Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Welcome to Loyal Reader #51, David Ginsberg!

And yes, Rena, you have moved out of "Loyal Reader in Abstentia" and are now accorded FULL Loyal Reader (#52) benefits! Look out for the aliyahbyaccident Elegant Foil Sukkah Decoration coming your way in the mail!

Last night we had Ariella's first grade parent meeting. This was my first time being on the parent side of Open School/Meet the Teacher/Sit in Tiny Chair Night. For seven years I was the nervous, dry-mouthed teacher, spitting out my little shpiel and hoping no one asked questions and/or complained too much. ("The homework's too hard! The homework's too easy! I don't like the way you teach subtraction! That's not how I learned it, and you see, I am a very successful doctor/lawyer/Wall Street exec/tax evader! Also, why do you teach script? I just type everyting and as yuo cna seee it alwys works ot wlle!")

But for the most part, my parents were well-behaved. (Not MY parents; the parents of my students. My parents are a whole different story.) Most of them were just itching to get out of my presentation because they had twelve other presentations to attend. The English teacher and Hebrew teacher each had twenty minutes (that's forty altogether, kids. See? My method works also.), and that was it. They generally refrained from asking too many questions, mostly wanted to hear what my homework policy was, and should the occasional parent become belligerent, Milly was always patrolling, making sure nothing got out of hand.

Well, folks, welcome to Israel. First of all, the meeting was scheduled for an hour and a quarter! 6:30 - 7:45. How much is there possibly to say??? Donny left work at 4:00, was home a little after six, and I ran out to grab a good spot in a little chair. Ariella's teacher, Moriah, is super-sweet and really on top of things. So far, we're happy. The parents gathered, and filled out a questionnaire about their kids ("What does your child like?" Winning. "What makes your child sad?" Not winning. Cynicism aside, though, Ariella is so super-thrilled with first grade and the work and the morahs and the activities, that for the question, "What do you hope for your child this year?" I could only write that "Her love of learning should continue!" Amen. Now back to our regularly scheduled snark.)

And yes, I filled out the questionnaire in Hebrew. And I understood all of the presentation that I paid attention to. So after a few quiet writing moments, we all went around the room, saying our names and child's name and one thing about our child. I said that Ariella likes to draw, play Tag ("Tofeset") and ask questions. The first part of the evening went swimmingly. Moriah explained her philosophy (be nice, have your things and come on on time), talked about what is emphasized in first grade (niceness and vowel sounds), and the daily schedule (something, something, lunch, recess, and more something).

But as the evening wore on, the parents got punchier. These two smart-ass dads in the back kept asking obnoxious questions and making jokes. Then at 7:30, the thing is half over (yes, only half, we weren't dismissed until 8:10), this one mom walks in. Moriah was in the middle of explaining some school policy about sicknesses, and this mom, before she even sits down, starts arguing. Loudly. And belligerently. Well, things soon spiraled out of hand, and every time Moriah tried to get out of her mouth, someone interrupted and it became VERY LOUD.

Now, my attention span is about the same as a first grader's (well, not Ariella's; hers is longer than mine) so I was already fidgeting, looking at my watch, and generally not paying attention. I tuned in and out the last half hour, but the deafening roar in my ears made it hard to hear what Moriah was trying to say.

You have to give her credit, though. I was in tears just imagining myself as the teacher. Moriah took it in stride. She "shniya'ed" with the best of them and was very patient, even with annoying Angry Late Mom, writing down everyone's concerns ("The bathrooms aren't cleaned often enough!") and promising to take them up with the powers that be.

Now, before I continue to poke fun at school, let me add this disclaimer that we are actually very happy with the school and teacher. We've been very impressed with everything so far, starting from the day we visited last January, to the individual meeting Ariella had over the summer, to the first week of school. And the school's emphasis on the arts is perfect for Ariella. So we're thrilled, especially considering the state of education in Israel, that she is in this school.

But that doesn't mean there's not what to mock:

1. Homework. This cracked me up. As a teacher, we had to be super super super careful that every piece of homework the kids did was marked or graded somehow. Parents checked. Certain things we went over together as a class, but a lot of the work was handed in and thoroughly checked, usually by my super-efficient colleague, Rachel "Nope I'm Still Not a Loyal Reader" Rosenthal. Not so in first grade here. Moriah's policy?

"I check that the homework is done. That's it. Checking that it's correct? Your job, parents."

Now, you have to understand, she is one teacher alone in a class of 31 kids. So it makes sense that she can't spend half her morning collecting workbooks and putting little smiley stickers in them. But I laughed. Because I think I would be placed in the stocks if I ever said something like that at SAR.

2. "Kochav Nolad." Every week, a different kid in class is chosen as the "kochav nolad," and basically they get to talk about themselves all week and it's all very special. When I was in first grade, with Mrs. Goldberg at Beth Tfiloh, we had something similar called "The Big Knish of the Week." It was simple. All the kids wrote and drew something about the Knish, and at the end of the week, the Knish got this cute little booklet with all these nice letters and drawings. Of course, the boys in the class, with whom I had as little to do as possible, didn't have much to say. So all during the week, kids like Mark would come up to me.

"Hey. What's your favorite color."
"And what do you like to do?"
"Swim and read."

On Friday, Mark, and about a dozen other boys' paragraph would sound something like this:
"Gila is nice. Gila has blond hair. Gila's favorite color is red. Gila likes to swim and read."

So I figured Kochav Nolad would be similar. But no. First, the child and parents prepare a paragraph in writing all about the child. Then, the child and parents pick a few pictures, post them onto a large posterboard, which, of course, needs to be purchased by the parents, and then the child and parents write a few sentences about each picture. Every day, after the morning meeting, the Kochav gets to go up in front of the class and talk about one picture. At the end of the week, on Friday, the child does a twenty-minute activity with the class. That has been prepared in advance by, of course, the parents.

Oy. First grade is going to be lots of work. For me. At least I don't have to worry about color-coordinated clips.

Today Ariella had a playdate with a Hebrew speaker from class. When I picked them up from school, I asked Nitzan if her mother had told her ahead of time that she was going home with me. Now, what I thought I said sounded normal, like:

"Nitzan, did your mother tell you you are coming home with me?" I realized, though, that with my lilting American accent and broken Hebrew, it was probably akin to someone saying to Ariella:

"Areee-ella. Deeed your muzzer tells you dat she were coming hoooom weez me?"

So I forgive Nitzan for the slightly strange look she gave me.


Sara said...

Looks like the Popper family (extended) still tops the ranks of loyal readers! (Do we get a prize?)

SaraK said...

Morah Moriyah, wow. That is a mouthful. They never heard of teacher's aides in Israel? She must be a dishrag by the end of each day! 31 children with no assistant? Kol Hakavod to Morah Moriyah.

Risa said...

By the way, I believe that the words Morah and Moriyah are from the same root, meaning to teach. (If so, does that make the term Morah Moriyah redundant?)

Gila Rose said...

actually, i think there's no "morah," at least not in first grade. the kids just call her "moria." saves time

Baila said...

My kids, who did most of their elementary education in the states, keep arguing that they don't have to do the homework, bec. the teacher never checks it. (In the older grades the teacher doesn't bother to make sure it was even done).

And you're much more patient than I am; I always want to throttle those parent troublemakers. Just don't quite know how to do it in Hebrew.

OneTiredEma said...

You might want to clarify for your non-Israeli readers that the school day ends at 12:45. (gah!)

And we are supposed to do some activity for gan for Miss M's birthday. least it's MONTHS away? Near the end of school? Maybe will get lost in the shuffle? Please please please?

Dadz said...




Dadz said...





Dear why are you saying "woops" - did you eat cheese paper again? eat dunkin donuts with your gloves on? find a pesach candy in your pocket?

Risa said...

To my in-laws good friends: It's okay to find Pesach candy in your pocket year-round. The problem only occurs when you find chumetzdik candy in your pocket on Pesach. Solution: buy a ton of candy on Pesach for the entire year. (Oh, wait, I think you may know of this idea.)

Risa said...

Gila, I actually did hear that kids in Israel call their teachers by their first name. (Perhaps a blog topic if things ever get a little slow. I am curious how you would feel, as a teacher, if students called you by your first name.)I was merely thinking about what the comment above me said. I guess in Moriyah's case, it makes sense to drop the "Morah."

Shira said...

I agree with your Dadz that this ranks up at the top of your funniest ever blog posts! And reading your Dadz and Momz comments, I completely get where your great sense of humor is from!!!

Ahava said...

I'm crying. Poor Nitzan. Poor Gila. Poor Moriyah. Ariella has it pretty good though, no?

Libby said...

So I think I am now an official loyal reader.
I loved being the Big Knish in 1st grade. I think I still have my book somewhere.

Karen said...

Have still been lurking on your blog and happened to dip into some old posts - you are a hilarious writer - I was truly laughing out loud when I read that last bit about how you sounded to Nitzan - just cracked me up. Thanks for being so entertaining! also loved the post about Hans, the breakfast Nazi. (this is great relief from another blog I read which is written by someone who is completely obnoxious and takes herself far too seriously and really gets my goat - why do I read it? no idea...)

Gila Rose said...

Karen - thanks for the comment! Nothing like a comment on an old post to brighten up a girl's day! Glad you're enjoying!