Thursday, March 28, 2013

Week 13; Easter

We will celebrate Easter this week, so it was quite natural that I chose Easter as this week's topic in the conversation groups. I had some material with me that dealt with Easter traditions in different countries. First people familiarized themselves with the text, and then we discussed the information and compared the different traditions and customs. It was quite surprising to notice that Easter traditions are actually quite similar in many cultures even though local features exist. It is also common that pagan rituals have been intertwined with religious content, and over time these two might be hard to tell apart.

A big event in Israel takes place on Easter Day in Jesus's tomb. I'm referring to the event where the church leader goes into the tomb and comes out with a burning torch lit inside the tomb on its own, without any external source. When we talked about this on Monday, one person mentioned that there is footage about this on YouTube. There is, and we actually watched a clip with the Tuesday and Thursday groups. It was filmed by one of the spectators and the quality of the footage was not terribly good, but it became evident that the atmospere on the spot must be extremely intense and anticipatory.

We will be having our last sessions next week, and we agreed to have a juke box jury again. It is a nice way to end the spring semester; to listen to some good music in good company and talk about it!

I've had a really great time with these discussion groups, and all in all I've been very well received in my new job. Now teaching will step aside for awhile, but will continue again in the autumn. My idea is to update this blog every now and again in the spring and summer, but I'll continue my weekly updates again when the teaching season starts again in September.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week 12; Minna Canth's Day

On Tuesday the 19th March we celebrate Minna Canths' Day in Finland, and that is why I chose this remarkable woman as the topic in our conversation groups this week. I collected some information on Minna Canth, both as a person and also as a writer and cultural figure. Then I took two sets of copies of the text, and erased paragraphs one, three, five and seven from one, and paragraphs two, four, six and eight from the other copy. Then I took more copies of the 'dissected' versions and gave them to people in class. The idea was that people, in pairs, had different kinds of handouts, and it was their job to share the information they had with their partner. In other words, half of the people translated text from paragraphs one, three, five and seven from Finish into English, and the other half did the same with paragraphs two, four, six and eight. This turned out to be grat fun, although people said that translating relatively difficult text right off the bat was challenging.

Naturally, we also discussed Minna Canth and her significance. We all agreed that in her own time she had very modern and shocking ideas concerning for instance women, their abilities and their position in society. She was convinced that women could do more than just stay at home and take care of children and do household chores, and she didn't see marriage as the ultimate goal all women should reach for.

Next week we'll talk about different Easter traditions, since we'll celebrate Easter over the following weekend! My favourite Easter delicacy is Pasch; I could eat huge amounts of it... :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Week 11; March well on the way

This week we got back from our winter holiday and continued "business as usual".

On Monday we watched short clips from different films and discussed them. It is always interesting to hear people's opinions about these kinds of things, and although there is no accounting for tastes, we actually agreed on quite a few things in our discussion. We were all amazed how Chaplin was able to make Gold Rush using the technique of the 1920s (the cabin really seems to be swinging back and forth!), and we also agreed that certain actors and actresses seem to be able to 'become' the character they are playing (take Daniel Day-Lewis or Meryl Streep, for instance).

On Tuesday and Thursday we could not watch film clips because -unfortunately- we don't have a proper DVD player in our classroom in Suonenjoki. That's why we did exercises using different kinds of cards (played Alias etc), and talked about general things. Next week, on Tuesday the 19th March, we will celebrate Minna Canth's Day, and I have prepared some material around that topic.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Week 9

This week we talked about several things in our discussion groups. On Monday we talked about the Nordic Ski World Championships, but on Tuesday we barely touched the subject! That was because the people in the Tuesday group said that they do not like to watch any sports events on TV and therefore are not at all enthusiastic to talk about the ongoing Ski World Championships! On Monday and Thursday we talked a bit about the these games, and many people felt that it is a good thing that there are many different kinds of events within the field of cross-country skiing. Especially the sprint and pursuit -types of events seem to interest sports fans, maybe due to the swift turns these races may take.

We also continued last week's topic a bit, because I had some information on different kinds of wedding traditions in different cultures. We learnt, for instance, that in Japan it is customary to give a cash gift, and that cranes symbolize longevity and fidelity. We also noticed that for example in Jewish or Native American wedding traditions certain things have very strong symbolic meanings. Also the emphasis of family and seeing weddings as a unifying ceremony joining two families together seems to be important in these cultures.

Next week (week 10) we'll be having our winter holiday, so there will be no lessons then.