Thinking out loud

Students share their opinions on a variety of questions


By Chandrea Serebro

How do you want to grow or change to ready yourself for next year?

Nearly every matric student has to answer this question, in one form or another, during his final year of school. We are asked this question because people who came before us have informed us about how the transition from ‘school’ into the ‘real world’ is not for the faint-hearted. As matric students, we are taught that we have to prepare for the reality of the ‘real world’ as well as what it will bring. However, I was taught something different. I was taught that every year presents its own unique challenges and the greatest preparation is to ready yourself for the change. I’ve done this every year by embracing the challenges that life has thrown at me, and conquering them by growing as a person. So how do I want to grow or change to ready myself for next year? I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to let next year grow and change me, through the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead.

Rae Valentini, Grade 12, Cape Town Torah High


Is there anything special about the middle of the year?

Rashi, on the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:16), gives an analogy to explain the transition from this world to the next. He says that just like if you don’t prepare food before Shabbos you will have nothing to eat on Shabbos, so too if you don’t do mitzvos in this world in preparation for the world to come, you will have no reward to receive in the next world. The worst feeling a student can feel is disappointment at the end of the year, knowing that he could have done much better in his exams had he worked harder, pushed himself harder, spent less time playing on his phone, etc. June is the time of the year when we all start working towards preventing that eventuality. So, although we students start to feel that we are lacking in energy, we need to push ourselves. We need to set goals for ourselves and inspire and push ourselves to grow and achieve great heights. I once heard one of my rabbis say, “Sometimes, our toughest fight in life is against ourselves. Sometimes we need to go against our comfortable self to achieve greatness.” So often in life we feel that who we are is enough and that we are as great as we can be, but what this is telling us is that, if we are willing to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and do things that make us feel uncomfortable, we can be even greater. I now know that when I feel the pain of a challenge it means that I am growing and progressing. It means that I am becoming a greater person.

Levi Goldstein, Grade 12, Hirsch Lyons Boys High School

What is the challenge of the middle of the year?

In the beginning of the year everyone is just settling in – new work, new classroom, new teachers – a whole new environment. At the end of the year, everyone can only think about the upcoming holidays. But in the middle of the year, you are starting to get used to everything that was once new, more exciting things are starting to happen, and most of the work gets done. Work can be tiring, but with exciting stories in Chumash, and inspiring lessons in Nach it is a whole lot easier to get through the day. There is always going to be a challenge – be it in Maths, Hebrew, Chumash, etc. – but I for one am doing my best to try and succeed, just like Batya in the story of Pesach. She knew that it was impossible to reach Moshe, but she tried anyways, and succeeded in saving the life of the greatest leader and prophet of Bnei Yisrael. So too, my parents always tell me – “just try your best”.

Batya Waks, Grade 6, Hirsch Lyons Primary School

Best advice from a teacher this year…

The best advice I have received from a teacher this year is that trust stems from consistency, reliability, and predictability. I have implemented this in many aspects of my life. I have endeavoured to bring this trust of myself into my school work and into my interactions with others. When I was taught this it had a profound effect on me; it opened my eyes to the way the world works and it also gave me insight into the world of leadership and how to improve as a person.

Ayala Sackstein, Grade 11, Hirsch Lyons Girls High School

What do you do during lessons, and at break?

I’m not going to lie. If I don’t find myself being captivated by the lesson, I find myself doodling and day-dreaming. What really gets my gears turning is when a teacher makes a lesson entertaining and engaging. It’s fun to learn more about a subject I’m interested in with a teacher that’s witty and can come up with creative ways to teach. For me, break time is an escape from the classroom to burn off some energy and get some fresh air. I’m not the most sporty kid and, as such, I spend my breaks chatting with my friends while we all chomp down on something to recharge our exhausted brains.

Ariel Oudmayer, Grade 7, King David Primary School Linksfield

What excites you most about school?

I get excited to see my friends every single day at school. We have been together since Grade 1 and have created a special bond, and they are so kind, loyal, and caring. I also get very excited when we have activities that aren’t usually part of a normal school day. Like when we have the inter-house galas or athletics. I love these days because since I’m in Grade 7, we get to lead our houses and get all the younger kids to participate. I always get excited when I remember how blessed I am to receive an exceptional education, unlike all of the underprivileged children who can’t afford to receive an education like mine.

Talia Lapedus, Grade 7, King David Sandton

What’s in store…

I think that the rest of the year holds a lot of different experiences and emotions. I know that I will soon have to buckle down and get into exam mode as I prepare for my final examinations. However, I also do believe that the rest of the year holds many more special memories to be made. My last year of high school will allow for me to make memories that will last forever with my grade who have been with me since I was small. As we all get ready to say goodbye to our school careers I only hope that these last few months will hold relationships with friends and teachers and memories that we can look back on throughout our lives. I am looking forward to achieving goals within my reach that I have set for myself where my energy is positively used. I look eagerly towards completely my matric exams with confidence. I am excited to get my driver’s license so that I can be independent. I am also waiting in anticipation for our matric dance as this will be one of the last times our grade will all be together. I am most looking forward to looking back on my high school career with pride.

Dani Bortz, Grade 12, King David High School Victory Park

How do you save yourself from feeling bored with the year?

This has been the most exciting and busy year for me. I am privileged to have been selected as the Mini City Councillor of my school and as the Secretary of Special Projects on the Council Exec. This has allowed me to meet so many different children from different schools. Together, we have been involved in charity events, collections, leadership weekends, and so much more. I am so grateful for these opportunities. From a religious side, I completed studying the book of Shoftim with my Kodesh teacher. I am a member of the Sound Room at KDVP which has allowed me to learn all about technology and staging shows. At school we have various committees. I am the Vice Chairperson on the Outreach Committee which enables me to involve my friends at school with the outreach events we do on council. My bar mitzvah is in August and I look forward to accomplishing this major goal in my life. I do not have any time to get bored. I love reading books and playing sport during my free time. I also enjoy watching TV Series such as The Arrow and The Flash. I try and set goals for the year which keep me focused. My dad is teaching me my bar mitzvah so if I even look bored for a moment he takes out the books. I am looking forward to being bored in Grade 8.

Liron Krawitz, Grade 7, King David Primary School Victory Park

What life lessons have you gained this year?

I have learned about time management, work ethic, leadership, as well as the importance of humility and gratitude. Grade 11 is no doubt a busy year as it is, and this, coupled with my experiences in an executive position of the Advocacy committee for the Johannesburg Junior Council, being actively involved in King David’s Awareness Committee, as well as my most recent journey on the March of the Living, have tested me physically, mentally, spiritually, and mainly emotionally and I feel that I have grown exponentially since I walked through the school gates at the beginning of this year. With all this in mind, as well as the countless other commitments I have this year, be it academic, school committee related, or council related, the best thing to do is to stay focused, keep my head down, and do my absolute best in everything I do. In my eyes, staying busy means staying motivated.

Jamey Wolpe, Grade 11, King David High School Linksfield

What life lessons have you gained and advice do you have?

Life Lessons: I have learned that leadership is both a privilege and a challenge. With leadership comes responsibility and that responsibility is not only for your actions, but also those of the team you are leading. I have learned to always look at two sides of a story and to try my best to find a “win-win” solution. Advice: Always stay positive.

Elijah Greenhill, Matric, King David High School Linksfield

Why are teachers Important?

Teachers are the most important people in the world. They teach children to become smart and that helps them become doctors and lawyers and all different types of jobs. If people have jobs, they will make money and this will make people able to look after their families. My teacher makes us learn by writing on paper, using white boards, and using blocks to count. All cool things that make me learn faster. School is important because otherwise we will have to live on the street and beg for money and have no roof over our heads and no water and food. That is why it is so important to listen to your teacher at school because then you can be safe and live a good life.

Naomi Benjamin, Grade 2, Sandton Sinai Primary School

What is the middle of the year?

The first day of school brings about a lot of excitement and zealousness for the upcoming year to work hard and persevere. The end of the year comes to some as a sort of relief. So what is the significance about the middle? Imagine you are running a marathon. You start off with energy and enthusiasm, but by the time you reach the middle of the track, you’re burned out. Then you see the finish line from a distance, and you’re inspired to push yourself and exert your strength to cross the line. Often, by the time we reach the middle of the school year, we’re bored and cannot find the enthusiasm to continue with the same energy as we start off with. But then we need to look toward “the finish line” and challenge ourselves to grow further.

Tamar Korzia, Grade 12, Torah Academy Girls High 

Biggest lesson learned this year

If an individual is bullying you, you should be conscious and attempt to understand that he could have had a troubled past. You must therefore be kind-hearted towards him. So the lesson that I have learned is to be good-natured towards people and to treat them how you would like to be treated.

Eitan Levin, Grade 6, Torah Academy Primary School

How have you grown this year?

I have been working very hard on my maths with plus and minus. I want to try and still do better obviously in my maths, because maths is one of the hardest subjects.

Tehilla Barnett, Grade 3, Yeshiva Maharsha Girls Primary School

How do you stay motivated?

I feel like I need to work harder and write more neatly. When I go to OT, it makes me feel motivated because I can see how well I can do. I see how neatly I can write and how nicely I can do. OT shows me how much focus I can have.

Sarah Goldstein, Grade 3, Yeshiva Maharsha Girls Primary School

What excites your teachers?

My teachers get excited when we do messy projects and arts and crafts, and when we get good marks on tests. But what most excites me about school is when we go on learning outings and when we practice for the Pesach Seder and end of year concert.

Shoshana Jubiler, Grade 5, Phyllis Jowell

What stands out for you this year so far?

Science definitely stands out for me as it has given me the opportunity to explore new things. Now I need to see what it is like to write exams to prepare me for High School.

Gidon Romberg, Grade 6, Yeshiva College

For us, the lessons we learned on the Holocaust really stand out – we had the privilege of visiting the new Holocaust centre and had the opportunity to meet a survivor. We believe that we still need to further grow our connection to Israel so that we will be ready for the Kfar Programme in Grade 10 and the post matric programmes. The greatest lesson that we have learned this year comes from Morah Shochet, who taught us how our names are our essence and how we don’t choose our names, our names choose us. Our names will also dictate our characteristics.

Amira Cohen, Micaela Cohen, and Indya Hupert, Grade 9, Yeshiva College

What excites teachers, and what excites you?

For my teachers: when students participate in class and when we do well on tests. For me: when the bell rings for the start of break or the end of the day, meeting new people, having more responsibility, and getting to wear a blazer.

Ben Vogelman, Grade 7, United Herzlia schools

What excites teachers?

In general, I think teachers find excitement in watching their pupils grasp certain concepts, and excelling (to the best of their personal abilities) in their matric examinations at the end of their school career. At my school, I think teachers are excited by the ease of communication with students, as students are responsive, participative, and happy to offer their opinions and perspectives in various discussions. Furthermore, teaching at the High School is dynamic, as students will often argue against points mentioned. While this may be annoying at times, it certainly elevates the calibre of class discussions and general understanding. Moreover, while there is a strong structure, there is a continuous effort to refine and enhance the pupil-teacher relationship, as teachers are constantly being afforded the opportunity to engage with pupils on multiple levels, from sports, to culture, to class engagement. This dynamic interaction has a dual effect, benefitting both the pupils and the teachers. Over and above the student interaction and relations, I think teachers are excited by the colleagues they get to work with. Each subject department at the school is comprised of passionate and interesting teachers, and I would imagine that the discussions they share with one another in the staffroom at breaks, and the opportunities they expose one another to, would be very enriching.

Kira Meltzer, Grade 12, United Herzlia schools

What excites you?

I look forward to the engagement and enrichment that I get out of class time discussions and interactions, as well as the interactions I have with my peers outside of class. I think the discursive nature of the classroom is stimulating and interactive, which is something I really enjoy. I am also excited by the passion that many of my teachers have for the subjects that they teach, making class time a more enjoyable environment. I am most excited by the atmosphere of the school as you walk through the corridors and smile and talk to people who walk past you. I think it is those informal interactions with peers and teachers that excites me the most about school.

Aviva Phillips, Grade 12, United Herzlia schools

Does passion diminish with time, how does one keep it fresh?

If you have a real passion for something your interest may diminish from time to time, but true passion will never leave completely; you will always find it coming back. My answer to how to retain the freshness and keep going for the goal is: try to make it feel fresh and new and do something with it that you haven’t done before. A true passion will always bring joy no matter how “fresh” it is. Try not to set goals out of reach. If a goal is somewhere you will not be able to grow and reach, then you will lose interest in it. Don’t give yourself something you can’t achieve, and have in mind that if you quit, you’ll never reach your goals. If you try, it might take some time and hard work, but you will have gotten somewhere and for something that you love, as opposed to quitting and never achieving what you wanted.

Tuvya Opert, Grade 6, Sinai Academy, Cape Town

Does passion diminish with time, how does one keep it fresh?

As one embarks on a long journey, one feels great excitement. However, as one nears the midpoint, the passion dissipates. School is no different and it is, therefore, crucial for us, the students, to motivate ourselves. We have got to keep ourselves busy during the long drive and we have to be grateful that our school helps us in this area. One way to keep oneself occupied is to think about the destination as well as the weekends, public holidays (when we have half of the day to rest), and all the steps along the way. Focus on anything but the drive. There is, however, a second way to keep oneself occupied. One can focus on the drive itself, enjoying the amazing views that whiz by constantly. Perhaps, if we look at the achievements of each passing day at school (and our school has helped us with many such opportunities), who knows – the time might fly by and we may even enjoy the ride.

Yehuda Nossel, Grade 11, Mesivta Shaarei Torah Boys High School

How have you changed this year?

Changing schools has changed me in so many ways I didn’t think were possible. It has helped boost my confidence and has taught me the importance of friendship. When I first moved schools, I was nervous and felt that I didn’t fit in, but over the time I have spent with my peers I have bonded with them and formed new friendships. It has shown me the value of our teachers and leaders – our head, Shireen Saacks, put much effort into our new school and invested so much, and I hope that with time this investment will grow and flourish even more.

Shayna Malka Selbst, Grade 7, Darchei Noam

The middle of the year is…

…almost seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! In the mad frenzy of matric, we often lose sight of the bigger picture. Portfolios, tests, and pressure consistently make us hysterical until we are ready to drop out and/or emigrate. When things pile up, we have one teacher who always calms us down. She doesn’t spend time telling us how vital her subject is (and it very much is) and how she expects perfection and how distinctions are the most important thing in the universe. Instead, she constantly reminds us that marks do not maketh the woman, and distinctions aren’t worth killing ourselves over, that it’s okay to take breaks. In a year of constant demands for flawlessness we take time to remind ourselves of this: It is not THE best, but OUR best that matters, and mistakes are what make us better.

Tehilla Katz, Grade 12, Beis Yaakov

How have you most grown thus far this year? How do you stay motivated?

This year, I was finally able to choose my own subjects and I have really enjoyed focusing on this. My gemara learning has also taken a different turn and, as my skills have developed, I have found my gemara learning to be stimulating and exciting. Having teachers who also love their learning makes a huge difference. To get through the second half of the year I think the motivation is in having a great group of friends and teachers who really want you to succeed.

Moishe Goldstein, Grade 10, Maharsha

How have you grown the most this year?

This year I have grown tremendously in terms of maturity. Age 17 is a very hard age, as it’s the beginning of the end of school and you have to start opening your eyes to what you would like to do with your future – and such a decision requires maturity.

Ezra Benjamin, grade 11, torah academy boys high school

The one thing that has stood out so far? 

The Boys High School students took on the initiative of fundraising for both the Secular and Mesivta departments through means of a raffle, and a very significant amount was reached. But, more importantly, the atmosphere that was created between students was a highly motivated and beyond ebullient one.

Noam Levy, Grade 10, Torah Academy Boys High School

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