The Merchavim Institute works to help the kindergarten and school community (students, teachers and parents) learn more about the ‘other’, to feel comfortable with differences and diversity, to not fear it and to allows diversity to flourish in their immediate area and then in broader social circles.
Merchavim offers a wide choice of 30 hour courses for teachers and pedagogical professionals in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.
The courses are held in diverse groups, are experiential and deal with five basic concepts: identity, accessibility, fairness, spaces of agreement, active shared citizenship and work towards building a fair classroom and school (fostering equal opportunities, respect and a feeling of belonging).
In the last nine years more than 1,700 teachers, Principals, supervisors and other pedagogical professionals from diverse backgrounds, (Jews and Arabs, new immigrants and natives, women and men, religious and secular, from the center of the country and the periphery, from special education and from mainstream educations etc.), have participated in Merchavim courses.
During the course we deal with aspects of learning about the ‘other’, fear of the unfamiliar that is often a result of stereotypes and prejudices and we work on analyzing events and situations from real life examples. The courses empowers on an experiential and emotional level and exposes issues related to the meeting between individuals and identity. We believe that a basic condition for change is engaging in a discussion on these issues and that this will lead to a sustainable change – first and foremost in the teacher. The ability to live in a diverse society hinges on leadership and the provision of a personal example, and fair practices, from meaningful adults in kindergartens and schools.
Change will happen as a result of the creation of an ongoing lifestyle that has an atmosphere of inclusion, humanity, acceptance, and admiration of diversity and the beauty in differences.
In recent years, we have focused increasingly on seminars for teachers for various subject areas. During the courses teachers are given tools to deal with the issues of diversity and the acceptance of others on the basis of curricula and learning materials with which they work.
A Course Example for English Teachers
Note: This is only an example of a course – Merchavim courses are based on the Shared Citizenship conceptual models and are tailored to the target audience and with consideration to the emphases required from the pedagogical supervisors.