mardi, juillet 05, 2005

two sparks I hope will change the world

If we can change the education system, we can change the world...
I believe that with all my heart...
and some day I hope to live it with all my heart. I almost cried over the second article listed below. It's the kind of thing I see in Jewish schools everywhere.. this shtuss.. where the students think they can bargain with the teachrs.. chutzpah that is in the wrong place.. and really partly because the parents are letting the school parrent but the school isn't able to parent the kids. More and more we see this... not just in Jewish schools, in public schools, in schools all over... and the tide must turn. This method is creating more and more kids who are depressed, suicidal, who act out and bully others... kids need love and boundaries... adults do, too.

Someone asked me once about G-d's love and freedom... how is it the Jews were taken out of Egypt to freedom.. to serve G-d... Isn't the service of G-d another slavery, she asked me. The most amazing thing, I thought, is that the laws are a sign of G-d's love.. just like a parent who teaches his child with limits ... a life without limits is a life without love ...

In very very simplistic terms it goes a bit like this... If you love yourself you will put limits on how much you give to others. If you love others you will put limits on how much you take and push. If you learn to love yourself and others than you learn to live free. because you have learned to be strong for yourself. You have learned to break the confines that bind you to not-loving yourself or others... and this is freedom, becuase when you love the world easily, you find doors open up within. To love yourself and to love others, requires some bottomline discipline.

meow, so saith the Cat.
We shall fight garbage on the beaches
By Yuval Azoulay

the articles are pasted int he comments section.. click on the comments to read them.
Stand and Deliver
By Vered Levy-Barzilai


Blogger Meowmix Chatul said...

We shall fight garbage on the beaches
By Yuval Azoulay

The hundreds of members of the paratroopers' elite reserve battalion are used to leading complex military operations. They are called up for exercises or operational activities, for one month every year, sometimes for even longer. According to the battalion commander, there is a 100 percent attendance rate.

The attendance rate was similarly high last Friday, when the reservists were called up for an unusual operation: to do the almost impossible and clean up the filth that had accumulated over time on the Palmahim beach, in the section that is not a designated swimming area.

And how does the battalion clean the beach? The way only a battalion knows how to: coordinating endlessly, creating timetables and setting up a forward command post and primarily, with a lot of esprit de corps. As is always the case in the Israel Defense Forces, last Friday the soldiers talked about values and willpower. Not a word about disengagement, checkpoints or Palestinians.

Accompanying the soldiers who deployed along a 1.5-kilometer stretch of filthy beach were their wives and children, along to help. In total, some 350 men, women and children showed up. By the afternoon, there was a gleaming beach and a truck loaded with garbage-filled bags. "It was a military operation in every sense," says the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel (res.) Dovev Levinson. "We set up a dining hall and a lifeguard hut, fenced off the area of operation and we didn't leave until the entire beach was totally clean. We moved among the bathers there and picked up garbage strewn around those who were getting a tan. What didn't we find there? We found rusty cans and even diapers."

"Suddenly we discovered that there's real sand there," said a member of the battalion, Yisrael Shmilowitz, 47, who came with his wife and three kids. "What we found there in the morning was a huge catastrophe and by the afternoon everything was very different."

Some of the the battalion's soldiers took part last year in a similar, yet very different mission - they adopted students from a Ramle high school who had dropped out of all other educational frameworks.

The adoption program consisted of a series of guidance sessions, joint trips, talks about values and heritage and mostly, activities intended to instill willpower in the youths, who not only feel alienated from normal society, but also see little chance that they will one day serve in uniform.

"The idea is to instill values in these kids and also expose them to the military system and hope that one day at least some of them will be ready to enlist in the IDF and be part of the fighting experience. If we succeed in that, we did our part," says Levinson.

As part of the project, the students are taken to a large-scale exercise conducted in the Tze'elim base in the Negev. "They sat with binoculars and observed an exercise with live fire. They returned to school infused with motivation and optimism," Levinson relates. "We're achieving two important objectives here. In addition to the contribution to the community, something important in and of itself that is gaining momentum in many organizations, there is the social impact on the battalion. It only helps the bonding between our soldiers and perhaps that explains the family-like atmosphere in this battalion."

mardi, juillet 05, 2005 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger Meowmix Chatul said...

Stand and Deliver
By Vered Levy-Barzilai

Walking around the Lady Davis High School with Eitan Stolar is like taking a trip back in time. "Teacher, teacher - did I pass?," boys and girls run after him. He gives them a reproachful look: Haven't you noticed that I'm busy right now? That I'm in the middle of a conversation? Amazingly, they instantly clam up. They continue to follow him in silence, waiting for the next window of opportunity. When he enters the classroom, they all stand up at once and remain standing until he sits down.

Most of the students live near the Lady Davis Amal High School in the Afeka district of north Tel Aviv. But one of them is quick to point out that they're not the "nerdy northerner" types. Not at all. These are 10th-graders from what's known around here as the "problematic 10th-grade class." Bleached hair, tattooed arms and legs, earrings and piercings in their eyebrows, noses, belly buttons and tongues. The words that roll off these tongues when "Teacher" isn't around are better left out of print. The teacher agrees that they are a "pretty problematic" class, but emphasizes that there are also good kids and good students among them.

Eitan Stoler, their teacher for history and civics, is a rising star in the Tel Aviv school system. A year ago, he was named the best teacher in the city in a survey of Tel Aviv high school students conducted by the weekly Ha'ir. His students gave him a grade of 100. He is 30, has been teaching for eight years and hundreds of his students and former students are already wandering among us.


Stoler is a nonstop teaching machine. In the year since winning the Best Teacher title, he has been fairly busy: He taught history and civics full-time to grades 10 through 12; he taught in the afternoons and evenings in an external studies program and prepared hundreds of high-school dropouts for the matriculation exams; he completed his final year of law school (including certification) at the Sha'arei Mishpat College in Hod Hasharon; he and his wife Michal became the parents of identical twins, Liam and Tamir, now 10 months old and brothers to 3-year-old Eli; and he also put together a plan to eradicate the violence in the schools.

Teaching is a burning passion for him; he says there's nothing he loves to do more. "But one has to be practical, too," he says. "I have a family to support. My net salary from the Ministry of Education is about NIS 4,500. You can't live off that."

Despite his young age, he has a solid educational philosophy that he has already written and lectured about on several occasions. And all of his students and former students can recite it with their eyes closed. But the connection between it and the violence in the schools only struck him a little while ago in the middle of the night. "Like everyone else, I see the deterioration and the spread of violence among children in Israel and I'm very concerned," he says.

"I also follow all the solutions that are proposed. It was clear to me that something was being missed here, but I couldn't put my finger on it exactly. Then it suddenly dawned on me: What was discussed up to now had to do with organizational ideas, with grandiose revolutions on the structural level. Not on the basic, interpersonal, teacher-student level."

Enlightenment and inspiration struck a few weeks ago. Then he sat down and composed his paper. This past Sunday he sent it to Education Minister Limor Livnat. The minister ought to have an extra interest in his plan: Stoler also happens to be the teacher of her daughter, Shir. "The Stoler Plan," he calls it. What does he propose? "Briefly speaking, maximum caring and maximum toughness."

Minister Livnat responded that she has only had time to take a quick look at the document that Stoler sent to her the day before. "In all that pertains to restoring discipline to the system, his direction is very correct," says Livnat. "The spirit of what he says sounds good to me and fits in very well with the things we are working on right now." Livnat is referring to the implementation of the first stage of the reform in the school system recommended by the Dovrat Commission in January. And this is where the Dovrat spirit intersects with the Stoler spirit: Livnat has instructed school principals to hold a discussion about and make a decision on three things: standing when the teacher enters the classroom; a uniform for students; and instilling a respectful form of address for teachers. Livnat also wants to strengthen the teacher's authority and status.

As Shir's mother, Livnat said she had heard words of praise for her daughter's teacher, Eitan Stoler, several times - precisely because of his strange rules and sanctions and strictness when it comes to discipline and the fact that he never gives in. Livnat says she was surprised to hear from her daughter that she and her friends think that "Eitan is 100 percent right in his tough approach with us and in everything that he does, including making us stand up when the teacher comes in."

Now she plans to read over Stoler's plan very carefully, pass it on to professionals in the ministry and invite the author to a meeting with them.

Singapore laws

Stoler's plan is intended for middle schools and high schools. It comprises five principles (see box), regarding the image of the future teacher, the necessary conditions for maintaining an atmosphere of learning in the classroom, the institution of a carrot-and-stick method of rewards and punishments, keeping parents away from the school system and a system for eradicating violence. The class is run according to 10 rules that he calls "Singapore laws" - violations of which are punished. No violation should pass without a reaction. In every school, one "scary person" should be appointed, who will be responsible for discipline and be given broad authority. A metal detector must be installed at the entrance to the school to ensure that no knives are brought in. Violent students are to be suspended immediately, and if necessary, expelled from school. In cases of physical harm done to people or property, and of drug problems, the police should be called. Students who have been suspended or expelled from school because of violence will not be able to get a driver's license at the regular time and will not be able to serve in combat units.

It sounds frightening, even a little fascist.

Stoler: "Very good. I have no problem with that."

So maybe you're really the `Scary Guy'?

"That's fine, too. My message is simple: The party's over. School isn't summer camp. The school system in Israel is bankrupt. The time has come for someone to say: Enough. This is as far as it goes. Under these conditions and in this kind of atmosphere, it's impossible to have an acceptable relationship between students and teachers, parents and principals. And it certainly isn't possible to learn."

So what are we talking about here, students or criminals?

"About the children of Israel. About kids from fourth and fifth grade who cut off the nipple of a girl in first grade; about girls who stubbed out cigarettes on their friend; about poor Ma'ayan Sapir who was murdered; about a boy who got beat up by his classmates and was in the hospital for months; about teenagers who raped and sexually abused one of their classmates. This is what's happening around us, among us, everywhere. This is what we've come to. This is where we are today."

So what do you want to be - the Rudolph Giuliani of the school system?

"Why not? If I could, I'd appoint a Giuliani type to head every government ministry and the whole public sector. Then maybe the corruption would diminish and the country would look different. My plan, as you've read, includes one Giuliani type in every school. By the way, this exists in many high schools in the United States. A person before whom the students quake and from whom nothing is hidden. He notices if they ostracize, humiliate or abuse a child. He sees who's going around with bloodshot eyes that could indicate drug use. He sees everyone who tries to blow off school, run away or do something bad. And it works. I checked."

Stoler says that violence doesn't start with knives and pocketknives. That's where it ends. If you want to eradicate violence while it's still in its infancy, you have to take action when it first appears - in hotheaded talk, in filth and garbage in the classroom and schoolyard, in ceaseless noise, in yelling and cursing, in disrespect for others, in inappropriate dress. If you create a civilized atmosphere in the classroom, he says, the violence will fade. At first it might only be superficial, but gradually the students will internalize the difference.

Why is there so much violence? What's happening to kids and teens? What do you think is behind this craziness?

"A big mystery, huh? Actually, I think there's nothing simpler: It's the big lie and the great hypocrisy of parents. We're creating hollow children these days. They're growing up in a moral vacuum and there's no one and nothing to fill it. We're to blame for the situation. We created it with our own hands. And the higher the economic class, the worse the problem is.

"The only compensation offered a child today is the credit card. The parents are working. They're terribly busy. They have no time. They don't see the child from up close. He doesn't get genuine attention. Money as a substitute for love - that's the `solution.' And then they're shocked: How did they produce such a wild child? Why did he beat up and hurt a friend? Why does he have a pierced tongue and belly button? Why does he do drugs? What is it with these kids, they ask themselves. What do they want?"

Their parents?

"Yes, exactly. That's what they want. Just like they needed them when they were little, they still need their affection and attention. Just as much. Even more, in fact. In adolescence, they need guidance, well-defined limits and attention more than ever. But they don't get it."

So what should be done?

"My approach won't be popular. And certainly not politically correct. I know what kind of reaction it will get and how it will look. But this is my view. It's impossible to solve all the problems in the world. I can't change the fact that kids are growing up without parents who educate them. I can't change their frustration. I can't fill the void or the chaos that's waiting for them at home. And I'm also not very interested in sending them to psychologists where they'll sit and talk about it.

"I want to offer them an alternative in school. Here the child will get focused attention. Here chaos will not reign. Here I will teach them important life skills. Here the children will understand what a framework is, what it means to give and to receive. What duties and privileges are. I'll invest all my heart and soul and caring in them. I'll be tough and not give them breaks or make concessions to them, and I'll hope that gradually the pendulum will swing in our direction. And what they take from here will also seep into their home life. Secular education in Israel is bankrupt. It has no moral value system that can stand as a model for the children. That's why they get lost."

Compared to what - religious education?

"Certainly. There, they have ethical education. There they don't raise hollow kids. There the kids grow with the values that are imparted to them: reward and punishment, duties and privileges, country, army, giving to others, love of mankind, helping a friend, being a human being - a mensch. The good old Jewish values."

I know secular schools that have an ethical and moral doctrine. They don't teach the values that you focus on and their philosophy is different from yours. But they're just as value-based.

"You must be referring to all the various democratic schools. What values exactly do they have there?"

Love of your fellow man. Friendship. Love of nature and all living things. Self-awareness. Self-expression. Creativity. Tolerance. Listening. Equality. Peace.

"Well, I hear other things, too. I've had students who came to me from democratic schools. They said that it's like one big summer camp and that they didn't learn anything. Nothing. They got totally lost."

And with your system, kids don't get lost? It's right for everyone?

"You're right. It's not for everyone. But it is for the vast majority. So there are some good and successful democratic schools? They should be congratulated. Educate each child in the way that's right for him or her. If they're really teaching and also imparting good values, then let them do it their way. Why not?"

And you don't lose students along the way who are turned off or threatened by your style?

"Here and there I had students who had a problem with me, who were frightened of me and of my style - girls mostly. I talked to them and showed them that part of this is for show, that I'm not really so terrible. I made them laugh and they relaxed."

Stoler says that he has never permanently expelled a student from school, but he has often had to impose a temporary suspension, with a return to class contingent upon the execution of many tasks and the student apologizing before the whole class.

Dad sets a limit

Stoler is a product of the religious school system. He was born in Montreal, when his father was working in Canada for the Jewish Agency, and attended a private religious school there. At age 10, he came with his parents to Israel, to the Bat Galim neighborhood in Haifa, and attended a school that was part of the state religious education system. His parents both worked in teaching for many years, but his main role model was his father's uncle, Rabbi Yeshayahu Nagar, who was a teacher for 60 years and only recently retired.

The Stoler household was religious but his father, he says, was a pluralist who let each of his children choose his own way. As a youth, Stoler kept kosher and mostly observed Shabbat, but he would go out surfing with friends every Saturday. When he was 16, his father gave him a task that he refused to perform. Consequently, he was forbidden to leave the house for a week. Stoler rebelled. In the evening, he climbed out the window and ran off with friends. When his father heard about it, he said he couldn't come back home until he apologized, explained why he did it and promised that it would never happen again.

Stoler took a sleeping bag and went to live in the building's shelter. His mother brought him food there. This went on for a while. His mother pleaded, the boy was exhausted, but his father didn't give in. One day, the boy came upstairs and asked for forgiveness. "It was the biggest lesson of my life," he says. "My father set a limit and for that, I'm grateful to him to this day. That's the way a real parent, a real educator, acts. Without psychologists and all the stuff that goes on today. It was just him and me and what was between us."

Today he defines himself as traditional. He will only enroll his children in the religious school system. "I see boys and girls aged 12, 13, 14 wandering around the streets on weekends in the middle of the night and I ask myself, Where are their parents? What do 13-year-old girls have to do outside the house at one in the morning? And then people are so shocked when all these terrible things happen.

"If it were up to me, I'd make a curfew law for kids at certain ages, so they just couldn't be outside of their homes, so that if they're caught wandering around, their parents will be punished. A law like that would reduce the crime and the tragedies by far. I'm sure that this sounds fascist, too. But it exists in some cities in certain areas, like in Chicago, for instance."

Stoler is convinced that setting clear and firm limits is the key. "But you can't forget the other half of the formula," he insists. "The caring, love and dedication. Without that, we haven't done anything. Because then we'll get schools like we used to have, where there was discipline and order and strictness and the kids were scared to death of the principal, but there was no soul. Students were numbers. Peons. They memorized and memorized and didn't enjoy learning. Things really work when you put the two parts together: toughness with caring. Love with limits."

It really works?

"Just ask the students."

The Jewish way

Almog Boba, from Tel Aviv, is currently finishing his army service in the Givati brigade. Stoler was his teacher. Asked if Stoler's educational doctrine enriched him, he laughs. "Enriched? Are you kidding? He taught me most of what I know. It's thanks to him that I got a matriculation. It's thanks to him that I got into Givati. I was a wild kid, only looking to cause trouble. He set me straight."


"He's young, he has a head like ours. He went on bicycle trips with us. On the annual field trip, he woke us up by squirting water on our heads, while he was singing songs in French at the top of his lungs. He's someone you can talk with about anything. He gave me books and told me to read. I once addressed him as `Eitan' by mistake and right away I was given an assignment to make up for it, to summarize a program on foreign affairs. To this day, I can't think of him by any name other than `Teacher.'"

Netanel Boaron, a student in the "problematic" 10th-grade class at Lady Davis, could not stand Stoler in the beginning. "We said, Oh, no - look how unlucky we are. With all of his shtick - having to stand up and address him as `Teacher.' We were really upset about it. But then we got used to it. I was the first one he picked on. At the end of the first lesson, I said to him - `Teacher, you don't have to give us homework the first day.' Right away he sent me to the library to write a paper on the subject of `Why silence is golden.' I was in shock. I was stuck there for hours. God, how I hated him. Now I think that he was the best teacher I ever had. And I'm not the only one who feels that way."

Why? What's the secret?

"I don't know, but as soon as he comes in, the atmosphere changes. I always failed in history before and I hated it. Now I have an 85 average. And I'm really enjoying it. I don't know, he has all kinds of tricks. He teaches in the form of a play. He teaches us ways to remember the material with abbreviations. He has all kinds of ways. Once I called him at home at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night to ask him something. He wasn't angry. He spent a half hour on the phone explaining everything to me. He's a great teacher."

Last Thursday, as Stoler was leaving the school, boys and girls crowded around him, not letting him go. One 12th-grade girl heard that an article was being written about him and came up to the reporter of her own accord: "He was my teacher and there's no one like him. He has no competition. What I'll remember from this high school is him and what he gave me. And I was always known for hating school more than anyone."

Her friend joined in the conversation: "We suffered plenty here," she confided in a world-weary tone. "But it was all worth it just to get one teacher like him." Do they think that other teachers can be taught to use Stoler's method? Is it what he does, or is it simply who he is? The girls answer in unison: "It's not something you can teach. It's who he is."

The renowned Indian educational philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote: "One of the irresolvable questions that poses a challenge to educators throughout the world is that of freedom and order: How can children, students, grow up in freedom and at the same time develop a deep sense of inner order? Order is the root of freedom ... The years that the student spends in school must leave behind ease and pleasure. This is only possible when there is no competition, no authority, when teaching and learning are a simultaneous process, when the teacher and the student are both participating in the activity of learning." What does this say about Eitan Stoler?

"I prefer the Jewish way to the Indian way. The way of the Jewish sages. And they said, `Teach each child according to his way.' In other words, be flexible, listen, be creative, don't get stuck in paradigms, find the way to your student's heart. As for the matter of freedom and order - it's an apparent contradiction that really doesn't exist. It's all a matter of proportion. The teacher grants freedom within certain limits. There's always a game going on between order and freedom. Freedom and discipline are both placed on the scale, and the big secret is the formula - how much of each thing. That's all."

mardi, juillet 05, 2005 6:31:00 PM  

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