The learner's mindset set me free from my sense of homelessness--my inability to situate myself culturally, linguistically, geographically and otherwise. Would you believe me if I told you that the first time I was referred to as an Israeli took place in 2012?! I was 27 years old and I was living in Oxford, UK while studying for my second Master's degree in History of Art & Visual Culture at Oxford University. A magical experience it was. I was stunned at the possibility that someone could actually think of me as Israeli as I've been considered to be Russian by my Israeli peers, colleagues and friends for my entire adult life thus far. Ironically, when I moved to Toronto, Canada for my doctoral program only 2 years later, I was identified as Russian-Israeli. This cultural identity never seemed to make sense to me. But English language did. It was a terrain in which I could explore my identity in a richer and more wholistic way. While I've never managed to feel at home in any geographical place, English language has been providing for me security, serenity, and peace of mind. English has been expanding my world view simply because I was free to meet people from different cultures and have meaningful conversations. Needless to say, I fell in love with English, more precisely, I rose in love with English, as I felt that I could play with its linguistic boundaries while writing poems, stories, riddles and by simply being playful. I've been treating my learning experience as a game I could only win.
I did lose though. I lost points on exams and quizzes for not getting the right answers on the unseens. I lost points for not being able to identify the paragraph's main idea in a set time. I lost points for mixing up presents perfect with passive voice. But these things never once made me feel that I'm not good in English.
I started teaching English as a private tutor right after my high-school graduation, even before I was admitted to the BA program at the Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics at Ben-Gurion University. I graduated with distinction and went on to the Masters program at the same department, all the while tutoring and offering English sessions to kids and adults, preparing them to pass exams.
Sad as it might sound, I was not teaching them English, I was teaching them how to pass the exams. The same exams that I've struggled to pass, the same exams that unbeknown to me were accumulating to what I later learned to identify as imposter syndrome. It's been a rough journey and a miraculous one too. In 2017 I quit my PhD in Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies and came back to Israel. I needed to take care of my mental health and reestablish my self confidence, self-worth and self-value. I therefore took a personal leave to think through my career choices and pivot.
While I was soul searching and reassessing my life choices I decided to take baby steps and experiment with artistic expressions and wholistic attitudes towards education and mental health. I ended up devoting 3 years of my adult life to foster a nomadic lifestyle with a rich curriculum. I chose the best teachers I could find and the most interesting and relevant courses to pursue. I practiced photography and dance, Watsu and Wim Hof method, I've been certified to teach mixed-abilities contact improvisation, I experimented with social clowning and conflict mediation, I studied anatomy and singing, non violent communication and Butoh. I've attended writing workshops and a theatre school. I took doula classes. I've participated in tribal grief ceremonies and learned about the role of the sacred clown in modern-day shamanism, I've created art installations and performed on the streets and on public transport together with well established performance artists, I travelled to Vienna and Berlin and Moscow to learn about somatic experience education and arts, I've completed my studies as a Thai Massage Therapist and have learned about osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, sound baths and reberthing, I've developed a method called Contact Clown with the help of which I could communicate with my mother, who at the time was alive and was coping with the effects of Alzheimer's. I've started to heal my own trauma. It has been a fascinating a journey.
In March of 2020, with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Israel, I started teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a local college. I was using zoom to teach and it opened up a new world of possibilities for me. Teaching English via zoom reminded me of the learner's mindset, that which set me free from my sense of disbelonging. It was healing. I allowed myself to incorporate my learnings into my English teaching methods. I cried a lot during the sessions. My students didn't know. I would cry whenever I sent them off to work on an assignment or for a short break. The following year I was invited to teach at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. We were still Zooming in. I could do both. Geography was not an issue. As I was navigating my way through the EFL classes I've noticed that I was no longer teaching my students to pass an exam. I was teaching the magic of a learner's mindset. I've been teaching, researching and developing the field of somatic arts and education when it comes to second and third language acquisition since forever, It's about time I gave myself a proper home. So here it is.
My home is your home, and it is filled with hope that our journey together will be as meaningful to you as it is to me.