Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The study center, my kids and me

Now that the month-long color war is over, it's time for the kids to buckle down in school. At least for the next two weeks until their Chanuka vacation starts.

All of a sudden all my kids have lots of tests on lots of material. And I'm feeling the pressure, even though they don't seem to be.

Modi'in offers a very nice program for olim (new immigrants) called the Merkaz Limmud--Study Center. Merkaz Limmud is an after-school program where extra ulpan (classes strengthening Hebrew), homework help and math tutoring are offered. The program first started when we made Aliya two years ago. That year, I made my kids go, even though they hated it. Truth is, because it was its first year it really was what we call in Hebrew a "balagan"--completely unorganized. Sometimes my kids got tutored and sometimes they didn't. It drove me crazy that they would be there for two or three hours to get help with their homework, but would come home and first have to start. By the time the program got its act together, it was Passover. Last year my kids refused to attend and I didn't push it. But I've heard that this year the program has improved a great deal. There is plenty of staff and kids are really being helped.

I decided that we would give it a try again. The kids of course put up [an excellent] fight, but I held my ground and took them over there today. When we got there, I was extremely disappointed to see only one staff person there with about ten kids. She looked completely overwhelmed. She told me some of the other volunteers were sick (these are Sherut Leumi Girls, girls who opt to do community service in lieu of army service) and that several others had to attend some kind of course. I did not want to take my kids home and have to argue with them again next time. I wanted them to stay, and hopefully have a positive experience, so that the next the protest would be weaker (there is no doubt in my mind that there will still be protests).

On the spur of the moment, I offered to stay and help. If you're thinking about what an altruistic person I am, you are completely off-base. What I said was, "I'll stay and help the other kids, while you help my kids." Yup, just like that, tit-for-tat. The girl took me up on my offer and we were good to go. I had been planning on making dinner when the kids were at the center, but we know what happens to the best laid plans.

I worked with two girls, one in the first grade and one in the fourth. Both of them arrived here just before the school year started and were clearly struggling with the language. "Hang in there," I wanted to tell them. "You'll get it. Eventually." Both kids seemed happy, in spite of their difficulties. I made them laugh a few times, and that felt good. Truth is, it felt good to work with kids who communicate so well. It felt good to be helping these kids. "Maybe I should do this regularly", I thought to myself. Volunteer for a couple of hours a week. (Then I really would be altruistic). But then I cautioned myself not to jump in and do something I may regret, like commit to something that takes me away from my home during hours I know I should be there. So I kept my mouth shut, figuring I could always volunteer at a later time if I still have this good feeling about wanting to somehow give back.

While I worked, I surreptitiously checked the girls. Tali and a friend were studying for a test with a high school volunteer. Orli was reading a page in her history book and summarizing it. She was working by herself and I gotta tell you, I was impressed.

All in all our visit to the Mercaz Limmud turned out be a good thing for all of us.

Only downside was that I had to order pizza for dinner. Which, in my mind, isn't really a downside at all.


Batya said...

Sounds great. It's worth bringing your kids. Maybe next time will be better.

Commenter Abbi said...

Volunteering is the best feeling. It really feels great to touch someone's life positively and I would also love to be able to do it. But I have the same exact feeling as you do- one more commitment feels a bit too much.