Monday, March 14, 2011

Film Day

I was thankful to see the sun when I woke up this morning. The village is beautiful in the sunlight, and I wanted the film crew to have a the best face of Shamgona. It is a place that I have grown to love, and the sun shows the signs of spring that are breaking out of the hold that winter has had on the area for months.

On my way to school, I wondered how this day would go -- What would they want to film? What would they ask me? How long would they be around? How many people and cameras would show up? Who was making this thing? Where would it be shown? I like knowing the plan, and there was no plan. That made me a little edgy, but I knew that Lika would be really nervous, so I down-played my edginess and tried to be relaxed.

When I got to school, the experience was almost like my first day there back in November -- everyone was dressed in their best, with their hair freshly washed or cut, standing outside to watch for the film crew to arrive. A buzz of anticipation filled the air. I had no idea when the they would arrive. Waiting is bad, but waiting for something I don't really want is the worst.

They weren't there when first period began, nor when second period began. Lika and I taught our first two classes without interruption. We had a break from teaching then, and we wrote our lesson plan for the class we teach together tomorrow and then went over what we would do in the 8th-grade class later on today. We had just finished our work when word was delivered that the film crew had arrived.

I was so relieved to see only one journalist and one cameraman.  No lights. No three-ring circus. Thank God.

The journalist, Rusiko introduced herself to Lika and me and told us that she wanted to film an entire class, not just a few minutes of one. We told her that we had one more class to teach. Lika was a little apprehensive to have the 8th-graders be the class to be filmed -- they can be a handful -- the class is very large -- and not all the boys participate. She suggested that we reteach the 5th-grade class that we had already had earlier in the morning and film them. That class is very quiet with excellent students. I immediately curtailed that idea -- I knew that the 8th graders would be a more lively group for the camera. I assured Lika that the class would be fine and we could handle it. She wasn't so sure, but she agreed.

The cameraman and Rusiko went into the classroom first so they could get set up. Lika and I stood in the hallway waiting for the okay to go in and begin. What a nerve-wracking moment. I've always said that teaching is like being on stage -- from the moment the bell rings, the teacher is "on" -- now having a camera "on" as well..... We breathed deeply at the signal to enter and dove in.

As I had anticipated, the students were wonderful. I did most of the talking for the duration of the class with Lika's support in translating when clarification was needed, in monitoring work, answering questions, and expanding on what I said.

The topic of the unit we are looking at right now is all about the arts. They had learned the words "artist," "composer," writer," "poet," "architect," and "sculptor" last week. I had made sets of cards that went together in a group -- one with the word ("poet"), one with a definition of what that person does, and a third with the name of a famous poet (writer, artist, etc.) that the students know. After we had reviewed the topic and the words briefly, I explained (with Lika's help) what we were going to do: Lika and I would give each student a card, and they had to find the other two who completed their group -- one title, one name, one description. They were supposed to use only English, which didn't happen, but it was a great exercise anyway! The cameraman had a blast catching shots of the students milling around looking for their partners. I was glad to have had an interactive lesson ready for today.

When class was over, Lika and I left the room to Rusiko to interview some of the students. She also interviewed Lika and our school director, and then filmed Lika and I working together in the teachers' room. Before leaving school, our school director invited the guests to the suphra that the ladies had prepared. We ate a little and talked about the film. Thankfully no tamada ("toast-master") was elected and no toasts were given. We were able to eat a bit and then head to the house for more filming.

Rusiko wanted to film me on my normal walk home from school. Classes were just finishing, so I was able to walk home with the students that I often accompany. We chatted about the day and their homework while the camera was rolling. It's tough to be natural with a camera pointed in one's direction -- especially for the students.

Halfway home, Rusiko stopped me to put a mic on me and to interview me while continuing to the house. I had a hard time paying attention to the questions because I was watching the cameraman who was in front of us walking backwards. He kept almost stepping in cow droppings and puddles -- he did hit a couple of puddles, but I warned him of a massive pile of fresh droppings just in time. One of the hazards of village-life.

That was one of the things that Rusiko wanted me to talk about -- village life and how I have adapted to it. We also talked about Georgian culture, how I am able to deal with living on the border of the conflict zone, and of course, the educational system. I talked so much today, I have a hard time remembering everything she asked me -- much of what we focused on was the project that I am a part of: Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG). Once Tea joined the conversation when we got to the house, we were able to jointly express our concerns about the present system, our hopes for the future one, and our opinions of whether or not TLG's initiative is really going to make a difference in the country. One of the biggest concerns that Rusiko and others have is the vast number of TLG "teachers" who are not trained teachers. Native English speakers, yes -- but not teachers. Tea and I think that it would be fine if all the Georgian English teachers were good teachers who already had Western methods down pat. But that is not the case. My teachers and I seem to be an exception to the norm -- I am a teacher, and my two co-teachers are good teachers who are open to changes and readily implement new methods that I model for them. But in many schools across the country, such a combination is rare. Rusiko was quite surprised to find the above-average teaching environment that exists here in Shamgona. Surprised and pleased.

At the house, they filmed Tea and I in the kitchen serving up some fresh, hot hominey (sort of like polenta), Elene and I practicing some Georgian dance, and me working in my room on my laptop. Once Tea got past her nervousness (I had gotten over mine half-way through school) our answers to the interview questions came more freely and more conversationally. We almost forgot we had a camera staring at us..... almost. (That objectification of the camera lens is hard to get past.....)

And then, of course, in good Georgian-fashion, we sat down to another suphra.

After our guests had left, I helped Tea clear the table and put everything away -- then I had to go for a run. I needed to clear my mind and my body of the leftover nervous jitters and rushing thoughts, and there is no better way for me to do that than a good, hard run.

The sun was going down when I headed out of the gate toward the bridge -- that "golden hour" light that I love so much colored everything in a lovely, warm glow. I cleared my mind and just listened to my body working -- breathing, stepping, heart pumping -- all in rhythm punctuated by the occasional leap over a puddle or pothole. At the bridge, I ran up the rise to turn around where the pavement meets the metal. I was arrested by the staccato strips of cloud in hues of vermillion, violet, apricot, and azure harmonizing across the sky and echoed by the river. Beautiful. I stood there with my heart pounding in my chest, taking in the day -- a great end to a good day.

And.... cut. It's a wrap.

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