NOTES ON SCHOOL
As a teacher, there are always parts of my job that I don't like: grading homework, for instance, or keeping track of attendance (both of which I have trouble actually remembering to do!). At the same time, these minor inconveniences are outweighed by the perks of teaching, perks far more significant than marking a bunch of reading questions or paragraphs written for class. I got one of those perks in my 10th grade class: a successful group project, one that demonstrated deep thought and even (I think) generated excitement in students.
Recently, the 10th graders studied Romantic Poetry (as in, 1800s social revolutionaries). Along with a partner, each student studied one Romantic poem in-depth throughout the unit, locating the various characteristics of Romanticism in that poem and choosing images from magazines to represent the poem. Last week, we put it all together: I blocked out two days, brought in some cardstock (what passes for posterboard here in the Czech Republic) and gluesticks, and turned the students loose.
And the results were fantastic. My university classes never really 'caught on' to the idea of a collage, though at several times I gave students the opportunity to create one for an assignment. There, the most memorable one was a bad one, notable for about eight pieces of paper smushed over a bright orange piece of cardstock as a collage.
Here at CISP, the students' artsy sides are coming out in the best way. I haven't even finished grading the collage work, but I'm already impressed by what students are doing.
More importantly, I was impressed by some of the more intangible results of the collage. A creative project (as opposed to an analysis) helped students to appreciate the 'deeper' themes of the poem more closely, even students who are generally uncomfortable in an English classroom. A few more detached students 'stepped up to the plate' for a more active role in this project, demonstrated an increasing interest in the English class.
And then, because I've put a bunch of student photos up, you get a candid shot of me. Somehow, pictures of me teaching always show me with my mouth open:
Nothing is perfect, of course: My Lord of the Flies reading schedule has been adjusted a couple of times, usually every time I wake up and realize that I'm teaching 9th graders instead of college freshmen.
Occasionally, the 11th graders still give me funny looks when I ask them to give valid reasons (in a debate) why someone might not teach Huck Finn at the high-school level - or, to be more colloquial here, to censor it. But the Romantic Poetry unit gives me hope, both for myself as a teacher and for the students - all intellectually curious, and full of potential.
NOTES ON CZECH
My dad (as many of you know) is a chocolate devotee. For much of my childhood, our house had a constant supply of Hershey's Kisses, which were doled out one at a time on special occasions. Also, our families always make some kind of chocolate dessert at a holiday, to complement the more traditional confections. Apple pie for the 4th of July? Got it, and we've got brownies too! Homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? Naturally, and don't forget the Betty Crocker Devil's Food cake.
Several years back, my dad asked why nobody ever made chocolate yogurt. Yoplait makes chocolate-flavoured 'Whips' but those things have all the texture of cardboard. Better yogurts came in strawberry, vanilla, blueberry, and even 'Red Velvet' flavours - but no chocolate flavours. Until now.
Presenting: chocolate yogurt, European-style:
The Czech Republic boasts a wide range of chocolate flavoured yougurts. Besides regular chocolate, there is straciatella (another name for 'chocolate chip') and nugat (Nutella-like yogurt). Nor is this restricted to one particular brand. Besides the Albert brand and the Florian brand featured in my photos, at least two other brands produce some kind of chocolate yogurt.
And if chocolate yogurt wasn't enough, the Czechs also invent ways to eat chocolate granola with their yogurt in the morning. My own muesli I prefer in hazelnut-flavour, like this:
Now, imagine a chocolate version of that, for breakfast. It's the Czech version of Cocoa Puffs.
Actually, I'm quite sure that most Czechs do not eat chocolate yogurt with chocolate muesli for breakfast. The fact remains, however, that they do make these culinary delights. Perhaps I should confess, too: Although I'd never eat chocolate muesli with chocolate yogurt, I do in fact eat chocolate yogurt occasionally (with hazelnut muesli!) for breakfast.
Dad? I guess I've inherited your love for chocolate. And I wish I could bring some back for you from the Czech Republic. But it's not gonna happen.