Monday, October 29, 2007


As an educator and a mother and grandmother of children who went/go to school in Israel I have mixed feelings about our current teachers' strike that is now into its third week.

First of all I do believe in the right to strike and I do believe that our teachers are underpaid. That said, I must also state that I have found that this country has too many teachers who are in the business for the short days and long vacations.

I am trying to be fair. I started teaching when I was five and my kindergarten teacher said, 'Marallyn, will you go over there and help Jonny?'

That was it. That was when I discovered the joy of sharing knowledge. I firmly believe that real teachers are born not made.

Most of our teachers here are babysitters...not educators. If they have to be on page 9 by Tuesday, come hell or high water they are on page 9 by Tuesday. Never mind that most of the class is looking at her like she is from Mars.

But at least 10% are angels. Really, takkeh angels and if your kid is lucky enough to have this teacher he/she will be truely blessed.

The norm in this country is that the teachers talk and the parents teach. And if they can't then they hire people like me to do the work.

For fifteen years I built and ran a learning center in Jerusalem for learning disabled kids and for kids who got lost in the classroom. I am appalled at the lack of education going on. Most families have private tutors for English, Math, and Grammar? Why? What's going on in the classrooms?

I know the classes are large. I know the teachers are underpaid. I know that the budget has been cut back drastically and that the last intifada almost broke the bank. But a teacher has a sacred trust--she/he is to impart knowledge. They don't have to like their students. They just have to teach them.

And they don't.

We need more men in education and in order to attract them we have to give them a decent wage so that they can support their families. We have to give women a decent wage so that they are proud of a job well done.

It is like a dog chasing it's tail. Everyone has a complaint and everyone is right.

What would I do? I would start from scratch. I would fire all the teachers. All of them. And during the two months of the summer review their qualifications...their class results. The principals of every school know exactly who their staff is. And someone has to evaluate the principals.Then, start rehiring them. And in the meantime I would begin a massive educational program in the universities to attract people to join the education family. High standards...high expectations...and the students finish with a degree they can be proud of.

We have a huge untapped resource here and what is more important than our children? These are smart kids. I have never, in all my years of teaching, met a kid who doesn't want to learn. I have, however, met hundreds who couldn't learn without help.

Years ago I interviewed a family to start studying at Shar Patuach and I will never ever forget what the young kid said to me. He said, 'I'm only smart on the weekends.'
'Why?'I asked. 'Cuz that's when I'm home with my Mom.'

Kids are smart every day. Kids are wonderful every day. We just have to find their special spark and help them shine.

What upsets me the most about this strike is that they are useing the twelfth graders as hostages. Our twelfth graders go into the army right after they finish school in June. Some go immediately and others have a few months' wait...depending on their birthdays. And their winter matriculation exams are in December and the summer ones are in May through June with a second chance to redo English and Math (that's a whole other blog) in July.

As it stands these kids will not be ready. And trust me the striking teachers know that. Kids should not be hostages. If you have a good enough complaint then it should stand alone. Strike in the summer and during the holidays in September and October. Do something...anything.

Our teachers see our kids more than we do. They have a phenomenal influence on our children. And they have an obligation.

Should the teachers be paid more? Of course they should. Should the classrooms be smaller? Of course they should. Should more money be poured into the school system for art and music and computers and and and? Of course it should.

So now you know why I have mixed feelings.

For the time being I have put my trip to the states on hold. As soon as they all go back to school I will probably have twelfth graders who need to get ready for their matriculation exams. No problem. I wanted to see the snow...I'll see the spring...or summer...or whatever.

Never a dull moment in Israel. And I haven't even mentioned that mamzer Achmadinadoodle who wants to vaporize us! Sigh.

OK, off I go to meet my wonderful Cousin Sheldon, the dentist. Another check on the teeth. They are great. Happy, lucky, smiling me. :)

Have a great day...stay safe...and thanks for dropping in.


At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Miriam said...

Marallyn, I agree with you, wholeheartedly. And I also started teaching at five, and also to Jonny, who was hopeless at reading. It put me off for life!

At 7:13 AM, Blogger muse said...

In Israel, and other places in this crazy world, they let ideologies rule over education. Just like your students thrive on the personal attention, kids would do better from the beginning on level/ability based groups, rather than the anarchy in today's elementary schools.
The politicians and philosophers should butt out.

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Chavaleh said...

Goodness, for a minute there, I thought you were talking about schools in America!!! Not much difference. The way I see it, the State Board of Education and Administrators are the problem. Don't get me started!

One thing I know, positively. If I had school-age children, I'd send them to you to teach them! Too bad there isn't more than one of you. You are the teacher every parent wants for their child.

I have to confess, I am disappointed to learn you will be cancelling your trip to the U.S. I was looking forward to that cup of coffee and a Danish ;o) Guess when you DO come, we'll have to have two!!!

Enjoy your movies, but don't forget us. Stay safe my friend. Ah-mad-din-the-noodle is prowling like a lion, seeking to devour the Apple of G-d's eye. Me thinks he's destined to fall into the hands of an angry G-d!!

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Kmelion said...

One of the problems I've had with my daughters' teachers is this revolving door. I'm not sure how it is in the cities, but out here on many of the Yishuv schools, teachers are young, married, fertile women.

One year, one of my daughters went through THREE teachers as first one and then the next went on maternity leave. There was no continuity that year. Hardly any learning.

Another brought her baby to class for quite a few weeks.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger CaraqueƱa said...

Amazing insight! Same here in the States...fortunately, my kids go to school where they have teachers who really care about them. Why doesn't Israel make you Premier of Education?! You would be awesome!

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous joan said...


At 10:58 AM, Anonymous bunni said...

Could you edit this, or I could ask Ellen to, and send it to the English language publications, Even Hadassah magazine?
I do not know how to cope with publicizing it in Hebrew...Perhaps you do or know someone.

It is a statement, a bit long perhaps that needs to be seen by a wide audience....

I am forwarding this to Ellen for her to read.
Shahir says there are about 10 publications in Arabic. Arabs are students too..

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous the guv said...

Just got up, read your two blog entries before anything else. Your piece on the teadhers' strike was wonderdfully done. But then, you always turn out great stuff.


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