Movie Skits, Pen Pals, and Chess : Another week in Israel

This past week of school Amanda and I started working on projects with the students. The 5th grade has been learning about movies and film studios, so we decided to have the students make a play to present to the class, using vocabulary and ideas from the chapter. Getting the students organized took some patience and hard work, but each class now has a plot and character list for their play. One of the classes is making “Titanic 2.” Basically the same story as the first one, except with some additional characters. They have decided there will be a captain, an assistant captain, a cook, a millionaire, a spoiled girl and her level headed brother, and a mother and her daughter that “always makes a mess.” Their homework is to write 5 sentences that their characters would say so that later we can help them formulate an actual script.

The 6th grade classes started working on pen pal letters. I contacted one of my teachers in New Jersey that I had in middle school, and asked her if she would be interested in doing pen pals with my 6th graders. It’s a little old fashioned, I know, but I think it’ll be cool for the students to get letters from kids their age in America and actually get to open the envelope. It was funny to see some of the things they chose to tell the students in America. One of my students said that it was hot in Israel because “we are close to Africa.” They were really excited to find out the names of their pen pals, as names like Ian, Mackenzie, and Dustin are not that common here. Hopefully they will all be done soon and in the mail!

We also had to decide this week about what our volunteering activity would be. I originally had decided to work at an animal shelter in Tel Aviv. But, the shelter did not seem to have too much structure and it didn’t seem like I would be doing too much. So I just found out today that instead of walking dogs in an enclosed area, I am going to be working once a week at an after school program teaching students chess. I am not a chess mastermind but I definitely enjoy playing and think it’ll be good for the kids. Hopefully that will start permanently next week. Oh and really random but we finally got our books for Ulpan so class has definitely been getting better!

Back to stuff about school. They hired someone from outside the school to come in and sort of revamp the English program. Our school is on a watch list for English, meaning that most of the students need to improve their level before the big test (like state wide testing in America). So this lady came in, tested all the kids, and then separated them into groups based on their scores. I’m not saying the test was useless, but I really don’t think you can base a students ability off of one test. Also I disagree with some of the groups made, as there were some stronger kids put into lower groups. Maybe the kid was just having a bad day. Also grouping the students like this totally discounts for the fact that some students really don’t get along or work well together and should not be in the same group.

Well the first day this new system was imposed on us, Amanda and I were told to work one on one with the weakest students for 2 hours. What this entailed was sitting with one student and having him repeatedly write the ABCs or say the sound of each letter. I think this could be beneficial except I speak no Hebrew. Or a little at best. So even when I was trying to explain things to him in Hebrew, he didn’t understand my accent.

After school, we told our teacher that we did not feel comfortable with this. Although I have no problem teaching a child the ABCs, in this situation, I don’t think I am the most qualified person to be doing it. The language barrier is the biggest issue, and I don’t think the student is getting as much out of it as he could if he were working with a bilingual teacher. My teacher completed agreed. We aren’t in the school to teach one or two students the ABCs. We were told from the beginning we would be working with the middle and stronger students to bring their level even higher. There is not much we can do with a student who we cannot talk at all to. Our teacher told this to the lady in charge of the program, we can call her Lisa for the story’s purpose. Lisa clearly wasn’t happy that my teacher disagreed with her methods and did not try to hide her feelings the next day. I also don’t think she understands why Amanda and I are in the school, and seems to think that taking small groups of students outside of the classroom and engaging them in the material through games and other activities is pointless. Needless to say there was a meeting yesterday with all of the English teachers (all of whom speak perfect English), to discuss the program and how to implement certain techniques. Lisa held the whole meeting in Hebrew without bothering to explain anything to Amanda and me. Can you say passive aggressive?

Luckily this new system is only in place until after the big test, which is in January or February. Our teacher is also being very nice and understanding. She feels bad because there is nothing she can do but she really wants to make this experience the best for us and the students. Today, she helped us take out our students from classes whenever Lisa was not around to tell us otherwise. Even though the new system is a bit overbearing, we still get to teach the students and they are obviously very happy to work with us so that makes me happy. Actually today in school one of the students cried and begged until he was switched into my group because he really likes to work with me. Take that Lisa.

After school tomorrow thankfully means the start of the weekend and I am going to my boyfriend’s in Tel Aviv. We never really do anything too special, but that’s totally fine with me. I usually am the one asking Ran if we can stay in and just watch movies instead of going to a bar. Last weekend we watched an embarrassing (or maybe impressive) amount of movies. I’m not going to write how many hours because the more I think about it, the more I realize I need to get another hobby besides this blog.

Oh and I totally forgot to take a picture of this past week’s family dinner but it was chicken parmesan and it was just as tasty as the past few dinners. It was so good I ate it all before I could even take a picture. Thanks for feeding me real food Mona!

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