This week's blog post is written by Miranda, a Yahel fellow living in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood in Rishon LeZion.
On October 22, 2020, I moved into my apartment in Rishon LeZion and began my two-week quarantine. Although at one point cases were rising, causing the country to go into lockdown and the program start date being delayed, I was not going to let it stop me from arriving in Israel. This pandemic taught me how to be patient and flexible, which was important when waiting for the start date of Yahel. I wanted to return to this country and make change despite any obstacles. Although it was frustrating to continually delay my flight, something I tell myself is that frustration helps us grow. Living in Israel during a pandemic has had some challenges, but I always make my way through. It can be challenging sometimes to talk to a local while wearing a mask because it requires you to speak extra loudly. This is especially challenging in a country where English is not the first language of the locals. Challenges help us grow and become stronger people. I have noticed that the locals maintain social distancing and always wear masks. In my hometown back in the United States, I noticed that people neglected social distancing and wearing masks. This reassures me that Israel takes the pandemic more seriously than the United States.
(pictured: the new Yahel Social Change Fellows getting to know each other in the Opening Seminar)
Similar to the United States, life with masks and Zoom calls as opposed to in-person meetings has become the new normal. I am prepared to be completing some of my volunteering on Zoom rather than in person, but luckily, I have become more familiar with technology while living on Zoom for the past eight months. I chose to be a participant of the Yahel Social Change Fellowship to immerse myself into the Israeli culture, improve my Hebrew speaking, and serve the community while offering them my youth work and English teaching skills. I wanted to come to Israel because it is where I feel a sense of belonging since my Jewish religion is acknowledged here. I developed a strong connection to the country when I participated on the Taglit Birthright Israel trip when I was a sophomore in college. I knew I wanted to come back for a longer period of time. Additionally, after working with youth on their English language proficiency both inside and outside of the United States, I then became determined to help make English language learning an easier and stress-free process for youth. My skills gained from these experiences will support my work as a Yahel Social Change Fellow. In the classroom, I can offer my determination and patience. As an English language instructor, I developed different teaching styles for my students, which I can integrate into a classroom setting in Israel. I have watched others struggle academically and have always been passionate about closing the academic achievement gap among children so all children can succeed despite any circumstances.
I envision that teaching on Zoom will pose challenges, however, I will not let that stop me from making English learning a smooth and easy process for students in Israel. In order for the students to have a smooth learning experience, I will use more visuals, like images, to keep the students engaged so they do not just have to listen to me talk. I have noticed that during my experience with Zoom learning, it is easy for students to zone out when the instructor just talks. However, when visuals are shown via screen share, that keeps people more focused. Quality is more important than location, and therefore, we should not let any circumstances prevent our hard work.