Discussions ranging from Art to Coding – My story with an English B’Yachad student

Posted on August 20, 2021

Over the course of the last ten months, I have had three students from the English B’Yachad program.  Each has brought his particular strengths and weaknesses to our relationship, but I would like to focus in particular on my latest student, S.

Though not to belittle the accomplishments of my first two students,  S is in a class of his own, extremely bright, charming, possessed of an easy and assured (if sometimes a bit rough and ready) command of English, both spoken and written.  His sense of humor is quick and he catches punchlines in English as quickly as they are thrown at him.

For practice in English writing, he has written me essays on:

  • a common language as a way of unifying disparate peoples
  • the takeover of the world by the English language
  • a two-part history of the computer

I correct his texts for grammar and style, and we discuss those corrections at our meetings.

We’ve developed an unexpected and surely-never-dreamt-of chemistry between us (in a mere eleven meetings as of this writing), on a scarcely believable range of topics, many spurred on by materials I have emailed him or shared on the screen during our sessions.  Topics such as:

  • The story of his parents’ aliya – his father in Operation Moses and his mother in Operation Solomon.  S speaks eloquently of his mother’s extreme reticence to speak of the horrors and travails of their trek.
  • Dissection and analysis of paintings (Van Gogh, Picasso, Munch), and poetry
  • Evocative and thought-provoking photos, many from the iconic collection from the 1950’s, “The Family of Man”
  • A powerful letter by the activist Michal Avera Samuel, describing her lifelong hope to walk one day in the halls of the rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem
  • Music
  • An Israeli TV documentary commemorating the 30th anniversary of Operation Solomon
  • Cooking, recipes and the sterling quality of Japanese chef’s knives.  We watched a video of a recipe for chicken Provençal and he made the dish for Shabbat!
  • Two sessions on coding terms using the glossary provided by fellow tutor Judith Zorfass and her grandson
  • Three sessions on 17 high-tech interview questions (this drilling yields much towards S’s self confidence and fluency in expressing himself in his chosen field
  • S’s current college studies and past military service
  • Discrimination

How can it be that we’ve spanned such horizons, far and wide, in our first eleven sessions?

Not being an English teacher by trade (rather an orchestra conductor and music-lecturer), my sessions with S have been so delightful, so life affirming for us both, and so educationally and intellectually stimulating, that I look forward to our future sessions.

I am privileged.

Harvey B, Moshav Avichayil, Israel