The Place Where I Belong: Part 2
Choosing A High School For The Anglo-Saxon Israeli Teen

Michelle Berkowitz

This representative survey discusses various schools’ programs. Parents of new immigrants can utilize it as they search for an educational/emotional supportive environment for their adolescent. There are a variety of Modern Orthodox junior highs and high schools available in the Jerusalem area that offer diverse programs for both Anglo-Saxon and native Israeli teenagers.

It is a well documented fact that teenagers in general feel pressure about issues dealing with academics, social groups, individual needs, and parental involvement. Adolescent Anglo-Saxon immigrants have the compounded stress of acclimating to a new culture. Parents of Anglo immigrants are searching for schools that will support their children through this pre adolescent stage. They focus their search on institutions that promise to provide the necessary resources to aid in personal and educational development. My goal was to investigate whether schools were identifying and supporting the needs and expectations of Anglo-Saxon teenagers. My methods included interviews with school administrators and faculty members, health care professionals, teenage immigrants, and their parents.

This investigative representative survey will serve as a resource for Anglo-Saxon teens and their parents. It will provide information about a variety of junior highs and high schools including teens’ views on what options the various schools provide, what they are searching for in an educational environment, and parent’s expectations of what the Israeli educational system should provide. The data received from the teens, parents and institutions primarily deals with academic/educational, social, and individual needs, and the scope of parental involvement. It provides helpful information for parents and teens who are in the process of searching for an appropriate school that has a support system that will best satisfy their individual needs.

At one time, immigrants of predominately Anglo-Saxon communities sent their children to schools with other Anglo-Saxon immigrants. While that is no longer the rule, parents are still concerned about the time and energy needed to help their adolescent teen acclimate to a new culture. Some immigrant teens exhibit unhealthy symptoms such as difficulty in reaching high academic results, social isolation, drop in self esteem, and more, thereby causing parents to re-examine the schools their children are attending. The Israeli school system may fall short of its expectations if it fails to provide teens with the essential academic and emotional support they need. While some parents have decide to make changes within the existing school system, others become involved with new programs and institutions to deal with the problem.

In the last 10 to 15 years, parents of children who did not succeed in the Israeli education system, and educators familiar with the Anglo-Saxon school system in the United States organized together to develop a variety of educational programs to help teen immigrants succeed socially and academically. A new agenda was created that was directed toward helping both Anglo-Saxon immigrants and native Israeli teens.

Parents of teens in both populations are progressively becoming aware of the rapidly growing problem of drug and substance abuse. School administrators, healthcare professionals, and Rabbis have also begun to acknowledge that a significant number of teenagers are failing and/or being expelled from their high schools for failure to meet the standards set for them by their schools. Often these youngsters end up in the streets where they are introduced to alcohol and drugs. Many of the adolescents look for other teens with issues similar to their own to hang out with and become addicted to dangerous substances. Once the teen finds this perceived secure and comfortable environment it becomes very difficult to break out of the cycle. Anglo-Saxon immigrant teens, parents, school faculty, and community leaders are being enlightened as to the warning signs. These “risk factors” may include poor self esteem, depression, chronic boredom, irritability, eating and sleep disorders, substance abuse or running away from home. Schools are beginning to run programs and workshops to help teens confront these issues and provide them with the means to overcome them. Since the teen spends many hours in school and with friends, it is likely that teachers and school administrators will be among the first ones to identify risk factors in their students. The teen immigrant has the added pressure of dealing with changes in the environment, language, social group, and academic demands. Though the community has made great strides in becoming aware of the problem, not enough is being done to prevent it.

This representative survey is the product of a collection of interviews over the course of two years with teens, parents of teenagers, junior high school and high school administrators. It compares individual and academic needs and expectations of modern orthodox teens in the Israeli education system from the point of view of the teen, the school and the parent. Teens were interviewed about school satisfaction and school intervention programs dealing with exceptional issues relating to their needs, individuality, academics, social group, and parental involvement. Educators were asked about their intervention programs, educational philosophies, implementation, and school environment. Are the schools fulfilling their promises to provide students with a complete educational experience? Are the schools meeting the expectations of the students and their parents and are they helping the kids meet their personal goals? A suggested list of questions is provided at the end of the survey to help teens and parents in their search process.


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