Zohar and His High-School Team On The Response To COVID-19
Updated: Jan 7
Tell us about where you usually work?
I teach History and English at The Social School – one of Dror Israel's unique high schools for at-risk youth, located outside of Haifa. Our school focuses on the social aspects of education through creating well-bonded groups, personal and informal atmosphere and teacher-students relations and leadership empowerment through volunteering and social activism.
How does a school day at the Social School usually look?
In regular days, we study 5 days a week between 9am – 2pm. Our sessions are usually interactive and held in relatively small groups of 20 kids. At The Social School we don't have tests, bells and punishments: we educate through dialogue, voluntary participation and interest. We dedicate at least 5 hours per week in hands-on workshops like cooking, gardening, volunteering in the community etc.
What did you do when you heard that schools were being closed because of the Corona virus?
When we heard that highschool need to be close, we had 2 emergency meetings of the staff when it was still possible, mapped all the students and their possible challenges and reactions in face of this new reality. We then invented our new routine that we use now based on that assessment.
How does the school day look now?
Each student has 2 online sessions every day that he is invited to join, and all the regular subjects are covered. The first and last session of each week are informal and are meant for the groups' home-room teachers to run a social session where kids share their feelings and provide comfort for one another.
In addition to the big conference calls we created a table that specifies the contacts we had with each kid and we make sure not a single student goes through a day without a reach out from their personal educator by phone, text or a personal video chat.
What do you think this gives to the students? Why is it important?
We work with at-risk teens. Some of our kids have unstable and insufficient homes, others deal with anxiety and depression, and for many of them even a short break can lead to a down spiral of borderless behaviors from which its hard to climb back up. This is why it was crucial for us to react quickly and provide a new framework that will give a sense of stability and show the kids we are still there. I feel even kids who don't attend our classes online still know that it's there and that it gives them a sense of assurance. More importantly- the ongoing personal connection to their educator shows them that we are there for them no matter what.
Can you ask some students to describe how it is for them at home and why it's important to continue meeting?
"I feel like we as a social school should continue to be who we are even if we can't meet" (Lee, a 12th grader)
"Its fun and encouraging to see my friends and it helps me go through my day" (Aviv, a 10th grader)