Survival of the Fittest: Russian Immigrant Teachers Speak about Their Professional Adjustment in Israel



This qualitative study explores the determinants of occupational integration among recent immigrants whose profession is culturally and linguistically dependent. It compares personal accounts of 36 former Soviet school teachers of math and physics, of whom 20 succeeded in regaining their occupation in Israel and 16 left teaching for different reasons. Analysis of the interviews shows that, even in a society committed to the goal of professional integration of the immigrants, cultural barriers to successful work performance are rather high. Beyond instrumental skills to master (the Hebrew language and new curriculum), immigrant teachers have to adjust to the new school culture and student-teacher relationship. They also have to face competition with their local colleagues, threatened by the influx of the better-educated peers. The study points to a number of external conditions and personal characteristics that are conducive to successful adjustment to the new school system. The reported findings may be applicable to immigrant education workers in other national contexts.