I’m a new teacher. Currently, I am applying for teaching jobs in junior high and high schools around Israel. If you need to know anything about the Israeli school system, it is that it is completely different from the American system I am used to. I don’t want to brag, but I went to a very good high school. It was relatively small (only 250 in my graduating class) and the teachers were professionals. We had an extensive menu of extra curricular activities and my school ranked high up there on the list of students who go on to good colleges/universities.I had some amazing teachers in high school who really opened my eyes, expanded my world, and broadened my horizons. That is the kind of teacher I aspire to be.
In Israel, the classes are overcrowded: 30+ to a class. The students are somehow not taught discipline. The concept of raising your hand to speak is foreign. The students run the school. There is an excuse for everything.
Every time I meet another teacher, they say the same thing: “The first year you are a teacher is the hardest. If you can survive that, you will be a great teacher.” The first couple times I heard this I really didn’t understand. Now, I get it.
I went to an interview yesterday at a Jr. High/High School. The interview included me giving what they call a “demo lesson” to a class while the English coordinator and the Vice Principal watched and took notes on my performance. I knew that I would be teaching a large class (30+) of 7th grade boys and that was it, basically. I blindly planned a lesson and tried to mentally prepare myself for these boys that I knew nothing about. I really thought that because another teacher and the VP were going to be in the room, that the students would be on their very best behavior. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mistake number one was expecting that I would be introduced to the class. Nope! Instead of the VP giving a quick explanation of who I was and why I was teaching them today instead of their regularly scheduled teacher, he just walked to the back of the room and sat down. In a spontaneous effort to try to gain control of this hormone and adrenaline-ridden room, I announced as loudly and clearly as I could: “Good morning, Gentlemen!” To my shock and amazement, about 75% of the class responded with “Good morning, teacher!” And then the chatting started again.
It was a desperate tug of war for the next 40 minutes between little, inexperienced me and 35 12-year-olds. We talked about stories, plots, exposition, rising action, falling action, and resolutions. Characters, settings, and themes made a guest appearance in the lesson too. The brief 5 minutes of glory was while we were reading the story and I had kids fighting with each other to volunteer to read! While the story was unfolding 98% of the students were quiet and, you know what? They were good readers! I was truly impressed by their skills!
At the end of the lesson I was exhausted. I felt like I had been running for almost an hour trying to keep up with a runaway train.
Happily, some students asked me if I would be teaching them again, and they seemed disappointed when I said no. A few came up to me after the lesson to ask questions about the work we did. Yes, there was a lot of them. Yes, they had a lot of energy. But they were good kids. I think I could be really happy at this school. As soon as I figure out how to rein them in…
One of the teachers told me that the rule is that “You don’t smile until after Chanukah.” I see. Scare them for 2 months then let them see that you are nice and actually care. Makes sense. We shall see. And just in case, in the meantime I will be practicing my “icy-cold-you’re-in-trouble” stare.