Why did you choose this program?
I initially chose to participate in the TALMA program for several reasons. Two of my greatest passions are education and travel, and becoming a teaching fellow with TALMA was a great way to combine them!
I am interested in pursuing a new career in International Education and Development, and joining TALMA was a great first step for me. I could "test the waters" in essence without leaving my current position as a teacher in Philadelphia, network with other young teachers around the world, expand my own understanding of global education, and enjoy a summer in Israel at the same time!
After my first summer with TALMA, my reasons for returning changed a bit. I learned so much about myself as a teacher and as an individual, but I also loved having the opportunity to make a difference in the Israeli students' lives by empowering them with an invaluable English language immersion experience. My return was less about me and more about the greater good.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Participating in TALMA was very easy in this regard! TALMA partners with a travel agency and logistics company to make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the entire experience. Our flights were booked (and paid for), all transportation was provided, and we were given all the tools we needed to be comfortable and successful on the ground in Israel.
TALMA offers different tracks. Some are more independent (like the one I chose to do in Jerusalem), and with others, more is taken care of for you. No matter which track you choose, everything is taken care of in some way. All meals are provided (if not physically, you receive a pre-paid credit card to use for food), transportation is clear (either using buses provided by TALMA or public transportation - again, paid for - in the larger cities), and all events are wonderful.
With TALMA, participants are given two free weekends and several free week nights to use as they please. The only time I had to organize anything on my own was when I wanted to do something special in my free time. I planned a few trips around the countries, and went out in Jerusalem almost every change I got! There are always people willing to help you plan excursions if you're interested.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
DON'T HOLD BACK! Teaching with TALMA is an invaluable experience. Use your free time to explore, soak up every moment with your students and Israeli co-teacher, reach out and make new friends, and take risks you may not have done otherwise. Go out and explore your city.
I now feel so at home in Jerusalem, almost like I have lived there my whole life! I like not feeling like a tourist.
In fact, last year, I took some tourists from Germany on a food tour of Jerusalem! TALMA offers a great balance between professional development, personal enrichment, and traveling fun - just take it all in and don't skip out on anything. It's all part of what is sure to be one of the greatest experiences of your life!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
When participants arrive in Israel, they receive a few days of professional development in one common location (usually Tel Aviv). There, we participate in workshops and seminars to help prepare us to teach in the Israeli classroom. Then, we split up and travel to our respective teaching locations (this past summer there were 5 locations, but TALMA is still expanding). There we meet our Israeli co-teachers, begin collaborating and planning, and get to know the city.
Once the program starts for students, we leave early in the morning to go to our respective schools (sometimes by provided transportation, sometimes public depending on your location). School days are Sunday through Thursday, and run from 8:00am-1:30pm.
After school, you are welcome to do as you please. Some people choose to stay at the hotel/apartment, some go out exploring, others out to eat, etc. There are 15 days of teaching. Like I said, there are two free weekends during which participants can plan their own excursions around Israel, and two organized weekends when teachers from all locations meet up for fun, professional development, and reflection. The program ends with a closing ceremony.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
I had traveled quite extensively before I participated in TALMA, but I suppose I was most concerned about the conflict in the area and how that would affect us on the ground. However, once I got to Israel, not ONCE did I feel unsafe.
TALMA is in constant contact with the Embassy and takes all measures to ensure our safety and comfort. People are really open about the political situation in the area, and I am grateful to have learned so much about it from people who live with it every day.
Otherwise, my fears were all teaching related. I was very unsure about myself at first - the Israeli classroom is quite different from the U.S. classroom. But thanks to my co-teachers, I felt right at home after the first few minutes. The kids are wonderful, and I miss them every day!
What made this trip meaningful to you?
As I mentioned earlier, my initial reasons for participating in TALMA were rather personal. I was looking for a rewarding professional development opportunity to kick start my career in international education. I also couldn't pass up a free trip to Israel!
Having done TALMA for two years now, I can honestly say that I am honored to be part of a program that is changing the way the English language, and education as a whole, is viewed in Israel.
TALMA has, without a doubt, made a profound difference in the lives of the children who participate. I am so excited to see how the program continues to grow and improve!
TALMA has renewed my passion for teaching and learning, and has no doubt influenced how I define my role as a teacher. I have taken so much away from this experience, learned to reflect on my own teaching and experiences, and passed on the lessons I have learned to my students back home, as well. It's the program that keeps on giving!