Making a difference

The teacher-student relationship can go both ways: A teacher can make a difference in a child's life, and pupils can make a difference in their teachers'. Such experiences, English teachers say, are one of the best things about the job. "It happens that I read a child's writing and realize the girl or boy has a real problem that the pupil decided to share with me - this happens a lot to English teachers," Caroline says. She is fully aware of the responsibility she has to help the child, and recommends professional help. "What happens if I miss something and a tragedy happens? I find this very scary." It seems that some children may find it easier to hide a handicap in Hebrew than in English, or simply that a student comes to trust the English teacher, who may therefore be the first adult to discover the difficulty. Many teachers have noticed a marked increase in the number of children with learning difficulties in their classes, especially in the region between Hadera and Gedera, where there is more access to diagnostic testing than in the North and the South. On the flip side, the English teacher can discover a child's special talent and boost the kid's self-esteem. Sometimes the teacher discovers the impact she or he (most English teachers are women, but that's another story) has had on a child's life only years later, perhaps at a chance meeting in the street, when the truth comes out. And the pupils can have an impact as well. Evelyn recalls that after her son was killed on Yom Kippur five years ago, her students came to the shiva and "protected" her when she came back to teach in the classroom after Succot. She now goes bowling every so often with those students, who are already post-army but have stayed in touch. And Sheila, who teaches in Rehovot, notes that every day she learns something from her pupils - anything from an insight about adolescent culture to a useful tip about the computer.