Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An Introduction to the Education Profession in Israel

Hi guys!

I am going a little crazy here, preparing for Passover while simultaneously making arrangements for Shai's bar mitzvah which is a week later.  Eek!  So I have decided to take advantage of the free time and write to you all.

But seriously, I just have to share this before I forget....

So for those of you have been following my career path carefully, you will recall that I gave up on the idea of teaching after a less-than-successful stint of teaching English to inner-city classes of up to 40 middle schoolers, but then I reconsidered this year, when I was asked to do some small group lessons, and to teach at a home for girls at risk.  (I love this job!)

To be a teacher in Israel, I am supposed to complete 2 courses-- one for a teaching degree and the other I need to receive a teacher's license.  The second course is only for new immigrants. and it is a series of mini-courses on Jewish subjects -- History, Civics, Israeli Literature, Hebrew Language, Bible and Jewish Customs.  I happen to particularly enjoy these subjects -- having studied all of them in college and graduate school (except Civics).  I have two bachelors in Jewish History and Talmud, and a Masters in Judaic Studies.  The problem is that the course is designed for people who have little to no background in the subjects, and whose Hebrew is very weak.  I asked if it was possible to get an exemption from the subjects in which I have university degrees, but I was told no.

So I signed up for the course just over a month ago and I studied Civics for 5 weeks.  I actually found the course very interesting, though apparently this defines me as a big geek.  Everyone hears Civics and says oh no!  That is the most boring subject!  But I try to keep up with the news, and I found the class very helpful in understanding the political structure.  I also really enjoyed the teacher, who brought lots of real life fascinating examples to her lessons. I found it interesting, though the pace was excruciatingly slow, as much of the course was spent going very slowly over terms and vocabulary, and then going over the terms used to explain the terms and vocabulary, and then practicing writing sentences that could be memorized that would answer potential questions.  And this was all after spending 3 hours traveling on 3 buses to get there (and before another 3 hours and 3 buses back home...).

There was a lot of information to learn, and a lot of new terms, but the teacher bent over backwards driving them home in our first 4 lessons, and spent a last lesson going over everything yet again for those who were unclear on the information the 27th time around, and writing more practice answers for the questions that the teacher seemed to have a pretty good idea would be on the test.  So when it came time for the exam, I did have to study very hard, but I knew exactly what was going to be expected.  

When I show up for the day of the test, we are divided into 2 rooms.  Most students are adamantly refusing to be put in the second room (I missed the first course on History, which may explain why I didn't know the significance of the rooms...).  I went to the other room with a handful of people.  Our proctor was very meticulous about making sure that no one had any papers or anything anywhere near their workspace, and that we were very well separated.  Did she know that we are all adults and educators? (as it turns out, maybe that's why she was concerned....)

As the test starts, the proctor announces the answer to number 4 of the "American questions" (that means "multiple choice" here...), saying we hadn't covered the material.   The woman next to me asks me what she said.  I tell her very clearly.  She moves over right next to me to look at my paper, asking me again to clarify.  I tell her again, but she keeps trying to look (I have already completed the rest of the section).  Finally she says, "Well, what's the answer to number 3?"

I tell her the teacher didn't tell us that, but she persists, straining her eyes toward my paper, that I am actively curling out of her view, until she looks annoyed and goes back to her seat.  

Over the next little while, this woman periodically turns around and whispers to people asking them for answers.  The proctor seems not to notice (I don't know how, though she is reading a book).

Then one woman asks if she can go out of the room to go to the bathroom.  THe proctor says, "But you are in the middle of an exam."  

She answers, "Yeah, I know, but I'm almost done."  

I'm not sure why this is a reason to let her go right now, but anyway... the teacher says OK but she should leave her phone.  The student says "But I need to make a call."  She goes out with her phone, and is gone for literally more than 20 minutes.

The proctor decides she needs to go out and look for this woman.  Big mistake.  The second she leaves the room, papers are flying.  Someone has handed their exam to the woman next to me for her to copy, and others are scootching next to each other to confer.  Somehow, as if they were in a movie, they manage to all find their seats and resume their test-taking poses at the last moment, Risky Business style, just before the proctor returns.  

I finished early and left, but after the exam was over, I got a call from my friend Berta, who I know because she lives near me and we ride the bus together.  She is actually very honest and a good student, but she tells me about what went on in the other room.  She said that first of all, almost everyone had some sort of cheat sheet they kept under their table or slid inside their exam book.  Some of them had several pages.  But the prize goes to the guy who used his smart phone to look up answers on Wikipedia!!!!

These, my friends, are my children's future teachers.

After the last class I asked again if I could possibly get an exemption from the rest of the courses.  The head of the course (which is to say the proctor of the smart phone testing room) said it is worth a try.  They asked me to submit all degrees and transcripts with relevant courses highlighted.  I worked harder on the request then I did in the course (though it was less travel time...).  The application will take at least a month to process, so I will need to begin the next course in the meantime.  Israeli literature, here I come!  (This is actually the one I think could be the most interesting).  Wish me luck!!!

And have a happy, health Passover!!!!



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