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Social Media and Me

Since social media first came out, I’ve hated it.

I don’t have Facebook, and never missed it.

I don’t have Twitter, because I think it’s dumb.

I don’t have Pinterest, because honestly, I don’t see the point.

I don’t have WhatsApp, and I never quite understood why everyone else does.  (Admission: Until a few months ago, I thought its name was WhatsUp.  I still call it WhatsDown, though.)

And why would I want to stick a name tag and personal pictures onto my Gmail account?  I don’t.

I do have LinkedIn.  I don’t know how much it’s helped me, if at all, but I signed up because I figured it would help me network and find a job.  It hasn’t, at least not yet.  But since so many experts think that LinkedIn is useful, I keep hoping that it will find me something.

Even though I’ve been active on online forums for over ten years, somewhere inside, I’m still a teenager, scared of stalkers who take their stalking offline.

I don’t post pictures of my kids – or myself, or my husband – on the net.  Recently, I shut down my Geni account, and changed all our names to anonymous or blanks.  I have no idea what my extended family thinks of that move – and honestly, I don’t really care.

I do what I do – and don’t do what I don’t do – after a lot of thought and consideration, and I really don’t care whether my decisions are applauded or booed.

Honestly, when people ask me about social media, most of them raise an eyebrow at the fact that I am completely disconnected.  In many ways, I feel like my technological skills are ten years behind.  I feel like a Bubby.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  To this day, I don’t know.

But, Yitzchak is on the same page.  He also is completely off all social media.

Lately, though, I’ve had to make some tough choices.  As you probably know, I’m not continuing at my teaching job this year.  That means that when the school year starts in less than a week, I will be at home.  Shlomo will go to gan, at least the first day (he doesn’t want to go back, but I told him he needs to try one day, and then decide).  And I will be home, with Tova.  We don’t do daycare.   Not if there is another viable option . . . even if that option requires a sacrifice of money, convenience, or career.

I’m happy about that.  It really is what I want to do, deep down.  I’m just worried about whether or not I’ll want to find another teaching job in a year from now, and how that would go, if I chose to take that route.

But what not teaching also means is that I need to replace my salary.  Ideally, Yitzchak would be earning on his own what the two of us earn together.  That may or may not happen, and it may or may not happen in the next few months.  Really, we just have to work hard and pray.  In the meantime, though, I still need a salary.

I know that if this freelance business thing succeeds, I won’t have to go back to teaching.  The question is more if I’ll want to. Honestly? I’m scared that Tova will be ready for gan next year, and, being a good parent, I’ll send her just because she’s ready, even though technically speaking, there’s no reason to spend the money.  Then I’ll be stuck at home by myself, running my own business and making eleven thousand shekels a month (okay, hopefully), but in desperate need of company.

Last time I stayed home, I was creating and editing educational materials.  It was great, except that my boss’ budget wasn’t big enough that he could promise me steady work.  Luckily, it was enough at the time, and we managed.  Now, though, I’m not up for that level of uncertainty.  I will still be working with him, but I need other clients, as well.

Freelancing, whether teaching, writing, or editing, is a tough field to find jobs in.  So, when I saw on one site, “If you can’t find your ideal job, create it,” it really clicked with me.

After a long bout of cold feet, nail biting, nervousness, and thinking “Oh my G-d, I can’t believe I’m doing this.  Is this me?  Am I NUTS?” I took the plunge.

I am now a freelance writer.  In six days, it will be official (because my teaching contract will be up).  I am going to make this work, and I am going to be one of those high-earning success stories, having to turn down clients because my business has been more successful than I’d thought possible, and I want to leave more time for my family.

What all this means, though, is that my attitude towards social media will have to change.  To build an online writing business, you need to network and reach people online.  You need to be easily searchable, both in Google and in social media, because otherwise, clients the world over will have a hard time finding you. Even if they do manage to find your site, they’ll be nervous about being one of the first to work with you, or about hiring an unknown writer, when there are more well-known, personable writers to be found.

I think it was Sophie Lizard who wrote that, “People don’t work with websites, they work with other people.” Or something along those lines.  So, you have to show that you’re a person.

And so, with a lot of tummy flip-flops, and a lot of nervousness, I came face-to-face with the social media monster that I’ve successfully managed to avoid since its inception.

I took the ghost Facebook account, faceless, nameless, postless, pictureless, that I had made for the sole purpose of being able to read Facebook links, and I put a picture and a website.

I made Twitter and Pinterest accounts, added a picture, name, website, byline, and found people to follow.

And when my first guest post came out the day after I sent it in, I shared it.  So far, it has gained me a single Twitter follower, and four LinkedIn “likes”.

I think what my compromise will have to be, is that I post and share my writing when it comes out.  Soon, I will make a logo; after that, I will probably get someone to draw a caricature of me, and use the caricature on all my social media accounts, instead of an actual picture.

This is actually why I haven’t been posting too much in the past week.  Instead, I’ve been pouring my time and energy into getting my freelance writing business off the ground.  It isn’t easy, but I’m on a roll, and I believe that with enough motivation and hard work, I can land a couple of high-paying clients within the month – enough to easily replace the income I was earning as a teacher.

I’ve also been trying to teach myself to put only one space between sentences, instead of two.  What this usually means is doing “Find and Replace,” when I’m done writing an article.  Most of the time, this does the trick.

Wish me luck, because I think I’ll need it.

And don’t worry.  I’m not leaving this blog.  I will still continue posting here, on a schedule as regular – or irregular – as I have been until now.

When my site is up, and I feel like I can be proud of it, I will place a link over here.  Until then, sit tight, and keep reading. 🙂

UPDATE: I wrote this post a few days ago, on August 26.  I don’t know that I’m super-proud of my site yet, but I have 2 pieces published and two more scheduled . . . so I’m taking the plunge and waving my  anonymity bye-bye.  You can visit my writer’s site here, and of course, if anyone you know (maybe even you) is looking for a quality freelancer, I’d love it if you recommended me.

The C and G Bagrut, Or, The System is Messed Up

The first bagrut (matriculation) exam this season was the English exam.  The way Israeli exams, in most subjects, work is like this:

A few hours before the exam, each school is sent more than enough test booklets, for every test that they will be giving.

They bring in  proctors, unrelated to the school, but usually from a sector and gender that will be mutually comfortable.

The proctors make sure that the room is ready for the test, and then the students come in.

The students hand over everything that is not a pen, food, or drink, or whatever material is allowed to be brought in (for instance, a dictionary, or simple Bible).

Then the proctor hands out the exams, the students do what they can, and hand it in.

This is the process in short.

But what happens when someone finds a copy of the test and uploads it to the internet, so that he and his friends can prepare?  It’s no longer an “unseen” text, and the questions are known, and the students have the opportunity to prepare answers . . . but not across the board, and therefore, the test isn’t really fair anymore.

The ideal would be to isolate that student, or possibly school, and punish them appropriately.  But half an hour before the entire country is going to take the test, there is no time for that.  So, what do they do?  The following is what they did while I sat in the teacher’s room and waited, and while my co-teacher kept calling the Bagrut hotline to find out, as soon as possible, what we were supposed to do.

First, the people in charge of the bagrut exams talk.  Then, they decide to change questions, and the new questions will be sent by email to the secretaries, to be printed and attached to the existing test booklets.

But what about the students who are LD, and therefore only do half the exam, orally?  Which questions do they do?  Previously, we had a list of which questions were necessary.  Now, what do we do?  What about those LD kids who have a disk?  The disk doesn’t have a recording of the new questions, and it’s not fair to make them do the test without having those questions read aloud to them.  And what about students who already started the test?

We got the list of questions for the first LD set, and the second LD set was told to do the original questions.  Then we saw the replacement questions – they were practically identical to the originals, except maybe in a different order.  The students who had already started had to start over, and had two options: 1. extra time, 2. moed bet (another chance to do the test, in a few weeks).  Even for those who chose to take the extra time, the test isn’t really fair.  It was late in the afternoon, and doing a matriculation exam is taxing.  I think it’s fair to say that the answers they gave the second time around were probably of a lesser quality than those they gave the first time around.

Because all anyone knew was that the exam that was supposed to be at 4:15 had been leaked, this whole process happened to 2 separate exams – C and G, which were both scheduled to take place at 4:15 that afternoon.

Two days later, we hear unwelcome news: Now, 45 minutes before the start of the exams, all students testing must be phone-less in the examination room.  Then the tests will be sent by email to the secretary, who will print them out for the students.  This is a bad plan, and if this is what we have come to, then we are in big trouble.  First, let’s see why it’s a bad plan:

1. 45 extra minutes in the exam room.  Expect grades to drop immediately, because that adds 45 extra minutes of stress, and certainly won’t help anyone do better on the test.

2. What happens if the school’s internet happens to not be working exactly when it needs to be?  What happens if a specific city has a power outage exactly when the bagrut needs to start?

3. Previously, the test booklets were sent to the schools.  Who is going to pay for the photocopying?  And for bigger schools, is 45 minutes going to be enough?

4. Who says the test won’t leak, anyways?

In my opinion, there are major underlying issues in the system, if this is what we have come to.  But on the other hand, I thought that anyways.  I’m not sure how standardized, stupidized, matriculation exams help our academic ranking, use, or level at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.  But I’m no minister of education, so my opinion doesn’t really matter, does it?

In addition, the new system punishes everyone.  Why not just punish the sector that started the leak?  I understand that in today’s age of Facebook and Instagram, the leaked test will make it to everyone.  But not fast enough to be a real threat to the test’s integrity, for the rest of the country.

Update: The Education ministry has responded to the anger of teachers and parents, by finding a middle ground.  Some schools will get direct delivery, and some schools will have to send two representatives who will be held responsible for the integrity of the exam in that school.  Students will have to hand in their phones 30 minutes early.  This is much, much better.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that a student who wants to cheat will find a way to do it, no matter what guidelines are set.  This is a global problem (as in, affecting the entire Western world) and will not be solved until we stop making academics into a golden calf that everyone is required to serve.  

We, as a whole, need to put more emphasis on who people are, and a solid value system, and less on grades, academics, and what people have.  “Keeping up with the Joneses,” should not exist, and is a symptom of this same problem; when you have to prove that you are a worthwhile person by grades, money, or lifestyle, you cannot put the same energy into living according to proper values.  But that’s a subject for a different post.

 

The Online Literature Course

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Translation: “The virtual campus for teachers.” This is the picture on the site’s homepage.

That, obviously, I have to do.

It works like this: Starting from next year, you will not be allowed to teach literature unless you have taken this course.  And they will not be teaching this course anymore.  Bear in mind that they have been saying this for quite a few years.  I, in all innocence, thought that this time, they really meant it – in the past, they said, “Starting in a few years;” now, they said, “Starting next year.”  When I told Yitzchak, he asked what would happen to the brand-new teachers.  At first I didn’t understand, because I took a similar course in college (from a top professor, too).  Then he explained himself and I thought, “Hm, good point.  I should ask the counselor.”  So I asked and she said that she doesn’t know and they haven’t figured it out yet, and that they go through this every year.  Israel.  I don’t understand why it can’t just be a required course in colleges.  I guess I won’t understand – because this is Israel.

Well, luckily, the course for my area is online.  Why luckily?

First of all, it saves the time and money that I would have spent on travel.

Second of all, it means I can do it at my pace (fast) and not sit there bored waiting for everyone else to get it.

Third, and most obvious – I can do it whenever I want.

The downside?  I can do it whenever I want.

But it sure is a better package than a face to face course.  And, there really isn’t another option, thank G-d.  For each area there is either one or the other.  Thank G-d that this is what I have.  I’m done being bored in class, I had enough of that a long time ago.

However, there are a few problems with this course.

1) The sessions usually start on Mondays.  This is great – I can do the work Monday night and have Tuesday free to do other things.  Problem is, the session usually only opens late at night (session 6 opened at 11:30pm; session 7 opened 1:14am), so although I can access it on Tuesday, it doesn’t really open on Monday and I get frustrated.

2) The instructor has not checked my – or most other people’s – work since session 2 or 3.  Needless to say, it’s kind of frustrating.

3) The one session so far (6) that I actually needed was lacking.  The instructor said that this session (7) should fill in the gaps, but it doesn’t – it talks about a related topic but not the one I need, nor about the differences between them.  Topics that I already know were overdone.  And this specific topic, that I wanted to clarify, is way underdone.

4) Half of the reflections for the sessions aren’t sent with the rest of the session.  The first time this happened, I emailed and asked for the link.  She sent it pretty much right away.  The second time, it took a week (until the next session opened) to even receive an answer, and the answer was that the instructor had simply not put it together yet.  She would do so in the morning.  Well, it’s still not done.  And I’m really annoyed.  (I want to check it off my list already!)

5) The course uses mhtml.  It opens only in Chrome.  It is slow, inconvenient, and honestly, I don’t see why it can’t be more user-friendly.

Other than that, it’s a pretty good deal.  I paid 30 shekels ($9) for the course, because it is subsidized.  It probably gives me a slight raise in salary.  And it gives me a lot more confidence teaching literature . . . even if most of the material is stuff I already know.