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Chance to tutor English does make a difference

Two years ago, after 43 years as a teacher and administrator from pre-school through high school in American public, private as well as international schools abroad, I decided to both retire and to make aliyah.

The first few months without a determined schedule were both exhilarating and filled with ups and downs as I tried to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. My life has been blessed and I wanted to give back for all the support and kindness I had received over my career. Still healthy and having a wonderful and supportive spouse, volunteering my time to working with kids and making a contribution to the community seemed like the direction to go.

A limited Hebrew speaker, I knew that whatever I volunteered for would have to be primarily in English. As luck would have it, the ESRA Herzliya office is directly behind my house. Knowing that ESRA had volunteering opportunities, I contacted their office.

The English Volunteer Tutoring program quickly came to the forefront of possible opportunities.

Within the framework of this ESRA project, volunteers assist pupils prepare for their oral Bagrut exams and also tutor those in lower grades who need supervised assistance with their English studies. The volunteers do not have to be teachers or even have teaching experience but work according to guidelines given them by teachers in the schools. Participating schools, English teachers and inspectors of the Ministry of Education highly appreciate and value the contribution made by the ESRA volunteers. For me, this was a great opportunity to get back into a school and work with students as well as supporting the development of English language skills in Israel.

I had become familiar with the EETP on a personal level as a volunteer in a high school in Raanana. I met weekly with Israeli students who were studying English and who were preparing for their Bagrut exam in English. Working with the kids was wonderful as we engaged in one-on-one conversation in English that looked to address the type of questions they might face from their examiner for the oral English exam. I went in for an hour a week and met one-on-one with 3 or 4 kids for 15 minutes each. Because it was non-threatening (I was not testing or examining them), the kids were relaxed, open, and very willing and eager to take part in the conversations. We talked about their families, goals, pets, music, movies and games they liked, friends, what they did in their free time, travels, school, and of course, about their Bagrut projects. They had to develop a research question, do the research and write a paper in English, and then orally explain in English to an examiner what they had done and what they learned. The weekly meeting with the kids was the high point of my week. I very much looked forward to seeing them each week and I believe they felt the same way. I could see their confidence grow over the weeks.

Experiencing the power of the project, I wanted to do more. Having the opportunity and the pleasure to meet with Lola Katz and Juliet Rostowsky, the ESRA Volunteer Coordinators, I found out how extensive the program is in Israel. The ESRA English Tutoring Program has been of invaluable assistance to both teachers and students in promoting English language instruction in Israeli schools. In fact, the program has become one of the most important volunteer projects that ESRA has implemented. Over the past ten years, the program has grown and expanded to the point where 120 ESRA volunteers are assisting and supporting English teachers and thousands of students in their acquisition of English in schools throughout Israel. Currently, there are 17 regional areas involved, from Nahariya through Tel Aviv and Rehovot, Modiin, and Jerusalem.

Because of my background in K-12 Education, I was asked to take on the role of Coordinator of the ESRA Volunteer English Tutoring program and work with Lola, Juliet, and the Regional Volunteer Coordinators. Working together, we are looking to support and expand the program and will be contacting municipalities and schools that are not currently in the program. From our meetings with Regional Coordinators and Ministry of Education personnel, we know the program is making a difference in the support and furthering of English language skills in Israeli schools.

The program's strength and success is due to the involvement of its volunteers. To continue and to grow we very much need volunteers. No experience in education is necessary – just an open mind, and a desire to work with and support children in their learning English. We have volunteers working at all levels from early elementary to high school seniors.

For those who like to work with adults, we are considering developing a program for Israeli adults who would like to improve their English by speaking with a native English speaker.

You can make a difference and reap great personal satisfaction!

If you would like to get involved, please contact one of the Regional Coordinators – their names and numbers are listed on page 7 of this magazine. 

 

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Friday, 19 August 2022

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