I have now been studying in Israel for over a month, and it still feels like I only just arrived. Occasionally, the truth will hit me and something will remind me of home...a world where Jerusalem is NOT an hour away from campus and where reading bus signs and buying groceries isn't a linguistic challenge. Nearly five weeks ago I began ulpan (an intensive Hebrew language course) with absolutely no knowledge of the language, and it amazes me how I have transformed. I find myself scribbling away, using characters that were once merely a curiosity rather than an effective form of written communication. I open book covers from left to right and write from right to left. This is now MY world.
Linguistically, I have discovered that I would rather know the nuances of English grammar implicitly, even if I must teach grammar explicitly. I have learned that I do, in fact, know how to do research...making the 3.5 hour required research methods course less than thrilling. Most of all, my experiences here have confirmed that I have truly been taught by the best and that I am incredibly fortunate to have the foundational knowledge and experience that I have in education (I have also discovered that I am extremely possessive of this knowledge).
So far from home, it's difficult not to search for meaning and purpose in my experiences and presence here. There is one course, The Israeli Educational Context, that has helped me find this among the slew of introductory courses required during summer term. It has given me a glimpse of my future in this program, and after one short meeting with my professor I realized what has been missing...a classroom.
I will begin teaching in October and will be working with a "particularly difficult" group of junior high students at a religious boarding school outside of Tel Aviv. I will be teaching a subject I have never taught before, in a foreign country, with limited knowledge of my students' native language(s), as a non-Jew in a religious Jewish boarding school...who needs to shop for "teacher clothes" suitable for such an environment (no pants, long skirts or dresses, high necklines, and longer sleeves). What a cultural experience! :)