The ninetysecond åsic- Being happy for having friends

In Swedish there are a few different words that means friend. They all have their different connotations and are not quite the same a few exampls might be kompis, kamrat, polare etc. This time I will however think just of the word friend as translated ”vän”. In my opinion a friend is a person who would always stand by your side no matter what happens. A friend is a person who love you the way you are, with all your shortages. Having such friends means the world to me and I am happy to have a few friends whom I trust like that. Sometimes I share thoughts or memories with my friends and risk being betrayed. But those moments I always think like this: ”What if this particular friend had asked ME for this favour? Would I have betrayed him or her then? No, of course not!”

To dare to trust a friend is amazingly rewarding when I notice that it ”works”. I once trusted a friend in a rather special way. I wrote a very important letter to myself. I needed to write the letter because I needed to write down the thoughts I had at that time, in order to understand myself. I first thought of keeping the letter somewhere at home, but I tend to be like a squirrel… I hide my things in very smart places and then I forget where I put them… Since I know myself, I instead asked a friend I trust, to keep the letter for me. I needed the friend to keep the letter for years, because the content of it was of a kind that I needed to forget in order to forgive. It took me eight years to get over the content of the letter and all those years, my friend kept my letter for me. When I asked for the letter, the friend found it for me and gave it back, without any comment or questions. Such friends are rare and I know it. I would without no doubt to the same for that friend.

But how do one find new friends? I think friends aren’t possible to ”find”. I know that sounds SO weird, but having said that I will also explain what I mean. I think friends can be friends although you met them yesterday. Friends just ”happen”. You hit it off with some and with some you just feel awkward and want to be alone. I heard somewhere that ”you never feel as lonely as when you are two together with the wrong person”. Being friends with someone is not possible to plan for , I think. Being friendly is possible and being nice is possible, too, but to really get the feeling of being friends with someone takes more. I think of the way I can call a dear friend when one year has passed since last time we talked. It is never a problem that a year has passed, if the person I call is a true friend. We just pick it up where we left our last conversation and we reconnect again, no problem.

When I just recently got to know a new friend, I could tell almost right away that it would be the kind of friend that I will keep forever. Sharing stories, sharing viewpoints and noting that there are many things that we have in common is one part of it, but just as important is the I can do everything for you!-attitude that one can feel after just a while in the company of a real friend. When a friend ask me for a favour I don’t have a problem at all thinking I can do everything for you! 

But when I am asked for a favour by someone who has let me down earlier I am more reluctant and need to force myself to be helpful. I guess it is a result of being disappointed before. Being friends is such a good thing! To my dear friends out there! Thanks for letting me be your friends. You mean the world to me! I often come back to a quote that Ralph Waldo Emerson uttered:  The only way to find a friend is by being one

Annonser

The ninetyfirst åsic- To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about!

For two weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity to be among students and teachers at #Pitman Middle School in #New Jersey, #USA. I have been monitoring instruction in many different classes and seen many very good examples of teaching. My main focus has been ESL-teaching and I have seen examples of that both in primary schools and in adult classes of different kinds. Some of the adult students were part of a program for parents and were taught in classes with students from many different countries. They were preparing for a test and if they’d pass the test that would help them qualify for being American citizens. Other adults I met learned language for their own good, so to speak. They had different private reasons for taking the course and were taught in a smaller group within a local college. In every one of these differents setting and with every single teacher I have noticed high quality and a good knowledge both in what an ESL student needs and also teaching and instruction in general. When in class, I can see that many of the teachers have the same idea as I have, i.e to teach through themes or concepts rather than details. Today, since it is Halloween here, I have noticed that younger kids in primary schools here learn about the local legend #The New Jersey Devil. According to the legend he was the thirteenth child of a worn out woman who didn’t want her child. She cursed him and said ”to the devil with him!” and since then he is haunting #the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The story is told this day since this is his birthday.

All teachers and students seem very into the idea of Halloween, even if not all schools celebrate with costumes and dresses. One of the classrooms I visited today, a classroom where Spanish is the main subject, focused on the differences between Halloween and the Mexican tradition for Dia de las Muertas  (the Day of  the Dead). The American kids get a chance to comment on what is similar or different when they compare these two holidays. The teacher help them along the way and try to get them to precise what they mean. She asks questions like ”How do you mean?”  ”What would you have thought if a loved one came back to life?” The point for the teacher is to explain that the Mexican Holiday is not at all scary or horrific, but rather a nice way of remembering your loved ones who passed away. The teacher then connects to the American people’s connections to the date 9/11 and the kids all get a chance to share the stories their parents have told them about 9/11. The idea is to show the kids that by remembering and talking about sad or scary memories, those memories get a little easier to talk about each time. Then she wraps it all up by saying THAT is what the Mexicans do when they celebrate THEIR holiday. They stick to the nice memories of a person and cherish those memories in a more happy manner, although they are dressed or disguised into skeletons etc. I was very happy to get the chance to see this lovely explanation of what the different festivities are all about. To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about! I have written in Swedish about the importance of this in my tenth åsic and in my seventyeighth åsic. Those of you who read Swedish are of course welcome to read and for my English readers I plan to translate my blogposts gradually when I find time to do so.

Thank You and Farewell #Pitman Middle School

The ninetieth åsic- My New Favourite Tree

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For a couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to experience a very mild and nice autumn here in Pitman, NJ. One of the days we had +28C which is not at all like the temperature for October in Sweden. In my 71st åsic(#Sjuttioförsta åseriet), I wrote about the maples in Sweden and how I used to collect the colourful leaves in the autumn. I have always loved trees and since I live in a part of Sweden where forests are a part of the nice scenery, I always find a walk in the forest very soothing if I need to relax or find new energy. I have walked along nice streets here in Pitman, where mainly tall maples and oaks give gardens their share of fallen leaves. One kind of the tree was unfamiliar to me, but I could tell from what it looked like that it had to be a maple or an oak, so I picked up a leaf and brought it with me to #Pitman Middle School, where I asked everyone I met: ”Is this a maple or an oak?”. Most people said: ”I don’t know but I think it is…” and then two people very quickly said: ”It’s an oak, no doubt!” Now I KNOW it is an oak, since I have done what most people do nowadays… I googled it… It turned out to be a red oak.

The fallen red oak leaves has the same SOUND as the fallen Swedish maple leaves when you walk through them… The other day I took a shortcut home and ended up very far away from home in an empty yard…learning that just as ”genvägar är senvägar” , shortcuts tend to be longcuts…

One good thing by taking the ”shortcut” was that I had to walk on a narrow path in a little forest, passing a railroad to get back home. The fallen leaves in a thick layer sounded like the maple leaves from my childhood and around me both squirrels and chipmunks ran about. I knew I was very close to houses, but the trees and animals made me fly away in thoughts for a while. The beauty of coloured leaves is still the same, no matter where I am. It gives me a feeling of gratefulness to see all the colours, hear the dry sound of the leaves as I walk through them. The sunrays hardly pass through to the ground and there are merely dark soil and old leaves for the squirrels to run about in. In its lack of colours, the ground already seems ready to meet the winter. In my lack of inner compass, I also seemed ready to meet the winter… Luckily I made a correct guess and soon found my way back to Broadway again…

The eightyninth åsic- From Påskkärring to Tomten in Twenty Minutes!

I have had another interesting day in Pitman Middle School filled with interaction with students and teachers. Today’s topic was a bit different from the other days, since one of the students wanted to know how we celebrated Halloween. I quickly commented on that, but then I shared photos of the tradition from Easter Thursday which is more like the American ”trick or treat” than anything else in our tradition. Kids dress out as witches, but not EVIL witches. They are supposed to be more CUTE than evil or ugly. A påskkärring is supposed to be a witch soon going off to ”Blåkulla” on her broomstick. The idea for the kids is to draw or write nice cards saying ”Happy Easter” and then walk from door to door with these greetings. If they are lucky people give them a little treat in return, but there is NO tricking…just the treat… They will keep the collected treats either in an old coffeepot or in a basket.

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I then got the question whether there were any other Holidays I would like to mention. I picked Midsummer, since that may be interesting if you haven’t experienced it. First of all, Midsummer is a fantastic time of the year anywhere in Sweden, thanks to the Nordic light, but in the Northern part of Sweden the sun doesn’t set at all for a couple of days, which gives your summer’s night a magic touch. Midsummer can be celebrated in many ways, but traditionally we would gather to raise a maypole covered with leaves and flowers and then dance round the maypole, both old and young. One of the most popular song has very easy lyrics and we all sang it as kids. It is called ”Små grodorna” which means ”The little frogs”.

It is said about Midsummer that you dream of your spouse to be if you gather seven flowers and jump over seven fences. But you have to be quiet if you don’t want to break the spell! You pick the flowers, put them under your pillow and in your dream you will meet the very person who will be your husband or wife. 

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Suddenly someone wanted to know whether it was true that our Santa Claus doesn’t look quite like the American… so then we talked for a while about Tomten and the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than  on Christmas Day.

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I was happy to have a computer to use to show pictures and talk about different details and finally I shared what TV-show most families watch on Christmas Eve. Kalle Ankas julafton… Donald Duck!

Glad påsk! (= Happy Easter)

Glad midsommar! (= Happy Midsummer’s Eve!)

God Jul! (=Merry Christmas)

Sjuttioförsta åseriet- Färgglatt, prassligt och väldoftande…Höstens prydnader!

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Först tog jag säkert ett väldigt litet…ett gult, för de är så vackra. Men sedan kan jag gissa att jag tog ett melerat som skiftade mellan gult, orange och rött och där bladnerverna framträdde tydligt. Men sedan sträckte jag mig säkerligen efter det största på just den platsen, för att sedan hitta ett som var en blandning mellan grönt och gult. Oavsett hur många jag plockade, så blev det först en jättebukett, för jag plockade med höger hand och höll dem i bladfästet, samlade ihop dem så att de låg rygg mot mage eller baksida mot framsida om man så vill. Det var ändå så att när den lilla handen var full, så fanns det fler och fler som kvalade in som MINST lika vackra som dem jag redan hade i handen. Vad göra? Gå hem och hämta en kasse! Ta två kassar, sa mamma. Sagt och gjort… Jag gissar att mamma skojade med mig och tänkte att TVÅ kassar kan man ju rimligtvis inte fylla med lönnlöv, för vad ska man egentligen HA dem till? Men hon hade fel… Jag fyllde dem med lönnlöv. Inte vilka lönnlöv som helst, om nu någon tror det! Naturligtvis endast de vackraste. Det var många lönnlöv som inte alls platsade i min samling. Trasiga löv eller de som inte hade vackra färgkombinationer och de löv som hade angripits av något insektsbett eller som var deformerade på något annat sätt. Denna utsortering reflekterade jag inte över då, men jag gör det nu när jag skriver. Vänligast och mest juste hade ju varit att plocka exakt alla lönnlöv, eller ännu bättre, vara snäll och låta alla lönnlöv ligga kvar… Platsen där jag plockade dem som sjuåring, var en gammal väg, som löpte från Bondgården ovanför Nackdala och ner mot det stora fältet där de mycket senare byggde det gröna kommunalhuset och Tumba sjukhus. Jättehögt ovanför mig fanns Getingberget. Det har jag skrivit om tidigare i #Tjugoåttonde åseriet. Det är ett enormt högt berg, som Mount Everest ungefär… När man gick ända upp dit, så såg man hela världen. Ja faktiskt!! I alla fall så såg man hela den del av vår värld som på den tiden utgjorde MIN värld. Tumba.

En enda gång har jag åkt på den väg som nu går rakt igenom allmänningen som jag behövde korsa för att komma till lönnallén. Jag hann inte ta in alla intryck!! Borta var lönnarna, borta var skogen och friden som funnits där förut. Och på Mount Everest hade de byggt bostäder!! Då kan ju inte barn gå upp dit och titta på utsikten!

Lönnlöven som jag bar hem, hade en säregen doft som jag kan frammana i näsan på beställning. Alla som någon gång plockat lönnlöv känner igen den…doften. Lönnlöv är dessutom inte alls tysta om nu någon inbillar sig det. När de är ETT OCH ETT, så kan jag kanske hålla med om att det inte är så högljudda precis, men om man går igenom drivor och stora mängder av lönnlöv, som just fallit eller som legat i några dagar, så rasslar och prasslar det på ett alldeles speciellt sätt. Som barn lekte jag oftast med ett syskonpar som red på en ridskola på andra sidan den ogenomträngliga skogen, jättelångt bort, säkert flera kilometer. Jag var med dit en gång och vi tre, jag och systrarna, satt i deras SAAB herrgårdsvagn, vackert brun till färgen, och hade utsikt bakåt. Alla i bilen bakom tyckte säkert att vi borde avstå från att vinka, medan vi ansåg att de som åkte i bilen bakom bara måste vara blinda, eftersom de så totalt ignorerade oss! I ridhuset fick jag upp ett visst litet intresse för hästar, men det sträckte sig inte så långt att jag tjatade på allvar om att få börja rida. Däremot tyckte jag om att leka häst  och springa tillsammans med systrarna i den där lönnallén just när löven fallit. Idén med att springa där var att man INTE skulle lyfta på hovarna (hästar har faktiskt hovar!) så mycket när man travade, för då prasslade det som mest i löven och det var LJUDET man ville åt.

Jag tror att min samling av lönnlöv var mitt sätt att ta med mig leken inomhus, men jag minns att jag även hade planer på att göra oerhört komplicerade och dyra tavlor av lönnlöven som jag sedan kunde sälja och köpa en häst för. Hästen tyckte jag att vi kunde ha i garaget. Men mina föräldrar menade att då skulle ju inte bilen få plats! Jag hade dock en ganska smart (tyckte jag!) lösning på det problemet. Först lägger man in väldigt mycket hö längst in i garaget och sedan ställer man in hästen. När hästen redan är på plats, DÅ ställer man in bilen. Det GÅR inte! sa mina föräldrar. Tänk vad vuxna har svårt att förstå hur man menar!!! Jag menar, hur svårt kan det vara???

Lönnlöven, som jag skulle göra mina tavlor av, kom lite i skymundan i mitt rum och efter några dagar undrade mamma och pappa om jag inte skulle slänga alla löv ändå, men jag ville inte. Det var ju min samling! Jag hade faktiskt börjat samla på lönnlöv och man slänger ju inte en samling, eller hur? Föräldrarna gav med sig för den gången, men efter någon dag, så spreds en väldigt trist odör från kassarna… inte alls så där härligt som det hade luktat i skogen! Jag försökte rädda några extra fina löv, men det visade sig att alla löven hade möglat… Jag blev tvungen att ge upp samlandet och försöka hitta någonting annat att samla på…

The eightyeighth åsic- Kids vs Adults, a comparison shows that FAQ are very different

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Today I visited a few new classrooms where I haven’t been before. It was very interesting to again note that kids and adults do not ask the same kind of questions. Generally speaking I would say that kids like to know, for real, what it might be like to live in Sweden. They ask personal questions formed from their own point of view and seem happy to get an answer.

Some adults may have a real interest, too, BUT the interesting thing is that they tend to repeat each others questions. Check what adults have asked me the last week:

  1. Are you Irish?
  2. Is this your first time in the US?
  3. For how long will you be here?
  4. Have you visited other states in the USA?
  5. When does school start in Sweden?
  6. How many school days are there?
  7. What subjects do you teach?
  8. How many students are there in each class?
  9. What kind of grades do you use in Sweden?
  10. What American singer would be THE most famous, Elvis or Michael Jackson?

There have been a FEW more questions, but the above questions have tended to come back. Now look at the questions kids have asked:

  1. Do you celebrate Halloween?
  2. What cellphones brands do you have in Sweden?
  3. What clothes do you wear in Sweden?
  4. How far from China is Sweden?
  5. What does the Swedish national anthem sound like?
  6. What do the houses look like in Sweden?
  7. How old are your daughters?
  8. What music do you listen to in Sweden?
  9. What famous Americans are popular in Sweden?
  10. Are there IKEA:s all over Sweden?
  11. What sports do you do in Sweden?
  12. Do you eat the same food as we do?
  13. What kind of farms are there in Sweden?
  14. What do you grow in Sweden?
  15. What does the trees look like in Sweden?
  16. Does The Swedish House Mafia really come from Sweden?

Kids tend to want to know about things out of school more than the teachers do.Teachers tend to ask about school related topics. I find that most interesting. Another thing I find interesting is the way no lesson where I have been involved has been at all like the other. I have asked the kids what they wanted to know and that has lead to lessons that differed very much from each other. Being in a situation where I can choose what to share or not from what the students like to know, has thus been just like I prefer to work, i.e in a group oriented manner. I will miss this school and all the kids next week when I go home. They are all very open and welcoming and I have a great time learning more about this NJ school.

The eightysixth åsic- Höstlöv, höstlov, hostlov, Fall Break!

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Four different spellings means four different things, of course they do, but let’s take a closer look at it!

  1. höstlöv= autumn leaves→ when days get colder and leaves change colours from green into more colourful yellow, orange or red
  2. höstlov=fall break→ when Swedish school kids have a week off while teachers either go to conventions or work with their local projects, or get a chance to get some busy time back.
  3. hostlov= a coughing  ”break” meaning that the planned ”höstlov” would be a week when you had to stay in bed because of coughing… 😦
  4. Fall break=höstlov
  5. Ö→In Swedish we have three different letters that you can’t find in English. They are å, ä and ö.

If I would use a computer keyboard here, in the US, I would need to find some solution to writing the Swedish letters, which would cause problems since I’m not that much of a computer person. Instead I tend to write ”Swedish” with the computers I find here, but replacing the å, ä and ö with a, a and o. There! See??? Already we have a chance to mix them up, since å and ä are not the same as a and a… So how would one tell whether the intention is to write å or ä? Knowing what reading is about, one might pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and try to find out by checking the meaning of the words around…or perhaps being Swedish might be of help…? Check these two chunks of Swedish, but spelled without the å or ä:

  1. Ett far kan braka.
  2. Titta en bat!

Let’s say you don’t know Swedish at all… Then you would think it’s something wrong with the grammar in the first sentence, I guess… or you would just assume that this person has missed out a word of maybe is dyslectic.

The first sentence may mean several things in Swedish, but knowing Swedish properly means knowing whether you would use ”en” or ”ett” (comparable to the use of ”a” or ”an” in English). A Swedish person would know that if ”far” in the first sentence actually is correct (meaning ”father”) then there has to be ”en” rather than ”ett” if written with correct use of grammar. Suppose this person assume it is a father then… On to the problem with ”braka”… That word is a verb and you would mainly use it to describe what happens if a construction of some sort break apart, such as if a tree falls over a shed in your garden, you would say that the tree fell over the shed: ”skjulet brakade sönder”. The use of ”braka” might also suggest the sound of something, not necessarily something nice… Suppose you lunch was beans… After a while you really have to fart… If that happens and you can hear a sound, you would in colloquial or dialectal Swedish say ”han brakade” meaning ”he farted”. Then, what happens with the first sentence is that you have different options now, right? Either the meaning is ”en far kan braka” meaning ”a father can fart” or we need to doublecheck the meaning of the word braka… Is there any chance for that word being spelled with either å or ä??? Oh… as a matter of fact, both would be possible to use… ”En far kan bråka” means ”a father can be messing/fighting”… ”En far kan bräka” means that the father makes the sound of a sheep. Would a father to that? Yes, maybe if he plays with his kids or something, but it is more likely that we didn’t guess right when we picked either å or ä here… So then… What next??? I suggest for us to go back to the noun… ett far… We already know that ett far is not how we would say in Swedish. We would say ”en far” if it HAD meant father…but suppose it doesn’t? ”Ett får”= a sheep, YES!!! A sheep can bleat= ”ett får kan bräka”. Guess what??? This is what you and I do in a matter of SECONDS when we read a text!!! I think that’s amazing! Don’t you?

Let’s repeat the concept…by checking the second sentence!

”Titta” means ”look”… ”en” means ”a”… bat is a word in English, but not in Swedish. A Swedish speaking person has two options here. One is to assume that the word ”bat” means the currency they use in Thailand and then also assume that the person who wrote it has missed an ”h”  in ”baht”, but more likely is for the person to read between the lines and understand that nobody would comment on Thai currency in that way and rather suggest that the ”bat” has to be spelled with either ”å” or ”ä”. When picking one of these this time it’s easy! Why is that? Well, there IS no such word as ”bät” in Swedish, so problem is solved with ”båt” meaning ”boat” and the sentence will be ”Look, a boat!”

By reading between the lines, one can get a lot of language learning, don’t you think?