My working week: Shlomit Brock

English teacher and coordinator, Beersheba religious elementary school; Age: 49; Marital status: married to David,two children.

Strike classroom (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Strike classroom
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Job description: I teach English to fourth- to sixthgraders, but just as important, I teach values. English may be the subject, but training children in moral and cultural values that will serve them all their lives is a big part of any child’s education.
Education: BA in speech therapy, Israeli Teaching Certificate, and now working on my master’s.
Years at work: A teacher for 12 years.
Aliya: I was born in Brooklyn to an Israeli mother and came to Israel in 1983. After meeting David in Tel Aviv, we married and lived in New Zealand for many years, then returned as a family in 2001.
First job: When I was 11, I was a mother’s helper for a lady who was nine months pregnant. I toilet trained her older child.
Worst job: A short stint as a proofreader, reading old computer sheets, the kind with the funny print. The people were nice, but the job was tough.
How did you get into teaching? We were living in New Zealand, and the local Jewish day school asked me over and over to come and teach. I looked around for something else, but couldn’t find anything, so I ended up teaching Jewish studies. It ended up being very good.
High moment: My high moments usually involve some child who starts out sitting slumped in his seat, not paying attention, not interested. Then something happens, and little by little he starts to participate.
The high point comes when he just gets it, somehow. It’s not whether he’ll earn the highest grade. It’s that he realizes this is something he can do, and feels pride in his ability to achieve.
Low moment: When I see some student not trying, not doing anything and falling behind – and his parents don’t do anything about it.
Maybe the kid won’t even open his book, he won’t do his homework, he doesn’t participate in class, he creates disturbances – and then the mother comes to me and says, “I don’t understand! Why can’t he even write a sentence?!” implying that it’s my fault. I tell her it’s her job as a mother to inspire her child to learn. If the child tries, if he participates in class, asks questions, wants help, I’ll do everything I possibly can to help him learn. But when the parents signal they don’t care whether the child learns or not, that learning isn’t important, there isn’t much I can do.
Hardest thing about being a teacher? Dealing with parents who think the way to raise their child is to bribe him with everything – every toy he wants, unlimited computer time, everything he asks for.
Parents have to set rules and stick by them. Giving a child everything he wants doesn’t help, it hurts.
Is teaching English different from teaching other subjects? Yes. Too many parents suggest to their children that learning English is either very hard or not important. Negative reinforcement like that means the child won’t be inspired to learn.
Best time of the day for a teacher? I’m not one of those who says “recess.” My first class in the morning is a really good class of fourth-grade girls and every day I look forward to teaching them. They’re a pleasure to be with.
Is anything you do controversial? I’m a rule person. I stick to the rules – and that can be controversial. It’s interesting: when the kids are at recess and the bell rings, you can see how some of the kids keep playing, ignoring the bell telling them to return to class. But my kids? They all run for the classroom. That’s the rule, and they know I expect them to behave that way, so they do.
How did you teach your students to respond like that? By being a good role model. I’m on time to my classes – I don’t sit in the teachers’ lounge talking and drinking coffee. I come to class prepared. It doesn’t take long for my students to realize I expect the same thing from them. It’s simply being respectful of other people, part of the values I believe are important.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Probably something in the medical field. I’ve always been interested in that.
What’s the one most important quality a teacher should have? Consistency. Without that, you get chaos.
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Probably teaching older children, junior high. That’s an interesting age group, too, with different issues. I think I’d enjoy it.