A Jerusalem psychology professor is gaining internet fame after a photo of him holding a baby went viral. Sydney Engelberg became an Israeli social media sensation after one student shared a photo of the professor holding a baby in navy star-covered footie pajamas mid-lecture.
Engelberg, 67, had no idea the photo of him standing in front of the whiteboard soothing a mother’s crying baby was taken, let alone would receive such a reaction. Engelberg, who’s now being coined the “baby-whisperer”, said the simple gesture fits the family-focused culture of Israel where children are brought up by the whole community.
Engelberg’s daughter also shared the image on Facebook, pointing out that this is nothing out of ordinary for her father. She shares that he’s always encouraged young parents to bring their children to class when childcare arrangements were unavailable so their attendance wouldn’t be affected.
Engelberg, a Hebrew University lecturer in Jerusalem, didn’t even recognize the photo and was unable to pinpoint when it occurred. “Many students have young infants. … For those students, it’s very difficult to find a childcare arrangement for extended periods of time,” he told The Washington Post. “There’s a social need to accommodate them.” But many university classrooms aren’t as accommodating of infants in class, viewing them as disruptive or distracting to other students. Engelberg, however, is known as a broad-minded teacher who is willing to accommodate the needs of his students… and it turns out he’s not the only one!
Engelberg isn’t the first professor to realize the effect their soothing voices and movement could have on a fussy baby during lecture. The National Union of Israeli Students asked their followers on Facebook to send in more images of faculty members holding children during classes and the results are uplifting.
These professors’ response to crying babies in their classrooms is helping open up dialogue for accommodating students with the extra responsibilities that come with a child. Oftentimes, these parents need help the most from their academic institutions in order to continue to succeed as students. Professors like Engelberg understand this need for help and are willing to accommodate any way they can to ensure the parent is able to keep up with their attendance, even if that means carrying around a fussy infant during lecture.
As a teacher of Organizational Psychology, Engelberg strives to be an example of the importance of leadership, a topic he teaches in class. By teaching leadership in practice, the professor’s students are able to see first-hand how one can manage the chaos in an institutional setting. Engelberg told The Washington Post, “If one doesn’t act on those values then what’s the point in teaching them?”
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