Teach First Israel (TFI) is committed to reaching all at-risk Israeli students, yet since TFI’s founding, serving students in Bedouin-Israeli communities in the south of Israel has been a challenge. Indeed, up to Cohort 6, TFI had placed only five Bedouin-Israeli teachers.
Not to be deterred, in the 2015-2016 school year TFI secured a dedicated grant to launch an outreach initiative to overcome formidable recruitment and placement barriers in the Bedouin sector in the Negev. Mr. Salech Abu Rashid was hired as Director of Outreach in the Bedouin sector, and built on his considerable experience in community and education work in the Negev to advance this initiative.
TFI is proud to report that Cohort 7 includes 13 new Bedouin-Israeli teachers who will impact over 2,000 at-risk Bedouin-Israeli students in six schools in the Negev.
The outreach initiative operated on several levels, including:
Community Outreach: TFI began by reaching out to the educational, community, and political leadership of the Negev Bedouin community. Through numerous meetings and site visits, TFI introduced them to TFI and our model of expanding educational equity.
Mapping: TFI conducted a survey of the pool of possible candidates, and found that there were 1,000 Bedouin-Israelis who were either in their final year of studies or who had completed their studies in the past four years.
Recruitment: In consultation with local partners, TFI identified 129 candidates with the potential to be excellent TFI teachers, and focused outreach efforts on them. TFI’s goal was to recruit 12-15 new Bedouin-Israeli teachers.
Selection: The initiative director stewarded candidates through all stages of TFI’s rigorous selection process, which was adapted to meet the cultural needs of Bedouin-Israeli candidates. This included integrating Bedouin-Israeli professionals into the Assessment Center and interview processes, preparing candidates for the different stages of the process, and providing emotional support to maintain their motivation and cultivate a connection to TFI. At the end of this process, 13 excellent new teachers (six men and seven women) were selected.
Placement: Starting in October, 2015 TFI met with school principals in the Negev Bedouin communities of Rahat, Arara, Hura, and Neve Midbar with the goal of preparing the groundwork for placements of new TFI teachers in May, 2016. Thus, when it came time to place the 13 new TFI teachers, there were positions awaiting them. This is no small feat, as matching teachers to the needs of schools can present tremendous challenges.
Overcoming Cultural Barriers: In advance of TFI’s intensive five-week Summer Training Institute – which constitutes the first of three semesters of teachers’ academic training - TFI held a two-day pre-training seminar at the Mandel Center for Leadership in Beersheva. During this seminar TFI prepared new teachers for the new cultural experience of spending five weeks in dormitory conditions with 155 of their new peers.
In some instances, TFI was called upon to mediate extremely sensitive cultural challenges, as some of the women teachers faced family resistance to their attending the Summer Training Institute. In these instances, Salech met with family members to allay their concerns and to assure them that the women’s religious and cultural needs would be respected. It is unlikely that these women would have been able to attend the training – and thus become teachers - without TFI’s dedicated outreach efforts.
Naomi Summer Training Institute: The new Bedouin-Israeli teachers were fully integrated into the Naomi Summer Training Institute and broader TFI community, while continuing to receive culturally-appropriate support and guidance. Throughout the training, the new teachers were accompanied by two veteran Bedouin-Israeli teachers who served as Leading Teachers. These teachers served as inspiring role models and provided practical guidance.
All 13 of the new teachers completed the five-weeks of the training, making new connections and opening to new cultural and intellectual experiences. The Summer Institute culminated in a two-week Summer School, where teachers had the opportunity to practice their new skills in real, Arabic-speaking classrooms.
Looking Forward: In the current school year, TFI is working to expand the outreach initiative in the Bedouin sector, with the goal of recruiting 22-25 new teachers for Cohort 8 (which will begin teaching in the 2017-2018 school year).
The breakthrough in recruiting, placing, and training Bedouin-Israeli teachers was made possible thanks to TFI’s dedicated outreach initiative, which was led by a respected professional from the Bedouin-Israeli community. Not only did the initiative succeed in recruiting 13 excellent new teachers, but TFI forged connections that will be critical to the ongoing efforts to deepen our presence in Bedouin-Israeli communities in the Negev.
New Teacher Profile: Pachri Abu Alkean
Thirty-five year-old Pachri, from the Bedouin village of Hura, came to TFI after a brief career as a chemical engineer. “After one year working at the Dead Sea Works, I realized that all of these chemicals and machinery were not for me.”
When he learned about TFI, he immediately felt a connection. “Wow! This is what I was looking for!” he described, continuing “If I work at the Dead Sea Works, I can only help myself. If I work in education, I can impact many people’s lives. At 6am on the first day of registration I signed up on TFI’s website.”
TFI’s Director of Outreach in the Bedouin-Israeli community provided intensive support throughout the selection process. “Salech really helped me. He gave me more information about TFI, which helped me feel more and more connected to TFI and its mission,” he explained. Salech also assisted him in preparing for the Assessment Center and personal interviews, which he passed with flying colors.
On September 1, 2016, Pachri entered the classroom as a new TFI teacher. He teaches mathematics at the Al Salam high school in Hura, in addition to serving as a homeroom teacher.
“I am enjoying every minute,” he exclaimed. “I hope that more young people who believe what I believe will join TFI.”