By Hal Halper, Current Fellow
Yet another month in the spectacular Israel! I’m finally in a routine of teaching and volunteering and it’s marvelous! I have six classes (two classes of each grade, forth through sixth) as well as a seventh class that’s combined with the best students from both sixth grade classes to work on advanced work and development, such as debates, presentations, and rehearsals for the musical I’m directing, The Wizard of Oz. I was originally going to produce The Jungle Book, but after deeper thought and consideration, I felt that The Wizard of Oz was a more fitting play to work on, mainly for its message of overcoming difficult obstacle’s and making home a comfortable place.
I have seen my student’s growth double in both their confidence and English proficiency this past month, and that makes the long days and hours of lesson planning all the more worth it! Students that were unable to read are beginning to glue together sentences. Students that didn’t know the alphabet are remembering what sounds belong to what letters, as well as how to write and recognize letters. Students that already had decent proficiency in the English language are now learning to conduct research and present their ideas in an organized manner. Granted I still have students that are still struggling, but if teaching English was simple, I wouldn’t be needed year round, so I’m excited to continue to help them grow and learn in my class.
Some of the exciting volunteer activities that I have been involved in this month have been educating my student’s in the importance of recycling and simply throwing garbage into a garbage can, and not on the ground or out their parent’s car windows. I wish to focus more closely on this, and possibly focus an entire lesson one day (edited per grade level) on the importance of recycling and taking care of the neighborhood, and therefore the planet. I have also been cleaning up around my building, and set an empty water bottle as an ash tray for my buildings smokers so that they don’t simply litter their cigarette buds on the ground (this has been somewhat effective, and although has reduced the number of buds on the ground, has not eliminated it thus far). My efforts to continue to focus on the neighborhoods cleanliness are important my fellows and I, so this is something I hope to continue throughout my year of volunteering here in Israel.
Within the next month, I shall begin tutoring at a nearby High School on my days off, and even create an interactive and community building afterschool theatre program, one that will have a similar foundation of the afterschool theatre program that I created at the elementary school I work at, but with more depth and emphasis towards community.
I have also contacted my fantastical chapter at SUNY Albany (Alpha Delta Eta) to begin a pen pal letter exchange program between my chapter and my students. This has a great potential to both strengthen my students passion for learning English, while allowing my brothers back home to connect with younger students in another country, therefore opening a new window of volunteer experiences.
Other then that, I have been enjoying my time immensely while exploring both my neighborhood/city and Israel’s culture as a whole. I have already created many strong relationships with members of the community, and am in the process of fostering those relationships so that when I’m ready to execute a major service project, I have strength in numbers and more will be accomplished than if I were to do the service project alone.
I still have much more to do, and only nine months remaining! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post about my adventures in Israel and be sure to tune in next month to see what service project I’m working on next!