This past weekend, we were fortunate to be able to spend some time at Kibbutz Hatzor. Jay invited us to meet his family and escape the urban Jerusalem life we had created. We have not had a car in Jerusalem since we arrived. There are many reasons for this, but the two biggest are the price of gas and the traffic. Israelis complain about the traffic in Tel Aviv, but those who live in Jerusalem know their traffic is just as bad (not even going to include the parenthetical here!) As a social studies teacher, I was fascinated with the communal side of the kibbutz. Our first two meals were in the dining hall. Lots of communal interactions to observe. Jay and his family talked to other families. His youngest daughte,r Hila (Hee-lah,) was a clear favorite among all the younger children who came up for hugs, playtime, or just to say hi. Tzippi, Jay's wife made sure we knew what we were eating and that our portions were big enough. Friday night, Eitan, the oldest son was working in the dining hall. We observed multiple generations...a real community where everybody knew everybody else. Aside from the white table cloths, there was no other sign this was Shabbat. No communal candle-lighting, blessings, etc. If this were done, it was all done privately prior to dinner. After the meal, some of the adults went to a presentation on recycling, waste, etc. The kids either went to the youth club (older kids, mostly) or hung out and eventually, watched TV (younger kids, mostly) The kibbutz folk at the lecture discussed everything from rising use of plastic stuff to water use. Everybody was astonished as they watched the slide presentation. If you didn't just click on the link, please go back and watch it.....it is worth a couple minutes of your time. Imagine our surprise the next day when water was served to the group involved in Tu' Bishvat planting.....in plastic cups!
Back to civics....kibbutz housing is voted on by the members. There is a limit to the number of houses/duplexes which can be funded. And, of course, those living in "older" homes have to be able to "move up" to newer ones in an agreed upon period. Because of this, one's immediate neighbors tend to be of the same age since they have also been on the kibbutz for the same length of time. One can also see the private side of kibbutz life at Hatzor. The homes aren't all equal. Some duplexes have been built out. Families drive kibbutz vehicles, but can also own private cars. Even labor is now contracted out. There are kibbutz workers who don't live on the kibbutz. The kibbutz store carries multiple brands (used to only be one brand of soap in Israel.) Hatzor even has it's own world-class sculptor, Zeev Krisher. There was also a communal soccer game (ages 16-32!) where the goal was just to build community. I spent much time thinking about the Catlin Gabel After-Rummage discussion. Life at Kibbutz Hatzor was a blend of family, individual, and communal activities. How can Catlin make the transition from Rummage to something else? We live apart from each other, tend to drift away from the school if our kids have graduated/left, and are busy with our own lives. What is the incentive to tackle another project. Rummage happened because we needed a way to reuse items we no longer needed and found a way to include the larger Portland community. Kibbutz Hatzor works because its members live, work, play, laugh, and eat together. It is a living example of civics which continues to work because according to Tzippi, "Young people return as soon as they have children because their grandparents live here."
Yesterday, I received this letter from Senator Jeff Merkley. I've never received a personal letter from a US Senator before. Talk about setting the bar high! The Senator's office sent the letter to the wrong side of the Willamette to a zip code I've never lived in. The envelope arrived in pristine condition. That meant an efficient US Postal Worker, during the Holiday rush, took the time to route the letter back across the river to the correct zip code. He (or she) looked up either my name or the street to accomplish this task. Not only is Senator Merkley supporting the Fulbright, but the Post Office is, too! Senator, I will definitely share my Fulbright with Oregonians, and my mail carrier earned his Holiday bonus this year! I wonder if postal workers pool tips?
Drove the 7th graders to listen to Greg Mortenson, author of 3 Cups of Tea. Greg is an unbelievably humble speaker who was in his element in Portland. Not a hostile member in the audience. He spoke of many happenings in his life, in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but two of his points were "aha" moments for me. He talked of empowering students to change their world. This is exactly what RICE does. It empowers students. The parent of a group leader told me about a Catlin Gable parking lot exchange today. As her daughter was getting out of the car, a voice shouted across the lot, "Hey, do we neeed $5? [For lunch pizza during a group rehearsal]" "Yes," she shouted back. Then the girl's father shouted, Hey, tell me about this $5." The mother reported the three of them walked into school together, the group leader explaining to the parent about rehearsals, the need to eat, etc. RICE never ceases to amaze me in the ways it empowers students. Greg Mortenson also spoke of listening to accomplish something. I think maybe my approach to the upcoming Fulbright Israel trip should be to listen to the Israelis. Ask them what they want and how I can help them achieve their goals. Mortenson may be on to something here. Listening. When you hug your child tonight or put him/her to bed, listen to them.
Spent the morning at McKay Elementary School in Beaverton. It seemed weird to see say, "See you in May," as I left. Walking out the door, I thought to myself, "Oh, my, the adventure is beginning. I need to blog this tonight." So here I am....Many things wrapping up. RICE project concluding next week. Food Festival next Friday. Things are really moving fast. The kids at McKay are willing to participate in an connection project. They just love our kids reading and playing with them. We also completed two "teacher projects." It would be great to hook them up with buddies in Israel. So many levels of exchange to go through. I also need to look at VoiceThread software again. Might be a way to begin the project. McKay could use the global view and kids would love the contact with the outside world. Kristin joined us today for service. She voiced what I feel every month when we are at McKay. Being at Catlin Gabel is truly special. Service ended with the kids going out to lunch at Beaverton Town Square. The group was fabulous as usual. Bus got back on time. Wish we could take kids out more. They represent their school so beautifully and the skills they learn about managing themselves are invaluable. Not even technology with all its virtual pieces can replicate actually experiencing the face-to-face contact of a cultural experience. Back to packing....
Had dinner with Jeff and Adrienne over Thanksgiving. Jeff asked if I blogged regularly. Adrienne suggested there would be a parent audience hungry to read my posts. It was humbling to think I already had an audience, but hadn't written much. Jeff said he blogged twice a week. He also said his blog was heavily edited so as not to offend any current or potential clients. Since I have no clients......and no editors, if anything I write offends anybody, I apologize in advance. Feel free to let me know how hurt you are in a comment. I promise to apologize publicly.
Israel prep continues apace. Dinner was a nice break from constantly checking lists....
OK....I note that life got a bit crazy and posting became erratic. Fess up, Paul, posting became non-existent! At my mentor, Jay Hurvittz's suggestion, this blog will not only serve as a journal of my thoughts and observations, but also as a place to reflect upon what I learned and plan. So, let's meet Jay! Jay grew up in Baldwin Hills, CA. He currently lives on a Kibbutz about an hour south of Tel Aviv. He is unbelievably wired. I get e-mail replies within minutes of sending messages, no matter what time it is in Israel! He is currently working on his sainthood medal as the father of two teen-age boys and one 12 year-old girl. No wonder he is so patient with me! Under his guidance, we finally decided to settle in Jerusalem for our trip. That's a story for another post. Right now, I'm trying to decide exactly what to focus on while in Israel. There are so many interesting topics. How wired are Israeli schools? How do teachers teach with technology? Is there a digital divide between schools/cities/neighborhoods? What benefits are realized through a strong federal presence? How are Israeli teachers trained to teach with technology? Then there are the student topics....how to connect students in a meaninful way. I am leaning more and more towards a Facebook model. Not because I am enamored with Facebook, but because that is how young folks are staying connected these days. If I want kids to keep the connections going, they have to feel comfortable with the tools. Sure, I would prefer software such as VoiceThread or Glogster, but Facebook is the darling of the young today, so I should take advantage of it. Hey, this was supposed to be about Jay! Amazing where those reflections will take you!
My intent is to use this blog to communicate about the Fulbright Distinguised Award in Teaching. In January, 2010, I will be traveling to Israel as a Fulbrighter to work on creating "virtual" exchanges between schools. Right now, I am still in the paperwork process. Beginning August 17, I will be in Washington DC to discuss the Fulbright award in great detail. Stay tuned.