Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gyro: the conclusion

The final three-hour session of the four-week Greco-Roman Mythology course met today. Out with a whimper, I think, not a bang.

But things didn't end badly, all in all. The session actually went fairly well: it was easily the most student-centered of all the Thursday classes we had had. Last week, at the end of class, the students divided themselves into two groups for their presentations; they then had a week to prepare. Today, one group did a PowerPoint spiel about the relationship between Zeus and the Olympic Games; the second group did a very amusing skit about the story of Perseus. I was pleased and gave both groups "A"s.

The next hour was spent in a student-centered manner as well: the students divided themselves into four teams and began teaching each other the material I had assigned them last week. They did a decent job of that, too; they were much more active than they had been during previous sessions.

The final hour was spent making Greek food. I got the girls to wash their hands and help me prep the vegetables-- tomatoes that had to be cut, lettuce that needed ripping, onions that needed slicing, and so on. The students also stared in fascination at the tzatziki sauce, though one student avoided it because, as she told me, cucumbers made her nauseous. While most of the students claimed not to mind the smell of lamb, they weren't quite as pleased with the taste. I had anticipated this and didn't mind their dislike at all; I told them to stop eating if the taste got to them. As I recall, my own first taste of lamb wasn't a happy experience (same with duck heart, now that I think of it), so I knew where they were coming from. Beef, chicken, and pork, which are practically universal, are fairly bland meats when you get down to it. Lamb, on the other hand, carries a certain pungent quality that takes some getting used to. When the students left, I combined the remaining lamb (actually, a mixture of lamb, beef and the very meatlike saesongi-beoseot* [a meaty Korean mushroom], which added bulk) with the leftover tomatoes, feta cheese, and what little tzatziki sauce remained to create a pita-less, gyro-like salad. Not bad, if I say so myself.

I'd still rather have a real gyro, though.

I'll be teaching this same course all over again in the coming four weeks, but this time around, I'll have plenty of teaching material. I'll be spending a good chunk of my weekend getting most of it into book form and putting it in our office for the students to grab and use as references. Pre-reading makes all the difference in the world; Korean students who are asked to expound on material they've encountered only in the past hour will not be able to contribute much to a discussion. They need time to read and digest the material, partly because of the language issues, and partly because of culture: a group of Koreans in English class aren't likely to spout off without plenty of prompting. Stephen Krashen's affective filter is very much alive and well on the peninsula.

*The words beoseot and songi both mean "mushroom." I have no idea why the thing is labeled "saesongi-beoseot" at the supermarket. Perhaps it's another instance of Korean pleonasm, such as when Koreans say "weolyo-il-nal" for "Monday." "Il" and "nal" both mean "day" (imagine someone saying "Monday day"), but that's the pleonastic construction Koreans prefer. Think about the stuff we do in English, like: "I saw it with my own eyes." That's a classic anglophone pleonasm. Or "descendre en bas," as some francophones say-- that's not far from the English pleonasm "fall down."


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