Monday, January 22, 2007

Off to work

As I said at the end of the last blog I would be working in the Druze school and the absorption center. The Albyader school is located in the small Druze vilage of Ein-Al-Assad up in the mountains about a twenty minute drive from Karmiel. Therefore every morning there is a minibus to take three of us to school, Jessie, who is working with me, and I to Ein-Al-Assad and Ariel to Ferod a very arty primary school near by. All lessons are taught in Arabic, and the only person who speaks English is oddly enough the English teacher Nasreen. Therefore the staffroom can be a very isolated place as none of the teachers can talk to us, and so Jessie and I make use of our breaks and free periods (of which there are quite a few) to do copious amounts of reading.

Lessons themselves are very mixed, we take years 4-8, which I think is a range from 9-12 years old. The students have a very mixed ability in English, some are very good, others need things to be said very loudly and require a lot of hand gestures to have points illustrated to them. Although the lessons are in Arabic the children can all understand and speak Hebrew, although I try to avoid using Hebrew as much as possible, as how can they learn English if I am not talking to them in it, and also if they here me speak Hebrew they may get the idea that I can speak it well and then start talking to me very quickly and loose me completely. However, their grasp o English has lead to many interesting conversations, mainly based on how Israel is going to beat England in March, I tend to agree.

The kids are on the whole really sweet, and I frequently get high fived in the corridor. The oldest class are on the other hand absolute hell. They seem to have all the disrputive kids in the school in one class, and as they have absolutely no desire to learn I dread going to teach them, and owing to the fact my role is teaching not discipling I unfortuneatly and much to my regret cant shout at them and tell them off.

Most classes take more or less the same form, the kids push their desks together in two or three blocks, and Jessie, Nasreen and I take a table each. We then spend about twenty minutes going through a couple of pages in the text book, reading passages and answering some questions. The kids then spend the rest of the lesson doing excercises and we are meant to help them. However, as most of the kids are very good and half the work is translating into arabic there is really very little I can do and I spend half the time sitting around clock watching. Occassionally I find someone who really needs help but this always seems to be at the end of the lesson and I cut out by the bell half way through explaining and I have to hurry the rest. It has happened on several occasions that kids have come to me expecting the answers only to be dissapointed by me telling them the rule or explaing the exercise, and so they leave me dissapointed and are forced to go and copy the answers off their friends.

There was one time when year 7 had a free lesson and they requested that Jessie and I take the lesson. So there we were standing in front of a group of 12 11 year olds, trying to work out what to do with them. Luckily we werent supposed to teach anything and so we spent the lessn playing games like 20 questions, hangman and boggle. The kids spent most of the time shouting, although I was rather pround of myself from letting the encounter descend into total bedlam, and the kids were all very grateful to us at the end.

There is one last thing I should mention and that is the bell. The bell is a constant source of amusment for Jessie and I as it consists of famous children's nursery rhymes, which we always find ourselves singing along to. The bell always plays one tune, then starts a second one and cuts out about six notes in.

My afternoon placement is at the moment only once a week at an absorption center half an hour outside Karmiel on a Kibbutz Ayelet Hashar. Every Monday evening I go there with Nick, Annabel and Ariel. There are two absorption centers and when Annabel arrived at us we discovered we were not expected or needed and so we went to join the other two. Here we met a group of four new Ethiopian emigrees between the ages of 11-13. We sat with them very awkwardly for a bit until we worked out a couple of activities to do with them, where we taught them English and they taught us a bit of Hebrew. Actually after two hours we were having qite a nice time and it turned out far better than expected. We are going back for our second encounter with them today and we have been promised it will be better organised.

On the whole volunteering has got off to a very good start, Jessie and I are planning on speaking to Nasreen to see if there are ways we can be more helpful, otherwise all is good apart from the wake up time (which I have realised I have yet to complain about yet) which is at 7 every morning, and if I dont get up then I dont have time for coffee, which is even worse, even though there is a constant supply of Turkish coffee in the staff room.

Over the next few weeks I intend to keep you posted on different elements of what we are doing here, so until then I hope you are all well and happy, and I look forward to writing again soon.


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