Professor offers to hold crying baby—when photo goes viral—people realize there’s more going on

November 21, 2017 3:00 pm Last Updated: November 21, 2017 3:00 pm

University classrooms are not known for tolerance of crying babies in the middle of a lecture. Most would argue that young parents have no business bringing their children to class since their noise and fussiness can disrupt the learning of other students.

Sydney Engelberg, a Hebrew University lecturer in Jerusalem, would disagree with these pragmatists. Known to his students as a broad-minded teacher, this well-respected academician is willing to accommodate the needs of his students to help them attend his classes.

During one such session, when a baby started crying in the middle of class, he stopped the embarrassed mother from leaving, and took the child in his arms.

Then, he walked around the room and continued to teach. The motion and his calming voice soon soothed the child and peace was restored.

(Facebook)

A student took a picture of Engelberg with the child and posted it on the internet. When Engelberg’s own daughter shared the image on facebook, she pointed out that this is nothing out of ordinary for her father. He encourages young parents to bring their children to class when childcare arrangements are unavailable. This, in turn, means that he is often seen carrying babies in his arms during his lectures.

At 67 years, Engelberg is a father to four and grandfather to five. By his own confession, he “loves babies!”

So, when the news of his internet fame reached him, he was bemused.

The academic couldn’t even place which day of the year the photo had been taken, since there had been several similar incidences in that period.

(Facebook)

“In Israel, in particular, it’s a very family-oriented culture,” he told The Washington Post. “Many students have young infants. … For those students, it’s very difficult to find a childcare arrangement for extended periods of time. There’s a social need to accommodate them.”

“If one doesn’t act on those values then what’s the point in teaching them?”

While his primary motive for allowing students to bring children to his class is to help them with their attendance, he also admits that it’s an excellent way to impart good organizational skills to his students.

As a teacher of Organizational Psychology, Engelberg believes that you can’t just talk about leadership in theory, it must be taught in practice by being a good role model. It’s beneficial for his students to see how one can manage a source of chaos in an institutional setting.

Dismissing the net-awarded title of “baby whisperer,” Engelberg said that his actions fit the family focused culture of Israel. Children are truly brought up by the whole community there and calming the child of another parent is a perfectly ordinary thing to do.

(Facebook)

The example he sets through his easy acceptance of disruptions makes it impossible for his other students to take exception to the presence of young children in their class.

In fact, as Engelberg’s image began to go viral, National Union of Israeli Students asked their followers on Facebook to send in more images of faculty members holding children during classes.

And it turned out that Engelberg was not a singular phenomenon.

These professors’ response to crying babies in their classrooms is helping open up dialogue for accommodating students with family responsibilities who often need a little help from their universities to do well as scholars.

As an expert in psychology, Engelberg also found people’s reaction to his image extremely interesting. He concluded that in a world where news of death and destruction has become commonplace, an image of somebody displaying “care and concern” resonates with people who are looking for hope.

על תופעת המרצים המחבקים כבר שמעתם? זה הדבר הכי מתוק שקיים- שלחו אלינו תמונות;) http://bit.ly/1Ry1xIg

Posted by ‎התאחדות הסטודנטים והסטודנטיות בישראל‎ on Monday, May 11, 2015