New Beginnings for Dorina

For Dorina Ulitsin, as for many other teachers, September 1st is more than “back to school” day. Dorina published a touching post on Facebook about her experience as a teacher with disability in new beginnings.

Dorina is a teacher in Merchavim’s program “Teachers without Borders” for the integration of teachers with disabilities. We were moved by her sincere words. We bring you here the translated post, which was originally posted in Hebrew on Facebook by Dorina Ulitsin on August 29th 2022.

The last week of August, the last week of freedom and something inside me starts to move. Call it whatever you like, butterflies, excitement doesn’t matter… But the feeling is different and unique from any time on vacation or any other time of the year. I don’t know if the school year will really start this time on September 1st; that’s not the point. The issue is the date. As someone who grew up in a home where both parents were teachers, there was always excitement around this date. We even have a tradition ever since my brother and I were little, every September 1st we go in the evening to a restaurant, because this date is a cause for celebration, a date of a new beginning. Even when we finished school, still the tradition was preserved because somehow always, around this date, there was some new beginning. And now I’m a teacher myself, and how much I’ve been through to get to it……

Even when I was little, I played with my dolls as a teacher. I used to take my mother’s teacher’s diary from the previous year and play the same teacher myself. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work with children. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew that it was a profession where I would have direct contact with children. I would be able to educate them, help them, show them that they can do anything and fulfill everything if they only believe in themselves because that’s how I got where I wanted to and fulfilled my dreams and goals. When it came time to enroll in my studies, I chose, after many deliberations, the special education track because I might as well, you know?!?!?

During my studies, I had several practical experiences with different populations. Throughout my studies and at the end of my studies, I thought I knew which direction in special education I wanted to pursue. I started looking for work, looking for an internship. The job search was a long and challenging process for me. I never gave my disability any particular place, or any importance; I always functioned normally like everyone around me because that’s how my parents educated me, and here for the first time, it hit me in the face.

School after school didn’t accept me; everywhere I went for an interview, I always entered the room with a huge smile and lots of energy. Yet every time I encountered the same shocked look and the question: “Oh Dorina? Are you the one who came to the interview?” Of course, in a moment, their face would change to embarrassed smiles, but during the interview, they would still look at me as if I had fallen from the moon. As time passed, I began to despair and get exhausted. Again the same questions, the same look, and here September had already arrived, and I had no place to work, but I didn’t give up and kept looking…

At some point, I said, “well, I can’t find what I want at the moment; I’ll try to find something from another direction.” The main thing is to start working, and the main thing is to finish the internship year this year, so I changed direction, and still, it wasn’t easy. Until one day, I came across an ad looking for an integration teacher for a school in Holon. I was hesitant because it wasn’t my first choice, but again it was vital for me to do the internship year and finish it on time, so I decided to go for it. I said to myself, maximum at the end of this year, I will look for another place. So I sent a resume to the school principal, and within a short time, I received a call for an interview, which ended up taking place on a WhatsApp video call due to Corona. During the conversation, I made sure that the principal saw that I was not “usual” having “something” on my neck. Maybe she would ask, maybe say something and nothing… We ended the conversation by saying that she would return to me, and that was it… After the conversation, I felt strange. I didn’t have to explain anything about my appearance, not say anything about my “disability.” Somehow I felt uncomfortable with it and asked to talk to her again on a video call, and this time, I made sure to tell her the truth. It didn’t seem to bother her too much. The only thing she wanted to ensure was that I didn’t need accessibility because the school is in the process of becoming accessible and is not yet accessible. She said the main thing is professionalism, sensitivity, and love for the students. I said that everything was fine, and that’s when we parted. A few days later, I received a message that I had been accepted for work and that I had been scheduled to meet with the principal and vice principal.

Since then, my life has changed. I started working in November, although the beginning was not easy. Nevertheless, a new teacher arrives at the school, who looks different from anything the children and their parents know. Still, thanks to the accompaniment and support of the principal and the school staff, it passes pretty easily. I went into every class where my students were sitting and just told the kids about myself. I let them ask questions, anything they wanted, and told them the truth. And like magic, from frightened, afraid looks, the looks changed to enthusiasm. Many of the kids wanted to go out for classes with me. And? I am filled with energy from all the love they show!!!

And here this year, I’m supposed to start the third year at this school, and if all that is not enough, thanks to my principal Tony Sassi who pushed and spurred me on, after the holidays, in October, I start my master’s degree.

The feeling of this last week before school starts is different, and yes, there’s excitement toward September 1st. I hope this year will be at least as good as the previous one and even better and that I’ll continue to grow and develop. May we all have a good and easy school year!