ONE THING IS CERTAIN! One woman’s journey to an educational revolution Series of international anecdotes, foster a new paradigm in education. A unique combination of circumstances, combined with the vision of learning as a challenging, but exciting, and doable activity tell the story. It’s strange how a few mundane events can take our lives to places we would never expect them to go.
I was a young math teacher; apparently a better one than even I knew, until a few months ago when I received an E-mail on Facebook from a student in the very first class that I ever taught 43 years before. I was right out of college. I still didn’t know how to control a class, or even write a decent lesson plan, but somehow, even then I managed to get students to feel comfortable in the math class, and to actually understand the math. Lisa April 17 at 4:39am Did you ever teach math at JHS 119 in Glendale, NY ? Bonnie Warmund Teboul April 17 at 9:50am I taught math at JHS 189 in Flushing from Sept 1966 until June 1971. before that I taught for a few months at Shimer in Jamaica and one other school (I don't remember which) as a temp. Lisa April 17 at 4:07pm Well, my friends and I went to Glendale JH (119) in Queens, off Myrtle Ave. from 1965-1968. We had a math teacher in seventh grade (that would have been 6566), an ancient (to us) woman name Mrs. R____ and she broke a hip and we had a young teacher named Bonnie Warmund as a replacement for several months. We adored her, felt as if we were learning math for the first time, and wept bitter tears when she was laid off and the dinosaur returned. We visited her at her apartment after that and I was looking at a clay and skin drum that was hanging on her wall and I dropped and broke it--and I'm still feeling guilty about that.
So, if you are that Bonnie Warmund, I just wanted you to know that although we only had you for a few months, you left a huge impression: We spoke of you and thought of you and missed you and two of the more math-challenged in the group felt that you were the last math teacher they had who taught them math in a way they could understand.
Maybe it was connected to the first thing I said to every class that I ever taught, after I asked them to correct my spelling politely. “If I ever ask you why you do something, the answer is never that I told you to. If I tell you something and I’m wrong, it is wrong. If I’m right , then I’m right for a reason. That reason is what I want you to tell me.” If you really understand why a method works, you have no trouble remembering how to use it. Until the summer of 1966 my life was as mundane as could be imagined. I was the oldest of 3 children. I didn’t even get to go away to college like most of my classmates, because I was accepted to, a free local one. I was had majored in math, partly because I liked it, but largely because, you didn’t have to read or write a lot for it. In my senior year, I discovered sociology, a little too late. My sister Dawn was the artist, and studied at Cooper Union( also free and local). I wouldn’t try to draw, and she ran away from numbers. Joel was the youngest, and thus got the money to study in Ohio. I never expected to live anywhere but the US, or do anything besides teach math. In fact, I felt that teaching math was the perfect fit. It had the fun puzzle-like math part, and the social conscience, chance to influence the next generation part. However, a series of unanticipatable events moved me in other directions.
1967 It was about 8:00 P.M. July 14,1967 ( Bastille Day) and I was walking along in the town square in Nice. When I met the man, who was to change my life. Actually, but for the 6 day war, I would not have been there. I should have been in Israel at Ulpan Akiva in Israel at that very time. I had been in Israel the year before (the summer of 1966), as a part of a comparative education course, which studied in 5 countries in Europe, and in Israel. It compared traditional aspects of education, in each country with our own, and examined new directions. Israel was only 18 yeas old at the time, and was dealing with all the challenges of integrating immigrants from all over the world into one nation. They presented many creative ideas about bridging cultural gaps, and especially dealing with adult illiteracy. The clay drum (darbuka) referred to in the letter was from there. That trip was the start of my transformation. It opened my mind to the wide wide world; different countries, different cultures, different ways of doing things. The farthest I had ever been before that was The Montréal Worlds Fair. Since that trip I have been to every continent except Australia.
In reality, I always had friends from all over the world Of all my close friends, growing up, only Linda, was Jewish. She was orthodox, which as far as my family saw it, made her more foreign than any of my foreign friends. Bess was my best friend, since junior high school. In fact, we were sharing her apartment at the time when I taught a the junior high in Glendale. She was born in Greece. Her mother was actually Turkish, divorced from her Greek father. She had been the very first female doctor in Greece. Real feminism in action. Sadly, it was long after she died that I realized what an extraordinary person she was. As a single mother, she worked long hours managing a blood bank. Bess prepared the meals, introducing me to real Greek cooking. Gail lived across the street. She was born in Chile. Her father was a Jewish mining engineer from New York, working there, when he met and married, her mother. He must have been really brilliant, because he grew up in an orphanage, and still attained higher education and a very powerful position, exceptionally rare in his generation. I remember him predicting the Viet Nam quagmire the minute he heard about Kennedy sending advisors there. Gail’s mother, was from the Chilean aristocracy. She introduced me to an awareness of classic subdued style. When Gail’s grandmother came, from Chile, to live with them, she learned English, by watching soap operas on TV. Gail and her family ran with a very international crowd, so we were always surrounded by people from China, Hungary, all over South America etc. I met Janet when we were in the same student teaching class. She identified herself as black, but she had an exotic indiscernible look. We became close friends as we discovered and tried to understand each other’s backgrounds. There were many social events, where we went together, where I was the only white person there. One year we were talking about holidays. Janet couldn’t understand how I could love a holiday like Passover, where, you don’t dance, you don’t get drunk, and you don’t even exchange presents. So I invited her and her husband to the Seder. Everyone except me was nervous, but they quickly became part of the family, took their turns reading from the Hagada, joined in singing all the songs, and even tasted all the peculiar symbolic foods. When she left Janet told me that she never associated Jews with slavery, but that her grandmother (who she knew) was a slave as a child. Even now, I get chills whenever I think about that minute. I also had several black boyfriends at a time when it wasn’t common or accepted. 3
Of all my boyfriends, very few were Jewish. However, I did learn my first lesson in feminism from one who was. It was when I was still in high school. I had always been one of the few girls who really loved math, and was good at it. So I was often the only girl or one of 2 or 3 girls in classes that were considered as boys courses, like electronics, or advanced placement college math. I actually liked that, since it was a great source of boyfriends. In one electronics class, the boy sitting next to me, would constantly count on his fingers in the binary numeration system. At the time I didn’t even know what the binary system was, but I can still count on my fingers using it. The incident occurred in my senior year. I was one of a group of students, which included my boyfriend M____, preparing for the Westinghouse Science Talent Search scholarship test. To participate, you needed to take a test and submit a project. Only the projects of the 40 national finalists, on the test got evaluated. I was a good test taker, but I was also very lazy, and as I later discovered, dyslectic. M____, had worked for years on a spectacular marine biology project. I threw together, a poor excuse for a project the week before the deadline for submission. It was so bad that Mr. A___, head of the math department, refused to sign my application, and made it known he didn’t want me to compete. I had to get it signed by the head of the biology department. I received one of the 40 honorable mentions. M____ didn’t. He called to congratulate me, but never said another word to me. He didn’t stop talking to other students who succeeded. I think, even now, most men can’t accept being with a woman who does better than they do at what they excel in. Incidentally the rest of the story shows students how to get back at teachers they hate. There was no feeling as great as moment when Mr. A__ had to congratulate me at a special assembly, in front of the 1500 strong senior class, and the entire staff. The best way to spite teachers who give you a hard time, is to succeed. When you stop studying, you spite yourself, by not learning, while you reinforce the teacher’s negative evaluation of you. Mr. A____ also taught me “modern math”. It was basically a little set theory, different based numeration systems etc. This was the only math class in my entire life, where I understood absolutely nothing. The funny thing is that 4 years later I taught these same concepts to 12 year olds, and they understood. Remember Lisa’s letter. The simple trick is basic to any teaching. - First create a need or interest in the new concept. Then understand it on a simple level. Then give it a name, and finally a symbol. If possible explain where the name and symbol come from, rather than starting by introducing the new symbol and the defining it; as Mr. A__ did. It’s really easy, and students need not be geniuses, or even work hard to remember. 4
For example We want an answer to 5-7=? We have real situations where we need it. Like below zero temperatures, We decide on a – sign because it’s the opposite of +, and then we start to learn the names an consequences. We make the formal definitions only at the end, after everything else is clear. . I had my first real student, was when, I was only in the 10 th, grade. He was diagnosed as retarded, but his father, who was a math teacher wanted him to pass the algebra Regents exam. I tutored him twice a week. The only thing he couldn’t do by the time of the test, were complex word problems (like work, distance, and mixture) He got over 80% on the Regents. My next student, was studying 11 th year math, which I had done a year prior. I was worried, because I didn’t really understand the trigonometry part. As I soon as I started, I realized that all of trigonometry grew out of 2 facts: 1) The sides of similar triangles are proportional. 2) Right triangles, with 1 other angle in common are similar (2 equal angles similar triangles). All those charts and rules, just list and describe consequences, of those 2 facts plus the Pythagorean theorem. Putting the triangle on a graph, explains what happens as the angle grows. Incidentally those graphs are on Cartesian coordinates after Renee Descartes. He is known as a philosopher (“I think therefore I am.”), but was the most influential mathematician in modern history. His coordinates give us a method of uniting algebra and geometry, allowing us to make pictures of equations, and opening the door to calculus. As everything became crystal clear. I remember being very angry with my last math teacher. Her explanation, confused the issue, instead of making it clear. Throughout my life and careers, certain strains have always been there. • a love of math logic and puzzles (aspects of the same basic interest) • a conviction that most anything can be understood, if well presented • a belief that the job of parents and teachers is to promote curiosity and autonomy, not to give things and answers respectively • a commitment to help as many people as I can to realize their potential • an interest, curiosity and respect of diversity, and a super sensitivity to stereotyping, and bigotry. 5
I was a part of the 60s generation which went south to fight for integration. I worked for several years, with under privileged children in the Queens borough children’s shelter, where I learned to interact with people who although American like me, had a very different life experience from mine. Similarly as I did via a number of shorter term activities as a part of my BA studies. I will never forget how strange I felt the time I kissed a 4 year old black child who had just skinned his knee. I realized that in spite of my conscious beliefs, unfamiliarity cause reticence. We have to foster familiarity. So I guess I had a predisposition to be captivated by al the diversity that I saw in Europe. - Anyway, even though I was a math teacher, I was so impressed with Ulpan Akiva’s philosophy and language teaching methods, that I decided to spend the following summer(1967) studying Hebrew there. They teach Hebrew, by placing students with others, with whom they have no common language. except the Hebrew that they are learning. When the 6 day war broke out, and my parents put their collective foot down, and insisted that find somewhere else to spend the summer. In the end, I postponed my trip to Israel for a year, and arranged to spend the summer in Europe. I would take a course in Santander Spain to improve my Spanish, for the month of August. I had studied Spanish in high school, using the standard grammar translation method. However, Spanish and English always vied for my lowest mark. Funny that now people think of me as the English teacher. My lack of ability to use the language, that I had studied for at least 5years, was evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t even say buenos dias when a Spanish speaking live-in maid arrived at our door. Once she was in our home for about a month, I was speaking quite fluently. My need to talk to her apparently catalyzed the transformation of my useless classroom Spanish to usable language. This was the first time I had really encountered the non-linear aspects of language learning, but I didn’t really give it much thought at the time. I could have studied French or Hebrew, but believed Spanish would be more useful (The best laid plans…) I bought a 2 month Eurail (unlimited 1st class train) pass, and the book “Europe on $5 A Day” (would you believe). On July 7 th, I was off to Paris. As I think back on it now, It was a pretty gutsy thing to do. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do. I was, a girl, completely alone, and there were no cell phones. In fact, most places in Europe didn’t have any phones at all. 6
My parents didn’t imagine how much more dangerous this was than being in a school (ulpan) in Israel. On July 14th - Bastille Day. I was alone in Nice. There was this middle aged man that had been following me all day long, who wouldn’t take a hint, and I didn’t speak ore than 2 words of French. When I tried to get help from a ‘gendarme”, the only answer l got was “Je ne parle pas Englais.” I was pretty scared, but I went out anyway. I truly wanted to see the festivities. A young man in the crowd, started talking to me. (first in French, then in German, and finally in English.) He was wearing a small gold mezuzah on a chain around his neck. In my naiveté, I assumed that his being Jewish, insured my safety. Of course it didn’t, but he wasn’t dangerous. We watched the fireworks etc., and began to talk. It was just after the 6 Day War. He had been in the “Ha-Bonim” youth movement, and believed that every Jew should live in Israel. I was proud, of Israel’s accomplishments, but I was very happy as an American, and had no desire to live anywhere else in fact, living in New York City, I never felt like a part of a minority at all. I do remember 2 incidents of anti-Semitism, but they were so subtle that, only someone with super sensitivity, would react to them. The first happened at a party at Gail’s house. I mentioned to E___ that we were the only 2 Americans there. B___ said “You aren’t American, you’re Jewish.” The other took a few hours to realize. It happened, when I applied for a job at Roman’s. I got the job. They asked if I could start the next Saturday. I said no, because it was the day of my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. The interviewer told me that they wouldn’t need me. However, although my experience with antiSemitism in the US was inconsequential, a lot of little things that I saw in Europe, helped me understand Jacques’ point of view. We spent the whole night on the beach, talking about Israel and the war. We decided to continue traveling together, until I had to leave for Spain. The only problem was that, he only had a few Franks with him. He had been tramping, and I wasn’t ready to do that. So I lent him $50 and we traveled 2 nd class on the train, and stayed in youth hostels. We saw Italy together. Two weeks later, when I said goodbye, I was sure that, that was the end of this summer romance. I only realized how important it was to me, when I found myself crying for the entire 32 hour ride to Santander.
Studying at Santander was great. Beyond improving my language skills, I was exposed to lots of local culture. I will never forget the fabulous acapela folk singer. Her voice and the music, were beautiful beyond belief. Then, to my surprise, about a week after I arrived, when I returned to the dorms, after class, I saw a familiar silhouette in the lobby. It was Jacques. He had come “to return my money”. He stayed for a week at a nearby “‘pension”. Pensions are the best accommodations in foreign countries. You get a much more personal look at the people of the country, and you pay much less, than in a hotel. Even now, I prefer them to fancy hotels, that are the same, all over the world. I’ve used them, whenever possible, all over Europe, and in Japan, and have never been sorry. Jacques asked me to stop in Marseille on my way home; which I did. Staying with Jacques’ family was a mixed bag. I spent a week communicating in my own version of sign language. Somehow, I managed to overcome the language barrier, while trying to figure out how Jacques’ 2½ year old sister Nathalie, could understand French so easily??? One interesting thing that I still don’t understand, is why, when she would say yes (oui) it sounded the way it is spelled, and not the way itis usually pronounced. I thought that, I got a view of French family life, from the inside, but as it turned out it was not really a French family. It was a transplanted Moroccan Algerian Jewish family that spoke French, with bits of Arabic seasoning. On the one hand they treated my like an honored guest. On the other, like a child who still hadn’t learned to talk. Jacques’ father kept asking him if I could say anything besides bonjour. They were only in France for a few years, and still had many characteristics of their North African origins. For example two of his sisters shared the same bed. Jacques (as the oldest son) had a whole room to himself. In spite of Jacques’ traveling without any money, it turned out that his family was quite well to do. They tested my honesty, by putting me in charge of the cashbox at their store. They kept toasting to our marriage (We only knew each other for a month.), and to “next year in Jerusalem” and they made a lot of toasts. But it later turned out that they didn’t really mean any of them. So I returned home, not expecting anything to come of this. Maybe if I didn’t receive a letter every day, nothing would have. But I did, and our summer romance transformed into a transatlantic romance, which finally culminated in our marriage on the 8th of April, 1971. 8
Of course we had our ups and downs, surprises and conflicts. As I hinted before Jacques mother, kept telling him that it wouldn’t work. I would say “She has a point, so be sure that this is what you really want.” I also needed time to convince myself, that I wasn’t letting my feelings overpower my brain. I insisted that he finish his studies, and work for a while for someone other than his father. I wanted him to know that he could make it without nepotism, and to feel the power of earning something on your own. His first real pay check was so important to him, that he sent it to his grandfather in Israel; sort of like a rite of passage. One year, they sent me a ticket to Marseille for 4 days to celebrate the Passover Seder with them. I went, but really didn’t enjoy it. The adult men, sang the hagada in Hebrew and Aramaic, by themselves. The women were in the kitchen, and the children played monopoly on the floor in the next room. On top of all that the charoset my favorite item at the Seder table was store bought, and absolutely inedible. We spent vacations together. The summer of 68 was met at, at Ulpan Akiva (where I would have been the year before if the 6 day war hadn’t broken out). Their system didn’t work as well as it should have on me, because there was no way of placing me with non-English speakers, but I did see the system in action. I will never forget the 1st lesson. The teacher brought a in platter with all different kinds of foods on it. She asked a question about the food. If you answered correctly, you got a bite of it to eat. For example: “Do you want melon?” “I want melon.” I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs, but it worked. By the end of the lesson, we all knew how to ask questions with the word want in them like “Do you want_____?” and responses to them in the form “_ want(s) _____.”; and we knew the names of a lot of foods. Jacques had relatives all over Israel. So we spent most Saturdays, staying with members of his extended family, in different parts of the country. I really like experiencing other cultures up close, but even spending time in Jacques’ parents home wasn’t enough to mediate this culture shock. It took me many years to feel comfortable with most of them.
A good example of my lack of understanding actually happened when we were already married and living here for a few years. Every time we would visit his relatives, his aunts would insist that I drink tea. I only drink tea when I am too sick to hold anything else down. One day a family of his cousins, with his aunt stopped at my house, on their way from Haifa to Jerusalem. I was not well, and actually had tea prepared. I offered them tea or coffee, and everyone except his aunt had a cup. I complained to her, because she had always insisted that I drink tea at her house, but refused to drink it at mine. What I didn’t realize, until years later, was that in her culture, you refuse any offer at least 3 times before accepting. The poor woman wanted the tea. She went home thirsty, since I didn’t understand the language beyond the words. The cousins, who had more contact with the non-Moroccan community realized who they were dealing with, and got their drink. However, the only relatives that I had, and still have, a common language with, are Israel, his sister Miriam and their spouses Ziona and Yosi (who fell in the Yom Kippur war) respectively. In the summer, of 1969, we drove around Greece. We saw the Parthenon. We saw the first moon walk, on TV, together, which was the event of the year. We really enjoyed, trying to sound out words written in Greek letters, which we knew from mathematics. We managed to sound out some real cognates like pharmacy, and some modern international words like supermarket. We also learned a few words of Greek, and recognized some words, whose roots we already knew. My friend Bess, always said that she did much better than others on psychometric tests just because of her knowledge of Greek. We spent the summer of 1970 in Marseille, while Jacques’ parents went to Israel. They paid for me to study French privately at Berlitz . I didn’t finish the course there, and exchanged the remaining value for a small group course when I got home. That experience taught me that language is learned much better in groups, than one to one.. That winter we finally decided to get engaged, while on a Christmas vacation in Mallorca. We had our engagement party at my parents house, the following February. As you see, simple curiosity, and the power of circumstance had already pushed me into experiencing learning foreign language in a myriad of frameworks. However, it would be many years before I gave it any consequence. Remember I was a math teacher. Of course once we decided to marry, our first issue was where and when. His family wanted us to get married in February in France. I couldn’t take time off 10
in February, and the crazy French family laws, decided for us, that we would have the wedding in New York. Jacques’ family couldn’t come to the engagement party. So when they arrived a few days before the wedding My father offered them a taste some food, that they had frozen, from the party. The look on my father-in-law’s face was priceless. He didn’t know what to do. For him the idea of eating food that was 3 months old, was absolutely freighting. He wouldn’t eat food that was 3 days old, but he was a guest, there for his sons wedding. He ate it and survived. April 8th,was Holy Thursday, the first day of Spring vacation, and the night before the Passover Seder. It was the very last day we could get married, by Jewish law, before the summer ( after the 9 th of Av), which was Jacques’ father’s busy season. Of course, it made life a little difficult for all the friends and relatives who had to prepare for Passover a day early. The first 2 nights after the wedding, were Seder nights. It was quite a cultural event. The Seder was very different from the one in Marseille, but they enjoyed it no less than we did. It reminded me of the Seder, few years earlier, to which I invited Janet, and her husband. There was a lot of tension at the outset, which dissipated very quickly. In fact, it served me well, years later when I insisted that we follow our format, when we did the Seders with them. Since Jacques’ family (7 people) had come just for us, we postponed our honeymoon until the summer, and spent the week following the wedding, with them. We rented a 9 seater station wagon, did some sight seeing in New York, and then drove down to D.C. for 2 days, matzoth and boiled eggs in tow. We were probably the cause of a sharp rise in anti-Semitism, that year, just because of the trail of matzoth crumbs that we left behind us. We already had agreed to live in Israel. I wouldn’t have lived in France, and Jacques really didn’t want to live in the States. He had been active in the Habonim Zionist movement, and wanted to live here. I agreed to try, and have been trying ever since, but, as I often say “Living in Israel, even now, can be very trying”.
NYC 2 Haifa via France After school ended June 30 th, we packed up my apartment ourselves ,using clothing instead of paper, as packing. There wasn’t room to squeeze a 11
fingernail into the crate, when we sent it off to Israel. Whatever was left, we took with us on the steamer La France to La Havre France as our honeymoon. Then we drove a packed rent-a-car to Marseille. We stayed there with Jacques Parents, until after Yom Kippur. I discovered that I was pregnant a few days before we left for Israel. So we spent our last few days in France stocking up on anything we could, for the new baby. The best purchase was a “Bebe Comfort” chair that did everything from a simple baby carrier, to a swing, to a stroller, a potty and more. They stopped making them, probably because it replaced so many other items. Jacques’ father bought us a Peugeot 204, which we met at the port, to avoid paying French taxes, and packed it, so there was barely room for me to fit in, and left for Haifa on an Israeli ship. When I look back at my first few years here, I wonder how I managed to not give up. I remember writing to my mother that “things that are very picturesque when you are a tourist, can be very hard to live with”. I guess, if you are young and idealistic, you find strength that you don’t know you have. In fact, when I was here, I usually felt privileged, because I had much more than most of those around me. Most people around us baked with a “wonder pot”. We were asked if our car had a heater, and if our washing machine was ”full automatic”, and of course, we did have our own car. I did manage to get back to the States once every year or so, which on one hand grounded me; on the other accentuated the differences between the life I had, and the life I left. Our first station in Israel, was at Kiriat Shmona, a small town, remotely situated near the northern boarder. There was almost no contact with the rest of the country, and absolutely nothing to do in your spare time; good for fostering studying, but no fun. Jacques became friends with Yaakov, the caretaker at the Ulpan, where we were staying. On Saturdays, we sometimes went fishing with him. We sat right next to him, and had the same equipment, so how come he managed to catch sacks of fish, and we were lucky when, between us, we managed to catch one. One Saturday, Yaakov took pity on us, and invited us to share a fish dinner at his home. Yaakov was a more or less typical Moroccan immigrant, of the time, with 8 or 9 children, the youngest less than a year old. The super fresh fish was absolutely delicious, simply floured, and fried. But I was shocked to see, that Yaakov’s wife fed her baby the fish, without removing the bones. When I asked her if she wasn’t afraid that the baby would choke, she pointed to her 12
other children, sitting at the table, and said to me “I didn’t remove the bones for any of them.” While studying for my BA, I had learned about research, showing that, when babies are allowed to choose their own diet, from a variety of healthy foods, they invariably choose a balanced diet (over time), and they avoid foods that they are sensitive to. However, I would never have thought that they also had an instinct, to protect themselves from swallowing fish bones. Pnina was born on May 15, 1972. I wasn’t, brave enough to feed her fish, without removing the bones, but I did feed her sections of citrus fruit, without removing the pits, before she had teeth. She just spit out membrane with the pits intact. If every baby was as easy to bring up as she was, no mother would complain about the task. I followed, all the theories, that I had accepted, while studying education plus my trusty copy of Dr. Spock, and everything that I had picked up along the way. By the time Yona was born 25 months later June 14,1974, Pnina was totally independent. She spoke English (which she learned from me) and Hebrew (which she learned at nursery school) fluently, and could communicate on a basic level, in French, with Jacques’ family. When preparing her for the new arrival, I explained that, the baby would make a lot of noise, and demand a lot of my time etc. She looked up at me with surprise at my lack of common sense, and said “What do you expect, Mommy? It’s a baby!”. In fact she actually helped with the baby, and in a lot of senses, helped bring here up Remember she was only 2 years old. Another example of her, insight, happened the summer before she started first grade. We were in Marseille, She surprised me with the comment. “In France everything is fancy. When I asked her why, she told me, in a knowing tone, that the furniture is fancy, the people dress fancy, even the dogs are fancy! We had just spent a very difficult visit in the US, when my mother passed away, so I asked her about America. She said “In America everything is big The buildings are big. The cars are big. Even the people are big! I couldn’t stop there, and asked her about Israel. Again she looked at me as if to say “How could you(I) not know.” “ Israel is the Holy Land!”. She had just summed up 3 countries in as many word. I was really lucky that Pnina was born first, because Yona was a wonderful baby, but didn’t follow any of the rules. She didn’t learn anything gradually, but would apparently work it out in her brain, and come out with it completely “cooked” when she was ready. She only said a word or two when she started nursery school. In a few weeks, she was singing songs, and telling jokes. The same thing happened when she learned, to read, to swim, and to jump rope. 13
If, before they were born, I thought that babies were born a blank slate, two so different daughters, proved how wrong I was. Now that I have grandsons, I can also testify that boys are different from girls from infancy. Had I remained in the US, my experience as a mother might have changed my teaching a bit, but because I was transplanted into a system that wasn’t natural for me, my life moved in other directions. I was totally unsuccessful integrating into the Israeli education system. My ideas and expectations of my students and of myself as their teacher, were incompatible, with theirs. My understanding of what is important for students to learn, and theirs were opposite. My spoken Hebrew was full of errors, and I couldn’t read at all. It would take me longer to grade a test than it took the student to take it, but I had to grade 200, while they had to take only one. I was jealous of my religious friends, who didn’t work on the Sabbath, because I felt guilty for taking a 10 minute break So I tried a few other jobs. I worked in a project, at well baby clinics, to teach mothers in poor neighborhoods educational play with baby. It was one of two educational programs in a nationwide neighborhood renewal effort. The other trained and supervised mothers to run inexpensive, home based, day care for 5-7 babies; thus giving an income to the participants, while freeing the other mothers to work and promising inexpensive, high quality care for their babies. The mothers brought their babies for injections, diet changes etc. While they waited the 2-4 year olds that accompanied them were attracted by the toys in our display. The toys were home made, mostly from recycled plastic boxes and caps, and used socks and baby cloths. Nothing I used, took more than ½ hour to make. At first there was resentment, to us coming from outside. The turning point came, when a woman came to the clinic with anew baby and a cute 18 month old son. She couldn’t have looked more frightening. Her hair wasn’t combed. She was almost toothless! To my surprise, the little boy came up to me with a “Hi. What’s up?” He knew all the basic colors and shapes, etc., and spoke beautifully. As it turned out, she had worked in a nursery school, and knew how to play with her son. We must learn to not make decisions based on first impressions. This mother became my model as to how successful educational play can be. The other mothers saw, that baby needs more than clean diapers and food. I really enjoyed this job at the start, but after 2 years I felt redundant and, my brain started to complain that it wasn’t being used. So I learned computer programming, and systems analysis, and started a 22 year career doing that.
In many ways computer programming is like doing a puzzle or playing a game. So it was also a lot of fun at the start, but like everything else most of the work becomes routine. One highlight of my extend career was an in-service course that I designed, to teach programming to a group of clerks, whose position was being eliminated. It was quite a challenge, because their whole lives had been spent doing routine work, without giving it much thought. Moreover, their self-image, and their image in the eyes of others, was not of people who could succeed. They had to deal with the frustration of first dealing with strict syntax rules, and then actually getting the program to perform the desired task. Although this seems obvious to those of us who deal in the field, for these people, the affective part of the task, was at least as difficult as the technical part. They really didn’t want to be challenged! My job in preparing the program, was, first to choose, to teach only those topics which I was sure would be necessary to performing their future jobs, and then to gradate the materials into chewable bites, while constantly encouraging them. If I thought making mathematics understandable, was easy, this wasn’t! TALI Among my complaints with the Israeli school system, although not connected to my teaching, was the fact that the schools are divided into 2 streams: one religious (orthodox, where strict adherence to religious law is required); the other one secular (quite anti-religious, with little religious tradition taught). Consequently, a year or two before Pnina started 1st grade, when a group of parents trying to establish a school, where children would not be separated by religious affiliation, I cheerfully joined. We were about twenty families; mostly immigrants, (several of the parents were educators) who were used to the Conservative, Progressive and Reform movements in our places of origin. We wanted a school where children would be given a richer background, with a more positive attitude about Jewish religion and history, than they would get in a secular school, but where decisions about personal religious behaviors would be made a home, where tolerance of other beliefs and behaviors was emphasized, where we could influence the use of modern creative teaching. We finally got approval of the “experiment” about a week before Pnina started 3rd grade. Physical conditions were so meager, and it was so close to the start of the school year, that about half the original families didn’t participate. However bad the physical conditions were; our challenges just began there. We had been united in our fight for the right to start the school, but once we got approval, we discovered, that each parent had a different ides of what a “traditional” school should be., and we had no model to follow. There were many issues in dispute, that could have easily become deal breakers. 15
Many decisions we had to be made; among them: 1. Would there be prayers, would they be required, and what role girls would or could take in them? 2. What food children bring to school, if their homes weren’t kosher? 3. What about parties on the Sabbath. Religious children couldn’t participate on the Sabbath. We found solutions, that everyone could live with, to each dilemma. 1. There would be prayers, incorporating as many ethnic styles as possible. Boys would be required to wear skull caps for prayers, but weren’t required to otherwise. Girls could perform “male” roles at prayers, but weren’t required to. 2. All foods brought to school would be dairy, but religious parents had to accept the idea that their child might take a bite out of cheese sandwich, that was spread with a knife that just cut meat. 3. Functions (parties), where more than half the class were invited, had to be timed so as to permit religious students to participate, but small groups could gather whenever they chose. We also had difficulty finding teachers, who fit our objectives, and at the last minute. Our children learned, very little math or science, that first year, but they did learn how citizens in a democracy effect changes, and how problems can be solved by a concerted cooperative effort. The most telling example of how, conflicts were dealt with an incident which happened years after the school was running successfully. One year two boys in the 9th grade wrote an article in the issue of the student newspaper, which came out after Yom Kippur, about a bicycle trip they took on the holiday. The principal, who was quite liberal, but religious, was outraged, and said that children who would do something like that, had no place in this school. The parents called a meeting of the pedagogic committee. Yes, there were parent committees on all aspects of the running of the school. The parents reminded the principal that in this school behavioral decisions relating to religion are made at home. The next day the principal called an assembly about the issue, with all the students and staff present. He explained that he was very disappointed that 16
children, who received the education that this school offers, would decide to spend the most holy day n the Jewish calendar in such a way. He was justified in expressing his disappointment, but still expressing his understanding, that the decision was theirs. The resolution of all these dilemmas exemplifies the kind of communication and the kind of thinking that is fostered in the course, involving responsibility, problem solving, and win–win conflict resolution. It was also an example of how parents and staff working together to effect a better school experience, with mutual respect and responsibility. On the 25 of February 1986, our lives got a sudden shock. It was one of our most optimistic periods. We both had good stable jobs. We had signed the night before with an architect for a major remount on the house, and with a hall for Yona’s Bat mitzvah. Jacques family was to come to visit the next day. Then Jacques sat down to watch TV after dinner and a shower, made some peculiar noises, and died. There are no words to explain what we went through during those next few years. To all the tribulation you would normally imagine, you must add the cultural chasm, which are magnified in times of crisis, and that the only support system that I had were some remarkably wonderful friends, without whose help I would never have made it. I considered moving, even returning to the States. Maybe it was a bad call, but I felt that the girls didn’t need to be uprooted. We stayed where we were. Slowly we found a new norm to live by, as the girls continued to grow up. In1992, when Yona reached the age to go into the army, I felt that I could take a long trip I traveled around the world, with long stops in Thailand, China and Japan. Thailand, was fascinating, but a little too touristy for me. The weather in Bangkok was really hot and humid. I flew to Hong Kong arriving late Saturday night. Even though Hong Kong was still a British colony, the taxi driver didn’t know enough English to understand the address of the hotel. When I finally arrived I received an envelope, with a train ticket to Canton leaving at 7:00 the next morning, and a plane ticket from Xian back to Hong Kong 5 days later. No one could give me any information, before I had to be on the train. I had expected to be met by a representative, but I decided to go anyway. I somehow, found my seat, after a lot of confusion. As I looked around, I didn’t see any other women, and everyone looked the same from the back. After a magnificently beautiful ride through the Chinese countryside, I finally arrived at the Canton central station. A surrealistic human mass of similarly 17
dressed men who all looked alike swarmed out of the train towards the exit, pointing me from one line to another. I eventually got through customs, and went out to look for the guide, who was to be awaiting me. I walked around, trying to find a representative of the company, with no success. So I returned to the police area, which was by this point completely empty. Finally I decided to brave a step outside the station. imagine the feeling. I was all alone, stepping into RED CHINA, and I didn’t know a single word of Chinese, nor did I have any idea where to find my guide, or how I could identify him/her, or even someone who spoke English. Of course, what I had not thought of, was that the guide would have no trouble identifying me, which he did, the moment I stepped outside the station. This junket, was one of the most memorable in my life. In each city I had a car, a driver, and a guide to myself. I was overwhelmed, by the magnificence of the landscape, and the cultural artifacts. The skill and attention to precise detail, of even the most plebian artisans was mind boggling. Each day, we finished the planned itinerary by noon, because we didn’t have to wait for others. So I got to add in some unplanned extras. In Guilin, famous for its beautiful scenery, I got to see thousands of children, each carrying a little black stool, sitting attentively, in lines to watch an assembly in the schoolyard of an elementary school., for several hours, watching representatives of other classes read presentations, not moving. I also got to visit a zoo, where a mina bird taught me to say Hello - “Ni How’” In Xian, I saw the incredible terracotta warriors, as far as the eye can see, thousands of life sized figures, each one different. I also got to see the Banpo Neolithic village, a 6000 year old matriarchal society, which already exemplified awareness of sophisticated science and pottery making skills, including knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem. That’s is 4000 years before Christ; 3000 years before Moses. Incidentally, many, 19th and 20th century “discoveries” were known to the Chinese over 1000 years before.
The Diamond Sutra book printed - AD868
My extra in Xian was to visit a nursery school.
What do you notice special here? Chinese babies don’t (or at least didn’t) wear diapers. Their clothing has the crotch seam open. When the baby needs the toilet, they just sit on their haunches, and the seam opens. The chopsticks they use also develop fine motor coordination, early, and they were using them, long before the leaders of the western stopped eating with their fingers.. I actually trained my children, very early using the “does everything” Bebe Comfort seat, and was chastised for it. The Chinese proved me right. After returning to Hong Kong, I continued my Chinese adventure, on a cruise along the coast. Before we arrived at each port, we were treated to a lecture, by a PhD in Chinese history. However I learned something really important beyond Chinese history from him. When he discovered that I was from Israel, he asked why Israel doesn’t allow Arabs to vote. I told him that not only do Arabs vote in Israel; there are Arab members of the Knesset, from both Arab political parties, and parties which have mainstream based support. The important lesson is that when the letters PhD follow your name, people accept you as an authority, even when you are totally ignorant of what you speak!!!! So be careful what you say Doctor! The rest of my sojourn in China was no less enlightening than the private tour. Every second brought something new. We made one stop in a city, that had never seen tourists before. The whole town came out to stare at us, with our funny round eyes, and strange colored hair, like we were a new exhibition at the zoo, or maybe had stepped out of a movie screen, but not real people. By now Beijing, is probably much more like any other big modern city, but I in 1993, everything was outside in full view. People doing tai Chi under the trees 19
in the morning, barbers cutting hair, a traffic jam of bicycles, on a 5 lane highway… It’s funny how I accepted the media’s presentation of “RED” China colored in drab uniforms, when the best way to describe it is full of color and incredibly rich culture, with a people, who may look alike but are totally nonconformist, and skilled at getting around, their restrictive government. If everything is outside in China, everything in Japan is indoors. If things are bright and colorful in China, they are subdued and delicate in Japan. Their cultures, have common origins, but have taken different directions. If the Chinese try to get around the rues, the Japanese are programmed to never break them. They can be very generous and creative, but don’t ask them to stray a millimeter from the rules. I often say that a burglar, in Japan probably places his shoes neatly outside, and puts on his slippers before entering. One of my biggest discoveries came from 3 young men, from Hong Kong, who didn’t know English (and certainly not Japanese). I asked them how they managed. The answer “simple, we read the signs.” Their spoken languages are very different. Their Kanji writing is understood by both. Incidentally their thousands of characters, are words, built of relatively few basic forms, which makeup symbolic pictures. They are not based on sounds as are our letters. Moreover, because of their pictorial nature, dyslexia is almost nonexistant. Japan’s magnificence originates with its ability to create immense power and beauty from minimalization Whether a picture, a flower arrangement, a dance, a garden, a screen, or a piece of origami; originality, only comes after mastery of strict rules, and deep philosophy. Some of the works are so powerful, that they act as a magnet, that you can’t pull yourself away from. I had started to learn origami from a Japanese student that I taught math to in New York, but after my visit, I studied Ikebana (flower arranging) and discovered Japanese art. Moreover, there is an enormous amount of real mathematics in Origami, and in much other Japanese art. All the constructions that we do with a compass and straight edge, can be done with Origami.
Incidentally the Japanese pensions (Mnshuko, or Rokan) are clean, safe and inexpensive. I always prefer them, to 5 star hotels which are indistinguishable from those in New York, Paris or Tel Aviv, and cost many times more. Another helper the Japan-rail tourist, is the fact that plaster models of all the dishes appear in the windows of all the restaurants. They look precisely like the meal you actually receive, so you can order without knowing the language. My total expenses in Japan came to only $100/day, because I lived like a Japanese, not like a tourist. 20
Africa Sometimes, when I travel in places, where the nature is magnificent, where the people live under what we would consider primitive, or poor conditions (in Africa, South America, some parts of China, even menial workers in Europe), I am a little jealous of the beauty that they see every day, and very ashamed of our condescension. Every culture has its beauty and its grace. We have much to learn from all peoples.. Few people know that the Inca’s in Peru were doing brain surgery, before Pesaro invaded, and destroyed everything in sight. He had the guns. Incidentally the gun powder, was introduced to Europe by Marco Polo, who learned about it in China, as was spaghetti. We do great damage, when we make people ashamed of their own culture, as we present the commercial parts of ours. No one can really succeed, if he/she is ashamed of his/her own culture or people. A classic example is the way beautiful women are depicted in advertisements in different countries. In the US, we have finally arrived at the point where we see all types of people in the ads, even though, it is sometimes contrived. In the far east, the women look oriental, but some of their features, look more Caucasian than typical of the place. In Africa the women look white, except, that the skin has been darkened. Of course, we in the west, have created the newest deadly disease (anorexia), by presenting the Barbie model to young girls. These distortions teach people from infancy, that they are an inferior cast. Often successful people from these groups still hold these attitudes subconsciously. We must be careful to not let our prejudices, rule our behaviors. In Israel we have many immigrants and many foreign workers. People tend to define them in terms of the jobs they have, but these people are often much more capable than at first glance. The foreign workers have to function in a country with different values and language. They mange to live on what they earn, with no help and still send money home. My best example is a man who used to called himself Shogun, although he is from Nigeria. He worked cleaning houses, but was always studying, and would often help me with my PC; sometimes technically; sometimes with software he found. One day a man who, I was told was a technician, but was really just a driver, who had been taught to insert certain parts, came to try a particular part. After he tried for a while, and didn’t succeed, I called Shogun, who was in the kitchen, to help. The “technician” looked at me with distain “why did you call him??” Of course Shogun solved the problem in a few minutes. The 21
“technician” never returned! He couldn’t take being shown up, by a middle aged woman, and a black African. When Shogun wasn’t cleaning houses and playing with the PC, he was studying, for a doctorate in theology. He also ran a small church for Christian workers. The first time he showed me the website he designed for his church. I took one look at it, and called him racist. All the praying hands decorating the site were white. Sometimes we convey very bad messages, which we don’t even believe without being cognizant of it. I also had a wonderful cleaning woman from China, who would give me Chinese medical treatments. She first became my friend, just because I took the trouble to say “ni how” when I first met her. Trenton State A few years later my friend Janet, (not the Janet from NYC), who was a really great English teacher, told me about a masters degree program in Teaching EFL and Administration of International Schools, being offered by, Trenton State College, at the nearby American International School. I wasn’t an English teacher. I still am not, and I know that G-d invented the spell checker just for me. But I did already speak 4 languages, which I learned in more than 4 different ways. I had been a teacher. I needed the MA for my job, and my Hebrew wasn’t good enough to study in Hebrew. So I decided to try a lesson. To the credit of Prof. Virginia Rojas, who designed the program and taught several of the courses (including the first) the entire program was exciting and invigorating. I think that the most important thing she did was to develop a desire in each of us, to continue, and a knowledge that if we wanted to, we could and would succeed. From the beginning, of the first course, the whole study of how we acquire language began to fascinate me. I kept comparing what I was taught in class, with my own experience. Actually, my first awareness of ESL, occurred long before I was born. I knew that my mother, and many of her friends, all of whom spoke excellent English, and (unlike me), could even spell, started first grade, only speaking Yiddish, and got absolutely no help from their parents. The idea that most revolutionized my thinking came from Noam Chomsky. He clearly demonstrated that babies are born with a system for learning human language. This is really hard to accept at first, because it takes our offspring long to start to talk, but we accept that other animals instinctively speak their languages, and obviously couldn’t function without an ability to communicate within their own species.
Similarly, human animals absolutely need to be able to communicate in human language. We cannot function without it. We really can’t think until we have the words to refine our thoughts. Think of the life of Helen Keller. Until her teacher, Annie Sullivan, found a way to communicate words to her, she was totally wild and uncontrollable. Once she learned to communicate, she quickly began to develop, completed academic studies, and eventually became a brilliant leader, and a model for others to overcome life’s obstacles. All human languages are more similar then they are different. They all have nouns, verbs, conjunctions, etc. If they weren’t, we could not translate form one language to another. However, words are only a small part of spoken language. Spoken language includes body language, facial expression, intonation and any other useful item available. You can understand most of what’s said to you, even if you only know a few words of the language. Remember Gail’s grandmother learned English from the soap operas on TV. Recently many Israelis have been learning Spanish, watching South American “tele-novellas”, that have become popular on TV. If you ever find yourself in a place, where you have no common language with the people around you, you will quickly find yourself acquiring those words in that native language, that will help you communicate your most pressing needs. Administration Most of the courses in the MA program, required major original projects; several which left a lasting effect. One of the shorter ones, was completed during the 2 week course in administration. We were each to design a questionnaire, meet with a “panel of experts” from the class, several times, and finally administer it to other students, and then evaluate the responses. My project concerned the willingness to pay for extended school day programs. The results were very interesting, because one of the critical demographic variables wasn’t even a specific question on the questionnaire. The question was about the parent’s occupations. The distinction turned out to be, that irrespective of what profession, working mothers were in prepared to pay for a quality after school program where stay at home moms were not. The most interesting part of the project was the study in human nature of the participants. The reaction of each student to the comments of the “panel of experts”, (including me) was to defend his/her original draft. The screams could be heard from far, but each of us left and came back, with a much better draft at the next meeting. As I analyzed my own reactions, I realized how invaluable a second opinion or a “sounding board” can be to help in formulating any project; especially if must be interpreted by third parties. 23
Sociolinguistics The next project that had an huge effect on my developing understanding of language and people, was an assignment that I was given to offset some time that I missed in the sociolinguistics course. The course itself, a real eye opener, focused on hidden connotations in groups of words, when sorted by ethnics or gender. How we relate to -> witchwizard, queenking, secretary(woman’s job)secretary(minister). How many invectives, relate to woman. Even “your mother” can be the ultimate fighting words. The project, which grew, and grew, because of objective factors, and because it was so interesting, was a Survey of Attitudes to languages in Israel. The objective reason for the need for so many participants, was because of the immense diversity of the demographics in Israel. You might think that a “Jewish State”, people would be very similar, but the opposite is true. Israel is a country of immigrants, from close to 100 different countries. I surveyed 127 people. All lived, near me. They themselves, and/or their parents were born in 32 different countries, and spoke 18 different languages at home. Subjects were grouped as follows; Ages 9 - 17 18 - 34 35 - 49 50+ generation Israeli
L2 Students future parents of l2 students Parents of l2 students
2nd generation 1st generation Child immigrant Adult immigrant New immigrant
39 32 46 10 30 58 20 11 8
western 60 Middle eastern 37 mixed 10 Israeli (both) 20 Each sub group’s responses were examined individually and relative to others. The following was the questionnaire that was circulated.
LANGUAGES in ISRAEL
Age גיל -----------------------------------------------------------------Gender מין------------------------------------------------------------------Years of schooling שנות לימוד ---------------------------------------Years in Israel שנים בארץ -----------------------------------------Country of birth ארץ לידה --------------------------------------------Country of mother’s birth ארץ לידת האם-------------------------------Country of father’s birth ארץ לידת האב-----------------------------Language שפה
Years studied שנות ללמוד השפה Spoken at home מדובר בבית Oral level 0-5 שליטה בעל פה Written level 0-5 שליטה בכתב Important to know 0-5 חשוב לדעת Easy to learn 0 -5 קל ללמוד I like the sound 0-5 מצלצל יפה Its culture & music 0-5 מוסיקה ותרבות יפם It helps you sound clever 0-5 עוזרלך להשמעה חחם It helps you sound likable 0-5 עוזרלך להשמעה נחמד I would like being mistaken for a native speaker 0 - 5 היתי נהנה אם יחשבו שזה שפת אמי
Add any other languages that you know or think are important to know. או נראלך חשובה.להוסיף כל שפה ידועה לך ו.
Israel the ultimate testing ground for second language learning. It has reincarnated Hebrew, from an ancient holy language, used only in prayer, (but common to religious Jewish men, wherever in the world they were to be 25
found), and made it into a modern language, complete with slang and vulgarity. However, its success with other languages, has been very uneven. Enabling immigrants from almost every country of the world to function in Hebrew, was essential to creating one nation of people, whose backgrounds were incredibly varied, and has been done with remarkable success. A six month Ulpan course provides basic communication skills, newspaper reading, and even some literature. In the 1960s a the majority of the adult population of Israel, although not native speakers, used Hebrew as if they were. English is s successfully taught as the key to the outside world. High school students must pass an exam, that would be difficult for many native speakers. Arabic is needed, to understand both the Arab citizens of Israel, and the people and governments of the countries surrounding Israel. Moreover Arabic is a sister language to Hebrew. Yet in spite of years of study, most Israelis canâ€™t hold a simple conversation in Arabic. The basic hypothesis, that this seeming inconsistency, would be explained by attitudinal variables, was reinforced, by many glaring trends that surfaced. In every subgroup, the attitude ratings for English and Hebrew, almost the same (approximately 4 out of 5). Surprisingly, in some cases English out rated Hebrew. On the other hand attitudinal ratings for Arabic were less than Â˝ the all other languages ( including all those added optionally ), at about 2 out of 5. The only exception was the importance of Israelis knowing the language. Arabic was rated 3.43 as compares to English at 4.4, and Hebrew at 4.97. Eight subjects rated Arabic as zero for everything. Another 17 rated it as zero for everything except its importance. Thus based on this survey Arabic is considered hard to learn, not very pleasant to the ear, but important to know. Over 90% of the people who learned Arabic only in school, rated themselves as totally unable to function in the language (0 or 1 out of 10). Of those who had some exposure to Arabic at home, there was no significant increase in the ratings of those who also studied it at school, and there was only a slight increase in the attitudinal ratings. Only 16 respondents thought that Arabic was easier to learn than English, even though, 47 had at least one parent for whom Arabic was his/her native tongue, and Arabic and Hebrew are sister languages, with many common word, and grammatical constructions. Trends showed that the longer people were living in the country, and the older they were, the less extreme the attitudes.
The most telling question, and the one which taught me the most was the last one, which stated “I would like to be mistaken for a native speaker” This is the most critical key to a person’s ability to become fluent in any new language, and is supported by much other research.
Speaking a language, is like disguising yourself as one of it’s speakers. Identifying with the native speakers is a catalyst, and distain for them (especially subconscious distain) is a major obstacle. One incident in a workshop, was a first lesson. About halfway through, I asked the class if anyone had trouble understanding. Only on student said that she couldn’t understand. She was an intelligent woman, with a slight Spanish accent, who contended that she had been trying to learn English for 20 years without success. I asked her to tell me some of the words, that gave her trouble,. All the examples listed were cognates (the same in Spanish). I asked where she was from. Her answer was Argentina. Now I knew her problem. I told her that she had an anti-gringo block. She got so angry that she started screaming at me about how wrong I was, in rapid loud, and fluent English. The whole class started to laugh, and from that point on she had no problem understanding or speaking. The research, enriched my understanding of the subconscious affective factors involved in our ability to develop facility in a language. This phenomenon is seen all over the world. Germans born after WWII have little trouble understanding Yiddish, while those who lived through the war can’t. When a Swiss from Zurich has to talk to a Swiss from Geneva, they will probably speak to each other in English, because although French German and Italian are all official languages in Switzerland, most Swiss speak only one of the three. It also explains why 2nd generation members of some immigrant groups in the US can’t speak English, while my mother and her companions started school with no English, and spoke perfectly before the end of first grade. In Israel, now, immigrants from Ethiopia usually learn Hebrew faster than those from the USSR, in spite of the generally higher academic level of those from the USSR.
Practicum By the time I was ready to graduate, the massive immigration from the USSR Was at its peak. I taught a class of new immigrants, who had been in Israel for about a year, who were training to teach computer science. As I reread my journal from that class, I’m impressed, with the complexity of these students’ situation, and the challenges I had to deal with. By this point I had already learned enough about language learning to have my own paradigm, for how the class should be run. I made a point of making lessons relevant to their lives and future plans. I constantly fought with them about not translating or using a dictionary. By the end of the course everyone had adjusted to functioning in English without translating. In fact the only dictionaries allowed on the final exam were English English. The most exciting part of this course, was a series of four lessons that was inspired by an uproar that was created when we were asked for a consensus on Israeli core values. In the first lesson I asked the students to tell the class what Israelis are like. The class chose to focus on: Culture, money, education, women, politics, work, army, status, immigrants, democracy & religion. Their 1st assignment was to decide what they though Israelis thought of them. Next they were asked what Russians thought of these same issues. Next, they compared Israeli to Russian values and finally their own. There was an election coming up, and for these people, it would be the first time in their lives that they would vote in an election, where their vote could actually influence something. In fact, this immigration made up approximately 20% of the population. If most of it votes, and tends strongly to the right or to the left, they could easily tip the scales. The distribution had usually been about 45% left, 35% right, and 20% religious (usually tending to the right). So I thought these lessons could make a vital difference. I distributed a list of 25 statements which could be debated from a political perspective. First we discussed the statements to be sure they understood them vies a vie the Israeli political scene. Then they were to rate their own agreement from -3 to +3. For homework were to find political parties views from TV ads or the news.
I found a chart in the Jerusalem Post listing the positions of several parties on ten issues. The class was divided into groups. Each group had to present one partyâ€™s positions to the class, for discussion. I believe this series of lessons prepared the student for their responsibilities, as citizens in a democracy. However, we did it in real English, not English for students, and they did it without translation or even dictionaries. They had to read, listen and speak effectively much like we do in although wouldnâ€™t have even been conceived, but for a series of other unpredictable events.
IE My interest, in education would probably have moved to the passive part of my brain when I finished my M.Ed., but for a presentation, by one of the students, about the work of Prof. Reuven Feuerstein. She showed us a page of dots, and told us that using this page and others like them Prof. Feuerstein was successfully turning children with autism, Downs syndrome and brain damage into functioning adults.
I was intrigued by how he did it, and found his center in Jerusalem shortly after receiving my M.Ed. I signed up for one course, and was so impressed that I found myself taking his whole series of courses, over several years. Many of the things that he has been called crazy, for years, for saying about the modifiability of the brain have been proven true, since the advent of the MRI. His LPAD dynamic evaluation, combined with IE treatment offers a real revolution in overcoming all kinds of obstacles to success. Logically, I should have stopped being involved in the field of education. I was working in computers, and with the exception of a course I developed and taught to upgrade clerical workers to programming, I had done no teaching in over 20 years. But again a totally unrelated event pushed me back. There was a story on the news, of a woman who, after 25 years of living under a reign of terror, finally got up the courage to fight back, and killed her abusive husband. As I heard her friend talking on the radio, I thought to myself, that if she had been given the Feuerstein program as a teenager, she would never have stayed for 25 years with a terrorist. Either her behavior the first time he raised a hand to her would have precluded a different reaction from him, or she would have ended the relationship long before 25 years. Whether I was right or wrong about her, I concluded that no one will offer a 200 hour “nondescript thinking” course, which isn’t math or English or history etc., to ordinary kids in an ordinary school. It was simply too expensive. Then,
eureka, I had the brain storm, which, ttally changed my focus. If we would allocate 1 year of time budgeted for EFL, (4 or 5 weekly lessons) and teach IE in English, students would learn what IE has to teach them, and would improve their English at the same time. In fact, the IE would also effect their other subjects, and no extra budget for class time to be paid for. I went to the Feuerstein institute, and told them about my idea. Had they said “We’ll check it out”, my involvement would have ended there. They didn’t, but I was sure that it would work. I developed to prove to myself that I wasn’t crazy. Each time I taught a course, even my expectations were exceeded. This is a thank you letter written by Maya. She was a new immigrant from Russia, where she had studied German, not English in school. Moreover, she had only been speaking Hebrew for about a year. From the first lesson she contended that she understood, but until the week before the last lesson, I couldn’t get her to produce a sentence. In the last session she spoke clearly. 30
One of the biggest plusses of the program is that people of widely different level of facility with English, and widely different educational levels, can study together Beti and Hagit were in the same class with Maya. Beti came in with excellent English. Hagit spoke English because she spent 2 years in the US, but she couldnâ€™t read at all, and said she was dyslectic. There were other students in the class, whose intellectual levels were much lower, than these 3 women. They all understood and they all improved significantly.
Of all the marvels of nature, probably the most remarkable, is the human mind. Modern science and medicine have only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the secrets of mechanisms that are hidden therein, but, since the advent of the MRI tests, discoveries are being made at lightning speed. One thing is certain. We are not born with a blank slate. Our brains have many built-in abilities; some of which we develop to varying success; others which our acculturation process mediates to render dysfunctional, until they fade to the point, where we cease to be aware they ever existed. When we look at the animal world, we see instincts, which we assume human babies donâ€™t possess. In fact, human beings are born with many of the same instincts as animals. However, unlike most animals, human babies are quite helpless at birth. By the time they are physically capable of utilizing these inborn abilities, they have already been effected by parents, caregivers, and the surrounding environment. As they develop, it is assumed that they have learned (i.e. been taught) everything from scratch. However, research shows the contrary to be true. The more we study child development (by isolating specific traits or by studying different cultures, or more recently, by studying the brain, using devices like MRI), the more clear it becomes that we have greatly underestimated the abilities that human babies are born with. Babies are born with several survival instincts, like suckling, and even an instinct to swim. From a few minutes after birth a baby will respond to someone making faces at him/her or sticking out his tongue, by trying to mimic the facial activities. A few years ago, research, by Helen Fletcher, showed that at only 4 days of age, a baby can distinguish between human languages, and by 8 weeks of age, shows a clear preference for his/her mother(â€˜s) tongue. It has now (2009) been shown that a fetus at 30 weeks, can actually remember (i.e. learn), over progressively longer periods. It has been shown that, when unhindered, babies: choose what and when to eat, know what to swallow and what to spit out, decide when to sleep, and how warm to dress, better than we do for them. They have inborn instincts to learn and identify spatial relationships and to learn human languages. Evidence of this can be clearly seen as we watch how quickly a new born (blank slate) becomes capable of manipulating all the learned adults in eye shot or in ear shot. 32
Every animal has an inborn instinct to communicate with others of his/her own species. So why are we surprised that human animals have an inborn instinct to communicate in human languages? We can observe a half-hour conversation between 2 dogs. We are able to understand the periphery of the interaction. Are they angry? Who is the dominant? We can’t understand the details. Similarly dogs can be taught to respond to a few words, and can certainly “sense” our moods, but they can’t hold a real conversation with us. Coco the gorilla was taught over 1000 words in English sign language. She in turn taught them to her playmate Michael and to her offspring. She even invented signs of her own, when she wanted to say something that she had not been taught a sign for. Through signing, it was possible to discover the surprising depth of emotion, memory, and imagination, that gorillas attain. Other studies of primates, show that their own “language” is rich in varied and subtle facial expressions, and audible interchange. As we watch, a newborn baby, we can easily see, how this helpless organism already shows an ability to communicate. Even at this, earliest of stages, the baby reacts differently to: inanimate objects, people, and animals. His/her reaction to dolls and pictures of people and animals is similar to the reaction to the real thing. A brand new baby will stare longer at, even a schematic image of a face, than at a colorful inanimate design. He/She is aware of the sound of a human voice, and responds to it immediately. All these communication skills are a part of language, but even patterns for the technical parts of language are built in. A three-year-old child, who has never been taught any grammar, shows a remarkable understanding of the grammar of his/her own language. In fact, we can readily note that most “mistakes” made by young children in their own language, concern over generalization of rules, of the language, which have never been articulated to them. When children say “I goed” or “It’s mine’s”, they are demonstrating a clear understanding of the rules in English for changing a verb into the passed tense, or showing possession, respectively. They simple haven’t yet learned that the language doesn’t follow its own rules in these specific cases. When children hear a foreign word they will usually make it follow the rules of their own language, whether or not this is the accepted usage. Israeli toddlers will return with “ pistval ” when they hear the word “ festival ”, because in Hebrew the letter “ F ” at the beginning of a word, gets accented, and takes on the sound of a “ P ”. The children don’t learn the rule that governs this until they are in about the fifth grade.
Children, who are exposed to more than 1 language from an early age, display an incredible ability to keep the languages separate. They know to whom to speak each language, and only occasionally, bring words and grammatical structures from one language to the other. Try listening to a conversation in a language that you think you don’t know. You’ll be amazed how much of the conversation you can understand “without understanding a single word”. You will usually have a very clear perception of what the topic is, if there is a difference in status of the participants, who accepts whose authority (both in terms of knowledge and control), etc. You can even often discern who is lying and who is truthful. All this above and beyond the obvious mood of the conversation. If, by chance, you are familiar with some of the words, (because of cognates or professional jargon for example), you will probably be able to decipher and comprehend a good part of the content. In any case, your inborn ability to comprehend human language, has allowed you to comprehend, what the words alone couldn’t tell you. In fact, words are only a small part of basic human communication, but, our instinct to comprehend each other is most profoundly enriched by them. The use of words is uniquely human, and enables us to extend our communication beyond the reaches of close interpersonal contact, in terms of time, space, and aesthetics, and abstract concepts. However, it is still the expansion of a basic instinct, whose parameters are set by our genes. We are born with the ability to acquire human language. True nothing compares with a small child’s facility to acquire language, but the ability doesn’t disappear, and can be reactivated, given the proper stimuli. Were we not born with instincts to learn the things we learn, we probably could not be taught them! Dogs cannot be taught to write poetry and people can’t be taught to distinguish smells the way dogs can. Consequently educators aim, should be to help learners develop their own inborn abilities. Our task is not to try to teach our students, but to stimulate them to learn; to help them overcome any obstacles, whether the sources of these obstacles are culturally determined or inborn, whether physical, neurological or emotional in origin, or any combination there of. is a program designed to help people, more effectively utilize, what is already in their minds. It works with peoples natural instincts to learn; using two seemingly different built-in mechanisms simultaneously. In fact recent research shows that these 2 aspects of actually intensify each other’s power, in a way that can’t be achieved by studying each aspect separately. 34
On the one hand focuses on developing cognitive and social skills, which are basic to all learning, but seldom specifically articulated in the schools. Rather than being taught to concentrate on solving a specific problem or type of problems, students learn to use meta-cognition to see the underlying principles, which govern the way we analyze and solve problems. They discover, that many seemingly different techniques are based on the same principle. Once this principle is identified, it becomes a tool that can be applied in varied new situations. While specifically teaching cognitive skills, utilizes the ability to absorb language, which is already in the minds of the students, to foster English communication. People’s inborn ability to absorb language is activated, when the language is needed to convey desires, information, and other ideas. The more this communication is relevant and vital to the speaker, the more quickly the language is acquired. In fact intense thought in a foreign language, acts to stimulate, intensify and vitalize, thought, language and the brain itself, to a degree, that cannot be approached by studying them separately. Children of immigrants invariably speak the language of their parents as well as the language of the country they live in, assuming they don’t live in an isolated ‘ghetto’ and aren’t plagued with affective inhibitions to learning one or the other language. My children were brought up in such a neighborhood. All the children managed in at least 2 languages. We have friends who speak 7 or 8. The children’s academic success can be predicted by the academic level and attitudes of the parents and often surpasses them. Based on recent research the multiplicity of languages at home probably improves the rate of success, but certainly doesn’t detract from it. A case has been recorded of a retarded child born to a wealthy Israeli family, living, in Switzerland. They spoke among themselves in Hebrew. They had an Italian speaking cleaning woman, a French speaking cook, and an English speaking nanny. The young girl, in spite of her restricted mental capacities, was capable of speaking to each of the people, with whom she had to interact, using appropriate (if limited vocabulary) in his or her own language. When traveling to countries where tourism is a primary source of income, and walking around in the market place; you will be astounded to see how well the local (often semi-literate, or even illiterate) vendors can jump form one language to another, with enough command of each, to enable them to convince the buyer, as to why their product is worth his/her money.
Native English speakers, on the other hand, are known for their lack of ability to learn other languages, because wherever they go, they find someone who can communicate with them in English. Jews are known for their ability to learn language, not because of a superior innate ability, but because of a history of unfortunate circumstances which, caused them to move from country to country (language to language) in order to survive. And because, traditionally, they were exposed to at least two or three languages from a very early age: Hebrewâ€”for prayer Yiddish, Ladino, Aramaic or some other Jewish vernacular -for secular communication within the Jewish community Whatever language was indigenous to the place where they were living for communication with the non-Jewish, surrounding community State of the art language teaching tries to reproduce the natural language learning situation, as closely as possible. Classes are generally conducted in the new language (immersion). extends this, creating an environment, which is especially conducive to language learning. It starts with simple graphic representations assuming virtually no previous knowledge or vocabulary. Students can comprehend the ideas, in spite of the fact, that they are not familiar with some of the words. Vocabulary is developed as needed, and every important word is defined within the new language (English). is not intended to replace formal language study, but to make it more effective. When we learn grammar in our native language, we already know the language. Our knowledge of grammar, and new vocabulary refines and enriches our use of the language. After an workshop the student is more ready to assimilate what the formal lessons have to offer. What exactly is In essence, reproduces the way the mother tongue was acquired. We create a situation where the meaning is clear. The IE exercises, on which is based, are very graphic, and easy to understand with minimal vocabulary. Thus, it is very easy to convey the meanings of the words, which are essential for a given exercise, or page. These words in turn serve as an anchor for developing expression. As in infancy, the concepts are developed before labels are assigned. The first association of a word with the new concept, is in English. Later, as the concept is needed, in native language conversation, it is very easy to acquire the equivalent expression. 36
Think of the sophisticated language used in children’s stories. The children have no problem following the stories, in spite of the difficult vocabulary and grammar. On the contrary, the more they hear or read such stories, the more they enrich their language ability, while enjoy and learn to appreciate the music of their language. In learners are encouraged express ideas and must pay attention to ideas expressed by others in English. The atmosphere is nonthreatening. No criticism is made of mistakes in usage etc. We don’t try to eliminate foreign accents. Having a foreign accent is actually useful. When we hear a foreign accent, we excuse other mistakes. Nor do we teach phonetics. Foreign students don’t hear the difference, between pit, put, pat, pot, and pet, so time spent on phonetics is wasted. Learners are highly motivated to speak, because they really have something to say. The fact that the exercises are challenging and engaging entices the learners into letting down their defenses, and breaks down affective barriers. Learners are involved at the most profound level of thought (meta-cognition), while at the same time playing with the challenge of puzzles and games. Students find it very difficult to “not get involved”. The same paths in the brain, which are being used to try to comprehend the concept for its own sake, become a very effective device for remembering the words associated with the concept in the new language; since the words are connected to the whole process of deduction, but native vocabulary is stimulated subconsciously at the least. Thus the time and energy invested pays more than double. As the student develops the need for the new concepts in his/her everyday life he/she finds the words in the native language to express them, whether they are words that were or were not an active part of the student’s vocabulary beforehand, while simultaneously, stimulating the entire brain. One of the biggest failings of modern education, is its tendency to compartmentalize and fragment types of learning. Very much like the way western medicine partitions the body into specialties, as opposed to Oriental medicine, which treats the person as a whole. Modern academic studies are taught by specialists in one field or another. We can learn about Renaissance music in music class, Renaissance art in art class, and Renaissance philosophy in history class, and not realize the connection between them, or that they effected each other. Similarly, we can understand what enlarging a photo is, without realizing that it has any connection, with reading a map.
does not break learning up into little pieces of information. Nor does it separate the language from the learning. Rather, it treats the learner as a whole. It integrates the learning with the language; emphasizing the fact that the same basic underlining principles transcend specific disciplines of study and all facets of life. The cognitive functions are taught through the use of parts of the IE (Instrumental Enrichment) program developed by Prof. Reuven Feuerstein and his colleagues of the ‘Hadassah Wizo Canada Research Foundation’. They developed a comprehensive systematic method of measuring people’s ability to learn LPAD (Learning potential Assessment Device) and, improving it IE. His program has been developed and used with unparalleled success over more than 50 years in a wide variety of settings: IE, his program has helped thousands of Downs’ Syndrome children, as well as, children with Autism and other mental disabilities, caused by birth defects, genetic disorders and accidents, grow into functioning independent adults. Some of them even do a years volunteer service in the Israeli Army. The system has also been used to train retarded adults, for self-sufficiency in order to be able to manage in co-operative protected housing . A 15 year old boy, who had the left side of his brain completely removed because of epilepsy; who was totally non-functioning when he arrived at the Feuerstein institute, left a few years later, reading writing and speaking 2 languages and solving thought questions. However, IE isn’t just for the mentally dysfunctional. Thousands of businesses in Europe, the US and Israel, among them, the Israel Aircraft Industries, the Israeli Air Force (pilot training) and Motorola in the U.S., use the Feuerstein system as a prerequisite to employee in-service training, for employees at all levels, including managerial staff. The system is widely used, for success, in schools in the North and South America, Israel, Europe, and Asia, for children with learning difficulties, caused by physical, emotional ,and social / cultural problems. Among the notable projects, is one, that have been uniquely successful in helping Ethiopian Immigrants adapt to life in Israel. Another project which started some years ago, to rehabilitate of soldiers and officers with brain damage caused by wounds the suffered in the army, expanded to work with people suffering brain damage, caused by accidents. 38
Its unique design, makes the program is adaptable to any population. It starts wherever the student is and moves him/her on. Prior skills effect the rate of acquisition, but often people with less training learn faster than academics. The IE course, on which is based, is a 200 hour course, with 14 “instruments” (exercise booklets). Each one emphasizes another aspect of the cognitive process, and works to ameliorate cognitive deficiencies. All start with relatively simple tasks, but move to tasks, which challenge the best of minds. They all reinforce the ability to pay attention to detail, deal with complexity, and control impulsively. • organization of dots,- techniques of finding order in an amorphous mass Deals with concepts: concrete abstract, state trait, relevant incidental data • orientation in space,- 2 units:1) personal orientation left right above etc. 2) global orientation north south etc. seeing oneself in another’s place (empathy) • comparisons - before making judgments, one must be able to evaluate alternatives, using super-ordinate concepts and categories • classification-using established standard, commonly accepted categories, and developing individualized categories for personal use as needed • analytic perception - The whole is constructed from many parts, but the same parts may be used to construct more than 1 whole. • temporal relationships-time- measurement, lateness, past present future • instructions- expressing ones self clearly and paying careful attention, in order to, precisely understand what others say • family relationships - used for discussing roles and responsibility towards self family, community, country etc. • numerical progressions - uses numerical progressions to develop skill in discovering the principles which govern patterns • transitive relationships - a>b and b>c a>c. • stencil designs-a unique activity to foster the handling of several sources of information simultaneously • illustrations using cartoons- satirical treatment of problems of evaluating solutions to problems and dilemmas. •syllogisms - drawing logical conclusions based on inference: If AB and it can be shown that A is true, we know that so is B Syllogisms are the sophisticated type of logic, usually found on I.Q. and psychometric tests
Each level of combines appropriate selected portions of the I. E. instruments, with our original materials, so as to have maximum efficacy in terms of the students’ needs. Level I is 40 hours and uses only a few IE instruments, but promises and delivers significant measurable improvement, both in English language communication skills, and in cognitive facility. has added 2 original units to the I.E. instruments: MEASUREMENTS and SPECIAL NUMBERS: 1) The need for measurement is developed using optical illusions 2) Types of units - i.e. Why area can’t be measured in meters? What are the qualities of a good measuring unit? Why do we need standardized units? Why is the metric system used in laboratories, even in places where the general public uses another system? 3) Precision - How do we decide on precision appropriate to the thing, that we are to measure? How can we know what precision was used? 4) counting measuring exact precise 5) infinite a very large number 6) answer of zero no answer 7) identity- the use of 1 in multiplication, 0 in addition 8) opposite - a + -(a) = 0 b * 1/b = 1 9) illusion and misrepresentation - in measurement and in life 10) proof by contradiction DILEMMAS - VIGNETTES: Using everyday situations to provoke thoughtful analysis. In all these situations there is no one right answer. Students are asked to suggest and evaluate several possible solutions to any given problem, and to compare their solutions one with the other, and try to decide under which circumstances each solution is most appropriate. After discussing the specific problem presented, the students are asked to extend the solutions and/or thinking process, to their own life situations. We always expect numerous applications for each procedure, process, and principle. The teacher also comes prepared with a stock of possibilities to spur the discussion and supplement those suggested by the students. However, the teacher’s suggestions are never given a higher valuation than those of the students. They are suggested as additional options, and/or ideas to catalyze and encourage the students thinking. They are in no way allowed to restrict it. 40
Each I.E. booklet focuses on a different aspect of the thinking process. But each lesson is connected to many others, and to a multitude of life situations. As we reveal principle used in solving the problem, we always ask how this principle can be applied in school, at work, at home and in recreational situations. Our students learn that every principle has many applications, and every solution, or technique is based on a principle which, can be related to the solutions of other problems. Often these applications seem to be totally unrelated: for example What is similar about division of fractions, viewing the back of your own head, and using a mold to reproduce a statuette? All of the above are accomplished by the using the same principle. Do you know what it is? Analyze the techniques used in doing each of the above and you will discover, that viewing the back of ones own head, dividing fractions, and using a mold to reproduce a statuette all utilize the principle of doing the opposite of the opposite. So does sarcasm, and a double negative in a sentence. Once we recognize the principle we can easily understand subtraction of signed numbers, as another manifestation of the same idea, making one of the most confusing algorithms in mathematics simple to understand use and remember, and stops being confused with combining signed numbers. Instead of learning hundreds of rules for solving separate types of problems, we learn a few general concepts, each of which governs many techniques. Each technique is a special case or application of one or more of these few basic concepts, which we already understand and can recognize. Of all the contributions of the Feuerstein program, probably the most critical, is this simple idea. No lesson ever stands alone. We are wasting our time and that of our, and we are derelict in our duties, every time we teach a skill or technique, or learn one, if we regard it as an isolated event. Each technique learned to solve a specific problem, or do a specific task, must be regarded as a basis to connect to a wide range of solutions to a wide range of problems. With all this in mind the , program is unparalleled in its ability to utilize the built in mechanisms of the brain to produce fundamental improvement in cognition and language skills, in a cost effective, engaging setting. Even after only level 1 of the program (40 hours), students already express themselves and understand conversational English speech, and can read articles on familiar topics without translation or even a dictionary. They already show a distinct improvement in their approach to finding logical solutions to problems, and to opening their minds to new ideas. Subsequent levels, refine and reinforce these skills, while adding new tools. 41
And they do so painlessly. On the contrary, the lessons are more like games than serious business. Among other things, they teach the fun in succeeding to meet a challenge. In fact, as will be discussed later, the mere fact of thinking intensively in a foreign language (English), revitalizes the brain, and intensifies the effect of all the learning. AIM In China After showing success with varied groups here, and still not succeeding to convince the “powers that be” that teaching IE in English would work, I went to China with . Jon Miner is an internet friend, an American English teacher. who lives in Shenzhen China, with is wife “Miss Li”. She is Chinese, and has recently finished her PhD in Chinese history. Shenzhen is located about ½ hour by car from Hong Kong. Because of its proximity to Hong Kong, it is the fastest growing city in China. When I was in China the first time it was still a rural farming community. It was a city of about 1 million people when I was there, and has grown to over 10 million since then. Thus population is an interesting mélange of people who come from somewhere else in China. I had been in contact with Jon for several years, when we decided to test in Shenzhen China. We wanted to see how students, who’s only experience with spoken English was in school, with teachers who were not native English speakers, would rect. In Israel, most English teachers, are native speakers, and there are a lot of English words that have been adopted into modern Hebrew. So Israelis already have a broad foundation for success in . Our Chinese students weren’t accustomed to hear spoken English, with a native accent, and at a normal rate. He arranged for me to stay with Xiao Yi, who in turn put me up, and arranged classes in her home. In fact, she gave me her bed (to which they had to add an air mattress) and slept on a few of the tables which we used in class. Xiao Yi didn’t know any English, when I arrived. She did know the letters, because she needed them to type Chinese characters on the computer. She didn’t participate in the lessons, but she had acquired about 100 words of English, when I left a month and a half later, as I picked up a few words in Chinese. I taught 2 small groups of post BA students at Xiao Yi’s home. The students didn’t know what to expect, since the course was billed as a different way to learn English, but they were all enthusiastic about what they learned. I also learned masses about the Chinese people. They are warm friendly and curious. 42
My students literally adopted me, invited me to their homes, took me out touring, and in general added depth and affection to my stay there. I also saw some of the consequences of planned social policies, for example there is a whole generation of young adults, who have no siblings. My cousin is the equivalent of my brother/sister. Girls who were not aborted or worse and were allowed to group, are in great demand as young women, and have learned to not take an inferior position. These pictures and comments came from the website we built for the course there.
We came to Shenzhen to see if Chinese students, whose only con
English was in the classroom, would be able to understand & lear MINDâ€?
What a wonderful group of students!
Ivy is in the picture on the far left. She is a journalism student. She loves to tell us interesting stories, and comes up with great e for life for the principles we learned.
Raymond is standing in the doorway. He used his talent as an arc draw the most amazing plan for a zoo.
I wish we could try to build it. Do you understand Chinese? I don sent me a copy of something he wrote on a Chinese forum.
I didnâ€™t believe my students, when they told me that there were no Chin constellations. So I checked the net, and found www.chinapage.com/as Take off the astronomy and you have a great site about China.
We fly to new heights, expanding our horizons in many directions In Ivy’s letter, she said: “AIM teaches you to ask why.” In Raymond said: “AIM plants the seed. You will make it grow!”
Denilson said: AIM teaches you to think different, not just think a He wrote, “I felt, I was living in an English world.”
Jon also arranged for me to do 8 2hr lessons at the school, where he taught. It was a language school, so the students’ English was better than average, but the they were still only 13 years old, and their teachers weren’t native speakers This was a really enlightening experience. The students had no trouble following my English. Without exception, the students, successfully answered technical questions, but they couldn’t always answer the why. For example –They knew all that 37/0 doesn’t have an answer, but no one could explain why. Typically western students, also don’t know why, but many don’t answer the questions correctly either.
The most telling experience with this group was when I asked one student if he agreed with another’s answer. The blank look on his face told the whole story. Chinese students are very well disciplined, and work very hard. They stand when the teacher comes into the room, and when they are called onto recite. However, when someone else is called on, the pressure is off; the student doesn’t “have to” pay any attention. I learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese education from those two groups. I returned to Israel, via Amsterdam, where I joined a Feuerstein seminar. I studied IE for the blind, with Roman Gouzman, who developed a remarkable tactile version of IE for the blind. Roman’s insights enriched my understanding of the world of the blind and of IE. One exercise, from that course stays with me. We had to compare the cultural overtones of symbols for the same thing. We compared the western symbo for male and female, to the Chinese ying & yang . It was a fascinating to examine how much the symbols tell about our attitudes to men and women, and the world. In the west, we see women as stable attached to the ground, while men are unstable, aiming at the sky. Where the Chinese symbol show,2 parts of one whole, where each compliments the other, and contains a bit of the other as a focal point. The Ethiopian community in Israel, faces special, absorption problems, Major cultural differences, lack of familiarity with the modern world, and of course racial prejudice help complicate it. I taught to a group of students in a remedial pre-university preparation program. I found them as capable as any other group that I taught, but several differences did come out. For example, irrespective of
what the topic of the lesson; the discussion always got to prejudice and self image. This is evidence, of how easily adapts to the needs of students. There is a lesson on the topic, but this group saw ramifications in every topic, since racism was so important among the challenges they have to face. This is exemplified their favorite story, which incidentally was contributed by Ivy, in China.
There was a young woman who was very sad, because her boy friend left her. She told her father who was a cook about her sadness. Her father told her to bring him a raw egg, a carrot and some coffee beans. He took out 3 pots and filled them with water. Then he put the egg in one pot, the coffee beans in another, and the carrot in the third. He lit a fire under each of them. After the 3 pots had cooked for about half an hour, he turned off the heat and asked his sad daughter to see what happened to the 3 pots. ============================================
• The egg became very hard inside. • The carrot became very soft. • But the coffee beans gave their color to the water around them, and kept their own personality. The wise old cook said to his daughter. “Be a coffee bean! When you get into hot water remember to stay who you are, and change the water around you.”
D.Ed. RESEARCH However, since even my experience in China, wasnâ€™t convincing enough to get support for the ideas behind I decided that the only way to go, was to start studying for a doctorate. As part of that program, I was asked to investigate the research already done, on the topic that I wanted to study. I didnâ€™t find research about the interaction between foreign language and cognitive development, but what I did find explained all the unexplained phenomenon that I have been seeing when doing courses. Recent brain research shows us that thinking in any foreign language has an enormously empowering effect on the brain. Studies of mental deterioration in the elderly, show that the more synaptic connections that exist in the brain, the more resistant the brain is to the effects of Alzheimerâ€™s other degenerative brain conditions.
As we introduce an additional language, we approximately, double the number of connections to each concept that we think about. These connections concern sounds, grammar, spelling, common, metaphors associated with the word, and often much more. All these connections combine to form a network, which cause stimulation to all its members, whenever any of them is stimulated. This is especially true when the stimulation comes from the direction of the foreign word, because the connection from the concept to the word in native language is so strong, that it will receive stimulation whether conscious or not. When we are engaged in intense thought, whole areas of the brain are
stimulated ( as seen in MRI views ) Thus all the brain cells, stored near the words actually used, are also stimulated, and they in turn, pass the stimulation on to their counterparts in native language. This phenomenon causes the whole brain to light up like fireworks. The thought itself is intensified and expedited, while the entire brain is stimulated rejuvenated and revitalized. All this occurs without any conscious awareness. However, we can notice that vast quantities of words, that we didn’t try to access, suddenly become available for use. My first experience with this phenomenon was, with the live in nanny from Costa Rica. You can see this happen when you find yourself in a foreign language situation, where you once knew the language, but can’t find the word. After a short time, “it all comes back”. The power of thinking in a foreign language is reinforced by recent research that shows, hearing children, who had learned sign language as babies, score, an average of, 12 points higher on IQ tests, than those who didn’t .
Mothers who knew sign language, added it to there communication with their infant children, just to be able to know what the baby wanted. Sign language requires less maturity and mental proficiency than spoken language. That’s why it is used with the retarded, and has even been taught to primates. The research was started because observers warned the mothers that, the addition of sign language would delay and hinder the children’s normal speech. Of course the contrary is true, but few of the participants know why. The explanation has 2 facets. The first as mentioned above; the mere fact of using more than one language increases the number of synaptic connections for each concept. However, in the case of babies, there is another more important parameter, which investigators miss, because they aren’t looking for it. Earlier introduction of any language goes way beyond telling Mom what I want, or even reducing the frustration connected with misinterpretation. It causes concepts to be developed earlier, which allows them to be refined earlier. One can’t differentiate between a Dalmatian and a Cocker Spaniel, until he/she can distinguish between dogs and cats, and animals and plants.
This list show 100 words that make up ½ of all the words that can be found in any English text. It doesn’t include cognates like maximum, television, agenda, or all the professional jargon that the reader already knows. After a 40 hour AIM workshop, everyone will be able to speak and read, comprehend and retain ideas, without a dictionary, or translation. Their arguments will be better, because they have been studying logic and thinking skills.
Anyone who can read most of the words on this list are conversant enough with English to function in an course, and finish able to read and understand professional articles, as well as communicate orally. For people who cant, I can recommend a basic reading course called GAME, developed by Shlomit Ilan. It consists of 3 short books, the 1 st of which uses only 10 letters. Strange as it may sound, everyone who follows her instructions, learns, and very fast.
Conclusions The ramifications of this new paradigm are so far reaching, that even I can only fathom the most obvious. Once we accept the idea that we are predisposed to learn human language, we don’t have to go very far to understand that we are predisposed to learn. Our job as teachers is to create a setting which facilitates this natural process. We must give children maximum freedom, within clear consistent boarders, constantly stimulating their curiosity. New knowledge should be actively acquired, through experience, with an understanding of why things happen. 50
Adults should help bridge the gap between new knowledge and the learner, by asking questions, not by giving answers. Rather than pour information in, we pull it out. Anything poured into the brain disappears as fast as it went in. Thinking is internal speech. Language is a tool for communication of ideas. I have recently come to understand, that many perfectly normal adults are so scarred, by their experience in school math classes, that they totally turn off on absolutely simple questions. It doesnâ€™t have to be that way! Once we learn to see mathematical algorithms as new applications of principles that we already know, it all becomes quite easy to learn and remember. In fact we donâ€™t forget what we really learn. If we understand why we do things the way we do, we have no trouble remembering how to do them. If, by some chance, we do forget, it is simple to retrieve the knowledge from almost any source. empowers you, showing you how much you already know, and how you can use what you already know to be much more successful. It teaches you to actually enjoy the challenge of tricky questions, but combines this desire and catharsis with the empowerment of mastering communication in English. We all know how important command of English in the international and academic worlds, but in the case of
1=1 is much more than 2.
It is hard to enumerate the relative advantages of this course. Suffice it to say that, offers new hope for making learning accessible, achievable, and fun for virtually anyone. It provides an easy stepping stone for anyone who is contemplating returning to studies and/or anyone who is having difficulty with them now or just wants to enjoy learning more. Feuerstein starts with differentiating between real and imaginary