It Takes a Village

Sassie Yona teaching an online recorded lesson at LNet

The coronavirus (which causes the illness known as COVID-19) has presented students and teachers alike with many dilemmas. By March 12th, Israel had begun restrictions on the population and the Ministry of Education (MOE) had shut its doors to its institutions due to the Israeli Government’s concern of the easy spread of the COVID-19 virus. Currently all schools have officially reopened their doors to students as of May 17th.

During the coronavirus crisis, teachers swiftly joined forces to help reach out to students online. Classes met on Zoom, Google Classroom, and the like.  Teachers throughout the country began to engage their students online.

Another Program Evolved

The MOE decided to continue with the Pop-Education program already in the works with recording studios run for teaching purposes by Matach and LNet.

Teachers of all subjects, from grades 1-12 were asked by their Regional Directors to volunteer in a unique opportunity. Teachers were asked to prepare lessons by using Powerpoint. These lessons were then reviewed by a Mentor provided by the MOE. After tweaking the lessons together, the teacher was assigned to record a lesson in one of the recording studios provided.

For many teachers, it is strange to be teaching to a screen, without any human engagement other than the camera man in the room. These teachers are essentially using a tool that is necessary because of the current crisis, but strange because of its unique implementation.

Teachers spent 8-12 hours preparing the lessons. Each slide was prepared with special care to include information that was creative and engaging.

A Call for English Teachers

Dr. Tziyona Levi, Chief Inspectorate of English for the Ministry of Education, recalls the beginning of the crisis. “Our rationale is that classrooms are not the only space that learning take place. We developed a system, and teachers were recruited. The teachers who agreed to take part in the program were very brave. The country had shut down, but they were willing to come to a recording studio, at somewhat of a risk” she says.

Teachers immediately responded. Dr. Levi and her dedicated staff members gathered over 40 teachers to record lessons.

Dr. Levi notes that the recordings evolved. A template was made for teachers to use as a uniform basis for the lessons. The teachers were given creative license for presenting lessons that would cater to the student population within Curriculum guidelines. Each teacher was also given a Mentor to work with throughout the preparation of the lesson. This enabled teachers to collaborate during the project, as well.

Eventually, the lessons were taped, and then provided on a website and a T.V. format for students to view. English teachers were also given access to the lessons so they could incorporate the lessons within their framework of teaching their students via Zoom lessons, Moodle, and Google Classroom formats.

“Our English teachers are very well connected. They are constantly sharing new ideas and information with each other. This is an additional source for teacher development and resources” says Dr. Levi.

The recordings can be used in many different aspects in the future. Dr. Levi says “These lessons are by teachers, and for teachers.” The lessons will be used in classroom and for professional development needs.

Teachers are Hard at Work Behind the Scenes

Karen Preis-Hirschberg is an Elementary English School teacher at the Alonim school in Modiin. She answered an advertisement for teachers to record lessons many months ago, prior to the Covid-19 crisis. She was asked to record lessons in the event of a wartime need for students in the South. She began recording at Matach, an institution that is responsible for recordings for Elementary schools.

During the Carona crisis, Preis-Hirschberg was asked to record lessons for the LNet institution, who services the Middle School and High School populations.

Preis-Hirschberg says “Preparing these lessons is a lot of work…The editing process is rigorous. I worked with Simone Duvalle [title] as a mentor to help me look at the lesson from a student’s perspective. This was extremely helpful. It would take me about 8-9 hours from start to finish to have a final lesson prepared.” Preis-Hirschberg created a Power-point based lesson which included dynamic diagrams, engaging games, and videos that were connected to her content.

“I really do believe that this is going to change the way we organize our classes and our lessons in the future” said Preis-Hirschberg.

Additionally, teachers liked the comeraderie from the lesson building. Jessica Goldschlager Kamir, teacher at Afek and Nofarim schools in Rosh Haayin, says “I really enjoyed the lessons because I feel like I made so many new friends even though we have never met. Anytime I needed a translation or a question about my presentation there was always another teacher who was willing to help me.”

Jessica hopes “that after all the restrictions and regulations end, we could all meet and have a party to celebrate what great work we have done!”

New Age Teaching

Aharona Gevaryahu, National Counselor for the Ministry of Education in English and Special Populations, states that these lessons “can provide an excellent resource. These lessons can be flipped in the future, and students can study them at home, and respond to the content in the classroom.” Gevaryahu also noted that she has used these lessons in her own University classrooms with students learning towards a teaching degree.

When asked whether there is a future to today’s recorded lessons, Gevaryahu was skeptical. She noted “These lessons may not seem so contemporary in a few years. The topics and tools may not be relevant. In the 70’s and 80’s Educational Television was wonderful. But, today it isn’t. Everyone has private cellphones….the phones are the telephone, the emails, the social media connector, YouTube, access to 24 hour news, WhatsApp, and more….kids need to be engaged with the content and want to watch it and engage with it.”

“It is nice to see that kids are actually watching the recorded lessons!” Gevaryahu adds. One teacher, Chaim Zoppo, teacher at ORT Yad Leibowitz, noted that 597 students took a quiz attached to one of his Literature lessons on the short story “A Summer’s Reading” by Bernard Malamud.

The teachers are talented individuals, who are excelling in their field. They come to these sessions with different teaching styles, and unique ways to present lessons. Gevaryahu adds that “These teachers are also willing to expose themselves to this kind of work…work that they were not necessarily trained to do.” For many, being recorded is somewhat uncomfortable, but teachers decided to persevere, regardless of the circumstances.

Teaching to a Screen

For many teachers, it is strange to be teaching to a screen, without any human engagement other than the camera man in the room. These teachers are essentially using a tool that is necessary because of the current crisis, but strange because of its unique implementation.

Sassie Yona, National Counselor and Coordinator of the Diplomacy and International Communication in English Major, adds “filming these lessons has given me a great deal of confidence not only in my teaching, but also in my poise and public speaking.” She says “I have begun to actually enjoy what used to cause me anxiety.”

Teaching to a Global English Student Population

Rachelle Borenstein, a National Counselor for the Ministry of Education and a teacher at Ulpanat HaShamron ORT Elkana notes “Suddenly we prepared lessons with all students in mind. The focus was global. We had to reach all students.”

Rachelle uses texts, songs, and Current Events articles that relate to the content of her lessons. She believes that “the future possibilities of using these lessons in the classroom is phenomenal! We can really use these lessons and the materials from these lessons to help students.”

 

Returning to School Post-Carona

As we return to some semblance of life before Covid-19, many children are returning to their classrooms. The recorded lessons will continue to be used within a classroom format. English teachers will continue to have constant access to the plethora of recorded sessions.

The Ministry’s recorded lessons are a blessing of new and interesting content that is not necessarily found in the everyday classroom. Students are now empowered to learn their curricula from many different teachers who are eager to share their knowledge.

As Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village.” Our current “village” consists of teachers, parents, students, and the Ministry of Education. Together, we can face any challenge and strive for continued excellence, while creating a better tomorrow.

Ariel Blacher, MSW, is currently an ESL teacher at Amit Hallel, and Yeshivat Ner Tamid. She participated in the recording of English lessons for the Ministry of Education. Anyone interested in viewing the daily recorded lessons for grades 1-12, may do so at: https://pop.education.gov.il/online-learning/online-learning-hebrew/

About the Author
Ariel Blacher, MSW, is an educator in the Israeli school system. Her recent book, Gila Makes Aliyah, was published by Koren Publishers in 2018.
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