Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Their Own Words

I have a confession to make - I've become one of the very teachers I used to seethe over back in university and high school. "When are we going to get our tests/essays back?" I'd wonder. "I want to know my mark! What else could they possibly be doing with their time? It's not like they have anything better to do than mark my paper!" Yep, I was that obnoxious.

My, how the tables have turned...

Now I know better. Sure, the first few tests I got to mark back in October and November held a bit of an allure for me. I took pleasure in using a green pen (apparently a red pen is too psychologically negative or something) and making tidy little checks and crosses and writing appropriately encouraging remarks like, "Awesome!" "Super!" "Impressive!"

But now it's February, the excitement of being a "real, live" teacher has worn off a bit, and the stack of tests I need to mark are taunting me.

I've made a bit of progress in the grammar section (snore! so boring), but its really the writing part of the tests that are the most entertaining and my favourite to mark. For my class of teenagers, the instruction was to write an email to their foreign friend describing their favourite place in Russia (the majority of them wrote about Moscow/Mytishi, which is interesting to read about how they view their - and my adopted - city). I also realized that "John" must be the standard go-to English name, because almost ALL of their letters were addressed to this ubiquitous John fellow. Whoever he is, he has a lot of Russian friends!

I know that I go on a fair bit in this blog about how much I love Russia (while at the same time bemoaning certain horrible things like the cruel, cruel weather) so I thought that today, I'd let my students do the talking.

Here are some excerpts from their tests, in all their original glory. Take a peek and get a feel for what Russian teenagers love about their country:

Katya -

Hi Helen!
I've just got your letter cause I had some problems with my Internet. Thank you for discribing your favourite place in your country. By the way, you want to know about my favourite place, yeah? You know, its quite difficult to take just one place and maybe it sounds strange cause I told you about my travelling to many many other countries, but in Russia I've never been more far than Moscow Region.

So I'll tell you about Red Square. Yep, maybe it'll sound boring for you, cause everyone knows about it, and its usually the first assosiation with Russia (with vodka, balalyka and dancing bears!) but its beautiful, really.

I go there quite often (and just over there is a place called "Ohotny Riad", there're many cool shops, expensive but cool - o yeah, I love shopping! So...Red Square. You can't even imagine how its beautiful, especially when you see it in different seasons and than compare it's views. There're always many people. maybe its not really good but they're just all over the world, and you just feel this atmosphere, hear different languages. Oh, I can't discribe it, its something that you just must see. But of course Red Square is just a drop in the rain, because you know, that our country is THIS big (no, of course bigger than this letters!)

P.S. Have you alredy seen my last post on twitter? Dude, if you don't you must see it!!!


Hi John!
Hope you're well! Now I want to tell you about our wonderful place! I very like this and come here every weekend with my friends or sometimes with my boyfriend. It is amazing park in Mytishy. Here I've got butterflies in my stomach (Ed. note: "butterflies in my stomach" is one of the idioms we learned in the unit - she's incorporating new phrases into her work...awww!) because I have many memories from this place.

At summer here you can feel yourself how in farytail, because many trees, birds and waterfall enjoyed your imagination. It is so beautiful! It's wonderful place for first date with you girlfriend! It's so romantic. Of course with your friends you can have a funny day. If it will very hot you can run in waterfall. At night it light bright colours!

At winter it's looks not worse! I don't like winter (Ed. note: that makes two of us), but here I like it, because it's so great!

Sophia -

Hi Sally,

Oh my dear, sorry for not writting so long. I have so problems with my school. What's up? You've asked me about my favourite place, and I can tell you about it. Of course, about my ages, I can't name some country or foreign city because of seeing not to much of them. This wonderfull place make my dreaming and remembering past happens. This's such a perfect park, where not to much people, so I always meet there with my friends, not for party, but for speaking or having picnik. There's a lot of trees and grass. I like it very much.

So I hope I've discribed you this park, wanna walk with you there and your cakes (it's so tasty!!!)

Oh no, I should go for an English lessons, and what's so horrible is the test on it! (Ed. note: at least she didn't mention the English teacher!)

Polina -

Dear John,

In this letter I'd like to tell you about some special place in Russia, that means a lot to me. I think you've guessed that its the place where I was born.

Of course, there are some other towns in Russia that are very beautiful and famous for the history or monuments, but in my opinion, Mytishchi is the best place in the world. I really advise you to visit our little town. You might find a lot of interesting activities here. In winter you can go skiing, skating or playing some winter games as hockey. It's also very funny to play snowballs! You can't imagine how marvelous russian forests in winter! (Ed. note: Definitely agree. Russians forests in the winter are BEAUTIFUL.)

If you come to Mytishchi in summer you also won't be bored! Here are some lakes and rivers where you can swim in a hot summer day. And the nature in summer is also incredibly beautiful! And of course in any season you can visit our museums, theatres, art galleries. I really love this town! It's so calm...and people are very kind and friendly.

Yulia -

Hi Liza!
Ok, you gave interesting theme to think in your last email. Well, I don't know, I love all my country but I think the most important place for me is Moscow.

I'll tell you why. I love this city first of all because its place where I born and lived some years. It's also mean a lot to me cause I've a lot of good friends with whom I spend my childhood and nowadays. I like to walk with them. I think all my free time I give to my friends, cause we always hang on the phones or send emails to each other. I think I must say thank you to this pretty place cause I've only good memories about it. In my opinion Moscow is a great city and'll be great.

Margarita -

Dear John,
I am very glad to hear so interesting and good news from you! But now I want to tell you about my favourite and beloved place in Russia. It means a lot for me and I really like this so beautiful and nice place. I live in the capital of my great country Russia. And of course, I love Moscow. There are my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, my best childhood friends. This people are very important and they do a lot for me.

The area where I spent my childhood time isn't very beautiful, but it's only mine and only there I can feel calm and enjoy everything. Also I have got some places where I just like to spend my free time. They are Arbat (old street, where you can visit some museums, interesting shops and drink tea in one of the cafes), park Kolomensjoe (it is a big island of green grass, churches, trees in the Moscow, it's really amazing!) and the Red Square, where I just walk. That's all I think.

The second Margarita -

Hi John!
How are you in your new flat? I wanna know how you have celebrated that you bought a flat in the centre of London! I might study in Oxford (I think you're shocked) I just sent them my project about medcine for radiation poison and now they wanna to talk with me about this seriously. I know that London means a lot to you but I wanna tell you bout city that means lot to me. It's St. Petersburg.

Oh, I know that you will say, that it's cultural capital of Russia, and there are many museums, but I love this city for another things. I love walking wide straight prospekts (avenues) in the morning when there aren't many people. I love having lunches in the parks where I can sit on the green grass and looking at people. I love standing near the Neva (river), feeling cold breeze and watching at the sky, and this sky isn't dark. (Ed. note: Margarita is writing about the White Nights in St. Petersburg, a time in June and July when the sun doesn't set until around 3am for just a few's supposed to be an other-worldly experience - lots of celebrations and parties happening as well! - and I'm hoping to experience that for myself while I'm in Russia!)

Valeria - (a name I always want to pronounce like Malaria!)

Dear Kate,
You asked me to write about important place in my country that means a lot to me. I was thinking about it very long time and at last I understood that the most important place in my country is my town Mytishi. It's my native soil so I feel very pleasant and comfortable here. Besides, I was born here so there are no more places which I can know better than Mytishi.

I know every place in Mytishi: all roads, all school, all cafe. Mytishi is very small town, I know, but it's very dear and interesting city. There are a lot of museums, picture gallerys, monuments, chopping centre, etc, so it is not boring to live here. Oh, of course my best friends. All my lovely friends live in Mytishi and it is another reason why I can't live anywhere else.

Masha -

Hi Lana? How are you?

You asked me to tell you about my favourite place in my country. It is Kaliningrad. My sister, her husband, and her sons live there, and I have been there about ten times.

It was a German town, but after the Second World War Kaliningrad became a Russian town. There is the Baltish Sea near Kaliningrad, it is cold but I like to swim there. There are many beautiful places in Kaliningrad, for example, the Immanuil Kant Cathedral. There are many universities there, the most famous is Kant's Kaliningrad university. Immanuil Kant is a German scientist and he was born in Kunigsberg. Kaliningrad was named Kunigsberg when it was a German town. The most beautiful street is the Bogratinov Street; I would like to live there because it is a very beautiful town.

Dmitri - (the one boy in my class! He puts up with a lot!)

Hi John, how are you?

So now I have a time to answer on your question. Its hard to say what place in my country a lot, but I'll try to answer you on this question. I think the most meanful place for me in my country is Mytishi when I live and grow up. I think so because meanful place for person is that place where he had a memory of his friends, family, or somebody else. So Home means for me a lot, because I live wiht my parents, that mean for me a lot, they teach me how to become a good person in the future.

I like to walk about streets with my friends. I always have a good time with them, we do sport and have a lot of fun. So if you think that I'm not right, try to think about your best place and think why it's important for you. I'm sure that the reason will be people are really close to you. So you know now what place means for me a lot, and I wait for your answer what place means for you a lot.

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent post , Katie. Your students' command of the English language is very good, and the insight that they collectively have, as teenagers, about the value of home and roots is impressive. I can't wait to meet them and to see for myself the sights that they have described.

    I'm sure that any of the teachers reading this blog will appreciate your new-found respect for the amount of time necessary to mark papers. I clearly remember your rants in high school. As they say, "what goes around, comes around"!