Friday, March 11, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust, Beni Baradio, and The Job Search Begins

Hey gang!
Back by popular demand (Rose asked me...), here's my next update!
First of all, just to let you know before the moment is gone and things return to normal, Shmuel (aka Shai) just announced that he has become a vegetarian!  I asked what prompted this change, and he said that it just suddenly seemed really wierd and gross to eat meat.  Well, he comes by it honestly!  That's what happened to me almost 25 years ago!  Abaye responded immediately with "Me too!"  Then he qualified that he is "pesky" by which he means pescitarian (fish-eating).  He goes back and forth every now and then, so this is not as shocking as Mr. "Shmuel "Shai" Yaakov My favorite foods are hot dogs and David Chu's sesame chicken Singer."  He said he may compromise when we are at David Chu's this summer.  Then he was thinking about becoming a weekday vegetarian like his dad.  Either way, it's a big day for the cows!  It will definitely mean a lot less meat consumption (especially now that Shai is a rapidly growing boy who can eat an entire enormous bagette stuffed with 3 hot dogs and pounds (or "kilos") of french fries all by himself). 
Next, a quick radio update.  For those of you regular readers, you will recall (or maybe not) the radio show Beni Baradio (Benny on the radio).  There are so many things I love about this show.  Some of them it's hard to put in writing (like when he invites someone to call in and hum with him.  And he is not exceedingly musical...).  But I mentioned last time that he has his "chush hanichush," in which halfway through the show he sings a song silently in his head, and at the end he takes callers who try to guess what he is singing.  It's the same song each time.  The kids are begging me to call in and guess John Cage's piece 4'33" (four minutes and thirty three seconds), which is four minutes and thirty three seconds of an orchestra sitting and playing no music.  If you have never seen it performed, it is worth youtubing.  We saw a performance in which the conductor faithfully kept time, pausing between the 3 movements to wipe his brow.  We saw another guy playing it all solo on a keyboard.  He was "playing" and "playing" until he accidentally hit a key with his hand, and said, "Sorry, that was a mistake."  Anyway, so the kids really want me to call in, but I'd like to think I have better things to do with my life.  Even if I don't.
New on Beni is the part where he asks people whose favorite song is "The Final Countdown" to call in and tell him what is, in their opinion, the greatest song of all times.  When they call and say they believe the greatest song of all times is the Final Countdown, he proceeds to be surprised. 
His latest commercial is the following clip from an interview:
Beni: So how do you like your showers?
Other guy: Oh, I do a very quick shower.  A scrub, a rinse, and I'm out of there.
Beni:  Ah.  Very practical.
So raise your hands if youthink I should stop listening to Beni and get a day job.  But wait!  Before you judge him too harshly, his latest shtick is the best.  He has decided to try to get all the members of Parliament to agree to give each other a hug.  He invites them on the show one at a time, interviews them, and asks them if they would be willing to praticipate.  Presumably when he gets them all to sign on, he'll arrange for the hug.  He had about 16 or so the last time I heard.  One woman kept insisting that it would never happen and all the reasons why (Jews with Arabs, left wingers with right wingers, and religious men with women.  How could it possible work?)  But after insisting that he was going to work on it one member at a time and that he was optimistic, the person reluctantly agreed.  I hope they're real Parliament members and he's not just making them up.  It's very cute.
But speaking of a day job, I have begun the process of thinking about it.  So a couple of weeks ago I went to meet with the woman in charge of English teachers in the North (apparently there is a serious need, so it seemed like a good niche to try to fill).  We had a nice meeting where she answered most of my questions and told me how I should proceed.  She then mentioned that there is a school in xxxx that will be looking for someone starting in April.  There is a woman who xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, and they will be desperate.  This seemed it could be a way to get a foot in the door (since I am not entirely qualified for the field just yet).  She asked if I might be interested.  I told her I might.
So last Sunday, I went in to observe the department head teach her classes.  It was exactly as I pictured inner city Israeli classrooms--  stuffed with up to 40 kids with multiple learning and behavior issues.  Most of the kids were actually very sweet, but they went from class to class as though there was no reason to be in any of them other than to socialize with their classmates.  It took forever for the teacher to quiet them down, which eventually she did by yelling at them, insulting them, and threatening them with idle threats ("If you don't stop that I'm going to call your mother!  OK-- I'm writing your name down!  The NEXT time you talk I'm writing your name down!  Now I am REALLY going to call your mother!  OK, if you will be good for the rest of class, then maybe I won't call your mother...).  Many kids were unprepared.  She acted surprised each time she discovered this, and yelled at them that this wasn't OK, though she didn't seem to have a systematic way of checking or of delivering consequences.  There were kids who didn't bring their materials, so they had nothing to do all of class but to disrupt everybody.  I don't fault her.  I am sure I couldn't have done better.  It would have taken the whole class to check 40 assignments, and by then she would have lost everyone's attention completely.  Eventually somehow she got them all quiet enough to teach them something (though she was still yelling over some who were not paying attention), and then she gave them an assignment, which they sat and did (though there was massive confusion about the instructions since they never all paid attention at the same time).  Two classes went on like this, and then she had a class that had only 19 kids!  She still used her same tough guy strategy to control the class, but she got done so much more with them and with very little insulting.  After the class I asked how they determined to make one class 39 kids and one class 19.  She said it was budgetary issues.  I asked if the stronger kids got smaller class sizes, but she just said it was random.  She said it's not ideal, but you have to wrok with what you got. 
This woman clearly loves her job.  Aside from all the yelling and insulting, she is very friendly with the kids, and they seem to like her.  Kids come running up to her in the halls to say hi or to share something with her.  When they were able to settle down, many would even do what she asked. 
She asked me to come again on Wednesday to teach a model lesson.  I came early to observe her again for a couple of classes.  In one of the classes, 3/4 of the kids weren't there.  The kids were insisting they shouldn't have to do anything because how could she teach to such a small class?  She spent the first 2/3 of the class yelling, insulting and threatening.  This was the lowest level ninth grade class-- the toughest one in the school.  She tried to control them in the classroom, but eventually she resorted to kicking people out, until finally she was down to about seven students.  At that point, she was really able to teach.  Everyone opened their book (eventually), and she walked around helping them one at a time-- sitting with them and saying encouraging words about their work.  It was a nice 10 minutes of education.
She had asked to me to prepare to teach a "musical class" I had observed the first day.  The school is some sort of a special school (maybe some sort of a technical school, but with music as one of the possible concentrations), so I figured I would teach a song.  I had seen her teaching past progressive verbs (I think that's what they're called-- like "I was eating" or "they were running"), and she said they had a test the next week, so I tried to find a song with that verb form.  It was really hard.  I went through all the Beatles and couln't find anything,  I googled songs with the words was and were, but nothing.  Finally I somehow remembered about one of Rivital's favorite Taylor Swift songs-- A Love Story, about Romeo and Juliet.  Rivital thought some of them should know the song.  It seemed perfect.  When I mentioned to the teacher that I had found a song with that verb form in it to help them prepare for their test, she said oh no-- don't worry about the grammar.  That's just something she was doing with them, but she would never put grammar on a test.  As it turns out, it was still the perfect song.
When she originally asked me to teach, she said the class is at noon.  I said I'd come early to do some more observing.  I had to xerox and borrow a CD player, so I wanted to make sure to get there in time for the 10:00 break. I observed her class before, and then we sat and talked during the break, after which I was supposed to go to her next class with her, and then I would teach.  As the bell rang, she was still finishing eating (that's past progressive, right?).  She pulled out a clementine and asked herself out loud if she had time to eat it.  Then she proceeded to eat it and was washing up and waving me to come.  I followed her, as she disciplined kids along the way.  She was like a discipline tornado.  One kid was sitting in the hallway with his feet up on a chair.  Where did he get the idea that it was OK to put his feet on a chair?-- she screamed.  Then we walked past a classroom where there was a big hub bub, because it seems someone had set off some kind of stink bomb or something, and there was no teacher around.  She pulled some kids aside to try to get to the bottom of what happened.  Then she spoke harshly with one kid, and then waved me to come along to her class which was next door.  She peeked in, realized it was the wrong class, and then declared that she had made a mistake with the schedule.  It turns out I would be teaching now. 
We walked across to another part of the school, and when we got to the class, of course the kids were bouncing off the walls.  I plugged in the CD player.  One girl came up to me and asked if she could help.  I started to say no, since I just needed to put it on song number 3 and press play, but then I thought she might like to help, so I asked her to do that for me, as I started to write vocab words on the board.  Halfway through writing, the kids were still roaring, and I suddenly realized there was no music.  The girl had apparently given up and taken her seat without starting it.  I put on the music, and as they began to quiet down, I pointed out that there was an assignment on the board for them to do-- to write 5 sentences using the words (the instructions were clearly written).  When I finished writing the words and the song was finished playing, I asked if anyone wanted to share a sentence.  No one had done anything.  They had no idea what to do.  I explained the instructions.  Kids had a million questions.  I answered a few, but there was a lot of noise, so I thought I would wait patiently for quiet.  I went around subtly shushing people, but of course as soon as I would take my attention off one area of the room, the people I left would start talking again.  Some kids were screaming questions at me, and I said I can't hear them because there is too much talking.  I said I'd have to wait for quiet.  Finally the vice principal, who had come to observe, got up from her seat and started yelling at them.  What was wrong with them?  What kind of animals were they?  After eight years in the education system they didn't know how to show respect for a teacher?  And to raise their hand to talk?  How did they expect to get anywhere in life if they didn't try to learn anything and they didn't even know how to behave?!  She finally got them quieter.  The teacher also put in a few words, and then it was pretty much quiet enough to teach.  That is to say, in America I would never have started to teach with the level of noise and distraction that was still going on, but I was sure it wasn't going to get any better. 
The kids were actually great at reading and translating the song.  We talked about the original story of Romeo and Juliet, and compared it to her version.  Halfway through the lesson, I had to ask when the period was over (this was not at all the period I was expecting to teach!).  It seemed I still had plenty of time!  After we read through the first few verses, I asked them to identify some past and present tense verbs in the song.  I offered a bonus for command forms.  Kids were very excited to share these.  This went great, though only half the class was really trying.  The rest were actually reasonably quiet, relatively speaking.  I asked them to read the second to last paragraph to themselves or with the person next to them, and to tell me what happens between the beginning and the end of the paragraph (she is sure he is gone, but then in the last line he kneels and takes out a ring-- they totally got what happened despite the hard vocabulary...).  Kids were dying to share their answers.  We concluded with a little discussion about how that compares to the original story ending, and I played the song for them one last time.  Lots of the kids were singing.  The teacher was especially enamored with the song.  As we left the class, a bunch of kids were gathered around their copies singing the song by themselves.  Rivital would be so proud of how I was spreading the good word of Taylor Swift!
After the class, the teacher wanted to meet with me about how it went.  We sat in a conference room, and she went over the good and bad points of my lesson.  Her main positive feedback was that my choice of song was unbelievable.  She had never heard it, and it was just the greatest song ever!  She was disappointed that I didn't do more with the literary structure of it or the deep and profound meaning.  I was honestly amazed that they even understood it.  I was trying to imagine if an eighth grade class at BT would have known so much Hebrew.  Maybe.  And I was amazed that I got through the lesson with some kids following and no one hurting anybody!  She asked me what I felt I had taught them.  It turns out she didn't really think I taught them anything.  Under the circumstances, I thought just the fact that they enjoyed reading and singing a song in English and that they were able to discuss it was pretty amazing.  I didn't teach them how to write sentences or to identify verb forms, but I got them to practice those skills.  I thought that was something-- especially considering that I had no idea what they already knew. 
I told her that my biggest concern was that I didn't know that I would be able to control the classes well enough to teach anything,  She told me that that is the most important thing.  She had told me that many times before-- the most importing thing is having control over your class..  She said to me, "I know what you're thinking-- I make it look easy in there!  But it is not as easy as it looks!  It helps that I was an army general!  You have to have complete control over them!  I have perfected this only after many years!
The position that is opening is not her classes anyway.  It would be to take over from a teacher who is taking early retirement, due to illness.  As it is, she is dragging herself in every day so she can make it through the end of the month so she will get all her benefits.  This woman refuses to let me observe her classes.  This means I couldn't take the next month to get to know them before starting.  And no one will tell me what the salary would be (because it is based on ministry standards that would depend upon all kinds of things...), but I am sure it is pathetic.  So of course I am thinking that it was a nice idea but I will have to find something else more suitable.
Then as I am leaving the meeting with her, this group of girls come running after me screaming "Emily!  Emily!"  (teachers are called by their first names here.  That's apparently part of their whole strict disciplinary policy...).  I turn, and it is kids from my model lesson saying, "We loved your lesson so much!  You're such a great teacher!!  Please come teach us!!!."  So I went home and watched clips from Stand and Deliver, and I am thinking-- I could totally do that!!!
There is more to write about the job search, but I am getting sick of writing and you, my friends, are getting sick of reading, so I'll save it for next time.  Stay tuned....
: ) Em





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