Israel has a new program for Americans and native English speakers: the Israel Teachers Corps.
Modeled on Teach For America, the Israel Teachers Corps seeks to train Americans and new English speaking immigrants to teach in Israel’s disadvantaged schools for one year. Perks include Hebrew language instruction and housing assistance. The criteria are:
“A minimum of one semester of informal or formal educational experience, commitment to service, the Jewish community, and a desire to take on new challenges.”
I don’t like to criticize Israeli or Jewish initiatives intending to do good, but I can’t keep mum on this one. As you know from reading The New Jew, I was an 8th grade teacher for Teach For America in a severely disadvantaged school in Phoenix, Arizona. It was not a positive experience.
Although Teach For America (TFA) has seen significant success, it has many notable weaknesses as well. Based on this description of criteria, the Israel Teachers Corps seems vulnerable to these same problems.
TFA’s strongest critics, many of whom are teachers themselves, say that putting people who have virtually no teaching background in front of a classroom is asking for trouble. When you add in factors that exist in TFA schools, such as students’ disadvantaged backgrounds and in the case of the Israel Teaching Corps, conflicts of language and culture, the challenges multiply.
The Israeli classroom is known as the Wild West of teaching. Like its street culture, Israel can seem a rough and foreign place to the uninitiated. Aside from being a new mother, I can’t think of any more difficult job than being a new teacher. It is incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing. The double effect of being a new teacher and a new immigrant to Israel seem an almost insurmountable task.
You learn by doing and no short training program, no matter how good, can get you ready for the harsh realities of the classroom. When you get down to it, the first year is about learning what to do and, perhaps more importantly, what not to. You then harness that knowledge and experience and use it to advance into smoother successive years.
When you commit to teaching only one year, the meaningful relationships that can and must be formed with other teachers and students over time are jeopardized. They know that you are not fully invested in the school and the educational system and are therefore less likely to invest in you. In a situation where the most successful new teachers learn from strong mentoring networks, the importance of relationships should not be understated.
I do not want to imply that there are no positives to the program, but lacking a link or a program website, I can only comment on the information available, which as been presented herein.
I hope that along with using TFA’s model, the Israel Teaching Corps will learn from TFA’s lessons as well.
- Background– Very little information is available online in English about Israeli public schools. I would have liked to bring you more facts and figures for background and context
- Links– There is no online link as of yet for the Israel Teachers Corps. The only online reference I could find online to the Israel Teachers Corps is here
- Recommendation– Pet peeve: I consider it a bad practice when an organization promotes its programming by linking to its website without having further information available once you click through. If you are promoting a program, get your PR established before you begin.
* Title photo credited to F_a_r_e_w_e_l_l.
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