I was a little bit nervous for my first day of volunteering on Sunday. Honestly, it’s intimidating not knowing the language that your students are speaking. I woke up bright and early feeling a little unsure of myself (what had I gotten myself into!)
Gladly, those fears were put to rest by the end of my first day at Irony Hey 🙂 I went to the high school with another participant, Josh, and we met with Leah, an English teacher at the school. Leah had us jump from classroom to classroom, tutoring students who were either struggling or too advanced for their classes.
My first tutoring session was with a girl named Isabella. She’s in 11th grade and has a hard time with forming sentences in English. Her speaking knowledge is very good, but when it comes time to put pen to paper she struggles a bit. In Hebrew, word order is jumbled around so instead of saying, “My green paper is on the floor over there” one might say “There on the floor the paper green of mine lying.” (Ivrit doesn’t have the verb “to be”…very convenient for those learning Hebrew, not so convenient for Hebrew-speakers learning English). Needless to say, it can be really challenging for non-English speakers to rework sentences.
I worked with Isabella on a worksheet for about an hour and a half. We read a story together and then tried to answer comprehension questions about the reading. It was a little goofy–almost like charades. I acted out words like dog, ice-skate, and dinosaur. Picture me being a dinosaur. You can probably imagine how ridiculous I looked.
But by the end of our session she seemed to have a slightly better understanding of how to reform sentences and use the verb “to be.” Any progress is good!
The next hour I spent in a classroom of advanced students. They had a verbal presentation due the next day so I sat with a group of 4 students and they practiced in front of me. That took about a half-hour so we spent the next few minutes talking about their lives. Any speaking practice is worthwhile! Two of the students, Oriel and Daniel speak Russian at home, Hebrew in general society, and English in class. That, my friends, is impressive. I have great respect for these kids because that is not easy.
For the remainder of the day I hopped in and out of classrooms, helping where I was needed.
After Irony Hey I had a small break and then I went to the Shapira Community Center. At the center, I worked through different homework assignments with a group of 3 girls. Again, a lot of charades and a lot of drawings/symbols but we managed to get through it. After they had finished their homework assignments there was still a little time left so they asked if they could make a diagram of my life.
A what? I thought they had mistranslated/I had misheard, but no they literally wanted to write things down about my life. So for the next 30 minutes they asked me questions and I answered them in English. Then they had to convert the answer from the “I” form to the “He/She” form. For example, if I said “I have a brother,” they would have to write “she has a brother.” I made a diagram for each of them as well and we had fun going back/forth asking questions. At the end of the day I saw them walking home and they all waved goodbye with huge grins on their faces. I love it!
Overall, I had an amazing day of volunteering–I’m so happy that I get to do this for the next 4 months. I’ve already made good connections with the students and I’m hoping that this continues through the end of the school year.
A few observations so far?
1) Like I said before, each of the kids speak 2 if not 3 languages. It’s incredible! The children that I work with have parents that recently immigrated to Israel (usually from places like Russia, Uzbekistan, etc). As a result, almost all of them speak more than one language (besides English). Isabella speaks Russian and Hebrew. I already mentioned the boys in the advanced class, and another student I tutored speaks Arabic at home. They were all more than willing to talk about their interests, lives in Tel Aviv, etc. Not only is it great practice in English, but I also feel like I know the students a little bit better now.
2) They are all kind of obsessed with the fact that I’m from America. They have so so many questions about where I’m from, what I eat, what I do in America. Have I ever met a celebrity?! How old am I? Did I serve in the army? Am I a student? Have I ever been to California?? Do I like the LA Lakers? Do I own a cowboy hat? Have I been to New York City? The questions are endless! However, their current fascination with all-things America is serving me well because they are all extremely well-behaved. I’m sure the novelty of me being American will soon wear off, but for now it’s keeping them in line and it’s a source of conversational English practice (always good!)
3) The school is total “balagan.” Kids pull each other’s hair, call each other terrible things, and destroy school property. I witnessed a senior punch out a glass window and then run away, his teacher not even attempting to stop him. I’ve been warned that Israeli schools, particularly in this area, are not the greatest. I suspect I’ll see more of this in the future, which will certainly be “me-anyen” (interesting). Oh well, just gotta go with the flow!
Mondays and Tuesdays here are study days so I’ve been in Ulpan/History classes for the past 2 days. Today we had a really interesting lecture about diversity in Israel. This time it was extremely objective and not at all biased (very refreshing!). It was taught by a linguist and therefore we looked at things from a language point-of-view. There are over 70 unique languages spoken in this country on a daily basis. Considering Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey, that’s not a small number! It was very informative 🙂
We then went on a tour of the Shapira neighborhood, which was fun, but I was freezing my toucas off. Glad to be back at the Guri house!
Okay, so I realize that this is a picture-less post (booooorrrriiinnngggg) so I’ll add some images from the past few days.
This is what my beach runs/bike rides look like!
Last Friday, we all went to the beach and had an awesome time in the sand.
This is what the average night looks like at Guri house:
I often refer to myself as a “re’eva re’eva hippo” when I’m hungry (it translates to hungry hungry hippo). In fact, this is probably the Hebrew phrase that I use most often. So when my friend Josh found this little nugget in the supermarket, he had to splurge.
Pretty damn delicious too.
Well, that’s all for now. This weekend we’re going on an overnight camping trip to Ramon Crater, which should be fun. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a Bedouin tent!