The Matzav Shmoooze: Teachers: Please Stop with the Printouts and the Teleconferences – From a Burnt-Out Mother

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Dear Matzav,

I only have a few minutes to write because I have to get back to coordinating my kids’ numerous school teleconferences and printing out all their school sheets, which has become a full-time job.

I want to first thank all the amazing rabbeim and teachers who are so devoted during this shutdown. What they are doing is mamish amazing. These people are angels.

But we, parents, are not.

We are at our breaking point.

If you are lucky to have 5 children, the current system means five teleconferences every morning, plus some additional ones now that they started doing English, too.

Each day, I get multiple emails for each child – Hebrew and English – and I’m printing huge booklets and sheets upon sheets. I don’t own a printhouse. I’ve gone through one toner cartridge already and hundreds of papers.

As for the teleconferences, I only have my house phone and my cell phone. My husband is not home, as he works, so he needs his phone. How am I to do 5 teleconferences with 2 phones? Then the kids end up bickering about who gets the phone and it’s World War 3.

I understand that we want to keep chinuch going, and the rabbeim and teachers should be lauded. But we, the parents, are losing our minds. And it’s not just me. I spoke to ten mothers who feel the same way.

I am working from home, besides the fact that I have to do all household work, because there are no cleaning ladies working, and I also need to hold down the fort here while things are chaotic.

Also, some of my kids’ rabbeim and teachers are giving real homework and real schoolwork that I have to now sit and do with my kids. In many cases, the 30-minute teleconference doesn’t accomplish the teaching of the material and I have to now sit and decipher it. It’s ridiculous. Please stop being so structured and rigid. And please stop giving us parents work to do. It’s destroying us parents and creating crazy tension in our homes.

I know the schools have been cashing my tuition checks and that’s fine. You don’t have to have all this work and all these conferences to justify it. Cash the checks gezunterheit. But give the kids and us a break.

Please! Help!

A Mother Who is Collapsing


  1. “Please! Help!”

    Here to help!

    tell your school to do zoom
    get a tablet for each kid (can get reasonable one for $50 schools should pay AT LEAST for half out of tuition checks)

    most your problem solved

    printouts, no real way around. but toner you;; be fine

    PS this isnt easy for anyone, hang in there it wont be forever

  2. Agreed. Happy to pay my tuition without the non-stop classes. Each child should have a maximum of one hour a day of phone time and sheets should be kept to a minimum-preferably snail mailed by the school.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. While I understand the need “to get back to normal ” I’ve been bombarded with emails and printouts (I don’t have a printer).I don’t have 1p phones so there’s always frustration from kids who’re missing classes because they overlap with their siblings. Then there’s the math instruction videos. I only have filtered internet on my phone for work. Now some schools want my kids starting from preschool to have tablets then I need to explain to them how we really don’t allow it but this is a special case. Hard to imagine them understanding that 1.

  4. I appreciate that schools are trying to justify charging tuition under these circumstances, but there’s got to be a better way.

  5. The age-gap crisis is now spinning out of control, due to this Coronavirus. Printing out sheets for school work will not bridge the gap. Every mesivta bachur must slam shut his gemorah and start dating his neighbor. We need to storm the heavens once and for all.

  6. Dear Mother’s
    I think that we should look at this as a great opportunity to show our kids that their education is important even if it becomes challenging. We should not show them an attitude of giving up and a lack of importance to their education.
    A few tips that can help.
    1.Invest in a good printer and a good computer. (this is the need of the moment).
    2.Spend time teaching your kids how to do it by themselves.
    3. Have the older kids help the younger ones with their homework.
    4.organize your home as if it was a business.
    Every one should have specific jobs that they are in charge of.
    5. Spend time teaching them how to do their jobs. (Cooking, moping, folding laundry etc.)
    Make these learning sessions exiting. It can be a great activity and great family time)

    From a Montessori educator.

  7. Dear Mother
    My heart goes out to you for what you have to endure. I work in a primary school in London UK. I am the consultant of the Mental Health Team. The main points that we are focusing on is that the parents do NOT become the child’s teacher. The school send one hour’s worth of work per child each day. The school is aware that there are other children in the household and that there is one laptop or phone for the whole family. Therefore there is a time allocated for each child according to their age. The work does not require to be printed out at home. Please contact your school and request that they do the same and avoid the unnecessary harassment of the parents.

  8. I’m coming from both perspectives: I am a principal who is running a school via conference and i am a parent who has more kids than phone lines. It is quite daunting to fulfill all my principal and parent duties, which have both grown considerably, along with a loss of some of my income.
    I think it would be harmful to the kids to go so long without a schedule and without learning anything. (and it is a bit patronizing to suggest that it is to justify the tuition payments, just because you find it difficult.)
    In fact, most of the parents I spoke to were extremely appreciative of the program we set up. While we provide the printed material, so it is a bit easier than what you are going through. I made the decision that certain things that generally don’t happen in my house will now happen – I ordered two more phone lines (one Obi line and one cell phone which costs $12 a month) and I made the decision that I will be spending money on things that I generally do not (in your case, a bunch of toner). There are other decisions I made as far as my children’s chinuch that I will be more lenient about. But, I am extremely thankful that my kids have their dedicated teachers who are working so hard to balance the hardship of teaching over the phone and the children’s need to learn. I am also amazed at my staff who really are going beyond to create interesting and meaningful lessons. I believe that if you sit down and think through and discuss, you can arrange the best of both worlds – good educational experiences and a calm house. One more thing, if your kids learn that, those things can be accomplished in such difficult times, you have gained tremendously in the chinuch of your children. I wish you much hatzlacha, brius hanefesh and harchavas hadaas and much nachas from your children.

  9. Its not the Rebbi or Morah you need to talk to. Its the principle! Believe me its not easy juggling your own kids and there school work while at the same time having to zoom and prepare for hours and hours of lessons to blank faced bored kids who would rather be playing.

  10. It must have been very cathartic for you to write this letter, but the proper way too handle burnout is with proper therapy (there are many options now for therapy over the phone/zoom), not by depriving your children of the education you are already paying for. Some schools are providing cell phones for families that need more lines, so please reach out to your children’s schools to see if they can help you in that regard.

  11. burnt out mother – a few points i too have 5 at home we are chassidish so eng didnt start less of a load for sure, first eitza is WHY ARE YOU BURNT OUT??? you are alive , have money to cover, hopefully healthy, your husb bh working … leave your kids alone and get some air they are better off when mommy is not screaming…
    are you making fancy suppers , get off the chats… and take a siddur and a tea

  12. I’d like to see what that mother says when the kids are given only an hour a day and then need her to keep them occupied for the other 12! She thinks THIS is hard???

  13. This is a sad situation for everyone involved. Many children whether they are the best in the class or the ADHD child needs a classroom structure. Sitting in your house in pj’s or in your clothes in your sister’s bedroom or in the kitchen while mom is cooking is not conducive to learning. The teachers / morah’s / rebbi usually has a curriculum to cover. The pre1a rebbi has the pressure to by hook or by crook finsh the aleph bina by years end and the 8th grade rebbi knows he has to get his talmidim into a mesivta. English teachers know that their students have to be able to pass the standardized test. They also aren’t sure how much they will be held responsible if their students aren’t ready for the next grade despite the situation. I have a few relatives who teach. I spoke to a few of them in the last few weeks. Some of them are very chilled about it. They say “I’ll do my best and whatever the kids learn is fine”. But some like I wrote above feel like they are under pressure to perform for the mother who is standing in the room. But they are especially fearful of the principle who is afraid of the board of directors that they expect the teachers / rebbeim to finish their curriculum.

  14. This is for anyone involved in the current teaching situation.
    Teachers take a chill. You can’t perform miracles, and you especially don’t want to get burnt out. All you can do is try your best. Parents you too try your best to help your child. Pressure and force will only backfire. Perhaps You have to speak to a parenting coach for guidance. They can help you set goals and can help you learn how to negotiate with children who are fighting over phone and computer time. (If you google this topic you may get some pointers.) PrinciPALs now is the time to be a PAL and support for your teachers who are struggling with how to reach their students and often are struggling with their own family. Be realistic. Don’t expect your students to be at any specific level when school starts again. The teacher next year should have the leeway to begin the curriculum from wherever he feels the class level is. And the board of directers you do what you do best, support the school monetarily and stay out of the curriculum and chinuch department.

  15. Libby 123: have a little shame.

    Complainers: don’t air your dirty laundry in public and never, chalilah, say something against rabbeim in public. If you have something to say, say it to them.

    Rabbeim are killing themselves to try to keep our kids from sliding backwards. They are not holding the kids completely responsible for the work because they understand what’s going on. They have kids at home too.

    Yes, it’s work for us but this whole thing is a mess for everyone. It’s a few months, hopefully, and we’ll get past it.

    We can’t let our children go down the drain over this and we need to thank them endlessly for working so hard to help us with that.

    Let’s not complain – we have enough lousiness going on.

    May everyone have yiddisheh nachas and simchos from all the children.


    • You sound very defensive. I don’t think the letter writer was hanging out her dirty laundry. I also don’t think she was bashing anyone.. She just sounded very frustrated.

  16. I can’t say enough praise for the rabeim, teachers, principals and other chinuch professionals who are working their heads off in the face of unprecedented circumstances, doing their very best to provide our kids hadracha and a meaningful education, while at the same time facing the same challenges the letter-writer does with their own families.
    I sit in my living-room daily, working from home, and at the same time witnessing the daily lessons and shiurim the rebbe and teacher prepare and deliver daily.

    I also feel for all overwhelmed parents, being in the same boat myself. Teachers do need to be flexible and know when to turn a blind eye to assignments that weren’t completed. Not to allow a hefker veldt, but to overlook specific things based on an understanding of the circumstances. (And yes, things may be complicated when iy”H things return to normal and different kids may be on different academic levels – I don’t make this suggestion lightly.)

    I strongly suggest Obihai devices (as someone else did above) and/or Google voice for additional phone lines. I personally use an ancient iPod with Google Voice for work-related conference calls, so I don’t tie up our house phone for an hour at a time.

    Letter-writer, please contact your kids’ yeshivos. They may not have a solution for you, but the chances are pretty good that they are also parents who will sympathize, empathize, work with you and show flexibility.

    Last but not least, gam zeh ya’avor. May we all survive this magefa with our health (and sanity!) intact – that’s by far the most important thing.

    Hatzlocha rabba.

  17. Dear mother
    Do you not have your schools phone number? Call the principal and have a discussion and offer real constructive feedback. Most schools want to hear how things are going.
    Writing letter to matzav will not help you. Unless you are just a kvetcher and are not willing to work together to find a solution.

  18. Zoom zoom zoom. It’s so sad to think of the children that need to listen on the phone with absolutely no visual stimulation.

    If I was still a kid I wouldn’t pay attention at all.

    Get filtered internet. And get zoom.

    We just solved more than 1/2 your problems and all of your kids issues.

  19. Is this a Jewish website?

    Where are your priorities?

    It’s your children’s education. It’s their life! Go buy phones (landline/cell/VOIP) and a functinal printer.

  20. Couldn’t agree more with this mom!! My friends and I all share your thoughts exactly (including regarding the tuition;)

  21. BH you have children to be mechanaich. Just take a second to think of childless couples. Take a moment to say a Qapital Tehillim for those who are struggling to have even one.

  22. I got a solution: Instead of the kids learning in sub optimal conditions, give summer vacation now and teach June 1 through the summer. Hopefully by then the kids can return to school.

  23. Most home printers are not meant to handle the stress of the volume of printed sheets designed for even one student let alone 5. My son’s school prints out all the sheets for all classes and has them available for parents to pick them up.

  24. Parents can attempt to direct traffic and prune out the unimportant from the important. The situation resembles the common homework problem of teachers assigning things to students in ignorance of what the other teachers are assigning them. Every school administration should attempt to get its teachers to coordinate with one another to avoid overload on students, teachers, and parents.

  25. Understanding all sides here, I would like to put something into perspective.
    We currently do not have a good alternative to the existing school system. Which is why when the system cannot operate the situation is far from preferable
    Parents have jobs that they can’t give up to monitor thier children. Teachers are in this boat as well.
    I believe that someone somewhere is thinking about how an alternative system should work, and how to make it happen.
    Be careful what you wish for. The day an acceptable alternative to the yeshiva/bais-yaakov ‘only current system’ is developed, your existing system (as a whole) will no longer have the same obligation to accept your child as thier student. It will cold shoulder push you away for any reason, be it your financial situation, association, something about tyour child. Rejections will be guilt free and without hesitation, regardless of your inability to hold a job or manage at home, with a homeschooling child.
    But that day will come. If you can think of anything that wasn’t acceptable with our system till now, you’ll have much more to complain about then.

  26. Why are our day schools different?
    A national emergency with unemployment nearing 1930 depression levels. Mortgages, rent, car payments deferred; millions resorting to food banks etc.
    Yet school admins and maybe even some teachers think they are different. That they are entitled to full tuition full salaries. That they need not take immediate and drastic steps to cut costs.
    Buildings are closed = lower utility costs, no school nurses, secretaries, custodians, extra security etc.
    Now is the time to remove the bloated administration.
    Now is the time to cut salaries across the board.
    Now is the time to take difficult but necessary steps so that our institutions can live to serve another day.
    It’s happening everywhere else.
    Why are our day schools different?

    Parents, the PTA works with the school’s admin, in the case to our detriment. We need to get together and advocate for our children and our interests. Who speaks for the recently unemployed mother and father who has seen their small business crushed? Who advocates for us the parents who, by the skin of our teeth, pay tuition but are not machers and have no say?
    Who stands up for us when we ask honest and reasonable questions and are then relentlessly bullied by the plethora of teachers, teacher’s spouses, PTA acolytes and other self-interested parties and subtly retaliated against by admins?

    Don’t be afraid, the school works for us! The teachers work for us! The admins are beholden to us!

    • It’s obvious from your venomous post that you are such a yeshiva hater that you would have posted this comment even before the present situation.

  27. I truly sympathize with this mother. I have 4 kids with 2 conferences each and 2 telephone lines and I am still finding this very difficult. In order to make it easier for myself, I only do what I can do and that’s it! Before Pesach I couldn’t manage my younger kids conferences while preparing for Pesach and dealing with sick relatives, so guess what? They didn’t go on! I hope to cover what they missed during the long summer IYH. My house is definitly messier than I would like and I accept that although slowly I’m coming up with ideas on how to improve this. I take a nap every afternoon. I signed up for google voice (free) on my filterered labtop. I plan on working over the weekend when my kids don’t have conferences and my husband is home because I can’t dream of working any other time. Every day after supper we all go out togehter with our scooters for a long outing. I do my best with the printouts but I try not to stress out if I can’t do it all. Because I can’t and that’s ok. SOmethimes mental health comes first. THe teacher’s are giving their best and then we can decide how much we want to gain from what they’ve prepared and how much will just have to forgo for the sake of our families. I have one kid who never does homework. Ok. So maybe over the weekend we’ll work on some of it. Maybe not. I have another kid who doesn’t concentrate well during conferences. I try to give incentives, but if it doesn’t work, I’ll try to review on Shabbos. And if I can’t, I won’t. Take it easy and do the best you can. Main thing is not to get stress out. It’s ok if the teachers are making it serious. That’s their job. And your job is to take care of your kids and make the decisions tht are right for them. YOU DESERVE A GOLD METAL for what you are doing already! Pat yourself on the back and go for a nice walk.


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