Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stranded at the Drive-In

Shalom, chaverim! We're still here in balmy, sunny Nahariya, and the June weather has not been unbearably hot, thankfully. However, we have moved into the season where it is necessary to change clothes at least twice a day or more, depending on how many times you go out and get soaked with sweat.

I seem to have been walking in a gooey mess of mental quicksand and treacle lately, being able to only summon up just enough energy to get through the day and no more. I'm spending hours each day, lying down in a cool, dark room, trying to get my thoughts straight and get myself motivated to do whatever is next on this seemingly endless to-do list that is my life right now. Here's another misconception I had about making Aliyah: I thought the problem would be mainly about adjusting to cultural differences such as language, food, the rhythm of the calendar, the complexity of the religious and political landscape, making new friends, and so on.

However, what I didn't account for was the enormous amount of mental energy and time it would take to get my career back up even to the metaphorical starting block. I once heard of a book called "ODTAA," which was an acronym that summarized the basic flow of the plot: "One Damn Thing After Another." That's how I'm feeling these days. We're in the crunch time with THE COURSE, with final projects and assignments flying thick and fast, exactly at the time where we're preparing end of the year grades for our own students. This combination of simultaneously trying to wind things down and rev up to cram the last bits in can lead to some very uncomfortable situations.

On Thursday, for example, a carefully constructed lesson plan for last week's class with my 7th graders went right down the tubes when it was announced that on that day, all the girls had to turn in their course books to the library. Any missing books meant fines had to be paid by the girls, or else they wouldn't get their grades for the year, so the school wisely tries to take care of this a few weeks in advance. But as the FNG* that I am, I didn't know about this policy until it was too late.

Floundering for something to do, I passed out a simple word-find puzzle for the girls, which was intended to be used as an end-of lesson fun activity, which gave me some stalling time while I could do a quick mental re-boot and figure out what to do with no other materials. However, the time for b-s'ing was over and the chickens had come home to roost. One of the brightest girls in the class, who is ironically one of the most disruptive and inattentive, threw a full-blown hissy fit. "Why are you having us do this baby stuff? Why aren't we learning anything from the book? Your tests are too easy, we're not learning anything in this class, you're not teaching us English, this class is a total waste of time!"

Ouch. The truth hurts. Most of the students rushed to my defense, saying it wasn't my fault I couldn't teach them, because the speaker and a few other girls were so routinely disruptive that they knew it was impossible for me to teach them anything. This group attack made the girl even more angry, and she shouted more and more hurtful things to me and about me, until I said:

"Girls, she's right. I have not been able to teach you what I wanted to, and what you needed to learn, because I honestly don't know how to make you be quiet and pay attention. I see that many of you are working hard and want to learn, but many other students just like to play, and laugh, and talk, and run in and out of class and throw things. They're disrupting me and everyone else, and no once can learn this way. I honestly do not know what to do. I tried shouting at you, and all you do is shout louder back at me. So I'm not going to shout at you anymore. But I need your help. The problems in this class are everyone's fault...not just mine, and not just yours. But I really need your help or we will all lose here."

Somehow, by validating the girls' outburst, she felt heard and calmed down a lot. So did the class. We managed to do a few things during the lesson (practicing giving directions, some new vocabulary to talk about summer vacation, some pronunciation exercises), but not much. I came home feeling like complete crud and cried quite a bit, and bent my poor friend's ear on the phone for an hour and a half.

In other news, the most recent shakeup at the Gitlin household is that Elul lost his job two weeks ago. He went through an experience that I now understand is not uncommon for olim chadashim. He got a great job at a good company about three months ago, and all went well for the first six weeks or so. Then, two new people were hired, to do different jobs that had nothing to do with Elul's. Seemingly overnight, Elul the "boy wonder" became Elul "the black sheep." Now, according to the boss, everything Elul did was wrong, bad, terrible, stupid, late, etc. He also got the office shunning treatment from people he used to work quite closely and amicably with, which is basically an easily-read corporate indicator that one's days are numbered. Wonder of wonders, on Elul's 89th day of work (after which the company has to take you on as a permanent employee, start a pension for you, etc.), he put in a day's work and got called into the boss's office. And he got canned. "You suck, you've failed at everything, we paid you more than anyone else working here, blah blah blah."

In Israel, it is the law that if you get fired, your boss has to send a letter, in Hebrew, to you that lists all of your job functions. Elul only had to send it back once to get the year that he worked corrected.

What a surprise (insert sarcastic tone here) when, in the very next breath, the boss offered to "re-hire" him at half his wage, with fewer hours, to do the same work that he did such a terrible job at, which was mainly copywriting and editing. Elul, in the nicest and most professional way he could muster, told the boss he could take both his job and his offer, and place it...elsewhere.

Elul has now decided to try going out on his own in the world of e-commerce and internet marketing, since he's learned so much about the business from his last two(!) jobs. He may have to go job hunting for another day job if he can't make the business fly, but at the moment there is so much going on neither of us has time to think straight. Two days ago, Elul left for America to see his youngest son graduate from high school. A perfect time to be gone when trying to launch a new company, right? But man plans, and God laughs, and that is nowhere truer than here in Israel.

So the apartment is quiet and I'm girding my loins to get through the last two weeks of school. Seriously, both the teachers and the students have not-so-private countdowns going on in notebooks and on refrigerators all over the country. Teachers and students need to be separated, and fast, for the betterment of everyone's mental health!

Shabbat shalom, everyone!

* "F#!king new guy"

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain Selah. I also went thru a similar job situation. Where working for a year and then being replaced because some pisher had an AA and to add insult I had to train him.I of course gave my immediate notice .Give Elul as much support as you can ,he will in turn give you his. My advise is that you not give a lot of time to worrying. It seems that in God's wisdom things always work themselves out


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