Monday, October 15, 2007

School Sucks Sometimes

The title of my last entry was "School is Hard." I meant to discuss it in the post and somehow got off track when talking about our trip to Tel Aviv. But I wasn't lying. School is extremely difficult, academically and otherwise. I've had several of those "What the hell am I doing here?" moments since the holidays ended that I never really encountered before now. I know why I'm here and I know that I'm meant to be here. I expected school to be challenging in more ways than one. But I never expected this.

Many of my classmates came here with strong backgrounds in Jewish Studies, Hebrew and The Bible. I wasn't one of those people. This is the first time I've experienced studying Torah on an ACADEMIC level, leaving aside the emotional and practical sides of the Bible. We look at how the Bible is written and ask questions relating to what the Biblical authors (yep, there is more than 1 author of the was a surprise to me, too) meant when they wrote the stories. For someone like me who has never studied Tanach regularly in the academic spere, it is easy to feel completely lost in our Bible class. To prepare for class, we are required to read aloud and translate the hebrew text, and once we're in class we take turns reading aloud and discussing what we think of the text. Our professor is very knowledgable and scholarly, but he doesn't have much patience for those of us who are A.) studying the Bible for the first time and B.) struggling with putting our ideas and thoughts into intelligent words. When most of the people around you have read the text before and are able to have the intellectual discussion the professor expects, it's very intimidating to raise your hand to ask the simple question the rest of the class already knows the answer to. Or, reversely, it is equally intimidating to be called upon by the professor and not have the answer he's looking for. I come into the class feeling anxious and worried and leave the class feeling like a total idiot. It doesn't do much to build my confidence or create the joy in reading Torah that Gd wants us to experience.

As far as Hebrew is concerned, it's the same kind of story. After 6 weeks of bitching and moaning about being in kitah aleph this summer, I was switched into kitah bet. Now that I'm there, I don't like the teacher's teaching methods or style and again I'm very intimidated. I'm scared to talk in class, and when I try to, the teacher has no patience. She does not allow me the time I need to think about both what she is saying to me and how I want to respond. It is also hard for me to follow her 75% of the time, because she speaks too quickly for my brain to understand. None of this seems to be a problem for the rest of the class. Again, I enter the class feeling nervous and leave feeling stupid. Thank goodness that I at least have the most wonderful and supportive classmates, who are not only kind and patient with me but are also very helpful in just the right ways. I just don't like the fact that I'm slowing them down.

I'm torn now between staying and fighting my way through kitah bet or switching back to kitah aleph and giving myself a break. A part of me wants to push myself, but the other part of me says that I am pushing myself in plenty of other ways this year (which is really true) and that modern hebrew is probably the least applicable to my career in the long run. I spoke to Na'amah Kelman, the director of the year-in-Israel program, and she's really pushing me to stay where I am and try to talk to our teacher, and I think I'm going to follow her advice, though I'm unsure of what our teacher will say or if she will even be patient enough to let me talk to her.

My other classes are going fine, though they are tough and the work piles up really fast. Eli expects a lot from us and I think in a way the five cantorial students expect a lot from each other (especially those who already know traditional Nusach and cantillation.) I'm doing the best I can and trying to convince myself of that; I'm just waiting for this insecurity to go away so I can feel confident in the fact that I belong here.

Anyways, thanks for reading what has turned into a bitter diatribe against HUC. I'm sorry to bug you with my issues, but I have to admit I feel better now that it's out there for all to see. Any suggestions and advice are always appreciated, and if someone would like to come here and be my personal cheerleader, that would be fabulous.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Hi there - I actually came across your blog accidentally trying to find out some other information from Rav Google. I'm a 5th year cantorial student and all I can say is that I totally hear you. Of course, I won't offer an ounce of unsolicited advice here, but if you need to bend an ear of someone who has been there pretty recently, I volunteer.
Hang in there!