Skip to main content

Teaching Moment

One night, walking with Gabriella and Cathy from the seminary to the Casa Valdese, the talk turned to the relationship of the students to the teachers of the class. Gabriella had heard through the grapevine that some of the students were complaining about the accents of some of the guest and Italian teachers, and that the lectures were hard to understand and follow.

At the time, this seemed incredibly ungracious and insensitive, and Gabriella was understandably upset. "I wish that they had the courage to say that to my face. I would have something to say to them!" she said.

At the end of the class, one of the students raised exactly this point during our group evaluation session. We were all sitting in a large circle in the Facolta's common room, having just filled out written evaluations. We were taking some time before the closing banquet to reflect and share thoughts, feedback, and experiences, and one of the students in the course raised up that it had been a challenge for her to understand the accented English in which some of our professors lectured to us.

I was expecting ...fireworks? Anger? Bottled frustration to be vented? I couldn't have been further off the mark. Gabriella hadn't been looking for a confrontation in our earlier conversation, but rather for an opening into dialogue with that student or other students that were having the same thoughts.

This was a powerful lesson for me. Where I had anticipated outrage, there was understanding. Where I had expected upset, there was love. There was no anger in Gabriella's voice, no frustration, only a calm dialogue about the importance of being flexible in terms of the professors and gracious in light of the gift they were giving us by speaking in our native tongue instead of theirs.

The moment quickly ended, and the conversation moved on to other matters. But that brief window of time stuck with me as a powerful example of how to interrupt a conversation in a positive and constructive way. This was one of my most profound learning experiences on the trip.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Friday Night

I feel drained after this week.So I'm lifting weights by myself in the exercise room of the ArbCo Common House, doing KenKen puzzles in between sets, and feeling really glad I shelled out $30 on a cheapo Bluetooth speaker. It's astonishing that something that fits inside my water glass is capable of being too loud. Aesop Rock, Haim, Mike Doughty, Paper Tiger, and Lorde: this next set's for you. To come: some recent pictures I've made that I like.

Family and Gender in Ancient Rome

I mentioned below that Prof. Diane Lipsett delivered a wonderful lecture on the conversation currently taking place between New Testament scholars, family historians, social archaeologists and the like. The title of this post is actually the title of en entire semester-long course taught by Prof. Lipsett, so for our, geez, ninety minute session she condensed her focus to Men, Women, and Children in Ancient Rome. With her permission, I am posting my notes from this lecture below, tweaked a little for readability.

Prof. Lipsett is interested in studies of gender formation among non-elites as well as elites, those people about whom we know much less because they did not have the resources or clout to commemorate and study themselves, generally speaking.

Roman households were much broader than we conceive of in modern terms, with a wide spectrum of people connected by family and employment living under one roof (the terms domus/eikos/ikea capture this idea of an indiscriminate household…

I thought California would be different...

True, I didn't think California would be like this, but I don't know how it could be different, either. Sitting on the deck tonight, hearing the resonant tones of the metal wind chimes, and the sorrowful plunks of the bamboo ones, and smelling the jasmine on the breeze; hearing the constant low roar of the highway (even at three in the morning), but also the distant lament of the train horn; and seeing a few stars through the orange-purple night sky...I thought California would be different, but I didn't expect it to be this much the same.


{EdNote: This image is of a print by Raymond Pettibon, one that I had the privelege to live with for a semester of college thanks to Oberlin's Art Rental program and my excellent housemate Josh Adler. I think about it every time the thought "Wow, California isn't how I thought it would be," crosses my mind. Kind of grim, no?}