mercoledì 2 dicembre 2009

Starting over

Every two months, I change my 11 classes at Cremona and Zappa. This means that I get to share my English-speaking presence with everyone; plus, as my tutor Giovanna explained to me, the parents won't complain. So this Monday I entered into new classes, introducing myself all over again. My typical first line to my teen-aged audience goes like this:

Hi! My name is Rachel, and I'm from South Carolina, in the United States. Do you know where that is?

They always say yes, but I explain anyway. I then go on to briefly describe the weather in the South (hot) and tell about how I moved to Northampton for university (cold). I talk about studying literature and politics, and, if I'm feeling reckless, my year abroad in Florence (they're not supposed to know I speak Italian, but I figure as long as I don't speak it with them it only helps that I understand their second language pain). Sometimes I add that I worked in a pizza shop over the summer, just for some added flair. And then, I say, I came here!
I've learned that it's nice to go around and have them say their names and a few facts about themselves, but I've also learned that I forget these names almost immediately. So this time around I have them make little signs that they keep on their desks. This reduces the instances when I have to say, "What" Yesterday one girl, Alba, helpfully provided the English meaning of her name, "sunrise".
I ask them if they have any questions about me or the United States. Some example questions:

Why did you come to Italy?
Do you like Italian food?
What is the difference between the United States and Italy?
Do you like Barack Obama?
Do you speak Italian? (The issue is unavoidable. I respond, I am learning Italian, but I do not speak it in this classroom.)
What cities have you seen in Italy?
Have you been to New York?
Why do you like Italy?
Do you have a boyfriend?

I reserve the right not to answer some questions, but usually I'm honest. The difference between the U.S. and Italy is tough one, as is the one about why I like Italy. These are questions I'm trying to answer myself.
If I still need to break the ice some, I'll ask them for advice about where to go in Milan. Several kids have told me to go to Luini to eat panzerotti, a Milanese speciality of fried calzones. Someone in every class has said the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco, to see the Last Supper, and to go shopping on Corso Buenos Aires. A couple classes have suggested Brera, the Navigli, and a soccer game at San Siro. One boy suggested Monza to see the car races. Another invited me to come to our neighborhood Sugar Lounge, and another group invited me to go dancing at a discoteca called Limelight. I respectfully declined.
And so we begin to get to know each other. I miss my old classes already, I was just getting to know the kids. Still, it's nice to see new faces, and now (hopefully) remember some names...

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