Tag Archives: Russian

I remember my teachers #celebrateteachers #clmooc

I’m later than everyone else in responding to Kevin Hodgson’s invitation to #celebrateteachers which “Laura pitched as a game of tag” and so appropriate for #CLMOOC (the Making Learning Connected MOOC). (Thanks, Wendy, for blogging about this).That was a week ago. But the idea of remembering or celebrating teachers appealed to me so I thought better late than never.

I can remember some of the names of my teachers in primary school. Let’s see… nothing before grade 2 when I had Mrs Robinson. I remember odd bits and pieces about her. Her husband must have been called Neil because she often told us about what she did on the weekend with Neil. It took me a while to figure this out because I had been too busy wondering why she spent the weekend going places with the boy who sat in the front row (also Neil). I also remember that she sat next to me when we went to the movies to see Born Free (1966) and asked for half of my peanut butter sandwich (which I resentfully gave her). I don’t remember my grade 3 teacher’s name but I do remember that the first thing she did on our first day was write the word ‘honesty’ in big letters on the blackboard, and talk about how highly she valued honesty above everything else. Grade 4 – Mr Quilty. I don’t want to write what I remember about him so we’ll skip that.

In secondary school I remember quite a few teachers, especially my French teacher whose classes were so much fun through songs, poetry, film, discussions and conversations about everything French.

The teacher I want to celebrate is not someone who was all sweetness and smiles. In fact she gave me a lot of grief throughout the time she taught me – from early primary to late secondary. She was my Russian teacher both privately and at the Saturday school for Russian language and culture. Until I was 9 my cousin and I had private Russian lessons at her house, and she favoured him and criticised me. I was a scapegoat. My narrow handwriting was a sign of a mean character, I had no taste, my Russian was inferior, and so on. Returning from a trip to Russia, she brought presents, and I was to choose from two things. The one I chose clearly indicated my lack of good taste, and when I changed my mind and chose the other one, I had chosen the one she had wanted for herself. At about the age of 9 I’d had enough and had a meltdown, telling her that I hated her guts. When my mother came to pick me up both of us were crying, and my teacher was asking my mother what she could have possibly done to be on the receiving end of such an outburst. It was decided I would return to the Saturday school and be part of her class. I was relieved to take refuge in a group of students and no longer be the subject of so much attention.

People are complex. We all have good and bad in us. I also remember my Russian teacher speaking passionately about literature she loved with her whole being. She didn’t care about keeping to class time limits when she was trying to inspire us about literature, art, Russian culture. She spent countless hours preparing us for Russian concerts and plays, working with us privately to perfect pronunciation and tone, gesture and facial expression. She designed costumes, making sure they were historically correct, she painted sets, she drew large portraits of writers, poets, musicians to accompany her speeches at our annual days of Russian culture. She lived and breathed her work and her passion, her work and her identity were one.

As difficult as it was to forgive and try to forget the ways she treated me when I was younger, it was also difficult not to be impressed by her and be in awe of her during my secondary school years. She left a permanent impression on me. She was someone whose passion for literature and art played out her entire life.

In her later years I grew to love her, and she was fond of me. I visited her on and off when she had moved out of Melbourne and she asked to see me. She was still extremely passionate, relentless in her expectations of people, but had mellowed over the years. In her early 90s she was diagnosed with cancer and I visited her a couple of times. It was understood that I wasn’t to feel sorry for her and that life was just taking its course. I remember she made sure she kept up with world events, mapping them out on a hand drawn map of the world she pinned to her wall. She passed on to me books she treasured, art prints she had collected in a folder and other bits and pieces. Finally, with little time left to live, she asked to see me for the last time and said goodbye with a fairly steady voice. I remembered the times in my adolescence when she had read out aloud from literature, tears streaming down her face, and yet now she was almost completely composed.

People are complex. She taught me many things including an appreciation for the Russian language and its culture, but perhaps the most important thing was that none of us can really be easily or completely understood, and that we are not perfect.  As much as we might prefer to stick to the idea of people being nice and predictable, easily understood, most of us aren’t. By the time I had forgiven her, by the time I grew to love her and her eccentricities, her all-consuming passions, I had come a little closer to accepting the darker side of people in general, including myself.

Teachers can make a difference in our lives beyond what they try to teach us.


Art still matters

Your golden hair, Margarete by Anselm Kiefer. Title derived from Death Fugue by Romanian Jewish poet and WWII survivor Paul Celan. Read more here.

The school year is starting again and so I thought I should air out some of my blogs and other resources because they’ve been put away in the top cupboard during the long break.

Remember the art blog? Art does matter.  Remember how, towards the end of last year, I revised the look of the blog so that it came out all svelte and user-friendly?

Well, don’t think it’s been sitting there idly, it’s been hatching lots of new art to stun you. Students, teachers and art lovers, get ready to be inspired by the diverse talent which is about to unfold before your eyes. I snuck in three examples during January (couldn’t help myself), one of which you see above, and then two animations.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/16262803]

This one would be great for a discussion about issues such as beauty, bullying, female exclusivity, perhaps.

Some of you will know that I’m a fan of Russian animation, so here’s a claymation example by Serge Merinov.


So bookmark this blog if you have any interest in art. I’ll do all the work and present you with visual delights throughout the year. What do you say?

PS  The wiki is a good accompaniment but you have to take time to browse.

A picture’s worth a thousand words

I found ‘A picture’s worth’ on the Learning technology teacher development blog. it’s a wonderful collective version of people’s stories behind their own photos – even more interesting as a kaleidoscopic collection. Starting as a personal project, ‘A picture’s worth’ has developed into a pictorial record of varied experiences and reflections. Submissions of photos and text between 300 and 1000 words are moderated, and copyright for photos and essay remains with the author.

Some authors will include website links, and a map showing where the photo adds to the authenticity of the story. I like this idea for the classroom. Rather than write the usual story about a personal photo, students can showcase to a peer audience, and the shared stories could trigger ideas. It’s always interesting to see what subject matter is chosen and for what reason. Here’s an example of someone who loves photographing little forgotten theatres. Some of these stories are more intimate than others. Here’s an intimate, emotional one about a family coping with a dying grandmother. Here’s a confronting, brave one about abuse called ‘Bruised twice’.

The picture inserted in this post is of my church in Brunswick, Melbourne, on Merri Creek, although it could well be in Russia. This church building houses many stories, from its inception which remained a dream for many decades, including the efforts of many people, some of whom never saw the completed project, to the present day. And it will be connected to many different families and individuals in years to come.

The picture below is the inside of the church looking up at the cupol.

Russian children’s books

esta es bella

Originally uploaded by sindicato de la imagen

I wanted to reply to a colleague’s blog on the subject of children’s books and childhood memories, but while I was searching flickr for a book cover that was under the Creative Commons category, someone else emailed me, wondering how to add a flickr image to the blog. Yes, I know I’ve done it, but that doesn’t mean I can remember how. In fact, the first picture I inserted was a simple matter of copying and pasting, and that was so easy, I’m wondering whether it was the wrong way to do it. This time I’m repeating the other way I did it, which was to click on the flickr image so that the picture had its own page, then click on the ‘blog this’ icon. I’ll see if this works. I love the way this is demonstrating learning – we don’t necessarily learn from the first time we do something. Doing it a few times, and especially trying to teach someone else, makes it stick. Having said that, I hope I remember it next time I get frustrated with a student who ‘has been told’ and who’s forgotten.

By the way, the picture is from one of the children’s books I remember from my childhood. Since I didn’t speak any English until I went to kindergarten, all of the books read to me by my mother and grandmother were in Russian. Looking back, I realise that I owe to these children’s books my love of bright colours (often strangely juxtaposed) and of the bizarre. Strange characters come to mind from the recesses of my mind – crocodiles in suits smoking cigars, a muddle-headed man who reminds me of Mr Bean, a giant, menacing sink (more  like the whole vanity) with human features who bullied the boy who wouldn’t wash (Soviet moralism).