At my state school, I had good students generally (there were always a few that never turned in their work, but that's standard at any school), and I enjoyed getting to know them and their concerns: the student distancing himself from a Mormon childhood, the girl who tried to balance her concern for gay rights with the importance of courteous audience-based reasoning, students taking on leadership responsibilities in their Greek socieities, a biology major trying to indulge her love of English and still keep her scholarship.
A day ago, I caught my student Wendy on YouTube during study hall. Turns out, she wasn't watching Justin Beiber or some other random Internet video; she was researching an ethics project on body image and plastic surgery. I directed her to a page featuring the life-sized Barbie (skinny waist, enormous chest) and shared her frustration over all unrealistic expectations of beauty, and of elective surgery.
- It's not important to have deep conversations (or even any conversations) with students all the time; it is important to spend time with them, doing what is important to them. I'm always glad that I went to the concert with students, that I paid attention to their other school project.
- Let people share their life with you, other important stuff besides what's going on in your class. And share your own life with other people, with other students. It's so fun to hand over my favourite texts to students: Four Quartets, The Great Gatsby, Dante, and to see these works catch on. It's super-cool to share my interests with students, and to learn about their interests myself.
- If possible, share food with people. In any case, do relaxing things together. Tea with 11th graders ranks as one of my best memories from this semester (and I hope that my students will also remember it fondly). I'm not sure how often I'll be able to do this in the future (we only had four 11th graders), but food - and fun - is always a good bonding experience.
I still have so much to learn. But this is what I've learned this semester.
Czech people love to go on hikes. Every weekend, the city empties out as the Czechs head for the country (Note: do not plan on driving out of Prague on Friday between 3 and 8. The roads are packed). Last Saturday, I played the Czech myself and went for a long hike in a nature area about 30 kilometers south of Prague. I took an 8-kilometer trail up towards a medieval monastery, and it turned into a 2 1/2 hour hike through the woods - across streams, up and down hills, over rocks. Fortunately I did not get a tick. What I did get are tons of beautiful photos. Here are two: