Some of my commentors below suggested I look for guidance positions in Bais Yacov (Girl's Orthodox Jewish) schools. While I would not reject any offer without reason, the following story illustrated precisely why I have not been chasing such jobs:
A good friend of mine has been teaching at the local Orthodox girl's junior high school for the past two years. My friend had no training or qualifications when she started. No college degree or teaching experience whatsoever. But she comes from a known family and she was offered a position. She has worked incredibly hard to be an excellent teacher to her students. She has great classroom management, she teaches in creative ways to engage the students and she has constantly worked on her teaching skills and put in long hours outside the classroom in order to excel in her position. I have been extremely impressed and proud of what a good teacher she has become.
This friend also happens to be somewhat out of the box. She is totally committed to the Orthodox lifestyle, but she is a creative, artsy type and she has a strong personality which has sometimes put her at odds with the "typical" Orthodox standard (probably a big reason that we get along so well). While she completely adheres to the dress code guidelines of tzniut (modesty), of skirts below the knee, sleeves below the elbow, collarbone covered and since she has been married, hair fully covered, she could be characterized as a "Hot Chanie" with flair. She puts herself together absolutely beautifully, but she would not be looked upon as an "aidel maidel."
This afternoon, two weeks before the start of school, she got a call from the principal of the school who wanted to discuss a couple things with her before school starts. The main thrust of the conversation was my friend's dress.
According to this principal, who my friend has spoken very highly of in the past, "the goal of the school is to create cookie cutter children." She also stated that while it is admirable that my friend stresses and insists on respect and diligence in the classroom, her dress is confusing for its lack of being cookie cutter.
I'm extremely troubled by this for several reasons. First of all, children are NOT cookie cutter, no matter how hard you try to push them to be that way. For that to be the goal of the school completely disregards what it means to be a human being. And I also believe it completely disregards the concept from Torah that God made us each with our individual talents and strengths. To me, a school should be all about nurturing the individual child, and helping those children figure out who they are, rather than pressuring them to be cookie cutter. This attitude from the school also influences parents to treat all of their children the exact same way. And I think most parents who have more than one child will be able to tell you that they are each uniquely different, and the same treatment does not fit each of them.
I'm also troubled because this kind of attitude is exactly what will push a child away from Judaism. It will cause a child who, like my friend, doesn't quite fit the mold, to resent and despise the implication that there is something wrong with him or her for being slightly different or not fitting in to that cookie cutter.
Finally, I'm extremely disturbed that the school values a cookie cutter mentality amongst their teachers more highly than their teaching abilities. Yes, schools are expected to teach values to an extend, but the children are there to learn. And a school that would rather have a mediocre teacher who is completely uncreative but follows the herd is exactly the kind of school I would never want to send my child to, much less pay unaffordable tuition to attend.
I know not all Jewish, or Orthodox, schools have this focus, but I'm troubled by the idea that there are those that do. And that is exactly why, while I might be good at helping students in such schools who don't fit in, it doesn't seem like the administration would want me helping them. And why I am not so interested in working in one.
I certainly hope this is not the future of Orthodox Judaism.