“When I walked into HaYarden, a school for children of African refugees and migrant workers, I felt it in the air. It’s not the colorful walls, or the clearly used books strewn about on the shelf. There is something about the school that exudes a special atmosphere, like despite all the horrors the kids have been through, despite all the challenges they have to face every day, this is a place they can feel safe and learn”. Says Gabriella Deane, our MITF participant.
“I come from a middle-class family, and while we were not wealthy, we went to private school on scholarship. The kids could be unruly in the classroom, but most of the time we did as we were told. I always heard of rough schools and understood what happened there, but until you are in one, it is difficult to truly understand.
What can you do if your teacher cannot hear you because another kid got frustrated? As a student, how do you pay attention in class? As a teacher, what do you do when you tried talking to a frustrated child but they are so angry they will not look you in the eye or respond? What if this is the third child you’ve had to talk to and you have 28 other children in the class and the class is almost over and you did not even begin the lesson? These are just a few of the challenges that I have seen the students and teachers face on a daily basis. Overwhelming does not begin to cover it.
Having such a difficult starting point makes every small win feel like a victory of epic proportions. When a child you saw kicking and screaming finally looks at you and you are able to calm them down enough to not only return to class but to participate, you feel like you are floating on air. With such a big class, it is often the case that I will join the teacher in the classroom, instead of taking a select few out. Recently, I noticed that many of the teachers, although Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman character could learn some tips from them, are only human. They have 30 students in a class, and these kids are starving for attention. At home, their parents are working over 12 hours a day to survive. They do not always have the time or patience to devote to their rambunctious seven year old. At school, the students are one of 30 in a classroom, and if one child pushes another, or steals a pencil, it can often escalate quickly if not diffused immediately.
If I go through the classroom and give each individual student attention, make sure I look them in the eye, smile at them, and give them positive feedback, the result is incredible. They become calm, interested, and invested. The teacher can teach. They know the answers; they just do not get a chance to prove themselves very often. It is not perfect every day, but on the days when something goes right, the feeling of accomplishment could make you cry. The more difficult kids in class have hugged me afterwards, or given me the biggest smiles. My heart feels like it grow three sizes in a day.
I’ve grown to love these kids. Honestly, it did not take long. These children worm their way into your heart and set up shop. Spending this time with them, I now know which ones will respond to games, which ones like being read to, or like reading themselves. They just want what everyone else wants: someone to see them, to give them some attention, and a chance to prove themselves. Despite all of the hard days, when you want to scream with frustration but have to remain calm, the small victories can make you feel like you are making a difference. It took this long for me to get to know these kids, to establish a bond of trust, and it takes a lot of effort for them to trust. I am honored they have started to let me in”.
MITF Tel Aviv+ is the only MITF track where you get to live and teach in Tel Aviv – Israel’s most exciting city and cultural hub!