Don's Diary

November 1, 1996


Brighton. Another "Induction Day", this week a fresh cohort of wannabe Masters in Education. Working to a very tight schedule today. This strikes a chord with our audience when encouraging them to plan for study time within their busy professional and private lives. Off-load papers and accumulated debris, and pick up luggage and another set of teaching and admin bumf. Remarkably traffic-free M25 drive to Heathrow, while mentally shedding needs of today's group for those anticipated for tomorrow's trip to Israel to work with post experience students. Spend usual amount of dead-time, people watching in departures lounge. Flight OK, food OK, film boring, cabin staff friendly, queue for the loo average. Slept, read a bit etc.


Tel Aviv. 2pm. Wend our way out, looking for the promised driver. Nothing obvious, until two young men approach tentatively. First bizarre event of the week follows, when one of our drivers announces that we are to travel in a police car. My companion and I are steered towards a very small and nondescript Peugeot, bearing no distinguishing features. What transforms this into the promised vehicle is the flashing blue light which the driver attaches to the roof. Thus we travel from Tel Aviv to Beersheba, for all the world like a couple of newly arrested crooks!

Meet the students, already at work with two colleagues who travelled earlier. A wonderful cross-section of Israeli society: these are all qualified teachers in a range of educational settings. The teaching is real on-your-toes stuff, and sharpens many of the skills of oral delivery. Have to concentrate on clarity of language, avoiding ambiguity and offering frequent and carefully considered examples. Become aware of the dangers of flip-flops and dangles (thank you Mr Kounin); students listening to their second or third language lose the thread unless the teacher is very careful to keep it untangled.


One of the student support strategies we intend to build into this programme is self-help groups based on geographical areas. The logistics of this prove to be a major difficulty, and we leave it to one of the local "support teachers" to do the bargaining in Hebrew. However, the principle and process of this is so much easier to explain to people whose whole society is attuned to the need to collaborate with each other. Whereas in the United Kingdom considerable time might be spent convincing students of the power of a collaborative way of working, here the attitude is "well, of course!" We begin to get to know individuals, and to hear about what they do. I am fascinated to hear that kindergarten teachers are aware of a demographic shift in their pupil population, and that this brings attendant learning difficulties. We learn that all pupils who live near the Sea of Galilee are entitled to have canoeing and sailing instruction. I meet some real music enthusiasts, who convince me further of the power of music within the curriculum.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

We are all enjoying the opportunity to focus on one group of students and their needs and interests. This sharpens the awareness of how many plates we all keep spinning most of the time, and we wonder whether we might be teaching more convincingly and competently this week?


Travel by road to Tiberius, the centre for our next week's teaching in two months' time, to check out the teaching accommodation, library access etc. Pass Bedouin with herds of goats and camel, fields of ripening cotton and young soldiers hitching rides at every road junction. As we head down into Tiberius, jaws drop at the spectacular scenery of the Sea of Galilee laid out below, with its dramatic hills and mountains all around. One of our student group has agreed to be our tour guide for the afternoon. The highlights include standing on the Golan Heights looking down on a starlit, twinkling quilt, which is the sea and surrounding towns and villages. Nothing could have shown us the strategic importance of these hills more powerfully, an excellent reminder of the educational adage, "I do and I understand". Obviously this student is already a good teacher. I feel privileged that my day job has offered me this wonderful experience.


Travel. Exhaust all possibilities in airport terminal. Read, eat, sleep etc. as for outward journey.


Unpack. Greet family. Bid farewell to university-bound daughter. Pack for next week.


To Brixton, as an Ofsted inspector of an Lambeth infant school.

* Sue Yearley is senior lecturer in education at the school of inservice and professional development, University of Brighton.

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