Saturday, March 2, 2013

Daily life in Haifa - Work, language and more to come

I have been pretty negligent about posting updates since we have arrived in Haifa, so I wanted to get caught up a bit in a post. We've been in Haifa just under two weeks now, and it does feel like we're starting to get settled in. Daily life here definitely has some differences from Santiago!

Caroline has already posted about her work at the Israeli Science Museum, called Madatech. Seems like she is having a lot of fun building some sort of landscape from Mars for an upcoming exhibit.

I am working as a research assistant for a professor at the Technion, a science and engineering university here in Haifa. Her name is Miri Barak, and she is in the Deparment of Education in Science and Technology. Her research is all about using web and other tech tools to improve the effectiveness of elementary and secondary science instruction.

My project is to create a curriculum for a study on the "flipped classroom" model of teaching. This is where all of the lessons are done by video, which students watch as homework. Then when they come to class, they spend the whole time working on practice problems. The classroom is flipped in the sense that students are now listening to lectures as homework, and doing homework in the classroom.

There is a Jewish middle school in the US that is interested in using the curriculum we create, and they are willing to let us study the effectiveness of this approach. My job is to make a curriculum to cover topics related to energy, and then record all the lecture videos and make the exercises. It's right up my alley, and I am really enjoying the chance to slow down and think more about how to teach a subject, instead of having to rush to get things ready for the next day of class like when I was teaching.

This job leads to a very different daily routine than what I had in Santiago. There, I was working as a tutor, so I was mostly free during the day and then spent my afternoons and evenings taking buses around the city and giving classes. Here I have more of a standard 9-5 job, and I even have my own office. It's nice to be more on the same schedule as Caroline again.

Obviously the primary language here in Israel is Hebrew, but for those of you who have never been, you might be surprised to hear there are a lot of other languages that are pretty common. English is very widespread - we both are working primarily in English with our colleagues, and even in markets and shop you can count on people speaking at least enough English to do a transaction with you.

There is also a lot of Arabic - many official signs are trilingual with Hebrew, Arabic and English. Haifa in particular is known as one of the few places in Israel where Arabs and Jews are fairly integrated. On top of all that, there is also a lot of Russian here, due to the wave of Russian Jews who immigrated in the early 1990s after the end of the cold war. Haifa has an especially high concentration of Russian immigrants; there are many shops with signs and labels in Russian and you hear it on the street (or you hear a Russian accent to people's Hebrew).

Caroline is planning to take a Hebrew class at the Technion that starts in a couple of weeks. The timing is really good because it happens to be right before a swim club also at the Technion that she wanted to go to anyway.

I have been practicing my Hebrew and I can feel it's already coming back and improving. My experience learning Spanish in Chile has really boosted my enthusiasm for working on languages. I had considered taking a Hebrew class at University of Haifa, but it would take up nearly half my work day and in the end I don't think I will do it. I am looking for a class nearby, or maybe I will just get a workbook and try to find a conversation partner who wants to improve English.

Coming soon, I'll post more about the city, daily life here, etc, but I felt like I needed to get caught up so I'm starting with the basics.

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