Teaching at Ramat Alon was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. You would think teaching the ABCs would be pretty simple. But Israeli kids—well—they’re a different kind of challenge. They don’t acknowledge authority. They’re blunt. They always question your teaching methods. They’re eager and impatient. They always want to be the best even if they don’t show it. They scream. And if yelled at, they are always ready to yell back.
At the end of some days, I found myself completely, emotionally drained. Why was I trying so hard to teach kids who simply didn’t care? Did I come to school to break up fights between kids and play babysitter? This isn’t what I signed up for.
But I would soon learn that such a judgement was too rash and embarrassingly simplified. I started to request that the groups I would take out would be smaller, and I quickly got to know the concerns, problems, dreams, and hopes of nearly every student I worked with. Some came from divorced homes, others had serious learning disabilities. Some students simply needed to be separated from their peers who bullied them or distracted them, while others needed to be placed next to students who were at a higher learning level but who would challenge them to work harder. Every kid learns differently, every student has different demands.
The more I got to know every student, the more I understood how to adjust my teaching techniques. The more invested I became in the kids, the more invested they became in me. Every single morning I was welcomed with a hug, or with a shy hello. I fell in love with my students, and I fell in love with teaching. I established amazing bonds with my supervising teachers and to this day, I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have had them support me.
Granted, it never really got easier. Certain students were always eager to raise hell and push me to my limits. Many of the teachers initially ignored us as volunteers, thinking that we were temporary and would eventually go away. There were many times when I disagreed with the English teachers and had to fight for certain lesson plans and ideas. And then there were days when I hid in the English room just to get away from the constant yelling and screaming in the hallway.
At the end of the day, as trite as it may seem, the experience is what you make of it.
You’re in Israel—don’t let anyone push you around. If you don’t speak Hebrew, do everything you can to learn it. Show up to school with a no excuses attitude. You didn’t come to Rehovot to skip class and mess around. You’re going to have terrible days—and they’ll only make the amazing days seems that much better. And if you’re really unhappy, SAY SOMETHING. Israelis talk and share their feelings and thoughts, and you should too.
Best of luck my fellow volunteers—keep your heads up and keep fighting the good fight.