Things Ukrainians Ask: 11th Form Edition

Today, I give you another installment of my personal favorite type of blog entry, “Things Ukrainians…” Usually it’s “Things Ukrainians Write” (letters, stories, more letters, more stories), but today it will be “Things Ukrainians Ask.”

This week was the first week of school. I always try to plan fun, interesting activities and ice breakers to get my pupils speaking again after (probably not studying English) all summer. As usual, I test out new activities on my strongest class; this year, that’s 11A (formerly 10A, the ones who write me letters).

The activity spanned both of our class periods this week, and worked as follows: each pupil took a bunch of M&Ms (other colored candies also work). I wrote on the board what each color represented: red for hobbies, orange for favorite food, yellow for dream job, green for favorite place to be on earth, blue for place you most want to visit, and brown allowed the pupils to ask me questions. For each M&M of a certain color, they had to say one thing. So if someone had three blue M&Ms they had to tell us three places they want to visit.

We finished class today with the brown M&Ms, meaning that the pupils (and my colleague, Diana Dmytrivna) got to ask me any questions they wanted. Some of the questions were really good and made me think quite hard. Below, in no particular order, some of their questions (and my answers, in short):

  • Tanya: What is your favorite place on earth? I answered, wherever my family and loved ones are.
  • Nazar: What is your favorite song lyric? The first thing that came to mind was the line, “mein Herz tanzt Farben,” from one of my favorite songs by Fiva MC.
  • Serhiy: If you had a family and a house, would you live in Ukraine? Maybe…
  • Natalia L.: What is your dream? (for life, etc.) My dream is to become a professor of English literature at a university somewhere in the world.
  • Roman A.: What is your favorite country? I liked this question, and told them that in terms of government and how a country is run, I like Socialist countries like Sweden and Norway the best. Though taxes are high, education (through university) and healthcare are free for everyone.
  • Vika: What countries have you visited? This was a long list that caused Vika to reply, “It may be shorter for you to say which countries you haven’t visited…”
  • Tanya: What is your favorite poem? Hard to choose one. I told them about one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, and decided that one of my favorite poems of his is “Morning” (the formatting didn’t carry through below, so click the poem’s name to see how it should actually look):
    • Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
      the swale of the afternoon,
      the sudden dip into evening,
      then night with his notorious perfumes,
      his many-pointed stars?
      This is the best—
      throwing off the light covers,
      feet on the cold floor,
      and buzzing around the house on espresso—
      maybe a splash of water on the face,
      a palmful of vitamins—
      but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
      dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
      the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
      a cello on the radio,
      and, if necessary, the windows—
      trees fifty, a hundred years old
      out there,
      heavy clouds on the way
      and the lawn steaming like a horse
      in the early morning.
  • Nazar: What do you know about Shevchenko? Taras Shevchenko is Ukraine’s most famous poet/artist. My pupils have told me a lot about him over the past year and a half, so I felt confident and was able to say quite a few things about Shevchenko. When I finished, Oksana stepped into the role of teacher and said, “You may sit down, Ms. Tammela,” cracking everyone up.
  • ChristinaWhat places do you want to visit? I said I’d love to go back to New Zealand and travel around the North and South Islands, hiking in the mountains and walking in the green hills. I also said I want to visit Istanbul because I’ve heard it’s a really cool city.
  • Roman T.: What are your favorite ancient European cities? London and Berlin. Both cities have so much rich history and there are so many different things to do there.
  • Natalia L.: What are your impressions of Sniatyn and us (their class)I told them how much I’ve enjoyed living in Sniatyn because it’s peaceful, small, and easy to walk everywhere. My impressions of their class are that they are wonderful people with whom I’ve really enjoyed working. I said I’d miss them when I leave but hope to stay in touch. I told them I hope that they will realize some of their dreams.
  • Vitaliy: What will you take with you to the U.S. from Ukraine? Perhaps a cliche answer, but I said “memories.” Memories of people, mostly. Memories of specific people like my colleagues, pupils, and friends, but also of the Ukrainian people in general: their kindness, generosity, and intelligence.
  • Oksana: How many kids do you want? (Diana Dmytrivna cried, “that was my question!” as soon as Oksana asked.) I want two kids, a boy and a girl. But not for a while. Who knows what I’ll end up with.
  • Diana Dmytrivna: (she had to change her question at the last minute since Oksana took hers) What is your first memory? One of my earliest memories is when my family lived in Boulder, Colorado for a year when I was 2-3 years old. I remember sitting in the loft at our preschool/daycare and playing with the musical instruments (tambourines, shakers, etc).

I think that’s most of them; I probably forgot a few. I was glad to answer such interesting questions, since I ask my pupils about themselves all the time. They’re writing me letters for homework this weekend, so there may be another edition of “Things Ukrainians Write” soon.

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