Preparing for the new term


It’s January 16th as I write this.
We’re all getting back from the winter break in dribs and drabs now and warming back up into the new year.
At the circus end of things, we’re investigating what kinds of props we can access to expand the options for our students, continuing with the Thursday night classes we were running last year and gearing up to start some more structured classes on Sunday afternoons, as well as preparing to teach some of the local community our teaching methods so they can carry the torch when we’re gone.
On the Thursday night classes, the biggest part of that job right now is creating cultural change for the regulars who have been coming along.
To explain a little, well before we arrived somebody set up a two part physical games session in that timeslot; football [ED: for any Australians reading, that’s soccer but don’t tell the Swedes that] on one side of the hall and unstructured play on the other.
I think the kids who’ve been coming along for a while, that kind of free play has been a fairly important outlet, but it’s also created a kind of escalation of chaos within that timeslot, to the point that when we were brought in midway through final semester last year it was raw bedlam in the room.
I’m not opposed to the occasional session in Thunderdome but now that we’ve been asked to bring circus to the community it’s an interesting challenge to engage the kids with it, most of whom are used to turning up not to do circus but to reenact something between Where the Wild Things Are and Lord of the Flies.
In other circumstances the skills & props we have as circus practitioners are often almost enough to engage the attention of most classes, but right now we’ve got to at all points be more interesting than climbing the walls, or experimenting with ways to injure yourself with a hula hoop.

We’ll get there, and it’s getting better from week to week.

I’m seeing a great diversity in the teaching methods the different facilitators IFALL has brought to bear.
We’re all coming from quite different views of how best to help our students so there’s a lot to learn for me and we’re having some very long and productive conversations of the subject while we nail down the curriculum. It’s exciting to be part of a project with such a high ambient skill base.

The language barrier continues to be both a barrier to and a perverse advantage in delivering the content.
What I mean by that is that being unable to converse directly with some of the students creates some obvious barriers (though these are gradually shrinking as our understanding of Svensk increases) and sometimes breaks the rapport needed to properly convey an idea (or even hold the attention of some of these kids).
Equally, I’ve been getting feedback from some of the local adults that having the students attend classes conducted mainly in English is a drawcard for their linguistic practice, so I’m glad there’s some side-benefits.

That leads rather neatly into the next project, as it happens.
We’ve been visiting the local highschool to promote it and thisafternoon we’ll be running the first session of an English Language Café.
This is mostly a chance for the kids to practice their English, and we’re also aiming to facilitate a bit of cultural exchange while we’re about it.
We’re looking at roundtable discussions of everyday stuff from our different countries, language based games (there’s a variation on Celebrity Heads here whose name translates to Crazy Head, but iirc with a pun on the second word with a word for saucepan or frying pan? I’m still a little confused about that one), a bit of light grammar education and probably a bit of english language comedy, as well as the ever present fika.

Fika, for any non-Swedes reading this, is a very civilised convention they have over here which is a lot like morning or afternoon tea. It happens between two and four times a day & it’s a bit of a social opportunity to take a break from work over something sweet & a hot drink & let your brain relax a little on whatever you’re working on.
I’ve heard it even increases productivity by knocking a few points off your daily stress, but even if that weren’t the case it’s highly worthwhile.
I’ll admit having a passing familiarity with German profanity I was rather surprised by the name when I arrived here.

Everybody should be back inside a week from now & then we’ll be able to really get things happening in earnest so until the next time I hope you have grand adventures & stay pleasantly warm.

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