Fivehundred and third Åsic- The Pianist of Yarmouk

This summer I had to let go of my piano when I moved from a house to an apartment. I tried to find someone who could accept it as a free gift, but in the end we had to leave it on the city dump. I felt sad and nostalgic when thinking of all the moments I’d spent with my instrument, playing or rehearsing for numerous piano lessons in the past.

This morning I was browsing the suggested documentaries on the Swedish Television channel #SVT. One of them caught my attention, first because there was a comment ”only two days left to watch this video” (So hurry up and watch it, all my friends in Sweden!), secondly because the story was about a man who played the piano. The pianist was a Palestinian, who had lived in Yarmouk in Syria and many of my adult students come from Syria. Some of them are Palestinians, too. I thought I needed this story as an example of what living in exile means, but I was also curious about the piano…

Music is a way to make contact. It is also an excellent way to express emotions. It doesn’t matter whether we mean happiness, sadness, anger or frustration. Whatever feeling or emotion we’d like to express, there is music to it! The pianist of Yarmouk found his way to deal with the war, through music. ❤

The documentary on http://www.svtplay.se is called ”Ett piano, en hjälte, ett krig” (= a piano, a hero a war). Ayham Ahmad tells his story and we follow him for a few years from the beginning of the war in Syria. He works together with his father in a wood shop, making music instruments and playing the piano. When the acts of war spreads in Yarmouk, he brings his piano to the street, in order to sing together with children, to help them focus on something positive rather than the ongoing war. Everyone of us with a heart, will be moved by the story. But those of us who has left an instrument behind for some reason, will realize there will always be solutions. By spreading the music from Yarmouk, Ayham Ahmad tells the world about the war in his own way.

The horrors of the war in Syria is a reality for people still there and also for their relatives and friends in exile worldwide. The war must come to an end! If you live in Sweden, you have access to svt.play and two more days to learn more about Ayham Ahmad and his piano:

Ett piano, en hjälte, ett krig

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Femhundraförsta åseriet- Med värmeljus vid arbetsdagens slut tänds kreativiteten

Jag läste ett av mina gamla åserier och noterade att den här tiden på året är ganska typisk. Även i år känner jag mig utarbetad och trött och varje stund jag är i klassrummet med eleverna så glömmer jag bort det. Men när jag kommer in i arbetsrummet återkommer känslan av att det är mörkt i november…

Det behövs egentligen inte så mycket för att tända en ny gnista av arbetslust. I fredags hade vi ett konstruktivt möte inför vårterminen. Nu är jag på det klara med vad som gäller och vem som ska göra vad. Trots att jag nu är mitt i slutfasen av den här terminen, så börjar jag ändå fundera på hur man kan jobba i början av januari… Är det inte märkligt att det är så?

Här är vad jag skrev detta datum för tre år sedan:

Mina elever slutade vid lunch och medan min underbara undervisande vän jobbade klart med sina elever, så hade jag hunnit läsa några kåserier  inför nästa vecka och fundera på några uppgifter, men sedan blev jag verkligen JÄTTETRÖTT.

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Att klockan då var 16 märkte jag eftersom fläktens surr äntligen upphörde och tystnaden bredde ut sig. Jag la upp fötterna i en fåtölj i arbetsrummet, hämtade en kvarbliven kudde som vi har i materialrummet och så blundade jag. Somnade gjorde jag inte, men jag nickade till och det var verkligen jätteskönt. Så kom hon, min finaste arbetskamrat K och hon ville att vi skulle diskutera upplägget för nästa termin. Min trötthet försvann i ett nafs och vi gjorde lite te, satte oss i ett nedsläckt arbetsrum med en grupp värmeljus på bordet emellan oss. Man smider planer bättre i mörkret…och dessutom flyger tankarna lättare. När klockan var 18.30 så insåg vi båda att inte endast tankarna flyger, utan också tiden! Att trivas på jobbet är så oerhört viktigt och att uppleva att man glömmer bort att gå hem är en ynnest. Vi hann inte klart idag, men det kommer nya dagar när det känns fint att stanna en stund. Med en arbetskamrat som K är lärarjobbet lätt som en plätt.

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Five hundredth åsic- To choose or not to choose is the question, #Femhundrade åseriet

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When I was in NJ a couple of years ago I noticed that I am not very good at choosing and find myself ambivalent and indecisive, If there are a lot of options. At least when it comes to choosing food from a menu… 😀

I wonder if I possibly have inherited this from my daughter? We are just the same when we are in a situation of choice. If we get stuck, we do however have different solutions to our problem. My daughter would most likely go for a choice similar to some of her friends, and thus avoid the risk of feeling her own choice was in any way bad. I, myself, on the other hand, sometimes want to follow the stream, not be the one to be a nuisance to others. SO although we both may do as others do, we seem to do so for completely different reasons. We also both tend to pick ”both” when it may be difficult to pick ”either…or”…

One of my friends have decided for herself to give herself a kind of punishment if she cannot make a decision when she is picking something for her (fika)coffee. If she cannot make up her mind about what nice pastry to choose, she simply says: ”En kanelbulle, tack!” (A cinnamon bun, please!). I remember many different situations when this friend and I have lined up to buy a cup of coffee and she and I both try hard to make a decision, but when it’s our turn at the check-out, we realize that it’s impossible… Luckily a cinnamon bun is a great treat along with a cup of coffee!

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But…what if my reluctance to make a choice is the very reason why I find it so difficult to be decisive in my classroom, too? The Swedish School System allows a lot of democratic processes for students to be involved in. We are supposed to engage our students in decision-making and students have a right to make an impact and be active in evaluating their school situation from many different perspectives. I don’t mind that situation at all… In fact I enjoy being interactive with my students in order to develop the learning process from year to year. Having said that, I also notice that Swedish students tend to be used to this collaboration with their teachers and they are also interested in sharing their opinion, suggest possible improvements to instruction or lessons, but my current students from different parts of the world seem more or less new to the idea of sharing their ideas and views.

I remember a lesson I had planned for a group of SVA3, where the students were all supposed to act and also to reveal a certain personality in a dialogue with friends. I had hoped for the group to pick a card with a personality and then ”go for it”, but obviously they were all worried about the situation and thought it was a better idea if I handed out the cards and thus made the choice more of a ”random” situation. After the activity I asked the students why they didn’t want to take part in the process of choice and they all said that they thought it was scary and unusual to decide for themselves in a school situation. It didn’t matter that they were all adults. They were all facing their old school situations where teachers make decisions and students do as they are told.

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Is there a difference between situations where one wants to choose or not? I don’t know if that would be universal, but I think from my point of view that when the decision is important to me FOR REAL, then I don’t give away my chance to choose voluntarily, but if there is no real and deep meaning to me personally, then I don’t mind letting someone else pick a choice of their taste. That is also why I completely trusted my friends when we decided what food to buy when I was in the US a couple of years ago. I trusted their taste and I didn’t want to be a pain…so instead of making a decision they wouldn’t appreciate, I’d rather let them choose. I guess we are all different. I notice that I am a person with a ”decision disorder” 😀

So… To choose or not to choose, will also in the future be the most important question, in every situation there is.

This is my 500th blogpost! Thanks for reading! ❤

 

Four hundred and ninetyeighth Asic- Sunshine in November Makes Me Jump!

November has been going on for weeks, almost YEARS now… or at least ten days…but today it happened and I noticed! The sun managed its way through to us! I could almost pretend that it wasn’t November…! What a joyful moment! I’m happy! I think sunshine is nice whenever… but in November it’s like an award of some sort! I wake up when it’s dark, go to work when it’s dark…spend my day indoors and when it’s about time to leave for home again, it’s dark…! I know this is not the case all over the globe in November… 🙂 But here in Sweden where I live…!

I remember another year when the sun came out in November. I was not in my classroom, although none of my students would have frowned for a sunshine jump, but in the staff room. My reward  for my ”sunshine jump” was a lovely laughter from the two of my teaching friends who were in the staff room at the time. They were happy, too! We had all forgotten what the sun looked like and were SO happy for the unexpectedly bright sunshine for being this time of the year. I often notice in my classroom, with students from all over the world, that November is a challenge, especially to those who are used to bright sunshine all year through. I try to remind them of the importance of a walk or at least some well spent time outdoors, to get some daylight. I also tell them they may need Vitamin D…

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It is however not just sunshine that makes ME happy. I also look at the stars in the sky for relaxing purposes and this time of the year I search the sky for Orion and think of a friend I know who will search the sky for Orion, too. Sharing a quiet moment wide apart is a way of connecting despite long distance.

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Four hundred and ninetysixth åsic- ”HALF & HALF” or Completely Wrong!

I don’t drink regular milk since I have a lactose intolerance. For my visit here in the US I had to make sure there would be something to replace my usual products with and today it was time to fill the fridge again. After we got back home I wanted to comment on ”milk” in general and since ”my” family here drink something that they call ”HALF&HALF” (a mixture of milk and cream as I understand it). I wanted to know what that was. So I asked…and they both laughed. I didn’t quite get what’s wrong, but I found out soon enough. They repeated what I said and I still couldn’t get it. I said it again, ”HALF&HALF”. Then they said: ”We don’t say that!” I couldn’t understand, because on the box it clearly says ”HALF&HALF” and that was what I said, over and over again. Finally I ASKED them what THEY said then… They said, too: ”HALF&HALF”, but their sound of the ”A” was as far from mine as the distance from here to Buckingham Palace! We all laughed and made fun of the different pronunciations and what would happen if you loudly would shout out in the store HERE, but with my pronunciation: ”Dear, please go and get some ”HALF&HALF”!!

My reflection is that if my friends hadn’t pointed out that we in fact used different pronunciations for the expression, I wouldn’t have noticed. I know that may seem weird to some of you, but different accents don’t ”bother” me anymore and I know my own accent is a strange mixture of different accents. A few people in school last week suggested I’ve got an Irish accent, which I enjoyed, since I have never been there… 😀

Four hundred and ninetyfifth åsic- Fika as an ice-breaker is never wrong!

There are many times I have marvelled over the word fika and how it doesn’t seem to have any translation in many other languages. Today was another of those times! 

This morning at the ”Sweden Day” at the school I visit I shared the concept of FIKA and explained what it is to the members of the staff. I was surprised that so many seemed to like the idea of FIKA and that made me think of a completely different situation some years ago. I talked to an American woman, who was married to a Swedish man.

This woman had learned by being in Sweden what fika was, and her idea of it was pretty much like the one I wrote on the whiteboard today (which I share above). As we talked we realized that the two of us had talked to Americans about the concept of fika, but in different parts of the country. I have only met people on the East Coast and she had just talked to people in California about it. Both her friends and mine had to some extent started to USE the word fika in the American English. What I now hope for, is for both the actual WORD and also the CONCEPT to spread across the continent. That would be amazing!

One of the teachers who had fika with me this morning, came back to the classroom after a while and asked me how to use the word in a sentence if he wanted to invite someone for a fika. So now, let’s spread it! There are different ways to invite, depending of the situation, but in English you can say like this if you like:

  • Do you want some fika?
  • How about some fika?
  • Are you up to some fika?

Fika can mean just a cup of coffee or tea, or it can mean coffee+ a sandwich, or it can mean coffee+a bun, or it can mean, coffee+ bun+ cake+cookies+ tårta, which is a Swedish kind of cake with no frosting/icing, but more likely whipped cream. The funny part is that fika also can mean ALL of the mentioned categories… There are really SO many different connections to the word in Swedish that it is very difficult to explain. Instead it is necessary to see the phenomenon as something ELSE, but ”having coffee”. It is a chance to SHARE with friends. What do we share then? It is not just the COFFEE, but thoughts, ideas, gossip, memories, jokes… Having a fika with someone is paying attention to that person, having a good time together with someone for a while. That is why I want the word to spread… So please, help me ”spread the word”… 😀

TILL MINA ELEVER är här en liten ”språkruta”:

Ska vi ta en fika? Hänger du med och fikar? Kom så fikar vi! Nu skulle det sitta fint med en fika! En slät kopp (= kaffe utan något fikabröd till) fika räcker! Vi ses på fiket! Vi hinner kanske med en språngfika om vi skyndar oss? Jag har fikarast mellan nio och tio varje morgon. Men jag brukar kvällsfika vid TV:n också. Stina kör långtradare och hinner inte med så långa raster, men ibland stannar hon på ett långtradarfik. 

 

Four hundred and ninety fourth åsic- The Yellow Wall and The Blue Wallpaper

I used to teach in another classroom a couple of years ago. When I started off teaching there, I had an opportunity to decide for myself what the classroom would look like. I think that is one of the reasons that I liked it there. When moving out , I removed all the details because I wanted to give the new teachers the same opportunity to do whatever they wanted to make the classroom feel like ”theirs”.

This is something I wrote when I was still teaching in my old room: 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is an American short story read  by many, but how many of the readers have spent a fortnight of pure creative language learning in a yellow classroom ? The teacher had painted her classroom herself and turned the dark dull room in the basement into a positive oasis for learning. All walls were painted in a bright yellow colour. Her combination of gifts from previous students, her own creations or things she had got here and there, together with wisdom on little plaques or instruction posters with different themes like weekdays, phrases or words for certain occasions, gave the impression of a nice and welcoming place where the soul of learning was more important than anything else. Soul in English almost sounds like sun in Swedish, sol.

My classroom is not painted by me and it is not yellow either, but I have hanged The Blue Wallpaper myself and I have added a lot of blue accents, such as glass, fabric or decorations. Blue is my fave color and it also lead my thoughts to water or to a realxing feeling that makes me calm. In one of the corners of my room I have a waterdoor… In another corner are verbs connected to language use. The many hearts on the window to our pentry is decorated with thoughs or words on the theme LOVE. I think my students are important in many ways. I also find their background, culture and languages important. I think it is necessary for a classroom where languages are taught, that you actually can see that we speak different languages. All those languages are important. Knowing several languages is a true wisdom!

BLÅTT och GULT

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The teacher I visited in NJ, USA was teaching about weather expressions in Spanish when I was there and both the students and herself were happy… and yellow is the happy color that perfectly suits a classroom for Spanish lessons. A saying by an ”unknown” author that suits the yellow classroom very well:

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow