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Teaching and learning English brings together Jewish and Arab education students to teach 5th graders from both communities – even during Covid-19.

In this innovative Shared Education program, Jewish and Arab Education students in the English Teaching track work together and learn about each other's societies. Together, the students learn how to teach English in a multi-cultural framework, planning a series of activities in English for joint cohorts of Jewish and Arab children. All of the 2nd year students chose to participate in the program, which is a collaboration between Beit Berl and the Center for Educational Technology (CET) and is led by Beit Berl lecturer Rawya Jeraicy together with Dr. Shany Payes of CET.

During the Fall semester, the Beit Berl students met in weekly Zoom sessions co-taught by an Arab and a Jewish moderator in a mix of English, Arabic and Hebrew. They learned about each other's cultures and about the history of the conflict in the region, as well as simply getting to know each other as fellow future English teachers. "The students were very enthusiastic and looked forward to the classes. The moderators really felt how much they cared and wanted to learn," says Jeraicy. "Bonds formed when they broke into working groups to prepare activities for the school children."

The two elementary schools – the Ibn Sina School in Tayibe and the Shai Agnon School in Kfar Saba – were recruited for the program in October. First, the two principals met, and then the schools' English teachers met with Beit Berl pedagogic experts to design the program together. In the first workshop, on Zoom, children from Tayibe and Kfar Saba were assigned to eight breakout rooms, where they took part in programming jointly led by Arab and Jewish Beit Berl students. To break the ice, each child answered questions such as 'What is your favorite animal?' and 'What are your hobbies?' In English, of course.

Thanks to the dedicated work of Beit Berl pedagogical instructors Karen Abel and Dr. Reem Bishara and the mentor teachers, Mira Leventhal Abudi and Erica Newman-Dvory (both graduates of Beit Berl College), the event successfully created an atmosphere of closeness among the pupils despite being a virtual encounter.

Since the initial workshop was indeed a great success – the children, their teachers and the Beit Berl students all reported very positive feedback – the students immediately began planning the next session. Three more workshops will take place in March, and a final event is planned for the end of the school year.

"Even during Covid-19, we are able to continue our pedagogy of Shared Education – in which Jewish and Arab students of Education learn to teach core subjects to paired Jewish and Arab schools – together," noted Dr. Wurud Jayusi, Director of The Center for the Advancement of Shared Society at Beit Berl College. "Our Arab students and Jewish students don't always have an opportunity to meet in a meaningful way. This program enables them to train together and to promote a more equitably shared Israeli society."

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