Sunday, December 28, 2014
Going to Israel School: Three Experiences
Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
Going to Israeli School: Three Experiences
By Micaela Furman, Oliver Shoulson, and Adin Feder
Naomi Silverstein and we're staying and went to school with Orel Elhadad on Friday. She goes to Leo Baeck school with Yael Molcho Fisher. We were a little nervous at first to see what Israeli school was like but overall very excited. When we got there in the morning, we were overwhelmed with how nice and outgoing everyone was. Everyone wanted to know where we were from, why we were here, etc. The first class we went to was a Civics class in which neither me nor Naomi really knew what to expect. The teacher was hilarious and very loud while teaching about the Israeli government. He was so impressed that we were from the US he even started teaching the class in English and asked us to explain how the US government works in comparison to the Israeli one. All throughout the class we were a little shocked at how loud all of the students were compared to our own classmates back home. Overall, it was a very interesting experience and I'm very happy that I was able to see what kinds of environments the Haifa fellows learn in.
This Friday I had the distinct privilege of going to school with my wonderful host, Amit Peretz. Amit goes to the public high school in his close-knit town, Kiryat Chayim, which is a small neighborhood a few minutes outside of Haifa. Most of the roughly 1300 students, Amit included, walk to school in the mornings, which may have contributed to my first impression of the school as being one of utter chaos. Having gone to private school my whole life, I don't have much of a frame of reference against which to compare the craziness of large public schools, but this environment was like none I had ever seen. Students, it seemed, only attended class when the humor struck them, and when they did manage to drag themselves into the crowded, chaotic classrooms it's difficult to imagine they were absorbing any of the information that the teachers were spitting at them in the fastest Hebrew I've ever heard. Teachers seemed hardly bothered that a whole crowd of 15-17-year-olds were making their way through packs of cigarettes behind the cafeteria during lunch. The school also now declined to provide toilet paper in the bathrooms because, as I was informed, students were known to stick wet wads of it to the ceiling. Of course I can speculate as to the reason for this remarkable apathy, but mostly I am reminded by the experience how privileged I have been in my own schooling experience, and hope to appreciate the order and commitment that the teachers and students at my school display even more when I get home.
Israeli school was an interesting culture shock. The classes were much less formal and the Israeli teachers had quite a loose tongue. Students regularly skip class without repercussions and smoke cigarettes at school. However, the culture is very relaxed and is great in terms of the social opportunities it provides students. An interesting experience was when I was asked to teach a politics class in hebrew about American politics with no preparation. It was interesting to compare the American and Israeli political systems and share with them the political atmosphere in America around issues like racism and inequality.