SCHOOL’S IN

NEW SEC­TION

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - EDITED BY Char­lotte Oliver BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

THE SCHOOL bell rings on Mon­day morn­ing and Ezra Dul­berg hur­ries to class — the fear of lunchtime de­ten­tion quick­en­ing his pace.

Fear that quickly sub­sides, that is, as soon as Dul­berg re­mem­bers he is no longer a stu­dent at Yavneh Col­lege in Bore­ham­wood. In­stead, the 22-year-old has re­turned to his alma mater as a teacher and, from now on, lunchtime de­ten­tions are a weapon, not a worry.

“The ad­just­ment is def­i­nitely daunt­ing,” says the Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity grad­u­ate from Hendon, who will of­fi­cially be­gin teach­ing maths at Yavneh on Septem­ber 1. “It is like go­ing back­stage for the very first time. I still can­not bring my­self to call my deputy head by her first name.”

Dul­berg’s tran­si­tion from class­room to staffroom is not a rare one. With more Jewish faith schools crop­ping up across the coun­try than ever be­fore, and a 2011 JLC sur­vey re­port re­veal­ing that more than 60 per cent of Jewish school­child­ren will be taught in a faith school for some part of their stu­dent lives, edu- cation within the com­mu­nity is at an all-time high.

Cou­ple this with the fact that teach­ing is an in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive op­tion for re­cent grad­u­ates — of­fer­ing them the chance to hold down a long and dy­namic ca­reer with­out be­ing tied to a desk job — and it is lit­tle won­der that Jewish ed­u­ca­tion is some­thing of a self-suf­fi­cient e nter­prise. They spend 18 yearslearn­ing and then they give back. “Most of my friends are also go­ing into teach­ing,” says Dul­berg, who moved to Yavneh Col­lege from Has­monean High School for his A-lev­els. “Some are work­ing for Bnei Akiva, a few at Has­monean, and oth­ers are do­ing the Teach First course. It’s part of our cul­ture.”

No doubt there are ben­e­fits to pupils re­turn­ing to the fold: they have been there, got the uni­form. They have seen what does and does not work and of­fer a flip-side per­spec­tive. What is more, most Jewish schools will em­ploy them un­der a Qual­i­fied Teacher Sta­tus (QTS) or Grad­u­ate Teacher Pro­gramme (GTP) scheme — mean­ing they at­tend univer­sity one day a week and qual­ify on the job, rather than tak­ing a year out af­ter com­plet­ing their first de­gree. No in­ten­sive, or ex­pen­sive, PGCE cour­ses nec­es­sary. But what are the draw­backs? Is it hard to as­sert au­thor­ity and dis­ci­pline in an en­vi­ron­ment where they were once sub­or­di­nate?

“I t c ert ai nly f el t strange hav­ing to tell a few chil­dren to stop talk­ing the first time — I felt like I was go­ing to get into trou­ble,” Dul­berg admits.

“I my­self was in the list of top 1 0 worst be­hav­ing boys from years seven to nine and had my usual seat in de­ten­tion ev­ery Tues­day night; that is some­thing I want to learn from. It to­tally de­pends on the teacher, not the sub­ject, to keep the stu­dent in line.”

Thought must also be paid to older staff mem­bers who re­mem­ber the new re­cruits from their younger years. Can they re­ally ac­cept their for­mer stu­dents as col­leagues?

Sara Shapiro, 23, says her re­turn to Rosh Pi­nah Pri­mary School, Edg­ware last year — 12 years af­ter first leav­ing — cast a few ini­tial shad­ows on some fa­mil­iar faces.

“I was wait­ing for my in­ter­view when one of my teach­ers walked by,” the Jew-

ish Stud­ies teacher from Edg­ware says. “He got a bit of a shock and ten­ta­tively asked what I was do­ing there.

“It must have been strange for him — es­pe­cially since my face ap­par­ently had not changed since I was eight-years-old. I think I made a lot of my old teach­ers feel very old, but we have now formed new re­la­tion­ships.”

Ac­cord­ing to Shapiro, be­ing back at school — at the op­po­site end of the same class­room she sat in aged four — has taught her a lot about her own ed­u­ca­tion.

“Rosh Pi­nah is a very warm and sup­port­ive place,” she says. “I don’t think I re­alised it as much as a pupil, but I see it now in the ex­tra lessons we of­fer and the nur­ture we pro­vide. I ap­pre­ci­ate that more, now see­ing it from the other side.”

For 26-year-old Sam Wal­ters, an In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) and busi­ness teacher from Red­bridge, go­ing back to King Solomon High School hinged on one piv­otal mo­ment: fi­nally see­ing what lurked be­hind the walls of the staffroom.

“It was very weird go­ing in there, although, to my sur­prise, there were no dart­boards with stu­dents’ faces on them, just a wa­ter dis­penser and a bit of gos­sip.” he says. “To this day, I still ques­tion whether I was one of the pupils they gos­siped about.”

Wal­ters, who stud­ied at King Solomon in Es­sex un­til he was 18, has worked there for the last three years. For him, the fact that he stud­ied in the same place as his stu­dents “pro­vides an ex­tra layer” to his teach­ing.

“I have been in their shoes and I have seen it through their eyes,” he says. “Above and be­yond­sub­jec­t­knowl­edge, the re­la­tion­ship I de­velop with each stu­dent and my un­der­stand­ing of his or her thought process

Shapiro aged 11

is the most im­por­tant thing.”

He recog­nises the irony of his new role at the school: head of be­hav­iour, dis­ci­pline and pas­toral wel­fare. “It is quite funny com­ing back as an old stu­dent and then be­ing a dis­ci­plinar­ian.

“It’s just for­tu­nate that I was rea­son­ably well-be­haved at the time, see­ing as my now head of de­part­ment taught me,” he says. “Sure, I was thrown out of a few lessons in my time — but that gave me a few tips on how best to dis­ci­pline, and what ex­actly it felt like. “Some­times I use that line on my stu­dents,” he adds. “I’ve been where you are.”

“C o mplet i n g t h e cir­cle,” it seems, is an in­creas­ingly com­mon choice for grad­u­ates. They en­joy the fa­mil­iar­ity it brings, and at the same time are able to “give some­thing back”. But Wal­ters admits there are times when nos­tal­gia leaves be­hind a slightly sour taste.

“It’s best not t o ment i o n the school din­ners,” he says. “Let’s just say t h a t s o m e things don’t change.”

Sam Wal­ters (cen­tre) with his for­mer tu­tor-turned-col­league Louise Davis (third

Sara Shapiro

from left), act­ing deputy head of King Solomon High, with their year 13 ICT class

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