Events and developments at the Primary School in 2006-2007
Based on an interview with Reem NashefSaturday 11 August 2007
In the 2006-2007 school year, the School was directed by Faiz Mansour. An Arab and a Jewish teacher, Reem Nashef and Ety Edlund, were in charge of educational content. Reem and Ety divided between them the subjects over which they had responsibility, with Reem taking science, geography, math, Arabic and religious studies for Arabs, and Ety taking Hebrew, music, arts and religious studies for Jews. Among their responsibilities was to decide upon which religious holidays and national days the school would focus during the year, and how these would be incorporated into the school’s calendar of activities.
Two teachers, Faten Zinati and Liora Erez were the school activity coordinators. They were responsible for organizing elections for the students council, and then worked with the students’ council to set up a sports committee and produce the newsletter.
Major activities of the 2006 - 2007 school year
The first activity of the year was to welcome in the first grade students. Other important activities early in the year were the student council elections, followed by the Rosh Hashanah and Succoth Jewish holidays, and activities for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. One class usually took primary responsibility for each holiday. For Ramadan, they prepared a festive meal and – in accordance with another Ramadan custom - arranged a competition based on a list of questions about the holiday and Muslim tradition.
In December, the children celebrated Hanukkah. They arranged a play and distributed soufganiot (a kind of doughnut that is traditional to the holiday). This was followed by an ecology day, organized by one of the teachers, Tsipi Zohar. As with other such activities, a number of "stations" were organized. At one of these, the children learned the principles of garbage separation for purposes of recycling. At another they learned to draw plants.
Another pleasant activity in the school at about this time was a world music day. The music teacher, Milla assigned a particular kind of music to each class. The fourth grade students were assigned Indian music. The fifth grade Spanish music, the 6th grade Irish music.
The first grade students took responsibility for the celebration of Christmas. This year, for the first time, all the children were encouraged to learn songs in Arabic. The Jewish students also took part, helped by the Arabs. They took as inspiration the popular TV show "A star is born", and this was followed by a performance by the entire class.
In the first part of the year there are two minor parallel Jewish and Arab holidays (Tu B’Shvat and Eid Ghars Ul-Asjar) based on the planting of trees. A date is chosen that falls somewhere between the Jewish and the Arab holidays,and the children go out to plant trees around the village. This year we incorporated the holiday into the work the children had been doing throughout the year on agriculture. The agriculture teachers organized an activity with various stations. For instance, in the science room, the children took various fruits and tested them for vitamin C.
A similar activity was Science day, in which the fourth, fifth and sixth graders prepared activities for the lower grades. The third graders learned about plants, prepared herb tea, and learned how to make the popular zaatar spice mix. The students also learned about water in its three states. They brought ice, which they crushed to make water. The fourth graders prepared a station based on animals, rocks and birds. The fifth graders learned about the moon, the sun and planets of the solar system. The first and second grade students learned about communications. They learned how to make a cup and wire telephone. There were also activities based on the five senses, the perception of colors and taste.
In June, we had a special day on the subject of health and hygiene, Among the activities there were hygiene, first aid, yoga and shiatsu – taking advantage of the knowledge of parents and NSWAS residents where possible.
There were also activities at the holidays of Easter, Passover, Shavuot, etc.
Every year we arrange one large event. The main event this year was "tradition day". Each class learned about a special tradition. The first grade class learned about clothing. For three months they examined styles of clothing around the world, then concentrated on the Jewish and Arab traditions. In the second grade, the children learned about games in Jewish and Arab cultures. The third grade learned about tools. The fourth grade about animal husbandry. The fifth graders learned about homes in Jewish and Arab traditions. As part of their learning, the children visited one-another at home. The six grade studied idioms in both cultures. At the end of the study, they made an exhibition, to which parents were invited.
In a binational school like ours, it is almost as important to work with the teachers as with the pupils. During the year we worked with the teachers on various topics. One of the activities was a seminar on the subject of identity, which was facilitated by Michal Zak of the School for Peace. We looked at subjects like our identity as a parent, as a person, and as a member of our national group.
The national holidays are a particularly sensitive subject. In preparation for Nakba Day (commemorating the loss by Palestinians of their land in 1948), we invited Dr. Adel Manaa, a historian, to speak to the teachers. Ety and Reem prepared an activity for the teachers on Land Day. Reem brought a text by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, which described the feelings of his father on losing the land. The teachers were very moved by this.
Saying farewell to Faiz Mansour and Ety Edlund
This was the final year for two important personalities at the school - the principal, Faiz Mansour, who had announced that he would be going into (or returning into) retirement from the beginning of the year. Similarly Ety Edlund, a co-founder of the school, also announced her retirement, though Reem said that she hoped that Ety could be persuaded to stay on in some capacity.
Both Ety and Faiz have been responsible for shaping the school. In particular, they helped to tide it over the transition this year from being a state school to an accredited independent school. Before the school year there had been much anxiety among both parents and teachers about the change. However, according to Reem, the transition went very easily. Only one teacher actually left. A few others reduced their teaching hours at the school in order to retain their status within the national school system. These same teachers have asked to return to full time positions in the 2007-2008 school year. The working atmosphere among the teachers is good and the teachers enjoy working at the school.
Throughout the school year, the staff had been hard at work on efforts to recruit students for the next school year. They advertised in local newspapers and worked with parents to organize meetings between teachers and parents who were considering the school as an option. Towards the end of the year, an open day for applicants was arranged at the school, so that parents and children could directly observe the school.
These recruitment activities have been successful. Enrollment for first grade looks to be about 25 pupils and equally importantly, the lower grades will have a balanced number of Arab and Jewish students.
Looking forward to next year
In the 2007-2008 school year, Anwar Dawod has been chosen to return as principal. He brings with him many years of educational experience both in the NSWAS school and outside of it. A veteran teacher, Liora Erez will serve as deputy principal, and a supervisory committee of seven teachers will be responsible for curricula and programs and other matters of the school. The committee will meet on a weekly basis.
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