The following is an excerpt from an article written by Teach First Israel profiling two Teach For All network leaders—sisters Georgie and Keren Davis. Georgie is a second year participant with Teach First Israel, while Keren is a Teach First (UK) alumna in her third year of teaching. Both sisters were raised in Manchester, England. After completing her university degree in England, Georgie emigrated to Israel, and Keren stayed in England to finish her university studies. Driven by a passion for social justice, the two sisters separately joined Teach For All network partners’ programs in their respective countries. Working in schools thousands of miles apart, Georgie and Keren face similar challenges in the classroom. The shared experience has enabled them to exchange ideas on finding solutions toward a shared vision of expanded educational opportunity for all children.
In 2013, Keren began her teaching career as a math teacher at the London Academy, a large, multicultural school serving a low-income, predominantly new immigrant community. “The majority of my students’ parents do not speak English well, and almost all of my students live in public housing,” she describes, continuing, “The other day one of my 11th graders was on the news because he had been stabbed. He is back in school. This kind of thing is just part of my students’ home life.”
[I]n Israel, Georgie’s informal education job brought her to the Ironi Zayin high school in Jaffe. In the spring of 2014, she was invited by the principal to temporarily replace an English teacher who had gone out on maternity leave. A Teach First Israel teacher at the school encouraged her to apply to the program, and in July, 2014 she joined Teach First Israel's fifth cohort and was placed as an English teacher at the school. She found herself in an extremely socio-economically disadvantaged school, with a uniquely diverse student body consisting of Jewish, Christian-Arab, and Muslim-Arab youth in grades 7-12.
“As a native English speaker I could have chosen to teach in a lot of different schools that are not such difficult schools. I chose this route because I believe in what TFI is doing. I am trying to get my students to believe in themselves, rather than just teaching them English,” she explains.
Both sisters describe the support they receive from their organizations as critical to their success. Keren says “The deputy directors and department heads [at my school] are all from Teach First. So the training I received through Teach First is reflected in my school.” Georgie echoes this sentiment, “Teach First Israel is giving me an unbelievable amount of support that gives me the tools I need to get through to my kids.”
The sisters have compared their teaching experiences, finding many points of similarity in spite of the significant differences in British and Israeli school cultures. During a visit to Georgie’s school in Israel, Keren was struck by the contrasting environments. “My school has many strict routines and serious discipline,” she describes, “whereas Georgie’s students call her by her first name."
However, the challenges faced by their students are similar. Both schools have 24-hour security because of the threat of violence, and students of both schools tend to see school as a safe haven from their turbulent family lives.
“We are considering doing a joint project with both of our students,” Georgie says, describing options including an on-line cultural exchange project.
The sisters see teaching as a long-term career option. "This is the best job in the world!” Karen exclaims. “You never get bored. On the good days we laugh a lot with the kids. It’s a great job. I see myself doing it for years.”
“I see myself staying in this school. It takes a lot of energy, but I just can’t give up on my kids,” Georgie agrees.