Teaching English in Bir Haddaj
For the past 3 weeks I’ve been teaching English to a group of 10 kids in the recently-recognized village of Bir Haddaj, located around 40 minutes southwest of Beer Sheva, and not far from the Gaza border. In the Arab school system in Israel, the kids learn Hebrew as a second language and English as a third language. Most of the focus is on the more immediate need of Hebrew, so the English curriculum is pretty lax. That is to say they don’t really learn it. The upside of that is that I can practice my Bedouin with them, since they also don’t speak much Standard Arabic. I teach at a guy’s home, but I visited the elementary school in Bir Haddaj, and spent the day with the English teacher, a rather severe northerner (not Bedouin) named Fatima. The students don’t learn grammar until 11th or 12th grade, meaning they don’t learn how to construct an English sentence until then. The entire curriculum until that time is teaching them scattered random vocabulary: the vegetables, the colors, animals, school supplies etc.
So, in an attempt to remedy that situation a little, in the classes I’ve been teaching (essentially additional tutoring for students who either need improvement, or had nothing better to do that day) I’ve been starting at the ground level. “I want tea.” “We go to school in a bus.” “He likes soccer.” “They pray in a mosque.” This has been a slow process; they only got chairs and desks this week, and we still don’t have a blackboard. But the kids are cute, even if they are little bastards behaviorally-speaking.