Four Hundred and Eighty-Third Asic- 9/11 in Retrospective

Sixteen years ago I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter. I spent my days breastfeeding… at least so it seems in a retrospective. My daughter was the kind of baby that you cannot really feed enough, so I found myself watching all the available soap operas… There was however one afternoon (…but it was MORNING in the USA…) that was not at all like the rest. In Sweden where I live, like in most other countries, we have the tradition of ”breaking news” if something extraordinary happens. I remember the 9th of September 2001 exactly like that. I was actually watching an extra news alert with the footage of the first Tower of WTC burning when there, right then, the second tower was hit. The Swedish News reporter commented this and I remember I felt strangely aware of that particular moment, as a ”NOW” to remember forever… A truly moment of MINDFULNESS.

My first reaction after a short while, was to write to my friend in NJ. At the time he worked as a teacher in a school south of Philly. I wrote ”Are you safe?” and he pretty much replied ”Yes. Why do you ask?” and as I remember it, he and the rest of the staff in that school did NOT know from the start what had happened in NYC, but I did, 8000 km away… That was the start of a surreal experience of watching a part of our history from my livingroom. In fact, it all happened then and there in front of me and it was horrific. I remember thinking of the future then and now I think of all the things that have happened AFTER that date. There are wars and conflicts all over the globe. Terror and meaningless violence has become a part of our time, no matter what we think. It makes me sad that so many people worldwide suffer from conflicts or become the victims of terror acts.  I think the only way to change is within ourselves. Worldwide peace may not come during my lifetime, but I hope for a more generous era soon to come. It is about time we give peace a chance.

#Himmel, #asaole

 

 

Three Hundred and Fifty-Ninth Asic- 9/11 in Retrospective

#American flag, #stars and stripes, #asaoleFifteen years ago I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter. I spent my days breastfeeding… at least so it seems in a retrospective. My daughter was the kind of baby that you cannot really feed enough, so I found myself watching all the available soap operas… There was however one afternoon (But it was MORNING in the USA…) that was not at all like the rest. In Sweden where I live, like in most other countries, we have the tradition of ”breaking news” if something extraordinary happens. I remember the 9th of September 2001 exactly like that. I was actually watching an extra news alert with the footage of the first Tower of WTC burning when there, right then, the second tower was hit. The Swedish News reporter commented this and I remember I felt strangely aware of that particular moment, as a ”NOW” to remember forever… A truly moment of MINDFULNESS.

My first reaction after a short while, was to write to my friend in NJ. At the time he worked as a teacher in a school south of Philly. I wrote ”Are you safe?” and he pretty much replied ”Yes. Why do you ask?” and as I remember it, he and the rest of the staff in that school did NOT know from the start what had happened in NYC, but I did, 8000 km away… That was the start of a surreal experience of watching a part of our history from my livingroom. In fact, it all happened then and there in front of me and it was horrific. I remember thinking of the future then and now I think of all the things that have happened AFTER that date. There are wars and conflicts all over the globe. Terror and meaningless violence has become a part of our time, no matter what we think. It makes me sad that so many people worldwide suffer from conflicts or become the victims of terror acts.  I think the only way to change is within ourselves. Worldwide peace may not come during my lifetime, but I hope for a more generous era soon to come. It is about time we give peace a chance.

#Himmel, #asaole

 

 

Twohundred and Fifteenth Asic- A Day to Remember

I sit in my classroom, monitoring my students writing an essay. Since my students write in a language that is not their first language, I thought it fair to do the same… I write in MY second language, English, when they write in Swedish… Here’s my text on the topic ”A Day to Remember”, but I guess in my example it will spread over more than just one single day:

It had been a tough start filled with unexpected events and flight delays, but one memorable Monday morning in October 2003, I met up with the others in a group of Swedish teachers who had the great opportunity to meet the legendary principal Dr Lorraine Monroe for a four-day-long conference about School Development, Instruction and Teaching in NYC. During the flight I gave Dr Monroe a thought. What would she be like? According to her book, Nothing’s Impossible, she had first worked as a teacher, then she had become a principal, changed the way of teaching and instructing in her actual school and that had, in the long run, led to overwhelmingly good results in schools in Harlem, New York City. Dr Monroe’s ideas about school development were very focused on learning and in a way very strict and not at all negotiable ( Please read Dr Monroe’s book for more information!).

Nothing's impossible

We have a very democratic way of teaching in Sweden. We ask our students for their opinion in many different situations an ordinary day in school and lessons often has an element of discussion or mutual understanding. It is not meant to be a one-way-communicated ”lecture”. Learning is a joint effort…  At the time when I was in NYC I was taking a University course and thought it might be suitable to interview Dr Monroe for my project. She accepted and that was probably ”THE” most interesting talk I have ever had with anyone about ”teaching and instructing”… But let’s go back to the first meeting… The skyscrapers on Manhattan were taller than I had expected and being in NYC was fantastic! Meeting Dr Monroe in person was way beyond every anticipation I had before. She was, apart from being intelligent, also a born entertainer, wittily telling jokes. The conference was of high quality and we met brilliant teachers, devoted principals and engaged counselors from different schools in Harlem NYC. In comparison with the interesting lecturers, Dr Monroe was still outstanding. 

We made a few visits to schools in Harlem. I thought I’d check one of the things that Dr Monroe had said the day before. She had claimed that in her schools I could ask any student I liked if they could answer the question ”What did you learn during the lesson you just left?” Every student I asked, could share with me what they had learnt and since we had monitored the lessons the students were referring to, we could tell that they actually learned. The other teachers in my conference group had the same experience and we said this would be the first thing to ask our students back home! I think many students in the classes I taught back then would answer ”I don’t know… What do you mean? What did I learn??? I don’t understand your question!” At that point in my career, in 2003, I didn’t understand how important a META level is in learning… Now I try to help students gather information, draw conclusions, spend time thinking and reflecting and thus allow them to understand and comprehend. After that day in October 2003 I try to keep my lessons very strict in content. I also try to wrap it up at the end of a lesson, in order to help students to organize their thoughts. The students in my classroom now will more likely have a correct answer to the question about their learning…

My interview with Dr Monroe back in 2003 again, started off with my question ”In what way do you negotiate with your students?” She seemed to be hooked on my QUESTION, as if it was wrong… and repeatedly said ” I don’t negotiate with my students!” I thought, being Swedish and speaking my second language, that I had said something that was difficult to understand… Therefore we had a long interesting chat about what the WORD negotiate meant… Obviously we both agreed on the meaning of the word, so I again asked my question, but surprisingly enough still got the same reply! Later on, after half an hour of discussion I understood… I had taken for granted that  of course Dr Monroe did negotiate with her students, but HOW?  But, the point was taken. She actually did not negotiate with her students…simply because (and she explained that) some things aren’t negotiable… 

Ever since that day I have always thought about how different RESULTS we may get in schools were ”everything” is negotiable, compared to schools were very little is… Anyone can understand that students who never ever question their teachers have a different school situation than those who constantly say to their teacher: ”Why are we supposed to to this?”, especially if the teacher is used to give such a question an answer… Dr Monroe said many times during that week in NYC: Focus on learning! The interview with Dr Monroe was an eye-opener for me as a teacher. I didn’t change everything when I returned to Sweden, but I did change a lot. I didn’t even change it into ”The Monroe Doctrine” but I did borrow a few of her ideas and I am forever grateful to her for being there in that interview and very patiently letting me understand her thoughts about negotiation (or not!) and about teaching and instruction in general. In my teaching career meeting her was absolutely A Day to Remember

 

One Hundred and Ninetyeighth Asic- Same Procedure as Last Year, James?

Many of the traditions we follow have an origin in religion or culture and may be deeply rooted for several other reasons. I remember first time I heard a reference to ”the ball drop”.  Of course I did not understand what it was all about, simply because I didn’t follow American traditions for New Year’s Eve. When I watched ”When Harry Met Sally” for the first time and when I followed the Broadcast from Times Square, NYC and under Billy Joel’s guidance could meet a new millennium, I understood the connection…

Interestingly enough, from the 1950s and on, many of the Swedish traditions are closely connected to TV, but none of us watch a ball drop… As I have written before, we watch Donald Duck at three o’clock on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve we also gather in front of the TV set to watch a certain TV-show, or rather gatered, since many people have changed their habits for New Years Eve. For many years we had just one single TV-channel, but when I was a child we at least had two channels… 😉

I remember watching two particular TV-shows on New Year’s Eve. The first show was a British production called ”Dinner for One” in English(”Grevinnan och betjänten” in Swedish). It was filmatised in 1948, so of course it’s black and white back then. Please follow the link below! The manuscript is written by Lauri Wylie and the two participating actors, May Warden as the Duchess ”Miss Sophie” and Freddie Frinton as her waitor ”James” have entertained Swedish viewers for decades. The repeated dialogue makes it hilarious along with excellent performance from both actors.

James: Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?

Miss Sophie: Same procedure as every year, James!

Dinner for One

The next traditional TV-show is connected to the turning of the year, at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Many Swedish traditions are broadcasted at a famous open air museum in Stockholm, called Skansen. In the summer they have a weekly sing-along-concert with famous artists and during the winter you can for instance visit Skansen for traditional open air fairs. On New Year’s Eve a concert is held on Skansen. The performance consists of traditional choir music, such as ”Sverige” (= Sweden) by Verner von Heidenstam with music by Vilhelm Stenhammar.

At the very end of the concert, a famous actor/actress reads a poem by Lord Albert Tennyson, called ”Ring Out, Wild Bells”. See quote below! (source; wikipedia.org) This year the poem will be performed by the Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman. Since this time of the year is generally very cold in Sweden, I remember from my childhood how the actor/actress reading the poem would generally be dressed in a thick fur and the following applause from the audience was softened by gloves and mittens… This year, however, the weather is not quite as cold. Who knows? We may hear a loudlier applause by midnight!

”Ring Out, Wild Bells”(1850) by Lord Albert Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.