Thursday, January 24, 2008

Attitude is Everything

My 3A class is not always interested in American literature, though my 3B class is usually interested in what we read and what I have to say.

Sometimes I wonder how much this class wants to actually learn anything. Richard, the ring leader in 3A, has a tendency to look at the clock on the wall, slap his knees, and quitely chant, "Ten more minutes...ten more minutes" or "Class is dismissed...class is dismissed." Tired of these antics, about a week ago, I walked over to the clock and pulled it off the wall. The class was quite shocked.

Recently, Richard kept looking at the clock again every 30 seconds, so I took it down again. He said something to the effect of "This is horrible." I quickly responded, "Richard, if you are unfortunate enough to go to hell, surely I will be teaching you American literature for eternity." I thought perhaps he would realize, "Oh, I guess American literature isn't that bad."

Attitude is everything.

One day I told him the story of an experiment in which this Japanesse guy put jars of water into different rooms and said "you are beautiful" to some jars of water and "I hate you" to other jars. To others he played soft music; to others he played heavy metal. After some time, he then photographed them in a crystalized form. The ones to which he said nice things looked nice and the opposite for the others. I then said, "Richard, if you say, 'Class will be interesting today' three times, then class will be interesting."

The next day Richard walked into class and immediately walked back out. I thought for a moment that he would try the experiment. He walked in and said, "Class will be interesting, class will be interesting, class will be interesting." For about a half a second I was proud. Then I heard: "But it won't."

Yes, Richard, for you, class will never be interesting.

Nevertheless, as a student's attitude is everything. I have also learned that a teacher's attitude is everything as well. Each day when Richard says, "Class will be boring," I say, "Class will be interesting for Richard."

A war of wills.

And I win because I can stick pistachios in my beard.


My alma mater, Capital University, has done a spotlight on me for their website. Check it out:

In the right hand column, you will see a picture of yours truly and a link to the story.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Christmas Reading

Greetings to my blog readers. I hope that whoever you are and wherever you are, you are getting along well.

Before Christmas break, I took one of my fourth year classes to the library to give them books to read over break. I scanned up and down the shelves looking for books that I loved reading, and when I found one, I would pull it out and survey the room to find the student who would like it the most. I had given out a book to almost every student and then I saw Denis without a book and picked up T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral." I picked this book for Denis because we have had conversations about books and what we like and I knew he would like this book. So I gave the book to Denis.

He looked at it and said, "Professor, it's poetry. I hate poetry. I want a novel. I don't want poetry."

I smiled and said, "Oh you'll like it. It's the story of the murder of Thomas Becket."

Apparently this didn't help much. He was adamant in his refusal to change his mind. The next days before break, he kept saying, "Professor, find me another book. Please, I don't want to read poetry." I told him he was out of luck because the library was closed.

So, today, I receive a paper titled "MITC" on my desk at the beginning of his class. I thought, "What is MITC?" I figured he wouldn't read the book, so I forgot about it. Then I realized it was "Murder in the Cathedral?"

I asked him what he thought of it. He said it was amazing. He spoke for a moment or two about how great he thought the book was. I just stood there and smiled at my victory.

This experience has served as another reminder that people sometimes have good advice. Let me emphasize sometimes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Can You Hear Me?

We were reading Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson today in one of my classes, and I asked my students who would like to read the poem outloud. No volunteers. Then I asked again. No volunteers. Then I walked to the white board and wrote: "Speaking in class is part of your grade. I recommend you speak at least once per class." I asked again who would like to read the poem. Instantly a hand shot up. Even though I reminded them, not all of them spoke during the class. At least 5 of the 12 did not speak during that class.

This continued throughout the day. I reminded them that speaking is part of their grade, and they still didn't speak much. You would think they would get the hint and want to speak a lot. Apparently not. Perhaps they will try harder when they receive their grades. One can only hope.

I have learned that a teacher has to change tactics nearly every day to try to get new people to speak more and to try to help improve the students' English.

And so it is.

Here's Paul Humburg (our mascot or something like that) hanging out at our Christmas gift exchange:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Teaching Something I Didn't Learn During My Childhood

So today in my American Literature course, we were reading part of the autobiography of Frederick Douglas. For those of you who aren't too familiar with Frederick Douglas, he writes that, as humans are born equal, they have to learn how to be slaves and slaveholders. He says that his master's wife taught him to read and write; however, the better he became at writing, the more she didn't want him to have this precious knowledge. She was learning more how to be a slaveholder while he was unlearning how to be a slave. Frederick Douglas said he would take his bread and give it to a white boy in exchange for some knowledge.

So while explaining this to my class, I saw one of my students throw a piece of paper at another student, which would have concerned me on any other day as well, but today it was expressely bothersome. Here is a piece of our dialogue:

"Richard, did you just throw a piece of paper at Simona?" I said.

"No, it was Mirka," he responded.

"No, Richard, I saw it was you," I countered then brought in the big guns. "If Frederick Douglas was sitting in this class, it wouldn't be me telling to stop throwing paper, it would be Frederick Douglas. He would be appalled by this situation. He would have said, 'Richard, don't throw paper. I am trying to learn.'"

Then he made a smart comment saying that Frederick Douglas would have been upset at me for wasting twenty seconds of classtime. I quickly shot down that argument showing him why that was a bad argument.

Now here comes the good part.

"When I was a child," I began. "I used to complain to my dad that I didn't want to do my homework and that homework was stupid and was worthless. Then my dad would say, 'Son, it's a privilege to do homework.'"

Then I told them that they should be thankful that I am giving them homework and that they are learning because millions of people would give away their daily bread for just one 45 minute lesson.

Anyway, so I didn't learn that lesson when I was nine years old spelling out large numbers at the kitchen table at our old house on Ginger Snap. It didn't make sense to me. I just wanted to play my Nintendo. Spelling out numbers made no sense. I didn't care that 156,723 was one hundred thousand fifty-six thousand seven hundred twenty-three.

So though I didn't learn that lesson then, but I have learned it now (well I learned it a little while ago, but this is my vocalization of the learning of that lesson). So perhaps one or two of my students will now become very diligent in their work because of that quick lesson. Perhaps it will take a few of them a couple years. Perhaps it may take some, like Richard, many years to figure out what I meant and to see it from my point of view. Nevertheless, as we always said at camp, "We don't always get to watch the seed blossom into a plant. Our job is merely to plant the seed."

Since I referenced my childhood, I decided to include a picture of the ever-beautiful, adorable, favorite youngest son of my parents. Look at that smile. That's one happy baby.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Banska Stiavnica

Greetings Blog readers!

So going backward of things I should tell you all about. From December 27 to December 29, my comrades and I were in Banska Stiavnica. My comrades include Larry, Kendra, Kendra's friend Karin, Sonja, and Rado. Banska Stiavnica is a small mining town in central Slovakia. We had a fantastic time (Okay, I exaggerate. It was a pretty good time).

Our journey began on Thursday, December 27 at 6:20 a.m. Let's just say it wasn't my idea to leave that early. On the right, you can see how I spent my train ride. We took two trains. One train ride was three hours, then we took a one cart train for about an hour.

When we arrived, we went straight to our hostel to put our stuff down. It was quite a walk from the train station to the hostel, about a 45 minute walk. After we got acquainted with the hostel, we went to lunch. I had some fantastic Kapustnica and something else that I can't remember, so it must not have been that amazing.

After lunch, we went to the Old Castle. The castle was pretty cool. It had some old statues inside of it and then replicas next to them, which were interesting to compare.

The next day we went to the New Castle, which was a little more interesting, probably because it had descriptions of the history of the period in which it was built. I learned that the castles were built as fortresses and lookouts for them to tell when the Turks were coming. The Turks occupied Slovak at that time and made it all the way to Vienna.

We also traveled to the old mine. This adventure was probably the highlight of the trip, or rather, the highlight was wearing that ridiculous outfit on the right and carrying a huge flashlight. It was a 30 minute walk to the mine, so we were all freezing when we arrived; however, fortunately for us, the mine was far underground. We went from -5 celsius to 15 celsius. The temperature was great. We were in a group of twenty and a few had to leave because they felt claustrophobic. I didn't seem to mind. I think the warmth was what made me stay. Anyway, at this mine, they used to mine a bunch of different materials: gold and iron mostly.

The low point of the trip was Friday night/Saturday morning when Sonja realized that her camera was missing. As it turns out, another person staying in the hostel had 2000 crowns (80 bucks) stolen from her. We figured out that there was a door unlocked that we didn't realize was unlocked. We never used the door and figured that it was locked. Apparently it wasn't.

Anyway, we arrived back in BA Saturday evening after a good few days.

Photos of me in BA

In this photo, you can see the Danube and the UFO bridge ---->

This is me in the Old Town Square, which is surprisingly empty ->

Me in front of St. Michael's Gate, the old entrance to the city ---------->

Here is me overlooking a busy road (I guess I don't know how to characterize the road except that it is like a highway but not) St. Martin's Cathedral is in the background --------------- >

Here's me sleeping on a bench.....don't worry Mom, it was just for a picture ----------------->

Here I am hanging out with Napoleon -------------------->

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Silvester 2007

So, I have finally defeated my laziness and have decided to update the blog, and I will begin by going backwards.

Yesterday was New Year's Eve, as I'm sure you all realized. In the Old Town, there were concerts and such. We watched two bands. Both of the bands seemed to be made of old guys. Nevertheless, it was fun. I would say there were a thousand people in the square.
At around 11:30, a group of us walked to the river where fireworks would be shot off. It was quite dangerous. People had small fireworks themselves, ones that would blow up. And they would throw them on the ground and then there would be a small explosion. These people would threw these near groups of people. I felt like it was a warzone.
There were no clocks to say what the time was. So we had no idea when the new year came. Once people started screaming and what not, we decided it was the new year.
More to come.