Aviva Safir

Don’t give up! Other ways you can make a change

If only you’d fight for your kids’ education like you do for democracy. I wonder how many parents in Israel are aware of the extent of the educational system crisis in Israel. You talk about the future of Israel right here, right now. Do you have the wisdom, however, to see further down the road? 

The school I taught at this past year had 20 teachers leaving. In the English department, one class had no teacher starting after Pesach. Earlier in the year another teacher had to leave and the classes were so overfilled that students were sitting on the floor. And you might think I taught in some poverty-stricken school. However, without revealing too much, I taught in a top long-established school in the center of the country.

Parents are blind to the real crisis of Israel’s sovereignty. The future of tomorrow’s Israel are your kids and our students. Students today have no quality teachers. They need to teach themselves or they settle for almost nothing. And what we want to do is point blame. Are the teachers underpaid? Is there a discipline issue? Are there too many Bagruts? I can only offer my experience because many of the other facts and statistics have already been laid out before. So here goes the story of my first and last year teaching.

I studied in a college with an excellent reputation for producing great creative, modern teachers, Michlala Yerushalayim. Your first year of teaching, you are assigned a mentor in order to obtain a certification. My mentor was my Rakezet. I asked the Inspector if I could change,  and she said no, this person is wonderful, why would I want to change? So I was stuck, because my boss, who was supposed to be my mentor, had the power to bring four years of hard work and sacrifice to a complete end if I didn’t please her. 

This Rakezet called me after hours in the evening and late at night despite the fact she knew I had three young children. She would call to yell at me. I never received positive feedback from her. I never received any training from her. She would embarrass me in front of others, and talk badly about other teachers. The other English teachers as well felt stressed and humiliated by her. She didn’t want me to talk to students, or try anything I had learned in college. She said a few times to me, “We don’t do that here.” 

There were many issues working with her however what is the reason a new teacher could not get help? Seniority. Seniority in the educational system was something Avigdor Liberman was trying to change and rightly so. Ironically, they are the ones ruining the system. They will keep telling you there are no teachers because of lack of pay, but the truth is the administration in many schools are killing their teachers. They are old-school, unsupportive, entitled, and non-incentivized. The environment was toxic. The principal spoke in a few meetings about teachers who are talking bad about other teachers to parents. At the same time, they insist teachers stick to textbooks, and sneak in points for students who truly don’t deserve them but they don’t want to deal with parents. The mechanchim and principal did not want to hear the hard truth about students, often shutting down teachers who gave negative feedback during the pedagogical meetings. In what felt like gaslighting, the principal would then ask teachers to make sure their attendance and student behavior reflected their grades. If a teacher were to report on the Mashov that a student used their phone, interrupted class too much, was too late, or did not turn in homework, the mechanchim would fight viciously with the teacher to change it so that all looked well on the reports. The system is a complete circus, and what I have listed is just a few of the problems.

Students are capable of so much more. They need an environment that sparks joy and enthusiasm. The passion, curiosity and fire for learning is non-existent. The school culture is sink or swim on a whim. Students don’t know it, but teachers are walking into class with despair after getting yelled at, pressured, and feeling unsupported. The end of the year was out right depressing. Students were watching movie after movie in many classes for the last two weeks. Because what is the point of teaching if they are not being graded?  

So what can parents do? In Israel, parents have a very strong voice in the matter. Some may feel helpless because they cannot choose the school they want their kids to go to. But be aware of the change and demands that you can make. You can start by asking questions. Who are the teachers? How long have they been teaching? What is the school culture? How do they ignite passion, curiosity, and teamwork? How do they encourage a growth mindset? How do they support students? What does support for teachers look like? Look around at the halls, what do they display? Listen to your kids, and reach out to the teachers! Do you, as a parent, know what a good school should look like? And most importantly, ask yourself, how much do you care?

About the Author
Woman, Wife, and Mother of 3 boys