The longer I am here in Georgia, the more I find that in some ways, people are the same everywhere I go. There are some things that are universal, no matter how different the culture may be. Maybe calling these things "universal" is a bit much -- I have not been everywhere in the world..... But as far as I have seen, these things are at least common among the people that I have been in contact with and the countries I have visited.
Commonality #1 -- Middle school kids love to laugh. (And they especially love to laugh when I act things out.)
I'm not afraid to make a complete fool of myself in the classroom. When teaching language, sometimes charades are necessary to get a point across the language barrier. I am perfectly comfortable with this.
This past week I taught three of the six school-days (yes, we had school on Saturday this week....) by myself. There were times in each class that I didn't know the Georgian words for what I was trying to say, and the students didn't understand the English -- or the words were new for them. So, I acted out whatever it was that they didn't understand. In the eighth grade we were talking about music -- I acted out ballet, keyboard, and opera (they loved that one!), and I sang some jazz for them.
Ninth graders are almost not middle schoolers, but I can get them to laugh almost as easily as the eighth graders. The unit we are talking about right now is centered around injuries....what a perfect topic for me to teach! (I've had just about any injury you can name.) The day that I presented all the new vocabulary words was one of the days that I taught by myself, so I acted out all sorts of things: fainting, vomiting, sweating, getting a concussion, getting a sunburn, feeling dizzy, getting a sprain, breaking a leg, and limping. For "feeling dizzy," I spun around a few times, and then pretended to not be able to walk straight -- they laughed so hard! But now they remember the words! Anything for the sake of learning, right?
Commonality #2 -- Students who don't like a subject won't work at it.
There are two boys in my tenth grade class who don't do much actual work in class -- and they don't do anything outside of class. One of them, whose name is Romeo, is really smart, but he won't put any effort into learning English. On Thursday, I called on him to answer something, and he made a remark in Georgian that got a response from Tea and the girls. From the tone of his voice and what the girls said back to him, I guessed that he had said something about not liking English. I turned to him and said, "You don't have to like English, but you do have to pass it." That brought unanimous nods from the girls and applause from Tea. The class is required. And if he wants to graduate from high school, he has to pass English. Oh, if only that were motivation enough for him to do his work.....
Commonality #3 -- Media-hype is everywhere.
There are two news channels that we watch everyday. They have taken a page from the American media's scare-tactic-news-casting manual.
The moon was supposed to destroy the earth yesterday, wasn't it? At least, that's what the news said. Their words may not have made the statement straight-out, but the video presentation and music choices for the bits were ridiculously blatant in their message. Monochromatic shots of towns and cities that the camera quickly zooms in and out on to simulate an earthquake are paired with eerie, suspenseful tones. Another shot of an amusement park -- the picture bends and blurs and separates the colors for a minute at the most dissonant moment in the tense music. Then a shot of the evil moon -- glaring down at the earth as the furious violins saw away the last vestige of hope for humanity. Finish with rapid-fire cuts from one natural disaster to another: flood, earthquake, tsunami, volcano, hurricane, fire. We're doomed.
The media should present unbiased facts without pressing the fear-button in viewer's brains. But what fun would that be? (Read: sarcasm.)
Commonality is a funny thing. It binds the us together in a unique way, creating paths that everyone is familiar with and can follow to a general understanding of the world-at-large. We are all members of the global community, and even though we have some differences in our cultures, we are, at the end of the day, all human beings. With hearts that beat and blood that flows. With the need for food, water, shelter, and Love. With emotions that can be affected by silly classroom antics or the hype on the news. Being human is what connects us all -- universally.