Friday, February 17, 2012

Another smile...

For the past couple of months, I've really been pushing my kids to read 4 books for this 'Battle of the Books' competition at school that our librarians organized. Rather than making it a choice, I required everyone to be in on the competition (I know, I'm evil...THAT teacher. haha), putting them in teams of 3 and 4 for the competition. When the books were given and the competition explained (4 books, questions asked about all books, so obviously at least one person had to read each book), I told them that I just KNEW they could all read at least 2 of the books. The more team members who read each book, the better chance they had to be able to collaborate and come up with answer to the questions that would be asked. We kept discussing their progress, checking in now and then. Several of the students made it a goal to read all of the books. Some decided they thought they could read 3 or maybe 4 of them.  Well, today was the competition. Granted, some of the kids were scrambling this week to finish a book...but they were still REALLY trying because they didn't want to let their team down!
They all did SO WELL answering the questions. The librarians had already had two 6th grade groups, two 4th grade groups, and five 5th grade groups from the other class. Then we got in there and answered more questions than any of the other classes had. My kids were so nervous, and then so proud. It was great to see them work together and then even congratulate the winning team (who went on to beat the other 5th grade class and will now compete with the 4th grade and 6th grade).

Later that afternoon, one of my boys came up to me with a big grin on his face, talking about how much he wished his team would have won, but that he was still happy about all the questions they answered. He said he was proud of himself for reaching his goal of reading all four of the books. And then, even though I didn't think it was possible to love this kid any more than I already do, the following conversation took place:

MK- (smiling from ear to ear)  "Miss, I think I have really improved my reading this year. I have read more books and harder books than I ever did last year."

Me: (returning said smile) "I think you are a fantastic reader. I love how excited you are about it!"

MK- (still smiling)  "Thank you for inspiring me."

Me: (smiling, heart melting) "You're welcome. And, thank YOU for being you - and inspiring me." 
These are the days it is great to be a teacher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Random things that made me smile today...

* For this first story, keep in mind that I work at a school where English is a second or third language for most of the kids. Thus, their vocabulary is still very much developing. Soooo - for Valentine's Day, I had bought some miniature Snickers bars and just had one on each of their desks this morning. On my morning power point, I had written a short note that said "Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy the Snickers bar. Just be sure not to 'snicker' more than usual today. -Ms. Junge"  The first student in the room read it and said "Miss, what means snicker?" I had to smile at the fact that I hadn't really considered that they might not know this word. Being 'that teacher', my reply was "Look it up in the dictionary and find out!" And he did. Score one for me!

** We had early release for teacher inservice today. As we were walking into the theater for our speaker, we were greeted by my friend Conor approaching us - handing out Valentines. Three things that were awesome about this. 1)I'm pretty sure he probably printed them off the internet using the school's color printer.  2) They were all 'Twilight' themed. 3) On the back he had written - To: You     From:  Conor.
Nothing shows how much you care like addressing Valentines to 'You'. He cracks me up.

*** As I was walking home from the gym today after work, I decided to stop at the little fruit/vegetable stand to get some bananas and strawberries. I thought I had put my wallet in my bag, but when I went to pay the 14 dirhams (rougly $2) for a bag of fresh strawberries and 3 bananas, I realized I didn't have my wallet. I did have 7 dirhams. So, I tried to ask him if I could just buy the strawberries...or just the bananas, since I didn't have enough money. Of course, Vegetable Guy doesn't speak English. Yet, we continue to try to communicate. He motions to the other lady there, as if she might be able to help. I finally figured out that he was telling me to take all of the items and just 'pay later'. Keep in mind that this is not even my regular Vegetable Guy, and other than walking by after the gym on occasion, I'm not sure he knows me either. It's just another example of how kind and wonderful Moroccans can be. Sort of like going to the Keystone Grocery store back in the day, buying a 'pop' and a candy bar, and telling them to just charge it to Mom and Dad's account. So now I have to go back to the gym tomorrow so that I can pay him the other 7 dirhams - plus a nice tip!

**** One last thing that made me smile today - sharing Valentine's Dinner with Jim and LuAnn. Pre-dinner festivities included watching some awful, AWful movie that revolved around a story line of a former playboy bunny who got kicked out of the mansion and started her own sorority as a house mother or something? One couldn't help but chuckle. And then LuAnn's cooking skills made our tummies smile as well - pork loin (not easy to come by here), roast beef, red cabbage, asparagus, salad, and some red wine. 'Heart them' so much!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scottish culture in Casablanca - "A Nicht Wi' Burns"

   As many of you know, I've made friends here with people from all over the world. It's been so much fun learning about different cultures through random conversations that come up at work, or at the 'expat pub night' I attend pretty regularly. This past fall, a topic of conversation brought up by my Scottish friend, Andy, was that of "Burns Night". Most of us had no clue what he was talking about. He said that it's a night to celebrate the famous poet, Robert Burns. (crickets...chirping, as most of us have no idea who this 'famous' poet was that he is referring to) After getting over his shock that we were so culturally deprived to have never attended a Burns Night Supper, Andy declared that he would like to hold one here in Casablanca. At that time, we probably raised our glasses in a toast to this 'Burns' character (with most of us Americans just thinking about the guy from the Simpsons, wondering if they are somehow related.) and wondered if this night would come to be.

Well, being an avid & devoted Scottsman, Andy put a plan into motion and pulled it off brilliantly! On January 28th, I attended my first ever 'Burns Supper' at the Churchill Club here in Casablanca. The official flyer read:
The Churchill Club
Cordially invites you to

 “A Nicht Wi’ Burns”
Saturday 28th January 2012

Full Scottish Menu
Incl. Haggis, Neeps & Champit Tatties
Chicken Balmoral

Cranachan & Atholl Brose

All to the skirl o’ the pipes
‘Try and wear a wee bit of Scotland’

The whole evening was incredibly well-organized (not always the case with things here in Morocco), which is a tribute to Andy and the Churchill Club staff who worked with him in preparing the food and helping with the program for the evening. I'll go ahead and sort of take you through the evening via pictures and my own commentary. Should you fancy to know more about this event, here is a quick link: Burns supper
Andy, with help from Churchill Club members,
'presenting' the haggis for the program.

The supper officially started with the haggis being marched into the main venue and presented to the crowd, while bagpipe music played in the background. This was followed by Andy reciting a 48-line poem by Burns called "Address to a Haggis". (apologies for low quality of some of the photos)

'Address to a Haggis'

There were many toasts throughout the evening. Andy had even made Atholl Brose for us to enjoy. It is a drink made of oatmeal, honey, whiskey, and cream - somewhat like a Bailey's Irish Cream. I don't have pictures of it, as we seemed to consume the pitchers of it before I thought to take any snapshots. :-)

Chicken Balmoral (stuffed with haggis), Neeps, and
Champit Tatties

The food was amazing! I have to say, I wasn't sure how excited I was for my first taste of haggis. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Haggis itself is traditionally the sheep's heart, liver & lungs minced with onion & some spices, then mixed with a stock and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach. While Andy did bring the haggis with him from Scotland, ours was served as part of the Chicken Balmoral (stuffed inside of the chicken). This was then wrapped in bacon with a whiskey sauce and was absolutely delicious! I learned that Neeps are basically mashed turnips, and 'champit tatties' are mashed potatoes.

Along with the seemingly endless pitchers of atholl brose, we had cranachan for our traditional Scottish dessert.It is made from a mixture of whipped cream, whiskey (of course), honey, and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little whiskey. (are you picking up on the fact that the Scots enjoy their whiskey?!??!)  It was quite tasty as well.

The rest of the evening saw various toasts as part of the traditional program of a Burns Supper. Eventually, there was dancing. Fortunately, I don't have any pictures of that to share. :-)  In the end, it was a fabulous cultural experience that I was fortunate to share in the company of great friends.

The program for the night.                    Andy, the true Scottsman, and me!

With my friend Allen, former 'Beefeater' guard at Tower of London.
Cartoonish version of one of Burns's works.
Andy reciting Tam o'Shanter
With Tahir Shah, author of 'The Caliph's House' and
some other books. :-) He is also the father of one of
my lovely students, Ariane.