Monday, October 15, 2012

Teach First Israel - Holon

The Ministry of Education, noted Israeli businessman and philanthropist, Dov Lautman, and JDC are partnering to create a cadre of excellent teachers within the Israeli education system. The plan is to create a number of initiatives which will attract Israel's best and brightest, primarily from among its young adult population, to train as teachers and to devote themselves to teaching students in the periphery of the country and in cities in the center of the country which suffer from very low socio-economic levels.
Location: Ayalon School, 8 Hakneset St., Holon

RONIT CHAIMOV is the school principal , it’s a 50-year old school with a variety of populations including special needs (autistic), learning-challenged, gifted, science track, theater track. From 7th to 12th grade, middle-class, most parents are employed and with 12 years schooling or more. It’s a diverse neighborhood (Rasko-Bet), 1508 pupils, not many olim.
She's been here 13 years. They’ve increasingly emphasized volunteerism as a community value here, it’s a big emphasis for the school and pupils. They had the highest rate of blood donations from any school at MDA, over 60% donated. There are lots of certificates on the walls (“that’s only a small amount – the rest are in storage”)

Ronit: I came to Chotam, I wanted them here, two years ago. I believe in it.
First year we had 4 Hotamists, 1 didn’t adapt well – she's now in informal education, 3 are still here.
Second year we received 5 – they're wonderful, magical, highly motivated.
What's important here:
(1)   Teaching – as professionals, developing their skills
(2)   Educating – their ability to serve as role models for the pupils, in speaking, behavior, in how they communicate, show respect.
(3)   Enjoyment
(4)   Strengthening what we can offer
The Hotamists bring in a young spirit, they create a vision of the future for the Israeli educational system. We were in a crisis and the message that young people come in and believe in education is a breakthrough. There's a future. It’s huge. That’s why the teachers here are so enthusiastic. They were depressed before this, now they're winners.

We sit in KARIN’s class on citizenship, 45 minute class for 11th graders. She is superb, absolutely amazing. This class is on the elements of democratic elections. They're talking about Yair Lapid’s entry into the political world, proportional representation, building coalitions, how you influence, what are democratic and undemocratic elections.

She is full of energy, asks them questions so they move to the next topic, encourages them with their names, “good  Einat,” “excellent,” “explain why,” “thank you Itai.” The students are engaged, they follow along and ask.
I have a photo of her standing beside her laptop about to forward the next slide – it’s a rare photo because for the most part, she's standing in the middle of the class or in front, moving, not referring to her notes, maintaining eye contact, using names. She explains patiently, making sure everyone is following. Uses good examples – why was Amir Peretz chosen as Defense Minister, what were Tzipi Livni’s criticisms of the Gilad Shalit deal?
At the end she sums up what they learned today, what they’re going to learn next week, what the homework will be. Very impressive.

We’re sitting with several in Ronit’s office: from left:
KARIN – 2nd year Hotamist
RONIT - principal
ELA – 1st year
YOGEV – 1st year
ROTEM – Mentor
RACHELI - Mentor
AVI – 2nd year Hotamist

ELA grew up in a moshav near Gadera, studied with Karin BA and heard about Chotam. Sounded fascinating, the opportunity intrigued me, to come to education from a different angle. It seemed like a strong group, idealistic, new, refreshing. I teach citizenship and mentor the 8th graders. I saw the spark in Karin but I was nervous because education is so low-status in Israel, it’s at the bottom – it’s like you have to apologize for becoming a teacher. But I knew this was my destiny.
Today I taught a good class, on social democracy and liberalism. But sometimes the kids don’t understand what I want from them. I'm not looking for ‘the right answer’ but rather to learn, to speak, to widen horizons.

YOGEV comes from Moshav Eshkol near the Gaza Strip near Tze’elim. I didn’t think about becoming a teacher, maybe at most going to informal education. But I felt it was important to be part of influencing, helping, seeing the process at work. At first I was turned off by the educational system, it’s awful. But Chotam really attracted me. I wouldn’t be a teacher without it; they escort you along the way, significant support. Today a teacher comes alone and can't always take the burden by him/her self. We have individual and group support, you’re part of something, a vision.
What surprised me here? It’s not a zoo. I learned to accept problems, not to get upset or to be frustrated, not to take it personally. First time you enter the classroom you’re shaking.
[Especially with the gifted kids, they're never satisfied]
The tools I got in the July course – a full month of dilemmas, situations, how do we do, approaches in education, how to understand learning difficulties, what the student is thinking and undergoing. You get feedback, what worked and what didn’t.

KARIN was an El Al selector abroad, mostly in Bangkok (the usual joke among the Hotamists when they see her, is “arazt levad?”). I was looking for a reason to stay in Israel and not leave. I got an email, and I said to my partner, ok, now I have a reason. I filled out the Chotam forms – I deleted my answers and started again five times.
I understood that this is a high level, I was so impressed right from the start, from the interviews. And then I understood that this isn’t just a reason to stay – this is an existential reason. When I arrived here at the school I was scheduled to teach in the afternoon, four hours after everyone. So everyone was coming in with positive experiences … my first year wasn’t simple, I had amazing support, it built me up. It takes time to connect to the pupils, but now I have the connection, they give feedback, I enjoy being in the classroom with them. I didn’t realize until now “what a clueless I was” a year and a half ago.

RACHELI we’re supporting their sense of security, helping things flow, tips, emphases.

AVI teaches math and computer science, was a high-tech programmer, wanted to change professions, it wasn’t what I wanted. I decided to be a teacher, was searching the internet and found that the Chotam registration had already been closed. But I signed up anyway. The summer course wasn’t just about didactics, it was also about creating your personality as a teacher and a person. It’s also a quality group

You need a lot of patience, explain what your expectations are, listening skills.

RACHELI is beaming with her smile. 34 years I've been working in the education system, now I see these Hotamists refreshing and renewing the teachers’ room. When I first saw them I was surprised, why are they here? You came from Teva, you came from a good company, why would you leave? It was weird. Now I take that back. This is the future, modern. It’s a blessing. We’ve thrown them into the ocean, to show bravery, responsibility.

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