That’s what Steve Abel, who grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and had been in Israel a number of years decided to do. He registered for an English teachers’ training/retraining program at the Talpiot Teachers’ Training College in Jaffo-Tel Aviv.
“The course was great,” Steve reminisces. “The staff were supportive and encouraging, my classmates were interesting and cooperative. We were a mixture of backgrounds.” Some had been English teachers in the Diaspora, others had degrees, but not in English, or not in teaching. “But that protective school structure eventually came to an end, and certificate in hand,” laughs Steve, “we were thrown to the lions.”
|Steve with two of his students at a family day at the high school in Faradis. |
Steve could only chuckle as he told me about the first year of teaching over a typical Israeli breakfast at the Mevo’ot Eiron Educational Institute, where he now teaches. “The first year of teaching in Israel is hard, but if you can get through the shock, see through the cultural differences, and not get angry when the kids are cheeky, then you can begin to teach. Respect and patience go much further than discipline.” Steve’s first year was at a Druze high school in Beit Jann, his second at Faradis (which was no paradise either), an Arab town just north of Zichron Yaakov. Although Steve finds the Arabic culture warm and interesting, and can now converse quite freely in Arabic, teaching a class of Arab boys (yes, sex segregation) was not easy. Their intrinsic knowledge of English was poor (fewer trips abroad, less television) and the culture is much more traditional, not as Westernised as Jewish Israeli culture.
Now teaching for his second year at Mevo’ot Eiron, a kibbutz school spread over lawns shaded by 90 year-old trees planted by the first settlers of Kibbutz Ein Shemer, Steve feels that the trials of the first year or two were worth it. He feels comfortable in a classroom and has gotten used to teenagers. “The students here are more open to the American-English culture. A lot of patience is still needed, but within the informal atmosphere, there is a serious undercurrent of wanting to learn.”
Steve also teaches in a special enrichment program in the school offered to children of Ethiopian origin, in a one-year program for Argentinian teenagers called Zohar , and a three-year program for high school students from the Former Soviet Union called Na’aleh . Jewish Agency projects, Na’aleh and Zohar bring high school children from Jewish families abroad who are interested in making aliyah, with the intention that these students will serve as a vanguard for the aliyah of the rest of their families.
The school, very different from a typical insular kibbutz school of fifteen years ago, is a whirlwind of languages, cultures and colors. Steve likes it that way. It is a far cry from Great Falls.
By: Frank Zabow