It was probably my last school gathering: the graduation ceremony at Ankori High School in Tel Aviv. After many long and exhausting years of parent-teacher meetings, calls from teachers day and night, comments, reprimands, threats, phone calls, you name it - one moment of satisfaction. Uri completed his studies and all his matriculation exams.
Who would have believed it? The boy who was interested only in parties, music, computers and young love did it. The boy who was crushed by the municipal school system in the most prestigious high school in the city, finally found his place at an inconsequential private school. In a crowded building on the verge of collapse in the heart of the city, a ruin without lawns or spacious sports facilities, without enrichment classes or computer rooms, without stern-looking teachers, with a tiny principal's office - that is where a "pedagogical poem," circa Anton Makarenko, is taking place.
The graduation ceremony told the whole story: no limousines or tuxedos, as is common nowadays, no passionate speeches about values and challenges, no pathos or ethos, only a modest musical satire about school life performed by the young graduates, and great happiness in the rented theater auditorium.
Uri graduated high school with a song in his heart. That is also how he got up for school every morning, a smile on his lips, never late for a single class, consistently successful, after years of suffering in a system that does not know how to deal with learning difficulties. He completed his studies with less knowledge, which in any case is forgotten in an instant - who among us still remembers how to calculate a square root, and who said what to whom in I Samuel, 9:21 - but with self-respect.
The private school returned to him what the public school system had denied him, almost criminally: his positive self-image, his pride, his recognition of his own self-worth and his confidence. That is no small thing.
A school with a group of wonderfully caring teachers, most of them young and well-paid, with small classes and determination to satisfy the "customer." And the customer is the teenager, who for the first time in his life experiences success in his studies. Yes, it's true, the studies are directed mainly at the matriculation exams, but isn't the same thing true at the more pretentious institutions? Yes, it's true, they did everything possible to guarantee success in the exams, but what's wrong with that? Isn't the experience of success important for life?
There is a price, of course, and not only a monetary one. We were very hesitant to send him there. We were worried about the school's image and student body (a fear that proved unfounded), we didn't like the concept of privatization and we paid quite a lot of money. Not everyone can do so, and not everyone wants to. But we certainly got our money's worth. With more scholarships for those in need, it could also become a fair system.
Our Uri is embarking on his life with a feeling of success. Had he remained in the "prestigious" school, which is excellent only for the excellent, that would not have been his lot. Is this any less important than the tiresome forms of prestige?
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