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Kids who slap, exhausted teachers: The Israeli school system is broken

I ran workshops in 18 different schools, and the shocking misbehavior I witnessed left me crying on the floor. Something must be done now!
At one of my nicer workshops. (courtesy)
At one of my nicer workshops. (courtesy)

I sat on the floor crying to my husband. It was only day one. I was emotionally drained. I was physically tired.

I was running a series of workshops for children, and I couldn’t believe how they behaved, or rather how they misbehaved:

  • Kids entering 5th grade went through my backpack without my permission.
  • A kid kept slapping my wrist because he wanted my attention.
  • Another yelled at me because when she asked for another balloon, I said we finished all of them and she couldn’t accept that I had actually said no to her.
  • A child hit my pregnant stomach because it was sticking out.

Some of the teachers watched the bad behavior and did nothing.

Some teachers just left me alone with 30 or more children, perhaps thinking I was there to relieve them, when in fact, I was there for an hour to run my activity and go. I needed their presence to support me. I didn’t know the kids’ names, and leaving them alone with me was unfair and inexcusable.

I ran a total of 18 workshops over the course of two and a half weeks, in 18 different schools. I have such mixed feelings about my experiences and  I felt compelled to share, not to whine that it has been so hard, but to give Israeli parents insight as to what is going on in their children’s classrooms.

It wasn’t all terrible. Some of the workshops I ran were wonderful. In one classroom, the children took the techniques I showed them and built beautiful and creative creations, even teaching me new shapes I never tried. They were kind, lovely children, and running the workshop for them was a pleasure. But, unfortunately, most of the schools were not like that. I was navigating through absolute chaos. Teachers looked tired and were yelling at the students even before we started our activity. I can’t tell you how many teachers apologized to me saying they are sure their class was the worst behaved that I probably saw. When I replied to them that their class was tame compared to others, they did not look happy at all. Some just shrugged and said something to the effect of “it is what it is.”

I am no stranger to the Israeli education system. I grew up in it. After making aliyah at the age of 2, I went from gan all the way through university here. I know what it’s like to study in a classroom with 32 other students. My teachers ranged from absolutely wonderful to barely competent. For the most part, I do think they were determined to see their students succeed. Many teachers gave us their all and it usually took a personal toll on them.

Having been exposed to schools and classrooms in other countries, I know that not all classrooms run the way they do here in Israel. I have seen classes that had two teachers for 20 children. There were tutors whose sole purpose was to take struggling kids out during class, in order to give them individual help with the subjects they were having issues with. The teachers abroad didn’t finish the day so drained that they lost their voices.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad child. But there are definitely children who are having a hard time in school. There are children who haven’t had any boundaries set for them.

Embed from Getty Images

I am not going to point fingers. I just wanted to share my experiences. I believe that the Israeli educational system is broken, and it needs to be changed immediately. Classrooms are understaffed and overcrowded. Teachers are overworked and underpaid. Some school buildings are gorgeous and comfortable, but too many are small, depressing, and falling apart. If I had to study in empty dark classrooms with nothing but old tables and broken chairs, of course, I would behave poorly.

After a day of running workshops, I sat my 7-year-old down for a conversation. I shared with him the bad experiences I had in the schools. His eyes were wide with shock. He made sure to tell me that if the kids misbehaved like that, they should have been sent to the principal’s office. Cutie! It was really important to me to make sure that he knows boundaries and understands what is acceptable and appropriate behavior. I was very relieved to see that he and I were on the same page. I urge parents to communicate with their children and guide them to behave appropriately when in school.

So that’s it. 18 workshops done and dusted, and all I have left are these impressions of an Israeli education system. I hope we can do better. For the sake of our children. For our neighbors and friends who work as educators. I wish I had the solution, but for now, as the schools break for summer today, all I have is a prayer.

About the Author
Bazy (pronounces Bah-zee) is the Daughter of Olim from the US. Bazy grew up in Beit Shemesh which they say is just a five minute drive from Israel and is probably part of the reason she speaks English fluently today. Married +3 boys and completely outnumbered, Bazy is the proud owner of Buzz Team Building, and does video editing on the side. Her goal in life is to eat lots of chocolate and make sure people laugh a little more every single day.
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