Katie and I got off the bus at 8:55am (an 18 minute ride that would be a very fast bike ride) and we walked up to the gate of our school. Renanim is an elementary school, grades 1-6, and has about 560 students. As we approached, the security guard greeted us in English, and unlocked the gate.
That’s when Katie and I were greeted by four uber excited children, all holding a handmade “Welcom to Renanim” sign. Yes, the “e” was missing. It made it way better. We were caught totally off-guard, and instantly melted.
The kids led us up to the fifth grade classroom, where 29 more students had clearly been eagerly watching the door. They all lept to their feet when we entered, and again we were loudly welcomed. Our host teacher, Rachel, had us introduce ourselves, then presented us with seats in the back of the classroom to observe.
We studied her teaching methods, the materials they had, the students’ behavior, and the environment of the classroom. It was certainly a crowded space, especially with the children’s extra excited energy, but Rachel continued the class session with a fair amount of control.
Perhaps one of the most important things I noticed were the multiple cut-outs of Garfield the cat stuck to the walls the classroom. They put the Garfield wearing a backwards hat and overalls under the portrait of Israel’s President (I made a note take a photo on a less crazy day).
We met a few other teachers, and Rachel had us meet with the principal, Ilana, as well. Rachel has such respect and confidence in Ilana – she made it clear that any ideas we had about projects we wanted to do, or any equipment we needed, Ilana would find a way to make it possible. Rachel had some ideas as well that she was very excited to share, and it got Katie and me very excited and brainstorming on the way home.
One thing that really struck me was Rachel’s emphasis on having consistent attendance. “Once you start to work with these kids,” she warned, “they really come to depend on you being here. If there is a day that they are expecting you to come in, and you do not show up, it is devastating for them.” I had never planned to miss days without prior notice (or unless I fall suddenly ill), but I am very glad she made this point. It really made me realize what kind of an impact we can have, not just as English teachers, but as involved and supportive role models and mentors.
Tomorrow, we go again for more observation, and I hope we will have the chance to interact more with the kids. They all were so happy to see us, and I’m eager to start getting to know them.