Section:  Avodah   Category: Pirkei Avos
Pirkei Avos: Should Our Schools Teach The Brightest or The Weakest?

It is often a dilemma in the classroom, do you gear your lessons to the best and the brightest because they are the ones at the end that will make something of themselves. Or do you structure you lessons to include even the weakest children, sacrificing the "stars" by boring them with lessons below their level, for the sake of the children who probably won't shine anyway?

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:1) says "V'Ha'amidu Talmidim Harbei"; you should have many students. Rabbeinu Yona quotes Machlokes between Shammai and Hillel in Avos D'Rebbi Nosson. Shammai says you should only teach worthy students, while Hillel says you should teach everyone. One time Hillel asked if all the students were present. They answered, yes except for the smallest one. Hillel said bring him in as well. This little student was Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai the great tanna that saved Yidishkeit during the Churban Bayis Sheini.

The lesson we learn says Rabbeinu Yonah is that we do not disregard any student to focus on who we consider the children with the greatest potential, because we can never know who will be our future stars.