Sometimes I am appalled at the disorganization of the schools here in Israel, our children's' schools not being an exception. There are countless times I have stood outside of one child's school, locked out, while trying in vain for over an hour to reach the office or someone inside to come out and unlock the gate.
There are so many homework assignments that are not checked by teachers or followed up on. There are "CRUCIAL! OBLIGATORY!" school meetings or assemblies that are often called for Friday mornings and not announced until late Thursday afternoon. Trying to reach any of the offices is not only frustrating, but often leaves me wondering if the lack of ability to reach anyone in the school building could actually be dangerous. As a former teacher I am often horrified by the lack of follow up by teachers with students and parents alike, and I wonder if my children are the only ones who seem utterly clueless of important things like, "Well, the rest of the class seems to have working on that workbook for the past 3 months, and I just realized now, but no teacher ever bothered noticing, so..."
That said, somehow mine kinder are thriving. They are happy and they are learning. They are approaching the end of school year number 2, and if not completely fluent in Hebrew by now, most of them are grasping just about all of the school material. There are bad days, but they don't come often at all. They genuinely seem to enjoy going to school and are up at the crack of dawn every morning and moving purposefully to get out the door. (Read: Up at 5am, fighting with each other at 5:01am and only pausing to fight long enough to listen to me scream at them from my bed.)
So recently I was wondering why it is that although the schools here (and yes, yes, I know some are better than others, please don't start telling me why my kids should go to your kids' school) seem to be running on chaos and a prayer, why my kids aren't miserable. After 2 incidents that happened this week, I think I have some insight into why. I only have time to tell you about one:
J is nearing the end of her 6th grade year. As this is the end of many elementary schools here, the kids have to choose, apply to, interview with, and hopefully get accepted to a new school. It's a "Senior Year" in a sense. So, here she is, in her senior year in June, not doing much in school but fooling around and practicing for their end of year production/graduation when she calls BAW in a panic on Sunday. She's sobbing that the vice principal has been after her for weeks, and that she's going to make her go home because she isn't wearing knee socks (the school rule), and could we please bring her some. She's also been told that if she doesn't get knee socks they will take away her part in the play/dance/shindig. She also says that although she is wearing short socks, she is also wearing leggings that overlap with her short socks.
BAW, not a big fan of the knee sock rule in general, asks to speak to the principal and firmly tells her that we both have work and will not be heading out to the school any time soon to bring knee socks. He also tells her that he is 100% behind school rules and will speak to J when she gets home. That could've been it.
But then he tells me the whole story, and my heart goes out to her. I imagine her being shunned by a Burka wearing VP, mocked by her peers, and eventually being destroyed for all eternity. I get the damn socks and head up to school. My plan was to slip her the goods and get out. After all, there are 10 days left of school.
As I walked up to the building I could hear the girls practicing choir for their performance, and the first thing I see when I enter the building are 85 6th grade girls with their backs towards me standing on bleachers belting out tunes. The second thing I see is about 10 of those legs as bare as they day they were born. First I was annoyed, then I started to get mad, then I was breathing fire. Why single my daughter out, when obviously there were many other girls in worse "state of undress"? Why pick on my kid who does not have a mean, immodest, rude bone in her body? Why make me late for work? Why embarrass my daughter who was CLEARLY covered while others were not? Why constantly give my daughter a hard time?
In the middle of the practice, I marched over to the VP and demanded she give me a few minutes of her time. She rolled her eyes at me and said, "Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here?" She refused to speak with me, and luckily the music blasting drowned out the few choice words I had for her in my limited sailor's Hebrew.
I went straight to the principal, and this was the turning point. She immediately saw how upset I was and took me into her office. (Incidentally I've seen her 'round town, and both her and her daughters are wonderful sandal wearing women.) I told her all sorts of reasons why I was upset and how this vice principal has no place in chinuch banot if all she can do is embarrass my child. I also told her that I completely agree with school rules and will 100% back them up. But where is the "ahava" we talk about all the time? Where's the love and kindness and compassion we are supposed to approach each child with when we teach them? Have we learned nothing from the "off the derech" generation? Is this a way to "teach" future mothers of Am Yisrael, leaders of the Jewish people?
She listened to me and she listened well. And then something miraculous happened. Out of all of the chaos I've been experiencing in that school for 2 years, there was complete and total clarity when it mattered most. She agreed wholeheartedly and apologized to me. She said, "You are totally right. These girls are on the cusp of becoming women, leaders of Am Yisrael. Yes, rules are rules, but it's not the 'what', it's the 'how'. I'll speak to the vice principal and your daughter." She heard me out, she took care of the problem, but most importantly, she did it with the values and love that I want my daughter to learn from her!
J came home that day and said, "Imma, my teacher pulled me out of class afterwards and she said that she saw the whole thing, and spoke to the principal, and they both feel that I should not have been yelled at. She wants me to be happy and said she'll help me if anyone gives me a hard time again. She said she's proud of what a tzanua, great girl I am." So I dodged a bullet. Not only did I not mortify my daughter (and let me tell you how I was quaking in my boots all day until she came home to give a verdict!) but she came out feeling more loved and appreciated and proud of who she is than ever.
And that, my friends is why my kids get up and get out the door. There are teachers and principals who love them and who truly care about their feelings. There are people in the administration who share the same vision as me: that we are raising the next generation and we better do it right, with the love that every child, every person deserves.