Preschool and kindergarten teachers are leaving their jobs after the Education Ministry changed how special education teachers are integrated into the standard educational system.
“The Ministry of Education isn’t interested in the good of the children, so there’s no reason to remain here,” Shani, a preschool teacher with 15 years of experience, told Maariv. She added that she is not alone: She has seen “excellent preschool teachers simply leave the field” due to the new reforms.
In July 2018, a new law passed allowing parents to choose whether to place their special needs child in a regular school or in special education. Currently, the change has been implemented only in northern Israel and as a pilot program, but in September 2020, it is slated to be implemented around Israel.
The law has already been implemented in preschools around the country, but preschool teachers have said that they did not receive proper guidance and support for handling the integration of special needs children.
Shani told Maariv: “A kid who was on the autistic spectrum came into my preschool but his mother didn’t tell me he was diagnosed. This is a kid who in the middle of circle time gets up and bangs his head on the floor. The other kids got worked up and I had no support there. He’s in my arms almost the entire time, so I’m not free for the other children, and in addition they’re always asking me to fill out more forms.”
“We need to fill out a booklet that takes hours upon hours to fill out, but we’re not taught how. There are things that are connected to special education there, and we weren’t trained for it. In special ed, the preschools are built such that there is a large center and around it there are rooms for treatment and one-on-one work, but a regular preschool has no such thing. I need to fill out the forms on my own time and I have no time to sit one-on-one with the child.”
Meanwhile, the teachers’ unions have told their members not to fill out the new forms, which create an additional burden of work. And Shani herself is leaving the field: “I studied education after working in hi-tech. I wanted to make a change, but you can’t do that under the Ministry of Education.”
Hila Shenhav, a speaker and a pedagogical counselor in Kibbutzim College’s Preschool Education Department and Special Needs Department, told Maariv that special education preschool teachers are worried that the change will not benefit the children: “They’re having difficulty understanding how regular preschool teachers will handle the change of integrating these children, and they’re concerned that they and their parents will not have who to turn to, and the budget will not necessarily follow the child like it was promised.”
She also said that regular preschool teachers “are concerned about the reform mostly because they feel that they don’t have the practical tools, they don’t really have the training. We’re talking about acceptance but the law can’t predict everything – for years they’ve been saying this will happen, but instead of preparing the field, there’s a lot of opposition and fear because we’re not an accepting society. Even for us, in the adult world, it’s not easy to accept people with differences.”
The Education Ministry responded: “The Ministry has designated several forms of aid for preschool teachers and children, which help preschool teachers handle special needs children. Among these are the appointment of guidance counselors in every district, the appointment of preschool teachers whose job it is to support other preschool teachers, and every preschool supervisor was given a counselor whose job it is to provide aid in the social-emotional arena. In addition, a professional development program was built for the preschool teachers, which provides support and integration. Regarding the forms, we have been told that the questionnaire has been significantly shortened.”