Tag Archive | Stress

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.


Do We Live on Stress?

Two days ago, I realized that I had to de-stress.  I am the type that worries about everything.  The specific thing that I was stressed about is irrelevant at the moment.   At any rate, I started thinking of ways to relax.  And then it hit me:  I don’t know how to relax.  I function by being stressed, by stressing myself out.  If I’m not stressed, I don’t function well.

I work last-minute; I procrastinate.  Then, at the last moment, I do what I need to.  One example is my seminar paper (or B.Ed. paper, or whatever you want to call it).  I pushed it off and pushed it off and pushed it off, and I handed it in at the last minute, after working on it for about two nights and one day.  It scored an 85%, which, in my opinion, is pretty good for such a last-minute paper, with last-minute interviews.

I told Yitzchak, “You know, I don’t think I know how to relax.”  He replied, “Really?  What makes you think that?”
Me: “Well, I’m always stressed, and I don’t think I ever really relax totally.”

Him: “I can’t fathom why you would think that!”

Me: “Are you being sarcastic?”

Him: “Obviously!  You seem to like stressing yourself out.”

This got me thinking: How many of us are so wound up that we can’t relax?  How many of us are so stressed out that we equate even less-stressed with completely relaxed, because, to us, it is?  How many of us stress ourselves out on a daily basis, over things that matter and things that don’t?

Things that matter: Paying the bills, eating nutritious meals, taking care of the kids.  Things that don’t: Buying a fancy gift for the birthday party, making a fancy birthday party, buying a new car (assuming the old one is servicable).

More things that matter: Making sure that you communicate well with your spouse, that the two of you support each other’s opinion and parenting, at least in front of the kids.  Making sure that you get enough sleep that you will be able to function the next day.  Making sure that you and your family are healthy, and know basic safety guidelines.

More things that don’t: Buying a new computer when your old one is still good, buying an Ipad5, being friends with everyone, making sure you don’t miss any social events, making sure your house is always super-clean.

See what I mean?  We all stress ourselves out about things that don’t matter so much.  I’m guilty of it too; we all are.  But is this stress good for us?  What will really matter in ten years?  I think we all need to take a step back and think foward: Which of these things will continue to matter?  Which will not matter in ten years, or in twenty years?  If my child isn’t sitting quietly, why is that?  Because he’s a toddler?  Because he’s a hyperactive 7 year old?  Or because he is rude and violent?  Only the last one is a problem that needs to be solved; usually, toddlers grow out of their toddlerhood, and hyperactive seven-year-olds learn to sit through business meetings.  So do I really have to worry about what the people on the bus, who I will probably never see agian, think of me?  Should I even bother?

I am trying to take a deep breath and relax.  I try to envision my ideal life (which is not unrealistic, by the way).  I try to see myself as if I am there now, feeling calm, relaxed, happy.  I try to feel the relaxation that I am pinning on the image in the daydream.  I close my eyes, lie down, and imagine it.  I try to think of ways to relax.  Unfortunately, spending time with my MIL in quiet L. is not feasible at the moment, because we can’t get away right now.  But, I can imagine how it would be, and that is also relaxing.

(Note: This was written last December.  As in, December 2012.  Now, thank G-d, we live in a much quieter city.  Though I wouldn’t mind visiting my mother-in-law, I don’t dream of visiting her nice, quiet city the way I used to.)

Don’t Back Down

phone technician, fix phone, cellphone, iphone, smartphone, phone, office phone, phone companies, phone techsAs you know, we have been having problems with our phone and internet.  We finally, thank G-d, got someone to help us fix the problem.  Hopefully, this will be the end of the phone/internet trouble saga.

It is fixed.  Mostly.  It is still cutting out, and still turning off intermittently.  There is one more little section of wire that has to be fixed, and hopefully, it will be fixed on Sunday.  Please G-d, we will not have any more problems like this, nor any worse.  Honestly, as harrowing and stressful as these past few months of phone troubles have been, even though it has cost us stress and a bit of money, it could have been worse.  There are much, much worse problems to have than these.  I pray that the stress that we went through with our phone line filled our quota, and that we won’t have to worry about worse things.  Because, in the long run, phones are phones, and health, life, day-to-day finances, and family are all much more important.

But why the title of this post?  Because of this:

When I went to set up the tech appointment with the secretary, she put the two technicians on the line, with each other.  After a few minutes, she put it on speaker.  It was hilarious.  You could hear the two technicians yelling at each other, arguing, blaming, and somehow having a decent discussion.

It reminded me of the street we lived on before we moved on campus.  It was a two-way street that could only fit one car down the middle.  Actually, it could fit two or three, but one side of the street was legal parking, and the other side was used as parking illegally, and no one cared.  So, it could usually only fit one car at a time.  There were sections where two cars could pass, but they were few and far between.

When two cars going in opposite directions would meet, the drivers would honk at each other.  Obviously, no one moved, because in Israel, you are not allowed to be  a “fryer” (a weakling).  Then they would start yelling at each other, each threatening to call the police.  They got out of their cars, screamed at each other, and called the cops.  In the meantime, traffic piled up behind them.  Eventually, before the police came, and often before they were called, one of the drivers would decide that he needed to get to his destination, and would allow the other driver to pass.  Mind you, if these drivers had met anywhere else, they would have been friends.  And if they meet in the grocery store, after the incident, they will still be friends.  But, you are not allowed to back down.

This is what the technicians’ phone conversation reminded me of.  When the tech guys came, they worked together for over an hour and a half.  Really, why should they fight?  They’re both phone technicians, working on a job and getting paid for it; they’re working together, in the cold, for the same reason.  Neither felt the responsibility was his, but both are working on it, and so each can take comfort in the fact that he’s not working alone.  As a matter of fact, the first tech to come called the other guy, who was late, and say, “Brother (achi), what’s up?  Where are you?”  Then, when he found out that there was a delay, he got upset and asked why he wasn’t informed earlier.  But he took the conversation outside, because it’s not nice to scream at someone in front of other people.  And when he came back in, he wasn’t angry at all.

Israelis don’t back down.  There’s a tough love.  We’re brothers.  Sure, you fight with your brother.  But at the end of the day, he’s your brother, and you love him, and will help him no matter what.  So, Israelis don’t back down.  So what?