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Facing and dealing with obstacles - the beginning of the school year
by Aviva Shapiro


Abstract:

Aviva Shapiro planned to deal with the everyday obstacles that teachers and students face in the educational system in Israel. And along came the most serious of challenges, the War in Lebanon, changing the way many will live their lives, the way they remember this summer, and begin the school year. Read about Aviva's suggestions for:
  • dealing with the war in your classroom
  • starting out the school year
  • links to articles and advice for dealing with obstacles

"Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful."
~~ Mark Victor Hansen

This summer ...

When I volunteered to write this article, I was thinking about writing about "regular" beginning-of-the-year obstacles or challenges which we face:. really bad timetables, disgruntled students, crowded classes and so forth.. However, as I sit listening to the IDF bomb Lebanon, and as I hear the katushat, landing I must rethink what I foresee as the obstacles for the beginning of this particular school year.

What we will face (in addition to our regular challenges) are tens of thousands of children who have been imprinted with "war" over their summer vacation, whether it be from spending long hours in the shelters, or seeing and hearing missiles falling on or near their house; or whether they lost a loved one, or were injured themselves , all of our students will have some kind of memory of the war. It doesn't matter if they live in the South, the North, or even the center of the country, they will have experienced terror, fear and uncertainty. This is the greatest obstacle we, the teachers of Israel, need to face during our first meeting with our students.

How can we do this? First and foremost, I think we must find the time, and if necessary, make the time-even put aside teaching English for a few days--and talk and listen to our students. Yes, we are always under pressure to complete material. But, first we need to understand that our kids have to be heard. We need to try to begin to heal the scars which were created this summer. Let the kids write about the war, let them talk about their experiences, feelings and fears. You might want to bring in pictures from the newspapers to use as triggers to get them to respond. As EFL teachers, we shouldn't be concerned about letting students talk in their mother tongue. Moreover, teachers can be open about expressing and sharing their fears.

Starting off the school year:

Afterwards, we will have to carry on with our lives. We will have to return to our routine. We will start teaching our students. Providing them with a framework is important--we all need structure in our life.

I suggest starting your classes with a class discussion on your expectations of the students and encouraging them to express their expectations. Together, decide on class rules in order that all the children will realize the importance of them. Get the kids to set some personal goals for the semester. Have them write them down and keep a record of them. Help your students learn the importance of taking responsibility for their studies. . Begin your year on a positive note in order to decrease the number of challenges or conflicts with students that you will face.

Overcoming obstacles

What is an obstacle?
From Agile Advice:
"An obstacle is any behavior, physical arrangement, procedure or checkpoint that makes getting work done slower without adding any actual contribution to the work. Activities that do add value to our work may be slowed down by obstacles, but are not obstacles in and of themselves."
Check out Agile Advice to learn about different types of obstacles, persona, cultural etc. And some models for dealing with obstacles.

Mary Ann Porter says:

"Life is full of obstacles that defeat us at every turn. We need to find ways around them, under them, over them, or when all else fails, straight through them"

I agree with her wholeheartedly. We need to remember that, not only at school but, also, in our every day life we confront obstacle after obstacle. Our attitude will determine how we will get through (or over or around ) life's obstacles.

Obstacles :Stumbling blocks or Stepping Stones is an article posted on a site geared to leaders or managers. But what are teachers if not classroom managers? Check out the five concepts that help managers turn obstacles into stepping stones to success!

Summary

Being a teacher is an extremely difficult job. We all know this. And being a teacher in Israel offers even more challenges since we deal with a totally different reality than teachers in Western countries who we try hard to emulate. We need to realize that even though we want to be like the West, we are still a middle-eastern country and a country still struggling to exist. Not only have our students suffered this summer but so have we. We didn't get a quiet summer vacation in which to relax. We didn't have any time to rest. And all of us will feel the effects of this as the year begins.

The War for the peace of Israel. That is the name of the latest war. Maybe the last war?? I hope that by the time this article goes to press, our war will have ended. I hope that we can go back to waking up to birds chirping rather than planes dropping bombs and katushot falling. This war has been an "obstacle" that I found no way to overcome. It was an obstacle which needed to be lived through and suffered. We have all endured a great deal. Now it is time to move forward, pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and show the world we can surmount all the obstacles

So read a few of these articles , gain some insight and know that you are not alone . I wish us all a year of peace. May we take everything in stride. May we learn to listen to our students and may we enter each and every classroom every single day with a smile.


"Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles."
~~Helen Keller

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