization called the Menachem Education Foundation.
This week, I took part of my very first high-tension, 24 hour fundraising campaign.
It was a life changing experience, and as life goes, I learned a lot of things in the process.
If I have your number, or we are friends on Facebook, you were harassed by me for donations.
Sorry not sorry.
I’m sorry because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those texts and calls. It sucks. It’s annoying. We’d all like to have a never ending pool of money so that we could give to everyone who asks. Because there are so many causes worth giving to.
But now I know what it’s like to be on the other end. The asking end. The begging end.
I’m not sorry because you gave me a chance to yell in your face, to remove all social barriers and scream about a cause that I am passionate about.
You gave me the chance to find out just how much I care.
As I scrolled through my list of Facebook friends and phone contacts, I chose people who I know would understand why this cause is important. I chose people that will be effected by the results of this campaign. I chose people who it should matter to.
I didn’t just beg for money from those who will not benefit from the work of this organization. That would feel wrong.
But by going through everyone I’ve ever met, I discovered just how many people will and can benefit from this organization.
I had to put all my passion into words, into short texts, into phone calls. I had to make it clear to people what this was and why they had to give.
The line “It takes a village” never meant more to me than these two days.
It takes a village, my G-d. It takes a village to educate our children, to not waste their precious hearts and minds, to give them the priceless gift of a good education.
I’ve seen friends ripped apart by the Chabad school system. I’ve seen tears, anger, rebellion taken to new levels because of a teacher or member of administration.
Imagine, for a moment, if all those actions, all those emotions, were channeled into positive feelings because of a teacher or member of administration.
Imagine the passion those students would feel towards Judaism, towards learning, towards growth.
I care because my little brother, who is only in fifth grade, who is obsessed with science and encyclopedias, doesn’t like going to school.
I care because I never want to see the light go out of my children’s eyes because they don’t want to go to school because it’s boring, or frustrating, or not using all of their potential.
I care because my nephew is four years old, and everything he learns is so exciting to him. And I want it to stay that way forever.
I care because I believe that education can be far more than it is, and the time for it to change is now.
Being a part of the Charidy campaign forced me to recognize this, forced me to shout it from the rooftops, forced me to do embarrassing things for the sake of something much much greater than I was.
I stood alongside other incredibly passionate people who are doing so much for education, and I watched the campaign begin, and I watched it conclude, both with feelings of excitement and trepidation.
The future of education is in our hands.
It takes a village to educate our children, and today I discovered that the village is ready to work.

To the Teachers

Dear Teachers,

To those of you who deserve the title.
To those of you who played school as children, dreaming of standing in front of the classroom.
To those of you who had an epiphany in more recent times that cultivating minds is what your passion is.
To those of you who have had your honor and respect ripped away from you by those who are teachers because “what else are they going to do?”
I’m writing this because I was told in my school that everyone could and should become a teacher, and that can’t be farther from the truth.
Teachers are the best sort of people, people who have talent that is rich and deep.
No one would ever dare tell a person with the voice of a frog to become a singer, so why do we tell the unskilled to take up teaching?
How, as a society, have we not recognized that teaching is the hardest job?
How have we let our teachers lose our respect?
If everyone can become a teacher, than what does that say for the teachers who work tirelessly to kindle the minds of their students?
If we want to make real change in education, we need to make sure that our teachers feel valued and appreciated. We need them to know that we know how hard they are working. How talented they are. We need to show them how clearly we see that not everyone can do their job.
There is nothing like being told that you can be easily replaced, and none of the teachers who actually teach can be replaced.
Teaching does not mean standing in front of the classroom and scaring your students into sitting in their desks.
Teaching is creating a world for your students. Opening doors for your students, helping them see their own potential.
Teaching is bringing the complex to the minds of your students, helping to put their puzzle pieces into place, caring as much about them and their future as their parents do, and in some cases, more.
Teaching is staying up late at night, genuinely working hard to create a classroom that your students are in awe of, rather than afraid of.
Teaching is not about getting the most information into a brain, it is about sharpening that brain so that it can go out into the world and be capable of changing it.
Almost every problem in America can be traced back to the crumbling education system, and it starts with making our teachers people who students can rely on.
It means letting our teachers be one of the most high-paying jobs so that our teachers can focus on their students instead of worrying about how to feed their own families.
It means saying no to teachers who think that this will be an easy gig.
It means not telling future teachers that their jobs can be done by anyone, and instead telling them that if they possess the skills and talents it takes to be a teacher, they will be valued and an enormous asset to society.
A lot of people want to change the world. Teachers literally do that every single day. Why are we so hesitant to tell them that?
I look forward to a day that I can send my child to school, secure in the knowledge that the teacher standing in front of their classroom loves them dearly, cares deeply about their future, and will handle their minds and hearts with gentle hands.
I am no teacher. I hold not the patience, nor the abilities.
But I care so much about our children, about the education system, and about making things right.
While I will never stand in front of a classroom of eager faces, I will work hard to ensure that the people who do that feel confident in their position and that society will not rip their work apart.
We can’t all be teachers, and most of us should not be teachers.
But we all have a responsibility towards education, and we all must do our part in ensuring that our children do not suffer at the hands of a system that is meant to make them grow the strongest roots.
This is for the “teachers” who ripped my heart open, who crushed my spirit, and who do not deserve the title of educator.
This is for my teachers who held my hand and pushed me forward, discovered my potential and handed me the glasses so that I can see it too.
This is for those who are training to become teachers now, who are finding themselves doubting their mission because of the untalented around them assuming they could be teachers too.
Teaching is the most beautiful, most meaningful, most important job on the planet.
But only if you are capable of putting your entire soul into it.
This is for the people who deny the fact that there is such thing as a bad teacher, and that those who are doing more damage than good should remain in their harmful positions.
Our students deserve the best. Our future deserves to be told that they are the future, and they deserve to feel confident in that mission.

Starting Big

I had a sick day today.

Stayed home, in my bed, tucked under a blanket with lots of meds surrounding me.

Sick days are weird.

You kind of dream about them on the days you have to go to work- imagine if I woke up today and felt too ill to get out of bed, and I got to stay home and watch TV all day?

But when they actually happen, it’s always scary. Do I let myself the luxury of staying in my bed instead of giving myself the “adults go to work when they don’t feel well” speech?

I made a compromise.

If I stay home, I don’t get to sleep all day. I need to get stuff done.

So I did.

Tucked inside my blankets, with frequent breaks for letting the pain scream itself out, I got stuff done.

I responded to some emails.

I filled something out that has been waiting forever.

I got a ton of course work done.

I read through answer after answer that I got in response to my survey.

I cried.

I was angry.

I felt my heart break.

I went out for coffee last week with someone to discuss this “whole school thing”

She encouraged me to start small, to work slowly and even a little slyly to get into the school system.

I heard what she was saying. I felt the wisdom in it.

But can I afford to let myself start small?

In my life, starting small is an excuse to not start at all.

To motivate myself, I do big.

I applied for jobs that don’t exist.

I quit a job because there wasn’t enough me in it.

When someone asks me to make dinner, I want to MAKE dinner, and make it with gourmet ingredients, and my goodness, how many times have I been told “Just do something simple, Etti”

My sister knows that my pinterest is full of unrealistic baking recipes I want to try (or her to try, and me to eat), but half the ingredients aren’t even available in the U.S.

I never exercise, but I want to run a marathon.

I want to re-do my entire wardrobe.

I want to live in a 3 million dollar house on a farm.

I want to change the school system.

When I have a dream, I wait until it’s as big as New York and then I try to fit it into a smaller space, and often times that is when it pops.

From the above, you might say that Etti is unrealistic, a dreamer, up in the clouds and will never get anything done that she sets out to do.

All of that would be true.

I constantly go through an existential crisis that everything I have in my life has been handed to me, nothing of which I grew myself.

But this is different.

These surveys are different because they have nothing to do with me.

Before I sent out this survey, I had a prayer for G-d.

I prayed that he help me remove myself from this entire project.

That there is never an I, that my ego never gets in the way.

It’s been hard, because everyone is so nice, and they all keep telling me that I’m doing a great job. It’s hard to keep myself out of this.

But reading those surveys- that is what reminds me that my ego has no place here.

This project is for every single one of you.

It is for our children.

For our future.

That is why it is going to work, and that is why I refuse to start small.

I don’t need to live on a 3 million dollar property, even if it is my dream home.

But we need to fix the school system.

So many people have reached out to me and re-affirmed by firm belief that this is so important.

That is why I don’t regret this sick day.

For one, I have been in pain all day, and nothing feels better than pain that removes the guilt of not going to work.

For two, I have been re-gifted the devotion, dedication, and determination to see this project through.

It’s not my pride, my skills, my talents or anything to do with me on the line. It’s something way bigger than me.

So, for those of  you who have been waiting to hear the results, or what happens next- it’s going to be a while. Big doesn’t mean quick.

Here on in, after the excitement and thrill of watching the survey responses roll in, it’s a lot of hard work.

I’ll be meeting with a lot of smarter people, I’ll be doing a lot of organizing and understanding.

All things I’m not that good at.

But because it’s not about me, I can do anything.

I can face my fears of talking to authoritative figures because it’s not me talking to them- it’s my future children’s education begging to be heard.

I can buckle down and do boring, organizational work, because it’s not about me.

This is about something bigger than me. More important than I’ll ever be.

And that- that is why I can’t start small.


Dear World: I Have A Dream

Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A day for people to reflect on their lives, to look around themselves, to notice what has been happening, and what could be corrected.

Making change does not always mean risking your life, it doesn’t always mean standing in front of an angry nation and asking them to see the truth, and it doesn’t always mean you will have a day named for you for years to come.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a real hero.

But today, I have a dream too.

My dream is of a school system that aids the growth of students, rather than stunts it.

I have written. My, have I written.

You all know my lengthy thoughts about this.

But I have come to the conclusion and realization that it does no one good to talk.

I asked for ideas- I received encouragement, but nothing to climb on.

I decided it’s time to stop talking and start doing.

It’s past the point that I could just let it go, and continue my life, hoping to have a good school available for my children.

I also don’t want to fight those who gave me my education.

I want to work with them.

I will attempt what seems impossible- to teach an old dog new tricks.

It just has to happen.

So please.

If you have attended a frum high school for girls (sorry boys, we’ll get to you soon I hope!) or attend one currently, I beg you from the bottom of my heart to fill out this survey.

With the answers from the survey,  I will have collected the data that I need to go to the next phase of my plan.

But at this point- I need every single one of you.

Help me with this.

Help change the lives of the future.

Help create a safer, happier, more successful school system.

Help me make change.

The survey is completely anonymous, and extremely important.


Please share it with your family, your friends, your old classmates, your current classmates, your neighbors and cousins and everyone you know.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. who didn’t step down when he knew something had to be changed- let’s make some change.


Why Am I Still Talking About This?

My voice is hoarse from yelling. My voice is overheard and overused.

My voice is not traveling, my voice is not loud enough on its own.
I know that your voices are out there.
You have all told me once or twice that you agree. That you feel the same way.
But when I look up, I still see this enormous wall that won’t come down.
It’s chipped in all the right places, but it’s still standing too strong.
All over my facebook, I see people bringing others down. Others opinions, others choices, others beliefs. I began to realize that a lot of people see change as raising their voices and hurting someone.
When I realized that, I backed down. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to be someone that rips apart another human to achieve change. There had to be a different way to do it. How could it be a good change if you take someone down in the process?
So I resorted myself to a quieter voice. A voice that planned and dreamed.
But it is not enough.
I have had conversations with  people who are currently in the school system.
It is breaking my heart.
It is pulling apart my resolve to remain kind and calm.
It fills me with a desire to declare war on those who are ruining people in the classroom.
When people ask me why I say I want to home-school my currently non-existent kids, I want to tell them that it’s not really my choice.
But I don’t. I can not explain why as an eighteen year old, I am constantly thinking about my childrens education. I can not explain that yes, I know life takes you on wild rides, and home-schooling can very possibly not be an option for my family, but I like to hope.
Because if I don’t get to home-school my children, where will I send them?
I know people who are afraid of their teachers.
This is not about respect, this is about pure fear. This is about developing anxiety in the classroom, because you are scared of your teacher mocking you in front of your classmates.  This is about learning to hate school, not because it gives you added responsibilities, but because there is no way for you not to fail, and you are taught that failure is wrong.
This is about report cards that do not reflect a students excitement about science experiments, it only shows their struggle in English class.
This is about children who used to enjoy learning new things, and school has stolen that feeling for them.
This is about too many tears shed, too many panic attacks, too many students in bathrooms cutting class, because they are afraid.
This is about homework assignments that last all night, after school independent study because the teacher could not fit that information into the period, testing that does not accurately measure more than half of the students understanding of a lesson.
This is about the fact that my principals would not let me graduate High School because of their own mistake, and created so many problems for me continuously throughout the summer.
This is about the fact that I lost trust in authority to help me because when they should have been there for me, they waged a war against me.
This is about the fact that a few months ago I wrote something miserably honest about high school, but things are still the same.
This is about the fact that corn tortillas still make me cry.
This is about the fact that I enjoyed high school because I made friends and we had a good time, but as that was happening, I was also growing to hate learning.
This is about the fact that a good social life is used as a band aid for the fact that nobody is actually learning anything.
This is about the fact that I can’t watch things continue like this.
Someone once told me that instead of bringing already established people and programs down, the way to make change is to start something new.
I agreed. It made sense with my ideology of being kind and promoting positive change.
But by the time I can do something about this, hundreds of students will have gone through the damaging school system.
I was hurt in high school.
I have developed into a person, who granted, would be different if I had not had those experiences.
But those experiences are not necessary for a person to grow into a strong, secure person.
Those experiences brought me down. They made me fearful and doubtful. They made me angry and sad.
Nobody deserves that.
My children deserve better. My children deserve to see learning in a positive light, to see growth as a desired goal, to see authority as figures to be respected and learned from.
Your children do too.
Your siblings.
Your nephews and nieces.
Your cousins and grandchildren.
Please, help me.
Do we have to bring down an established organization? I don’t want to. Why can’t we work with them though? Why can’t we demand change, demand that they open their eyes and think about the students for once?
When the next person asks me why I want to home-school, I want to be able to tell them that turns out, I don’t need to. Because there are so many better options out there.

Wake Up Call: A Follow Up

As the shofar blows in this month before Rosh Hashonah, I can’t help ponder what I’m supposed to wake up from.
As every year progresses, it’s easy to fall asleep in different areas.
Working on myself. Eating well. Channeling my inner spirituality.
It’s easy to let it slide a bit. The dead of the winter? Who can think about working on oneself when snuggling under a blanket with that blessed hot cocoa is way more interesting?
So, it’s come to the end of summer, after an incredible two months of focusing on everything else, and I have to wake up.

Last week, I wrote about corn tortillas and education.

I didn’t realize as I was writing it, nor as I was posting it, what kind of reaction it would receive. I didn’t know that it would touch so many people. I didn’t realize so many people could relate.
I didn’t realize it was sort of like the sound of the shofar.
It was bittersweet to receive Facebook messages and emails, all saying the same thing- I feel the same way.
Bitter, because that means there is a real problem in education. Bitter, because everyone has let it fall by the wayside, and continue to send their children despite the problems.
Sweet, because a group is better than an individual when one wants to get things done.
I am not one who enjoys conflict. I avoid it at all costs. I’m always the one cringing while friends are’s not my thing.
But I have some nerve in me. Some anger, and a lot of words.
Whenever someone speaks out against something that has been moving along calmly, someone is bound to get hurt.
The last thing I want is to hurt someone.
But I have been hurt.
And so many others have as well.
So this is all I ask:
Let’s start a conversation.
How do we fix it?
How do we begin to change the way education has been viewed and conducted for years?
How do we explain to those who have closed their eyes that there has to be a change?
I don’t have children. There are none coming anytime soon.
But I can’t pretend it won’t happen.
I have to face the facts, that one day I will have to choose a school for my children.
If there is no change, how can I make that decision?
How can I choose to willingly place my children in a school that can break them?
A school in which they will not learn to love learning.
A school in which they will learn that they are not good enough.
It’s easy to say that I’ll start a school, where everything will be lovely and perfect.
But even if I did.
That’s not enough.
There are hundreds of children and teenagers that need a school that encourages and strengthens them.
Perhaps we need to break it down, create many small schools instead of a couple big ones.
Everyone deserves to be in a classroom where there are only 10 other classmates, instead of 30.
Every child deserves to have some one-on-one with a good educator, someone who can assist and guide.
Every child deserves to be taught in the way that they learn.
Please, I beg you, don’t say “well then, how will they learn that life won’t always go their way?”
Education is not a game. It’s not to be played with.
Why would you risk a child hating to learn and grow?
They can learn that life won’t go their way when they don’t get the candy bar at home, or when they trip because they were running too fast.
Not by being tested in ways they don’t understand, or by being picked on by a teacher who needs to retire, or by falling apart because there are too many people in the classroom, and no one is checking on him.
It’s the month of Elul.
We need to wake up.
If we won’t wake up for ourselves, we can at least wake up for the future children, or already existing children, who deserve to have a school that they love.
Some people, already graduated, mentioned to me that they had fun in school, and think back with fond memories.
I’m glad you had a healthy social life, and that school was pleasant for you.
But school does not end at socializing.
That’s not why millions of children wake up every morning to go to school.
It’s part of it, but not the primary reason.
It is the only reason that homeschooling is not as desirable as it can be.
Therefore, we need to make some sort of change!
Yes, you can mock me. You can laugh in my face, and carry on with your life.
It seems crazy. It seems hopeless.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Just by starting a conversation, maybe we can get enough people to recognize how important this is.
I’ve always wanted to have a hand in changing the world.
Instead of letting others get around to it….let’s just do it.
Tell me your opinions.

I want to hear.

The Shofar has blown. It’s up to us to wake up.

Why Corn Tortillas Made Me Want To Cry

Last night we had tacos.

This morning, in the search for a breakfast, I combined a corn tortilla with cheese and popped it into the panini maker.
It was the moment that I took one bite that my world collapsed.
Ok, fine, it didn’t collapse, but it did throw me backwards a couple of years.
Into a world that when I lived it, it felt pretty fragile.
Let me explain.
The school I attended for my ninth and tenth grade years was a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the education system.
Not that this had anything to do with their management style, but once a week we had corn tortillas with melted cheese for lunch.
The moment I took a bite of my breakfast, it was all I could do to force it down my throat. I wasn’t going to throw up, I’m a big girl.
But I wanted to.
So badly.
The taste brought me back to those days in that dank basement lunchroom, those moments between non-educational classes and sleep sessions.
It brought back the empty stomach feeling of 7 pm, when there was no food in our cabinets, and dinner was too long ago.
It brought back the suffocating feelings of having too many roommates in my tiny room, a room that I needed to be in, but couldn’t breathe in.
It brought back the sly smile of the principals, the english classes in which the teacher could not spell, the 4 hour detention in which we could not put our head down on our desk, the overwhelming negativity that swallowed those who tried not to drown.
People say not to blame your problems on the circumstances around you, but there was only so much I could do to keep myself afloat in an unhealthy environment.
I was angry and sad, but nobody looked in on me.
All I heard from the administration when I was on the phone in tears with my mother was “Don’t speak on the phone in the front of the dorm, it’s not modest”
They expected the worst from their group of teenage girls, and handled that fear in the worst way.
They had no trust in us, a vital tool in helping vulnerable girls develop into confident adults.
They failed me, and they failed a lot of other girls.
They made me feel like a failure and a piece of dirt.
It was not just their attitude, but the way they saw education.
This fact followed me, even when I switched schools in hope for a change.
In both schools, I learnt a lot:
I learnt that learning how to spell and have proper reading comprehension is unimportant.
I learnt that knowing how to memorize and spit back was more important than being able to understand the information.
I learnt that working on myself is useless unless I produce excellent results each time I try.
I learnt that I could never be good enough.
I learnt that adults will trip you up and not accept the blame when it comes back to them.
I learnt that working hard does not equal learning more.
I learnt that the school system failed me, as it did many others.
I can live not liking corn tortillas and cheese. I can live my whole life being sickened by the taste and I can still live a happy life.
But I can’t continue my own life when others are being sickened by corn tortillas.
I can’t close my eyes to those who are suffering through it now, telling themselves that this is school and it’s struggles.
Education is the most beautiful thing you can give someone.
Every educator has a golden chance to excite a student to want to learn more.
I love learning. I hated school.
If only I got a chance to learn in school.