|The ETNI Rag-Out
by Barry Silverberg
(Our dictionary defines Ragout as a thick, rich stew of meat, poultry or fish which can be made with or without vegetables. This June there is really no time to issue a real 'Rag' piece, so I'll just heat up a pot, and throw in a thick rich stew of observations and half thought out ideas from the Ideas file)
Early summer is a good time for English teacher to look back on the year. After all, we have just summed up the success or failure of all our efforts by giving exams, grading projects and bestowing grades.
Severe Warning: The Irgun Hamorim has issued strict injunctions against giving exams, grading projects and bestowing grades.
So much for that. Still, tied and true teachers like us, we can see how well our pupils learned just by giving tests and observing their day to day functioning.
Severe Warning Number Two: The Eargoon Hammorim has issued stiff injections against evaluating pupils through tests and/or class performance.
Well, whatever. At the final Pedagogical meeting, we can just ramble on about each kid the way we did at the last meeting.
Absolutely Critical Warning!: The Err-Gun Mordim hath commanded, No teacher is to participate in the Pedagogical Meetings until further notice.
Finally, some good news. I hate those meetings. I'll just go home early and get in some quality time with my ever loving significant spouse.
Highly Acute Warning!!: The Firgun Hamorrorrim Has Issued the following E-dict: No teacher is to derive pleasure from relations extra- or infra- marital until the strike is over and they have been immersed in a ritual bath(Mikveh Yisrael School, TA)
That's tough, but if there are no Pedagogical meetings, it's a fair trade off. However, even the Irgun can't stop us from looking back over a long hard year. Oh Yeah? Oh, shut up! This year began with everybody traumatized by the war, and we are still paying the emotional price. And here we are already, summer vacation, whatever that may entail. Maybe a conference or two, a holiday let's hope -- and all to soon, School Year Two Thousand and Eight: Tash-Sah in Hebrew, which is even harder to say than this year's Tah-Shazz, which at least rhymed with the way Israelis mispronounce massage.
I live and teach in the North, and one thing that has sprung up here lately, replacing the bombed out trees, is an abundance of job positions for English Teachers. I looked over the ETNI want ads last week, and I realized that if I were a ten- clone (i.e. a unit of 10 replicas of myself), the local schools could take all of me. Like that lovely soulful song by Billy Holiday
All of me, Why not take … all of me
Cant you see ,I cant' live without you …
. . .You took the best, so why not take the rest,
So why not, why not take all of me
This song was written by Semour Simons, 50 years before the Destruction of Gush Katif, but he knew it was on the way. He meant to sing… "All of me, Hitna- Take All of me…"
At least ten teaching positions are vacant, and I think our school needs somebody too. Things haven't been this bad since the year '89 when September rolled around and there were 15 'tkannim' -teaching positions open in the Etzba Hagalleel alone. For years I've glibly told the story of those days, always adding how it could never happen again. After all, we have our own website where every day we can see letters like these:
I am a over qualified English teacher with many years of experiment in starting off the year in new schools, elementary and high schools junior heights, and Mcnassim. (This year I prepared both New and Old students for both the New and Old Bagrut.) I have been teaching all levels, from high to short. My colleagues say I should be certified even if I were not though I am. I am bilingual in both hands and can handle chalk and whitebroads with equal aplum.
I have teaching certificate, a BA and an MA and even a DA! in English. The DA means yes to show my positive side. That is a joke. I can produce up to three jokes per lesson.
Please take me hire. Anne Alfa Beth
Dear Co Ordinator,
I am a __man / __woman looking for a __man / __woman / __teaching job
I am creative, hard working , patient and desperate. My hobbies are horseback riding and playing the piano. I just want to work to make the world a better place. I'm fun to have around. I'm willing to try any teaching position, but only if I'm in for a serious long term relationship with the administration. I'm not your one month stand teacher giving you what you need while your regular employee is having a baby.
For my CV and photos, please write to PUB 7766
But things were different back then. In those days I was a young untrained, fresh-bearded 'rakaz' and I often faced a summer of looking for potential teachers. Today we look at degrees, CV's if you please; we call up schools where our candidates taught or ask the inspector. Then it was different. There had to be somebody warming that chair by Sept 1, and if they could recite the ABC without pausing it was a plus. This often provided for a lot of bizarre situations.
Disclaimer: The following stories have kept the original names because the people involved are so weird they're never going to see this anyhow.
( fade out to the '80s)
I can't even remember where we advertised in those days. No ETNI, no E-mail; what did we use, cuneiform blocks? It feels like it.
Our librarian in those days was sort of American. She certainly sounded American, but some days claimed to be Spanish or Argentinean and could speak the language to prove it. She changed her personal history depending on her mood, the time of the month and who she was talking to . She had breezed into town with 2 kids a few years before, and already had a new local husband, a new child, and a new police record for shoplifting. We put her in the saddle and she did not too bad; the only problem being that when I questioned how she computed her final grades she would throw things at me; whatever was on her desk or in her hand, and once, a pair of glasses. She eventually got a lifetime sinecure in our wonderful City Hall, where for years she has had access to all the classified information.
Then there was Shirley, for a while. How did I meet her anyway? I can't recall. I gave her a ride? Started chatting with her while shopping? A tall staunch Amerika-eet in Habbadnik garb, living in Tsfat with two teenagers, ready to relocate for a job. I introduced her to our principal, who felt that all Americans were crazy anyway, and she climbed aboard for a year. One year was enough for everybody; I don't remember much about her teaching, except that nobody got hurt. On Purim she was at our Seuda and threw one of my kids into the air and almost forgot to catch her. Some of you may remember the wonderful inspector Janet Ohanna Z"L. She tried coaching Shirley and recommended we find somebody else. Shirley went on to lose her shirts by mismanaging a garage, and finally tripped over herself and her possessions enough times to suffer permanent damage and become Kiriat Shmona's loudest handicapped person.
Marlene, on the other hand, was a great teacher, working at the local college; another American Jewish girl, but with a rabid hatred of Jewish boys. At the time she was married to a Druse teacher in the Ein Kenya in the Golan, after convincing his parents she was Lebanese. It is true that Marlene did pull a knife on a pupil during a difficult lesson, but it was only a joke and the kid had been impossible. Marlene eventually divorced her husband, but with her newly won command of the Arabic language, along with her marriage and divorce papers, she was able to follow a career that took her to Jordan, Syria and I think Saudi Arabia before we lost all contact.
There must have been some national message board for these things; our principal would go off to some Job Fair for a day or two and come back with a couple of phone numbers or candidates in tow. Thus Bat Sheva: Religious background, she said over the phone; twenty- eight, four years of teaching in Jewish schools in Chicago; gets along with all pupils, she claims. Sounds great. As often happened, these candidates would show up on my doorstep without a place to spend the night, and we ended up taking them in, putting them up, and showing them the ropes. This one comes in jeans and a sleeveless T shirt.
Umm… Is that how you plan on going to give your demo lesson tomorrow?
Sure. Is there anything wrong with that?
Well, it's a Yeshiva high school.
Of course, she ended up borrowing a skirt and blouse from my wife. Of course she walked out of her lesson and onto a bus headed south, skirt and all.
One of my favorites was Uri. Uri was young and energetic. He wanted to move up to the Galeel, join a nice community like Kiriat Shmona. Maybe find a wife. No, he hadn't taught English before; he was a sport teacher, but he could carry on a conversation in English. Perfect, I thought: all those energetic weak kids will love him. He's cool, fast, not- Ashkenazi (Yemenite actually); He'll understand them, motivate them and get them rolling even if he doesn't have the most academic background.
Uri stayed at our house for two days. I walked him through the textbooks: Gabby and Debby, Scooter man, Communicating; showed him how to plan a lesson; gave him the teachings of Krashen (whose theories of language acquisition were quite hot then) while standing on one foot. Finally, I drove him to the Ulpanit to give his sample lesson. As we approached the school, beads of sweat dotted his brow. His breathing became heavy. He asked me to pull over for a second, then, opening the door, he muttered, ' I can't go through with this;' jumped out, and was never seen again. This really happened.
There were many others who signed on for a year and just couldn't hack it. They just could not handle a class or had no idea what to do with a class once they handled it. The dyslexic cyclist who is now a great success in China. The frenetic young woman, considered a great prize locally in the elementary schools, who packed eight activities, two games and a chant into one demo lesson, but could not say one sentence without a grammar error and could not pronounce 'the' correctly. The poor pupils begged us not to hire her. The unfortunate soul who had been fired from her previous job, but managed to get pregnant first, so she had to get a salary, so they gave her to us for free. Unwilling to place her before a whole class, we asked her to tidy the English room. She eagerly went to work, making labels for each cupboard and shelf. Hmm… How do you say àøåï öéåã in English? She went to her dictionary; the next day we saw the cupboard decorated with the caption:
--The middle aged Oleh Hadash who had such charm and charisma; We invited him and his wife, new to the town, to a cookout; just as they arrived I got a call from the teacher he listed as a reference: "Mike Silvers? Do I recommend him? If I ever meet him again I'll beat the living hell out of him!"
-- The teacher who spent his time trying to be a humorist instead of preparing for class and was accused anonymously of attacking pupils. Hey! Who wrote this? That's me.
As always, there is one story that takes the prize.
Jalicia Krugellhorn was not what you'd expect from the sound of her name, but, on the other hand, what would you expect? An unimpressive young woman with covered hair dressed very chastely, ready to try whatever classes we would give her, armed with pluck and rudimentary Hebrew. She had a fresh Israeli husband in tow, a jerk of all trades who was trying to get by doing electrical work. Well, she got through the year without casualties on either side, although our house still suffers from the highly original wiring he did when we tried to put some work their way. After that year they vanished entirely, leaving me with the original "Amelia Bedelia" book which I cherish to this day.
(If you've never read it, take a look: )
What we discovered much later was--
[ This is a great story, but it's out of line -- even for this column. If you want to know what we discovered about this couple, you'll have to see me in person. Some things just shouldn't be put in print, as you never know who might read this stuff. In fact, teachers from my own team just discovered my ETNI column last week. So this summer, if it's peaceful, drop by for a visit. Maybe while you're here you'd like to look for a job in our school? ]
/ Barry Silverberg: June ... 007