“In the past, whenever a student behave badly the teachers send the problematic student to see the principal. When the student came to me, I would take him or her back to the classroom and ask the teacher to solve the difficulty with the student by talking with the student. The teachers of course did not like me bringing the child back to the classroom and they had to adapt other work habits, but I was there to help them to do so. We introduced a culture of restorative justice and the staff who specialized could help other teachers”. Taylor Harper, principal of the Big Picture Learning School in Reno, told this story to delegates of the Institute for Democratic Education during their visit last October in her school and additional schools in Reno – Nevada and Oakland.
The delegation traveled to learn more about the “mentoring” model. The model, originally named “Big Picture Learning”, was first introduced in the US in 1995. It focuses on personalizing the learning experience within a community context, based on practical training in the student’s field of interest in companies and businesses in the community. In other words, the learning process of each student is motivated by the personal desires and interests of the students that lead to the choice of field of training, including accounting, law, gym, or any other field. The Institute for Democratic Education is the operating body of the project in Israel, together with the Ministry of Education and JDC-Ashalim.
The second year of the model in Israel began on September 1, 2017, with nine Jewish and Arab schools throughout the country, accompanied by four enthusiastic instructors from the Institute. The schools are located in the social and geographic periphery and serve primarily the population of youth at risk in: Shlomi, Hadera, Netanya, Kalansawa, Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Holon, Bat Yam, and Jerusalem.
In February 2018, we plan to locate additional schools that will participate in the project, as part of the trend that began last year with the opening of three schools that implemented the model. Within five years, the program’s pilot phase will be completed in 16 schools all throughout Israel.
In the past year, we have been working on the assessment of this program with the Brookdale Institute. The results are already visible and are illustrated by personal stories, such as the story of Kfir Yarkoni: Kfir, a student at the Lady Davis School, asked to do his project in the Gihon Company (the Jerusalem Sewage and Water Corporation). As part of the project, he experimented with the development of a desalination instrument. He entered a national competition and won!!!
We hope that this model will be implemented in Israel and will affect in a beneficial way the lives of many young men and women towards change and success.