21/01/2011

SCHOOL CAN BE FUN . AT LEAST, FOR THE TEACHER.

(I've been so busy with my job these days I couldn't read, watch or get informed about other topics much. This is why I decided to blog about my school activities. I hope you don't find it too boring!)

 I know most of  my students won't agree with me (see first part of the title). They all think school is stressing, boring, the worst experience in their lives. I'm sure they will change their minds but, for now, I must accept their "verdict". I didn't use to like school either,  when I was a teenage student . I started enjoying studying at university, actually.

Now, even after teaching for 20 years, I find school can be great fun, especially if you teach something you deeply love. As a teacher of the English language I am free to choose among the infinite materials  existing among the so-called realia: I can find them on magazines, DVDs, music CDs, films and videos, and especially, the Net. One of my most involving (and successful ) recent lessons has been about ...unrequited love: who in his/her life has not experienced that piercing sorrow?  All of us, I guess.

      Once I announced the topic of our conversation class in the lab, my students were surprised and amazed but  ... so interested! Shy, at first, but soon after , so into it that they even forgot they were talking to me, their teacher. My warm-up questions were  "Unrequited love is  a painful situation each of us has experienced at least once in his/her life. How do you usually cope with it? Does it make you feel very sad? How do you try to distract yourself, to overcome the pain?      Many poets have written touching lines about this theme. Do you remember/know any?"

 
Afterwards , we watched two music videos and discussed how differently the two protagonists reacted to being unwanted by the girl they loved. One gets drunk with his mate but his pain doesn't stop, the situation is even worse (Nothing, The Script)


The other one decides he might win  the girl's sympathy improvising a brilliant dancing act for her in the street ( amodern serenade?), he wants to conquer her by his talent (One in a Million, Ne-Yo).  My students talked, told anecdotes and discussed,  using the little English they know, and learnt new vocabulary while working on the lyrics. Now they have  topic-related writing tasks as their homework.
I had fun! I like these songs, I like when my students feel so deeply involved and when they realize English-the-subject becomes English-the-language you can use to convey your ideas and feelings. Final comment: "Professoressa, do you really like listening to these songs? You are ahead!" Great, I like being ... ahead. But Am I? (This lesson was for my 17-18 year-old students. If you wish,  you can see the clips and materials we used HERE)

With younger students I decided to use teen magazines, instead of the traditional English Civilization text-books we generally used to read to know more about the culture and habits in the English-Speaking countries. This month issue includes an article about one of the American movies released at Christmas: Gulliver's Travels. We read the article and discussed about this new adaptation of Swift's novel in one of our latest classes .They seemed quite interested and amused,  so I decided to work  in the lab watching the official trailer  this morning. It was great fun and they learnt many new words and expressions: they came out joking..."Hey dudes! I come in peace" , "I am invincible!" or " I challenge you to a duel. Do you accept?" Maybe these chunks of speech are not very useful in  everyday life exchanges but they really seemed to enjoy themselves. I'm sure  they will approach Swift's work more willingly, when in a couple of years they will have to study 18th century English Literature.

Literature, yes! You know I also teach English literature and that is the most engaging part of my job,  literature classes are the ones I love best. I'm  working on Macbeth these days and Byron's Childe Harold Pilgrimage, and Robin Hood in Scott's Ivanhoe (in three different class-groups).

As for Shakespeare,  I'm reading passages from his Scottish  tragedy and ...what better way to fix those scenes than watch them on screen? So,  after reading one of the key moments (act III scene II), we watched it performed in two different adaptations comparing them :  the Royal Shakespeare Company's Macbeth (1999) and a modern re-telling, BBC Macbeth in the Shakespeare Retold series (2005). Students said  the lesson  was  "weird and a bit depressing but  interesting". I liked it a lot. It was an intense lesson.

Now, a question for the regular  readers of Fly High: do you know what these two adaptations of Macbeth have in common? No prize for the winner but my appreciation and gratitude for taking part in the game!

So, you see, I have great fun teaching the things I love and in a way I love doing it . Sometimes,  or very often, I complain about my job because there are aspects of it I can't bear. But if I could  simply teach  and work on educating my pupils ... I'd never do it. Instead,  those unbearable afternoon teachers' meetings , parents' meetings, pile of useless reports to write, papers to be checked and assessed... that is what I don't like.  Do I sound like my unwilling students?

8 comments:

Mystica said...

Its lovely that you enjoy and take such a lot of pleasure in teaching. The results will be seen in happier students who also end up learning something!

Musa said...

I think I know what both productions of Macbeth have in common...tall bloke,about 6'2"?

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Mystica
I really hope so! I'd love them to be happier about learning English and improve fast and easily. But it is not always like that, unfortunately. Thanks, M. Have a good weekend!
@Musa
Yes! You guessed. TDH bloke, 6'2", First name starting with "R" and family name with "A". He is in both productions! Thanks for reading and taking part in the quiz!

Anonymous said...

LOL for the quiz... too easy, I guess! ;)
I'm glad you still enjoy preparing your lessons after all these years: how different from those boring (and bored!) teachers we all have had at school, apart some rare and thus unforgettable exceptions!
An that's why after all these years you are still hugely popular among your students, both the present ones and the former ones :)
Have a nice w-e,
xx K/V

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@K/V
My quiz too easy? Only because you've read the previous comments and there are clues! :P
I AM POPULAR, you say? I'm not a "star" like you, anyhow. You are unbeatable. Are you ready for your next ... performance ... for Brit TV? :-)
Have a great weekend! MG

onemorelurker1 said...

Of course school can be fun: discussing interesting topics, having a really cool teacher like MG to make some subjects interesting, friends, celebrate the holidays, make shows for the whole school...it is fun, except when you have to study ;)

I'm in the middle of my second break from studying(really, who invented examns?!) and even if I'm still a student, it's really cool to see how much you like what you do and how you try to make it 'accessible' to your students.

OML :)

Traxy said...

I didn't know you could get the Shakespeare Company version on DVD. Might be worth looking into, thanks! Considering I know who's in the re-told version, and I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that he's in the other one as well ... easy-peasy! :)

Ghada غادة Abdelmoumin said...

Being a teacher of the science of computing myself, I immensely enjoyed your blog! I must admit that those very aspects of the job that you can't bear are the price that I am afraid I have to continue to pay to do what I like most. I enjoy the Bi-teaching and -education process that happen in the comfort of the classroom, but quite resistive to the grading and evaluation that must occur as a by product of this very Bi-teaching process.