It is common practice in Israel for teachers to take their students on an end of the year trip, as a final closing of the school year. This is called a tiyul sh’nati. Recently, a teacher called us to say that, in his 25 years as a teacher he had not had such a pleasant experience as he did on this year’s tiyul sh’nati. There were no issues at all. He described the boys as being a united and cohesive group who respected each other; and who made a concerted effort that everyone on the trip would have a good time. The group that he took on the trip consisted of young boys who participate in our school group mentoring program. What caused this group of boys who struggled, at home and in school, in getting along with others to become a sensitive and empathic community?
When the group mentor, Akiva, came into his position with the question “if I were struggling at home and with school, what would I want?” His answer was to try and show each boy that he was dedicated to them. Feedback from the school principal, guidance counselor and teachers all described the attention he gave his students as coming “mikol halev”, from his whole heart. Not only did he bring snacks regularly to his weekly group meetings and even sometimes prepared meals with the boys, he also made home visits and maintained regular telephone contact with their parents. He cultivated relationships with each boy, showing them how powerful and important human connection can be. That human connection created a cohesion amongst the group which, ultimately, led to their special experience at the tiyul sh’nati.