On Monday, an early good sign, a rainbow spotted by Jane over Mt. Carmel.


After breakfast we walked down to the high school in great anticipation.  The journey to the high school is described and shown in the images that follow:


We exit the elementary school building, walk across the elementary school playground, and go past the old guest house (top floor).


On our left as we walk past the old guest house, is the middle school.


Next we walk down the hill to the area in which students for the elementary and middle school are dropped off and picked up (in the distance is the Church of the Sermon on the Mount).  The area is also used for sport activities.


We leave the large open space to the left and then start down several flights of stairs until we reach the road that goes past the gym (see first image below) and into another open area where students for the high school are dropped off and picked up.


After passing the gym, we turn left down another road.  At the bottom of this road we turn left and there in front of us is the high school (this is the easy part of the trip, the return trip is all uphill!!).  As we neared the bottom of the road to reach the high school, we see an image, or series of images painted along the wall.  You can see it from the angle going down the hill in the series of images above.  Below is the same image taken from a different angle.


Even as we approached the entrance to the high school, we began to see teachers and workers, old friends at the schools, and were greeted warmly by them.  As we walked into the high school, more greetings and then into the teachers’ lounge where the teachers gather before class and “hang out” during the day when they are not in the classroom, even more greetings complete with hugs, Arabic style.

Brief digression — introduction to high school at Mar Elias.

There are 87 teachers at the high school not all of whom are considered full time.  Full time teachers are required to be at the school by 8:00 and stay until 3:00.  Teachers meet with their classes at varying times during the school week, which is Monday — Thursday, and Saturday.  Teachers move from classroom to classroom, students stay in the same class room for most of their classes, except when they have labs.  Graphic arts and computer classes are also in separate classrooms.  The school day for the high school starts at 8:30. Classes are 45 minutes.  So the class schedule is: 8:30-9:15; 9:15-10:00; 10:00-10:45; break 10:45-11:15; 11:20-12:05; 12:05-12:50; 12:50-1:00 break; 1:00-1;45; 1:45-2:30.  For some classes, they meet two periods in a row.  In ninth grade, the students are a heterogeneous mix regarding academic ability.  Ninth grade is a sorting out time for the students concerning their academic abilities and interests.  At the end of their freshman year, the students are grouped in two ways: according to their choice of a subject matter in which they want to specialize; and then according to academic ability into three levels, level 5, highest academic ability; level 4, next highest academic level; and level 3, lowest academic level.  Given that the school is selective in the students admitted, level 3 students are academically competent, but not as competent as their peers at levels 4 and 5.

Maisa Dahbor is the head English teacher, so after greeting her along with the other English teachers we knew, we talked with her about how we could be of most help in the English classes.  We found out that the oral part of the English Bagrut exams will take place in March.  The Bagrut exams are statewide exams in every subject that students take in high school.  There are six Bagrut exams that are required of all students in the Palestinian schools: Arabic, Hebrew, English, Math, Civics, and History.  In addition each student takes Bagrut exams based on their special subject major.  These exams are taken at various times during the senior year.  The seniors have already taken the written and reading parts of the English Bagrut exam.  So we agreed with Maisa that this is one area in which we can be of help, having done some of this with students when we were here before.  So we have been in 9 different classes over the past three days.  Usually the teacher divides the class into two groups, we form into two circles, Jane sitting with one and me with the other.  For the oral exam, there are two parts: one part is focused on questions about the project each senior is to complete on an issue selected by the student   and on which the student has done research and written up his/her findings; a set of questions more personal in nature that the question asks the student, questions like: “tell me about yourself, how old you are, how many brothers/sisters you have, are you the oldest, youngest etc.  There are a whole set of possible questions available online that have been used in the past that the students can obtain and use to practice.  However, the main thing about what we try to do is to get each student to actually use English and speak to us as if we were the questioner for the Bagrut exam.

Two new parts of the Mar Elias campus.  On Wednesday, I visited the Learning Center and the Fitness Center.  Both of these centers are in existence through the efforts of the Pilgrims of Ibillin, the nonprofit US organization through whom Jane and I volunteer.  We are also members of the Board of Directors of the Pilgrims of Ibillin.

The Learning Center is accessed off to the left of the large open space shown below.



The image below shows the whole campus from the elementary school on the right to the Church of the Sermon on the Mount on the left.  As mentioned in the previous blog, the image in front is the high school.  The building with one story in red, to the left of the high school, is the building whose top three stories were renovated to become the learning center.


Upon entering the building you see the acknowledgement of the groups whose support made possible the renovation of this building to make it a magnificent place, now known as the Learning Center — MEII.



A computer class in the learning center.  There are 8 rooms in the three stories of the learning center, one of which has still to be renovated and will become two rooms once renovated.  There are over 200 student who come at least once a week for additional learning opportunities.  In addition, in two of the rooms, smaller spaces are provided for one on one help for student with learning disabilities.

Walking back up to the guest house after taking a picture of he high school, I saw that the fitness center was open, another project of the Pilgrims of Ibillin (see http://www.pilgrimsofibillin.org)


I walked in and was shown around the facility.  It is well equipped with weights and exercise machines including two ellipticals, so I will be able to get some exercise using these machines.


I walked back up all of those steps and the other hills and returned to the guest house in time for a beautiful sunset over Mt Carmel.


and even a little bit later, the full moon.