Broken Bell Education in Israel

Broken bell classroomIn the current debate over the value of education in Israel, ask yourself one question:  Could you handle even twenty minutes of teaching in a rowdy public classroom? Most of you should unabashedly answer, probably not.  And that is fine.

When I first started teaching, the classroom environment seemed extremely disruptive, like trying to raise vegetables in a garden overlooking a hornets nest.  You know you have to diligently tend to the seedlings to reap your sow at the end of the season, but you can't get close enough to water, weed and fertilize the little darlings for fear of taking your eye off the pestering flyboys and girls, and subsequently being sucker-stung in the back.

Anyone working in an overcrowded classroom of children knows how difficult it is to concentrate and even begin to solve problems.  There is such a lack of discipline amongst the students themselves, all buzzing about stinging each other with verbal barbs and concomitant backslaps, with and without contempt for the learning process.

Most teachers are in a position of powerlessness by sheer numbers alone: it's one against many. So how can they cope?  What skills are necessary to help teachers (not to mention people in management, leaders, authoritarians, etc.) transform this challenging environment to a success milieu?

The bell is the cue for the entire school schedule.  It ensures that the day runs smoothly.

I've been in a school where the bell has been broken for years.  Apparently the bell is too expensive to replace so the administration operates within the confines of this temperamental creature.

Each week we will discuss another aspect of Israel's education problem or how we can fix the bell to help educate, as opposed to educating according to the broken bell. I encourage you to add your comments and feedback so that we can turn this into a discussion. Together we can try and 'fix the school bell.'

Next week I will introduce you to the "wash the dishes" technique first introduced in Vietnam and how it can help in Israel.

About the Columnist

David Siegel has been teaching English as a second language in Israel for the past ten years. He is certified in English Didactic assessment and intervention for learning disabled pupils. Originally from Connecticut, USA, David has a Masters in social work from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of New York at StonyBrook. As a social worker, he was involved in childrens protective services, foster care, child custody evaluation and family financial disputes. David made Aliya in 1995 and currently resides in Yokneam with his wife and two children.

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7 comment

Glenn Horvath 5 year, 11 month ago

Great article! It is sad that the systems are breaking down.We need to educate the young to help create a better world than we have today.

elephant (צבי בן-אליה) 5 year, 11 month ago

You wrote "...we can fix the bell to help educate, as opposed to educating according to the broken bell".

Does this mean that Israel adapts its educational goals to fit the structure of its school system and teaching methods instead of adapting the system to meet educational needs?

David Siegel 5 year, 11 month ago

Education in Israel is largely shaped by the high school matriculation exams and not broader educational goals, such as ingraining values, critical thinking and problem solving, etc. It's like teaching for a test. The results reflect how well you were prepared on the material. But what about the material as it stands alone? How is it selected and what does it purport? What do you do with it on the heels of your "achievement?" Is there any real learning taking place?

Anne Lustig-Picus 5 year, 11 month ago

Interesting teaser. Looking forward to the next installment.

elephant (צבי בן-אליה) 5 year, 11 month ago

I think the next one will be posted Nov. 25.

David Siegel 5 year, 11 month ago

I agree Nita that patience is very difficult to apply in the classroom. But I have to tell you that when I took the risk of waiting for quiet (not to mention accompanied by a look of disgust, removal of glasses, etc.) eventually the class quieted themsleves down. Initially I was quite worried about losing time on the lesson. However as the students got to know me and internalized the message, it was effective. It's taking those first few lessons and risking. Of course this doesn't work with every class, but many, in my experience. Thanks for your comment! All the best, David

bryan 4 year, 12 month ago

keep 'em comin' dave.