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An Assortment

I have no idea what to write this week.  A lot has been happening.  I’m getting into the swing of teaching, realizing how important it is to be organized (laughing), etc.   I felt good after I paper-clipped sheets of paper together -- that’s me getting organized (still laughing).

It’s been a lot of fun reading the students’ posts on the blogs I created for them.  They all seem to be very open to learning and they all sincerely desire to speak and know English “better.”  I push them by assigning them articles to read that could be read in a US college course, I think.  For this week, they can choose between two articles in The New York Times to read and respond to.  One is about the recent race for Governor of Virginia.  One is about First Amendment rights.  So far the students who have read and completed the assignment have all chosen the second article about a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay male couple.  They also had to pick out 5-10 words they didn't recognize and define them, as well as pick out two sentences they enjoyed reading and write why.  In this way I hope I'm helping them to expand their vocabulary and take ownership over their thoughts and feelings about writing/reading.  Feel empowered, if I may go that far...

One student in particular let loose and wrote that it’s not okay to discriminate against anyone period.  They wrote that anyone who discriminates, according to their standards, should not be allowed to talk, essentially.  I felt like this was a perfect opportunity for me to engage as a teacher and impart the knowledge I have on this particular subject, thanks in large part to my astute, legal-minded lawyer of a father.  I asked this student where to draw the line on free speech.  I wrote that if we suppress one kind of protest, that same argument can be used to suppress a different protest, one that they may support.  I included in my comment links where they could read briefly about the Nazi rally planned for Skokie, Illinois in the late 1970s.  One link led to an essay in a 1986 issue of the California Law Review, in case this student would like some background information or insight into legal-speak (wouldn't we all).  I should have also included a link to an article about students who stopped a university president from speaking because they felt the university was not acting the way they wanted it to.  The university president -- who wrote the article -- pointed out the irony of the students’ protesting to block his (free) speech.  Anyways, I hope this student finds this topic interesting as I do.  Makes one wonder, what’s the root of it all anyway?

In other classes, some lessons have gone over better than others.  My presentation on Neoclassicism was a lot of fun because at the end, I showed a picture of Beyoncé that related to my college thesis and it sparked an interesting discussion.  It was awesome to hear the perspectives of young students in Spain on the subject.  This past week, because the class was about to study the American Revolution, I decided to tell them about Hamilton (the musical), Lin-Manuel Miranda, and In The Heights.  I thought they would enjoy In The Heights because of the Spanish that is spoken throughout and the setting of Washington Heights.  I thought it’d be cool for them to see an important aspect of my New York culture too.  When I played a clip of the Hamilton performance at the Tony Awards, they seemed a bit bewildered by lots of people on stage dressed in old-timey costumes dancing around and singing.  I don’t know, it was hard to gauge how that one went over.  I saw some lit up faces, others laughing (perhaps making fun of it), and others half asleep yadda yadda.  Always a mixture, I guess.

Now I’m going to write about some of the many wonderful things in Madrid.  I saw some very interesting films thanks to LesGaiCine Madrid taking place this past month.  Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is about a gay Israeli man who flees his family kibbutz to go to London where he contracts HIV.  The movie moved a bit slowly, but was both upsetting and enjoyable to watch.  The main character is resilient and thoughtful and admirable.  The director (in attendance) afterwards explained that Saar, the main character, was the first person he’d ever met with HIV who didn’t blame anyone for it.  He said usually other men he had met with HIV were angry with the person they had gotten it from, but that Saar wasn’t because he knew why and knew he was responsible.  Haven’t fully processed the takeaways of that film yet, but I recommend other people see it too.

And for the cherry on top of this post:  I went to the Prado for the first time since returning to Madrid.  I was struck by the Velázquez room with Las Meninas, as usual.  I’m not sure if these two other paintings in particular were in that room the last time I went, but they were remarkable: women on horseback with long, sparkly, beautiful garments laying over the horse’s side.  The detail with which Velázquez painted is truly something.  Remarkable.  I’m always struck by his work.  I think it has something to do with knowing I’m in the place where he created.  And because he’s such an art historian’s artist, so to speak.  He clearly loves and is obsessed with art (yes, present tense), and that passion just jumps out of the artwork and into my soul.  As cliché as that sounds.  I love it.


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