At the end of my stay with the October and November classes, I decided to have a little fun. In my fifth year class (high school is five years long in Italy), where we had studied American Romanticism, we watched the Dead Poets' Society. The teacher and I agreed that putting a poet like Whitman ("I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world") into the context of school life would be fun and helpful for the students. I brought snacks and soda for them, as a way of saying goodbye. When they saw the chips, they asked me to stay their English teacher forever.
In my other classes, we played a conversation game called "Would you rather..." I played this game in high school and college with friends and heard from some other assistants that it could work in the classroom. You give two options and ask them to choose one and to explain why. I think of it as a sort of frat boy time waster. Often it's risque, but with the kids I cleaned it up a little bit. It was a hilarious experience for everyone involved. Here are some of the questions and responses:
Would you rather...
find true love or 1 million euros?
"If I find 1 million euros, I can buy true love."
be able to fly or read people's minds?
"I would rather be able to read people's minds so I could know the answers to the tests."
overthrow a dictatorship or be a dictator?
"I would rather overthrow a dictatorship and then become the dictator."
overthrow a dictatorship and then establish a democracy or be a dictator?
"Be a dictator. Democracy doesn't exist."
always speak everything on your mind or never speak at all?
For this one, the kids almost always said speak everything on your mind. One of the professors lectured them that they should all choose "never speak at all" because otherwise they would risk being impolite. The horror!
be stranded on an island alone or with someone you hate?
"With someone I hate so I could talk to him. I do not want to be crazy and talk to a football."
"With someone I hate because I can kill him and eat him."
(A boy) "Is the someone I hate a girl or a boy?"
be a werewolf or a vampire?
"Be a vampire so I could kill all the girls who like Twilight."
be the smartest person in the world or be spectacularly beautiful?
"If I am the smartest person in the world, I can invent something to make me beautiful."
"Be beautiful because then I will marry a smart woman and she will teach me things."
always smell like onions or always taste onions?
"Always taste onions. I like onions."
The gender differences were very interesting in this game. For example, more girls picked find true love over 1 million euros than boys, but many still chose the money. A few boys opted for finding true love, and more boys than girls chose beauty over brains. It was a girl who said she would kill and eat someone trapped on the island, and it was a girl who said she would be a dictator because democracy didn't exist. I was happy to hear from many girls that they would rather be the smartest person in the world than very beautiful. Thank goodness that we can bend gender stereotypes even in Italy.