Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -
Melodie Newman Rosenfeld is a lecturer at an academic teachers college in Israel and has been working with teachers and learners for over 34 years. Her series, "Melodie's Teacher Stories", are all based on true critical incidents. The stories attempt to help teachers become more aware of the legitimate differences that make…
Apr 2016
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Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points

by Melodie Rosenfeld

Author’s note:

Quiet, adult students don’t always participate in class. This flip-book deals with a critical incident involving an instructor’s beliefs about such students. I hope it engenders lively discussion about our roles as teachers with younger such students as well.


Thank you so much to Sherman Rosenfeld and Elaine Fresco for your helpful suggestions, as usual. Even so, I can’t bear to take off the dog photo on the cover; after all, doesn’t his punim express the main idea of the critical incident?  :-)





Welcome to Israel.


Israelis love talking. Israelis love winning an argument.


Welcome to a society of verbally-dominant, good-natured extroverts.





Members of Parliament love to shout out-of-turn when they disagree. There’s an unwritten rule here that if you don’t voice your opinion openly, then it means that you agree.


So even when such politicians are removed from a session for shouting out-of-turn, they win points for being smart.




There is little practice here of gentlemanly debate or responding quietly to a well-expressed argument.


I listen to a morning radio talk-show. The two hosts are arguing about some important issue.



Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -

The woman host irritates my ears with a domineering, buck-toothed (I would swear), nasal whine. The male host verbally bobs up and down like a goose. He unsuccessfully attempts to express his arguments and grab his share of the seeds. She bumps him mercilessly with her honking quacks.


She talks more and louder, wins the argument and gets all the seeds. And radio listeners put up with this.




So, not surprisingly, Israeli teachers find it reasonable to routinely give 10% of a grade for “Class Participation” –  shorthand for shouting out answers.


Not a hand but an index finger shoots up, while the student unceremoniously yells, “Teacher! Teacher! Me!! Me!! I have something to say!!”




“Yes, Yoram, do you know the answer to my question?”


Ah, that.




“No, I don’t know, but I’m raising my finger! I’m participating! I’m shouting out something, just like on TV! I’m smart! I win!’


Yoram demonstrates some interest and occasional understanding, so the teacher gives him extra points for “Class Participation”.




And then there are my own children, some of whom are quiet introverts.


Each year teachers at various grades used to admonish us about our non-participating offspring.


“What’s the matter with your daughter? She rarely participates in class discussions”.



Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -

I ask her, “Does she show interest? Does she understand? Does she do well on tests? Aren’t those the important things?”


“Well I suppose they are”, she says, “but she doesn’t participate. During class, I have no idea if she’s interested or if she understands. I hold the belief that students who show what they know, understand the material better. So I can’t give her points for Class Participation.”



In Israel, the introverts eat it.




Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -

Well, I refuse to embrace the pervasive myth that quiet students by definition don’t understand.


As an instructor at an Israeli academic teachers’ college, I suppress the notion that more participation necessarily means more understanding.


I work hard at nourishing my belief that many introverts do have deep understanding and interest in a subject but simply don’t have a need to share this in class.



Based on my enlightened position about introverts, in my courses I insist on going from Theory to Practice: I refuse to give points for Class Participation.


Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -

Several years ago, I had a particularly quiet student, Rebecca.


Both semesters, we smiled and greeted each other warmly.


During the year-long course, she just sat quietly and didn’t participate, even once.




The end of the year arrived, and I was proud to be the ENLIGHTENED instructor, the advocate for quiet introverts,  the lecturer who proudly and nobly does not give points for Class Participation, the teacher who preaches that we can’t equate lack of participation with lack of understanding.


The end of the year arrived.


I corrected all of the exams which were numbered for fair grading.


When I entered the grades according to name, I was undeniably stunned that Rebecca got the highest grade on my final exam.


I rarely admit my reaction in public.




I suppose that embracing a new theory, changing one’s practice and dismantling an entrenched belief are three separate entities.


I deserve some points for the first two.


I’m still working on the third.



Artwork from the book - Melodie’s Teacher Stories: Israeli Participation Points by Melodie Rosenfeld -

Image Credits

p.4  Israeli with flag:
p.6 Knesset:
p.8 radio:
p.10 Canadian geese:
p.14 participation points:
p.16 dog with glasses:

Image Credits 

p.18 teacher with pupils:×
p. 20 introvert puppy:
p.22 Zen moon
p.24 theory into practice:
p.28 surprised dog
p.30 almost there:

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