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A Leap of Faith: How Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Changed My Life">A Leap of Faith: How Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Changed My Life

Posted June 3rd, 2015

 

By Jennifer Blitz, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Petach Tikvah alumna

 

 

If it wasn’t for a doting mother looking for a pair of board shorts for her son, the extent of my Hebrew knowledge might still be “Shalom.”

 

Having just earned my master’s degree in childhood education I spent the summer of 2013 applying for a myriad of teaching positions in New York City. My daily sense of panic in regards to my future was at an all-time high and I took a part time job at a surf shop to keep myself afloat during my job hunt.

 

“Let me know if I can help you with anything,” I said to a customer who didn’t quite fit the mold of our typical clientele. She explained that she was looking for a pair of drawstring board shorts for her son.

 

We got to talking and, as it turned out, her son lived on a kibbutz in Israel. I was intrigued and shared that in just two weeks, I would be in Israel for the first time on my Birthright trip. I proceeded to divulge that I hadn’t landed my dream job just yet and that I was starting to sweat.

 

She then asked me if I had looked into Masa Israel Journey. My new best friend explained that her son was on a Masa Israel program and that the organization provided hundreds of opportunities for young Jewish people to live and work in Israel.

 

After we said our goodbyes, I immediately opened my laptop and began researching Masa Israel. To my delight, I discovered the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. I always wanted to teach abroad and I was curious about getting in better touch with my roots.

 

Before Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, Israel was this place that lived inside of my television, on the headlines of the news and occasionally in the titles of books I saw my father reading. Now, Israel is so personal to me. The amazing experience of living in the Jewish state has added new dimensions to my identity and has opened the doors to a beautiful community of people both abroad and at home.

 

I truly could go on and on about all the memorable experiences I had during my ten months in Israel. Some highlights include camping along the banks of the Kinneret, hiking the Mitzpe Ramon Crater, marveling at the wonder of the Old City, exploring the Jaffa flee market on Friday afternoons, tracking down the country’s best hummus, spending day on the beach in Tel Aviv, biking in the Hula Valley, taking part in an archaeological dig, soaking in the minerals of the Dead Sea, and so much more.

 

My work life was pretty great as well. My school was welcoming and homey and so incredibly laid back compared to the high intensity, high stress, and high discipline New York City schools I was used to. I mostly taught small groups and saw myself as the lead member of the English language hype squad in which my main mission was to make learning fun, and to talk about Justin Bieber and Beyoncé as much as possible. The kids were curious and engaged in learning; they were so loving and sweet… most of the time.

 

Teaching English in Israel wasn’t without its stresses and frustrations. In the end though, it was awesome and, knowing what I know now, my best advice is to have fun. If you’ve made a child smile, disguised learning English as the coolest thing ever, and possibly taught some actual English, you’ve done your job.

 

I am currently an elementary science teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn. While teaching English in small groups was a much different challenge, I feel like my experience as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow better prepared me for my future career in a few ways. For one, it was a wonderful resume builder and made a positive impression on prospective employers. Throughout the interview process, I felt like the story of doing something out of my comfort zone and sticking to it despite the difficulties was really well received. Living and teaching in a foreign country was quite tough at times, not unlike most new jobs and experiences. It’s an adjustment and Masa Israel Teaching Fellows truly did improve my ability to make those adjustments with a little more style and grace.

 

Now that I’m back in New York, I’m continuing to explore where I fit in this incredible community. Whether it’s going to Masa Israel alumni events, Shabbat services for young Jewish professionals, or seeing The Idan Raichel Project at the Beacon Theater, I’ve been open to trying new things that I would have otherwise never considered. My Masa Israel experience opened up my world in a big way and it’s exciting to think that the journey is far from over.

 

 

Want to experience Israel like Jennifer did? Apply to become a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow Today!

 

A Lesson on Israeli Education">A Lesson on Israeli Education

Posted May 25th, 2015

 

By Danielle Meyers, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be’er Sheva

 

 

A handful of Israeli fifth graders file into a small room and choose their seats at one of the two-top tables in front of them.

 

I smile at them with a million dollar American smile. “Welcome to English class!” They shyly smile back, knowing they’ve been specially chosen to take part in my classroom activity. In about 30 seconds, I came to the realization that I had the honest and full attention of these adorable kids. They were hooked from the moment they heard me speak English.

 

Fascinated by all things pop culture and digital, the children I teach are overwhelmingly curious about anything involving English-isms. Questions of Ariana Grande, the IPhone 6 and Instagram flutter through the classroom as I try to draw order and start a productive lesson.

 

Although they are familiar with English pop culture, I am one of the first and only Americans that the students are introduced to at an early age. When saying this I can’t help but think, “so what?” It wasn’t like I had real French students coming to my middle school French class as I was trying to conjugate irregular verbs. But unlike American their small amount of exposure to a second language, Israelis start English class in the third grade and continue their studies until the end of high school.

 

So with English teachers already present in the schools, and from an early age for that matter, what’s my purpose as a teaching fellow? Where do I fit in to this language puzzle? I’m here to impart my native English knowledge on a group of students who may not feel motivated to learn in class or outside of school. Creating excitement around learning English, making it a reward to speak in English and spending quality time with Americans all contribute to something that the Israeli government finds invaluable in the education of young Israelis. And for the students that don’t get time in my class? They have a more individualized attention with their current English teacher, something that doesn’t happen often in a class of 35.

 

With programs like the one I am a part of existing throughout Israel, it’s hard to believe that the country has a serious education crisis. Although the country’s 75+ years has seen a large growth curve in economy and technology (thanks to Germany and Jews around the world), government spending and policy changes have left a struggling lower and middle class with a severe lack of education.

 

Education budgets have been slashed– public spending on primary education has fallen below the level of OECD countries – leaving Israel with low educational achievements relative to the developed world.

 

So why, at the same time budgets are supposedly decreasing, the government is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into programs for English speakers like me to come into the schools? Because English is king.

 

The thriving start ups that are so well known in Tel Aviv, the delegation of security issues and policy changes with other counties and the continuation of communication with Jews around the world are all successful in part because Israelis are able to communicate in English. If Israel has a future on the economic, political and technological stage, English must be at the forefront of second language education.

 

As I stand in front of my fifth graders, willing and eager to be a part of my life and soak in my culture, I feel tremendously responsible for their future. Maybe I’ll turn some of them from broken to fluent speakers, but most likely I won’t. The best thing that I can do is open them up to the world of English even more than they have done on their own. I can continue to expose them to concepts, cultures and ideas that may not be at their fingertips (although a surprising thought in today’s techno world). And if things get a little boring, I can just tune into some Ariana Grande and call it a day!

 

 

Originally published on Danielle’s blog.

 

From Baltimore to Rishon LeZion: A Masa Israel Teaching Fellow’s Journey">From Baltimore to Rishon LeZion: A Masa Israel Teaching Fellow’s Journey

Posted May 14th, 2015

 

“This teaching program offered me a chance to live abroad for an extended period of time, while giving back to those in need.”

 

 

Growing up in Baltimore, Blake Yospa, 26, felt connected to Judaism through the Reform synagogue where his mother worked and he attended Hebrew school. However, after his bar mitzvah, Blake grew less affiliated.

 

“Being part of a religious minority, I considered myself an outcast,” Blake explains.

 

However, that all changed in the winter of 2014, when Blake traveled to Israel for the first time with Birthright-Taglit Israel. “I honestly did not feel a connection to Israel or any Jewish community until I went on Birthright,” the Towson University alum remembers.

 

Blake extended his trip to stay with a friend from home who was living in Netanya as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow. During his stay in Netanya, Blake spent a day in school with his friend, and decided that he too wanted to come back to Israel and teach for a year. Dissatisfied with his career path and looking to make a difference, Blake had nothing holding him back; Masa Israel Teaching Fellows made sense at that point in his life. “This teaching program offered me a chance to live abroad for an extended period of time, while giving back to those in need,” Blake explains.

 

Now, over a year later, Blake lives in Rishon LeZion as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow. He teaches at a primary school in a mid-to-low socioeconomic neighborhood right outside of Rishon LeZion, where his students make him laugh and the faculty members are warm and welcoming. “I come to school with a smile on my face every day,” Blake says.

 

Outside of the classroom, Blake tutors some of his students, which allows for him to grow extremely close with both the children and their families. “I have developed such a close relationship with them that I’ve been invited over for the Pesach seder.” On top of the tutoring, Blake volunteers at a school running sports programs for the students. In his spare time, he explores Israel on organized tours with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, and on spontaneous adventures with his friends.

 

Today, after several months as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, Blake feels that his experience on the Masa Israel program has changed him in many ways. “After living here for almost seven months, I’m happy to associate myself with Israel and being Jewish,” Blake says. He also feels that this experience has been self-enriching and has helped him grow spiritually and mature as a person.

 

Blake’s transformational Israel experience was made possible through Masa Israel Journey’s close partnership with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and its Israel Engagement Center. “The core mission of The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center is to facilitate the creation of strong connections to Israel and Israelis with young adults in the Baltimore Jewish community,” explains Jill Max, Chair of The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center. “Through programs like Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, we enable participants to create and strengthen those important, meaningful connections.”

 

When Masa Israel Teaching Fellows ends in June, Blake plans to return to the States to pursue a career in the field in which he earned his degree, sports management. “I would love to get a job with my local JCC in the recreational sports department and then perhaps move to minor or professional sports,” Blake says. Still, Blake remains open to any interesting opportunity that comes his way, which is something he would have never said that two years ago.

 

 

Inspired by Blake’s story? Apply to become a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow Today!

 

MITF - Bina Merchavim

http://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/MITF%20Bina%20M%20Photo.jpg

Program Description

Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Bina is a program designed to close the achievement gap within Israel’s education system, as well as provide equal learning opportunities for both Jewish and Arab youth alike. 

 

On Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Bina you will spend 25-30 hours a week working as an English teaching assistant in a local elementary or middle school, whose educational systems traditionally lag behind those in better-off areas of Israel. Additionally, you will volunteer 5 hours a week outside the classroom, in an organization of your choosing within the community. Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Bina gives you the opportunity to work with many diverse populations of Israel. 

 

Through Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Bina you will get to participate in a 60 hour teacher-training course taught by Israel’s Ministry of Education, Ulpan (Hebrew learning) classes to help you learn the language and really immerse yourself into Israeli society, as well as weekly enrichment classes focused on co-existence and social justice.

 

Israel Teaching Fellows is highly subsidized by Israel’s Ministry of Education and Masa Israel allowing the cost of the program to only be $1,000 including living accommodations, flight-reimbursement, and a monthly stipend. 

 

Highlights

Our ITF Cities 
 
 
Rahat 
 
Rahat is the first and largest Bedouin city in Israel. The Arab Bedouin of the Negev are a traditionally nomadic people who have become mostly sedentarized in the last 100 years. Founded in the late '70s, Rahat is populated by more than 33 Bedouin tribes from the Negev desert region. Known as "the city of children" with 60% of its population under the age of 18 Rahat and the surrounding Bedouin villages are going through a period of change and modernization with the new generation asking what it means to be Bedouin in the 21st century. While Rahat is a modern city boasting a Bedouin market, bustling commercial center with restaurants and businesses and many mosques, it still retains a uniquely Bedouin feel. 
 
Just 15 minutes from Be'er Sheva, the capital of the Negev and 45 minutes by train from Tel Aviv, Rahat is located at the beginning of the Negev Desert with stunning nature and scenery surrounding it. Rahat is a culturally unique city with a warm and inviting community famous for their hospitality. This unique ITF program is partnered with the Bedouin-Jewish organization A New Dawn in the Negev, an organization dedicated to promoting equality, coexistence and peace among all residents of the Negev, as well as elevating educational standards. 
 
 
 
Nazareth 
 
As the largest Arab city in Israel, Nazareth has a deep history dating back thousands of years. Today, it is a vibrant center of Arab-Israeli life as well as a window into the authentic Middle Eastern spirit. As an ITF Fellow in Nazareth,you'll have the opportunity to explore this vibrant city and its rich history, while serving its population of Arab citizens of Israel. 
 
 
 
Migdal Ha’emek 
 
On the other hand, Migdal Ha’Emek is home to a variety of underserved Jewish populations, including recent immigrants from Ethiopia, the Former Soviet Union, North Africa and South America. The town was founded in the 1950s as a ma'abara–a settlement camp for the Middle Eastern and North African Jewish immigrants who poured into Israel shortly after Independence. As a town whose origins comprise of groups of people looking to build a new life in Israel, Migdal Ha’emek is faced with many societal challenges, which provides ITF fellows with a rewarding opportunity to make a difference. 
 
  • Main Subject: Volunteer Programs
  •  
  • Keywords:
  • Education 
  • Duration:
  • 9.5 Months 
  • Age:
  • 21-30 
  • Language:
  • English 
  • Organizer:
  • Bina Merhavim 
  • Program appears on grant application as:
  • MITF - Bina Merchavim 
  • Accommodation:
  • Included 
  • Meals:
  • Included 
  • Program Dates:

How MITF Alumnae Landed Their Teaching Jobs">How MITF Alumnae Landed Their Teaching Jobs

Posted April 20th, 2015

 

Whether you’re looking for professional development or a resume boost, take it from these four Masa Israel Teaching Fellows alumnae – teaching English in Israel can help you land your dream job in education!

 

After graduating from Guilford College with a bachelor’s degree in education in 2011, Tova Dinkin decided to become a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow. In August, the Manhattan native moved to Rishon LeZion as part of the inaugural cohort of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows.

 

When she returned to New York in 2012, Tova was quickly offered a position as a kindergarten teacher at a Manhattan charter school. Three years later, Tova still teaches at that same school and attributes her success to her time in Israel. “Masa Israel Teaching Fellows is the reason I have my job,” Tova said. Those ten months teaching English in Israel allowed Tova to gain invaluable experience in her field as she learned more about herself as a teacher. “I came back with confidence that I did not previously have and experience that no one else could ever imagine.”

 

Jennifer Blitz also benefited from having Masa Israel Teaching Fellows on her resume, and her teaching experience in Petach Tikvah in 2013-2014 set her apart both on paper and in person. Throughout the interview process for her job as a science teacher in Brooklyn, the Long Island native shared her story about stepping out of her comfort zone, overcoming challenges, and adapting to new situations during her time in Israel. “Living and teaching in a foreign country was quite tough at times, not unlike most new jobs and experiences,” Jennifer said. “It’s an adjustment and Masa Israel Teaching Fellows truly did improve my ability to make those adjustments with a little more style and grace.”

 

Similarly, Emily Shelton who taught English in Netanya in 2011-2012, was hired in the U.S. and abroad as a result of her Masa Israel Teaching Fellows experience. Upon returning home to Delaware in 2012, Emily began teaching special education in a local public school. The principal even went so far as to tell her that her experience teaching abroad made Emily a very desirable asset in the classroom. Emily noted that her principal said that it was really different and unique to have Masa Israel Teaching fellows on her resume and made Emily stand out as a candidate.

 

Like Tova, Jennifer, and Emily Nitzah Santiago-McRae found that having Masa Israel Teaching Fellows on her resume helped her secure her position teaching at Headstart and her admission to Syracuse University, where she currently studies for her master’s in early childhood and special education. However, she felt that her time teaching in Ramle in 2013-2014 made the greatest impact when she returned to an American classroom.

 

A special education teacher with many foreign students, Nitzah found herself in a new country, where she did not speak the language. “I have a deeper understanding for my students who don’t know English because I didn’t know Hebrew,” the Maryland native said. The experience also helped her empathize with the students’ families, as they try to navigate a new culture and society.

 

 

 

Emily Shelton – English Teacher, Colegio Alberto Einstein in Quito, Ecuador Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya 2011-2012

 

Tova Dinkin – Kindergarten Teacher, Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, NY Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Rishon LeZion 2011-2012

 

3 Recipes for a Happy, Kosher, and Vegan Passover">3 Recipes for a Happy, Kosher, and Vegan Passover

Posted April 8th, 2015

By Chef Chanah Auerbach, Masa Israel Volunteer Alumna

 

This Passover, stop wasting your energy making matzah-based, kosher-for-Passover versions of your favorite carb dishes. Instead, focus on plant-based, colortul fruit and vegetable dishes that are sure to fill you up and make all of your guests happy!

 

1. Begin your day with a delicious smoothie!

 

Way More Israel

http://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/Way%20More%20Israel.jpg

Program Description

Way More Israel (WMI) is an innovative program that offers YOU the experience of living and interning in Israel! You will get the chance to delve deeper and experience Israeli life beyond being a tourist. You’ll experience first-hand the celebration of Jewish holidays as well as learning about our 2,000 year old heritage. You will be situated in the Old City of Jerusalem which is known to be a melting point for all types of people... Come and be one of them!
 
The 1st Month: You will learn some basic lingo (Ulpan) to help you navigate around your new surroundings. There will also be workshops and discussions on Jewish customs and heritage. 
The Next 3 Months: This part of the program will give you the option to volunteer/intern with a host of different companies/ organizations*. This unique opportunity of volunteering/interning will allow you to do something meaningful and productive. The volunteering/internships will give you the framework to boost your resume and marketable skill set for future employees.
The 5th Month: In the final month of the program, you will have the option to go North and experience Israel on a whole new plain. You will transition from the fast paced city to a more serene and laid back environment.
What makes Way More Israel different? You’ll go beyond the typical. You’ll be welcomed by all different types of people.You’ll get to know our awesome staff, and learn about yourself your heritage and Israel. A total experience, WMI will stimulate all your senses as you see, feel, taste, smell and hear an extraordinary and unique Israel.
 
 
*All volunteering/interning options are based in Jerusalem.
** NEW and exciting a gap year track for 18-22 year old.
***Some meals are included.
 
Some highlights of Way More Israel: 
- Packing food boxes for needy families
- Tour of Mishkenot and Prisoner’s Museum
- Holiday Programs
- Hike the Golan Heights and a weekend in mystical Safed
 
Way More Israel is committed to helping you come and experience Israel. On condition WMI has $1000 scholarships to be given out to participants. Ask our admissions coordinator for more information. 
 

Contact person:

Jackie Weiner
Admissions@heritage.org.il
www.heritage.org.il
 

 

 

  • Main Subject: Experiential Programs, Professional Studies
  •  
  • Keywords:
  • Coexistence, Kibbutz 
  • Duration:
  • 5 Months 
  • Age:
  • 21-30 
  • Language:
  • English 
  • Organizer:
  • Heritage House 
  • Program appears on grant application as:
  • Way More Israel 
  • Price:
  • $ 7300 
  • Accommodation:
  • Included 
  • Meals:
  • Included 
  • Program Dates:
  • January 30,2018 - June 28,2018  Apply to this program

40 Shekalim">40 Shekalim

Posted March 17th, 2015

 

By Chloe Newman, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Ashdod

 

 

My first [few] months here seemed a flurry of realizing how many small, everyday items I had taken for granted in Pittsburgh. Many small kitchen-wares (a proper spice collection being one very important one), some nicer clothing items, art supplies, some school supplies, and general household items were purchased before my first stipend arrived, halfway through the month. My bike was the most significant, and perhaps my best, purchase, and when I started exploring the country, I noticed I was again dishing out cash for travel expenses.

 

Although my spending was not so extravagant in retrospect, I was discouraged at the time, having to dip into my savings so much. I vowed that once the madness had normalized, I would have a plan, to live comfortably and reasonably on my stipend. Now that I feel I’m establishing my flow, the idea still seemed like a good one, so earlier this month, I finally started a reliable budgeting spreadsheet to effectively use my humble monthly stipend.

 

My plan: 40 NIS a day. ($10)

 

That’s on average, of course. Some days I don’t buy anything. And then you have a day, as I did this month, where I spent 100 NIS on contact solution for the rest of the program. You can’t buy everything for ten bucks or less…but, it’s certainly helped me a LOT in putting my purchases into perspective. Even just having some quick notes on what else I’ve bought in the previous weeks helps me make decisions about what purchases make sense.

 

This list may not be interesting to the folks outside this program, but here’s what I feel has helped the most (and if you want, just skip to the bottom for more self-reflection on consumerism):

 

– I rarely buy clothing or beauty care products. If I want to wear something new, I kindly ask one of the lovely ladies in my apartment if they would share, and in return, I offer my…spices…and uh, cooking, I think. It works, okay? They’re nice.

 

– I buy almost all of my fresh groceries once a week, when the shuk is open. I ride my bike there after school, with only my backpack and some limited handlebar space for carrying my purchases. I generally already know what I want to buy before I arrive, but I’m open to switching out something for a new fruit or veggie that’s come into season. This prevents me from impulse purchases, and from buying more than I can eat before it spoils. Usually, my total is around 20 NIS.

 

– I don’t buy lots of processed food or snacks. Mostly whole ingredients to make something delicious out of: produce, legumes, grains, nuts, oils, sauces and spices…and humus and fresh-baked pita. The grocery-store humus is probably the most processed thing I eat, here.

 

-I visit the grocery store once every week or two for any other pantry items, but I do my best to be creative with what I’ve already got on hand. I’ve found that restaurants in Ashdod are…okay…but I love to cook, so I do that during the week. I prefer to save my going-out money for a weekend treat meal in Tel-Aviv (where the vegan options roam wild and free).

 

– On the note of traveling, I bring some food and snacks with me. Usually, a friend is hosting me, so I can bring ingredients to cook my own meals (and/or cook for them), or buy cheap groceries once I’m there for the weekend.

 

– I don’t buy drinks at bars. I won’t be fooled anymore. It’s just ridiculous. You can buy three bottles of wine at the grocery store for the same price of one, teeny tiny beer, which I don’t even like. Wine forever.

 

I don’t consider this being too frugal. I don’t feel my fun or my experiences here inhibited by my budgeting. I feel it prioritizes what’s important to me (mostly travel, healthy, tasty food, and art) and lets me worry less about spending on things I really don’t want or need. Ever since I packed my three bags to come live here, I’ve been enjoying the liberation of living on less, and I’m looking forward to experimenting further with how my time here can impact my level of consumerism in the future.

 

 

Originally published on Chloe’s blog.

 

5 Elements of Israeli Culture and Mentality That I Will Bring Home">5 Elements of Israeli Culture and Mentality That I Will Bring Home

Posted February 16th, 2015

 

By Desiree Eslamboly, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Petach Tikvah

 

 

Say what you want about Israelis- they’re brash, they’re pushy, and they’re bluntly honest – sure. But there is a reason why, when visiting, it only takes a few short days to fall in love with their country. And I’m not convinced that it’s solely the land that captivates people. After living here for only 4 short months, I have landed on 5 different elements of Israeli culture and mentality that I will be bringing back with me when I return to the United States.

 

1. Israeli Hospitality

Time and time again I am floored by the hospitality and generosity of Israelis. If I got even just an agorot (the Israeli equivalent of a dime) for every time I received an invite from an Israeli to join them for a meal, an outing with their family, or a tour of their city, I think it’s safe to say my humble monthly stipend would be double what it is now. Israelis have an incredibly special way of instantaneously making you feel like family. I have spent the past 3 out of 5 days at my host teacher, Rosi’s, house, and whether I was there eating homemade shakshuka or taking a nap on her sofa, I’ve been fortunate enough to feel right at home while 7,500 + miles away.

 

Rosi always says something that I think perfectly encapsulates the Israeli mentality. “If there is room in your heart,” she begins, “there is room at the table.” Sure, Israelis may not have the most ostentatious lifestyles and they definitely don’t preach the “bigger is better” mentality that some Americans cherish, but their hearts know no boundaries. This mentality is something I fully intend on bringing back with me to the States.

 

2. Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

 

This one is a bit harder to adapt to life in the U.S. Israelis have earned a reputation for being brutally honest- and rightfully so. I can always count on an Israeli to give me their honest opinion, whether I actually want to hear it or not. Israelis refuse to sugar coat their thoughts. At times, this can be difficult to digest, but it is something I’ve come to appreciate. As Americans, we have been socialized to skirt around issues in order to avoid offending others. There are many times when I find it hard to voice my opinion or stand up for myself, and being in Israel has made me realize how refreshingly genuine it is to hear pure, unadulterated honesty. While it may take some time for me to find a happy medium between Israeli honesty and the American need to be politically correct, I look forward to developing my own communicative style founded on being more outspoken.

 

3. If You Want Something, Just Ask

 

As I mentioned above, I have trouble voicing my ideas or opinions. Sometimes, even asking for the simplest of favors is a challenge. My fear of rejection is real and has proved difficult to overcome, but being in Israel has helped me work on this. Israelis have no shame when it comes to asking for favors or questioning the rules – so why should I? I know people say this all the time, but the honest truth is that the worst possible response is “no.”

 

My co-teaching fellow and I had a great idea for a monthly bulletin board that would bring English to the whole school, as opposed to just the kids we work with. Our school doesn’t necessarily have an abundance of free space or resources, so we were a little nervous to present our idea. We felt as though we might be a burden and add more stress to our principal’s life. After mustering up the courage to present the idea to our principal, she instantaneously responded with “It’s a great idea, of course you can have the space!” There was zero reason for us to even be concerned about asking.

 

It seems so obvious, but people will not know what you want unless you voice your needs. As the old adage goes, “ask, and you shall receive.”

 

4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

 

One of my favorite motivational speakers, Kid President, once said, “Life is too short to worry about being too short.” We all have our strengths and our shortcomings, but why sweat our weaknesses? I have struggled a lot with learning Hebrew, and I think a huge part of it is that I’m too embarrassed to practice through speaking the language. Every time I begin to speak, all I can think about is how pitiful my attempted Israeli accent is. When it comes down to it, does it really matter?

 

My students have taught me that experiences are way more pleasant when you can put your ego aside and learn to laugh at yourself. During a recent rehearsal for the school play, one of my students accidentally referred to a character named “Sam” as “Sun.” Watching said student laugh the mistake off, and find it hilarious that he referred to the character as shemesh (the Hebrew word for sun), reminded me that it’s okay to mess up – it’s all part of the journey.

 

5. When in Doubt, Cos Café it Out

 

Whenever my co-teaching fellow and I face a new challenge, our host teacher is there to help us work through things. Before we tackle anything, though, Rosi always says, “But first, let’s drink something hot.”

 

Before coming to Israel, there were times when I felt so overwhelmed by stressful situations that I would just let the stress consume me. Cos café – the Hebrew phrase for cup of coffee – in this case represents something more than just a warm drink. By sitting down to drink “something hot” before I take on a new challenge, I’ve learned the importance of grounding yourself. Quite frankly, stuff happens and life goes on. Taking a minute to center yourself before letting the craziness of the world overwhelm you is always a good idea.

 

 

 

To read more about Desiree’s adventures in Petach Tikvah, check out her blog.