Friday, December 3, 2010

I'll be the nose, you be the hand

I love teaching and feel that I’m good at it. I’ve had jobs before that I didn’t feel like I did well and instead of leaving work feeling invigorated I left feeling stressed and discouraged. Luckily, that isn’t the case for my current job – usually.

As an intermediate Spanish teacher I mostly help my students develop communicative competence (i.e. speaking, listening, and writing). However, for the last few weeks of the semester my class is reading a play called “La dama del alba.” It’s a great story, but I have no idea how to teach literature. I have a teaching guide that goes through the points that I’m supposed to cover, but even with that I run out of things for us to discuss. A few days ago I ended class ten minutes early because I didn’t have anything else to say.

To make my life just a little more difficult there is going to be a Christmas fiesta next week for a bunch of the Spanish classes and each class is going to sing a Christmas carol in Spanish. I didn’t know any Spanish carols so I asked for suggestions and a bunch of people recommended “Fum, fum, fum.” I listened to it on Youtube and liked it and told my class that we’d be singing it. However, when we tried to sing it in class it was surprisingly fast and hard to sing. Most of my students didn’t want to sing it and I was at a loss for what to do.

That night I tried to figure out the song on my own, but I couldn’t. The timing was weird and I couldn’t figure it out. Not only could I not sing the song, but I had no idea how to teach a song to my class. I didn’t feel like I could do it and that stressed me out and frustrated me. Since I didn’t know what to do I decided to do nothing. I thought to myself, “I have a class full of people that are musically talented; they don’t need me to teach them.”

When I got to class the next day I passed out the sheet music to the song and asked who knew how to lead a choir. Two girls raised their hands and I said, “Great! You’re gonna teach this song to the class.” They looked a little surprised, but they came to the front of the class and within ten minutes had the class singing beautifully. Seriously, it sounded so good. We also rolled in a piano and someone brought their violin and it all flowed together. I couldn’t believe it. I had done nothing to help them sing (except for interrupting the music directors occasionally to make witty comments), but I was so proud of them all.

This experience reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul teaches that each member of the body is important. The foot isn’t more important than the eye or the eye more important than the ear, but everyone is needed for the body to function properly. Those girls couldn’t have taught the class grammar and I couldn’t teach the class music, but together we ended up with a Spanish choir. There are a lot of things that I can’t do and I’m very grateful for the many people that do those things well because without you I couldn’t experience them. It’s nice to know that when we work together we end up with a spectacular result.

As usual I think my students have taught me more than I’ve taught them. Thank you, students. I’ll be the nose and you can be the rest.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I’ve never been a very organized person, but I do love to set goals; especially when there’s a lesson at church about setting goals. I attended one such lesson in May 2009 and everyone in attendance was invited to make two measureable, achievable goals. Since I was going to be starting grad school soon I decided to make a goal to get straight A’s. And since I was single I decided to make a goal to get married in August 2010. Both goals seemed like practical, doable goals and so I set out to achieve them. I’m happy to say that I’ve been extremely successful with one of my goals and a little less than successful with the other. To be funny I later specified my marriage date as the 9th of August. That way my marriage date would be 8/9/10 and whenever anyone asked when I got married I would wittily reply, “On eight nine ten,” which would be funny at first, but my poor wife would later confess to me that she never thought it was funny, that it annoyed her, and that I should just say August 9th because as it turns out no one thought it was funny.

Eight nine ten is tomorrow and I’m more single than ever. I’m not too upset about missing my goal and I’m now planning on getting married on nine ten eleven. Even though I didn’t get married this weekend, a friend of mine did and I went to her reception.

When I was younger and before all of my friends were married I used to attend weddings with single girls who would often talk about (in slight snooty tones) how their reception was going to be different from the one we were currently at. While at the wedding reception this weekend I decided to come up with some things that I will do differently at my wedding reception.

I’ve always thought that cutting a cake was an odd tradition. I mean, yes, the cake does need to be cut. And having the bride and groom do it is kind of cute, but they only cut enough for themselves and then let someone else do it. And for that we clap?! I just don’t get it. At my reception my wife and I will do something more utilitarian. For example, we could toss a salad together. It’s healthier and if my wife and I get in a mini food fight as newlyweds are wont to do at least lettuce doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your face like cake does. Or we could fill up cups of water, DJ a little, plant a tree, or write a check to a charity; all of which serve a purpose and actually deserve applause. Or we could do something that’s actually difficult for two people to do together like throw a dart at a bull’s-eye, walk around with our legs tied together, or co-compose a poem on the spot. I think the guests would be excited when someone announced, “The bride and groom will now compose an origin poem for their guests.”

Instead of having a slide show of the bride and groom for people to watch as they wait in line we will have a slide show of digitally generated images of what our children will look like. It’ll be a good conversation starter. We will have pictures of ourselves too, but only ones from Facebook. Below the pictures we will have random Facebook updates from years past. I think my friends and relatives will really enjoy seeing a poorly taken picture of me at a ward activity with a caption that says “Ben has the best roommates ever!” or “(fill in girls name) just finished her last test of the semester!” or “Ben just updated his blog,” or “(fill in girls names) could eat Thai food every day.” It will be a good way for people to reminisce and a good conversation starter.

I don’t really enjoy wedding lines and haven’t quite figured out how to avoid it. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll stick with the line tradition, but make it a line dance. I think I’d enjoy mingling while doing the Electric Slide or the Boot Scootin’ Boogey. We’re also going to have all of the guests take a picture with us in front of a green screen and we will include the picture in their thank you card. That way the wedding will have taken place at the beach, on a ski slope, in front of the Taj Mahal, on an African Safari, at the White House, and on the Moon.

The most enjoyable part of the reception will be the murder mystery. Every guest will be assigned a part to play with a short bio of their character. Of course most guests will be given unimportant roles and the main players will be in the wedding party. Clues will be given throughout the night that will help the guests figure out who the murderer is. The game will be rigged and the murderer will end up being the mother-in-law as that is the funniest possible outcome. When it’s revealed that she’s the murderer she’ll wittily say something like, “Treat my daughter right or I will be a murderer,” and the place will erupt in laughter. I, however, will be a little wary of her from then on because I will know that she really isn’t joking.

Keep nine ten eleven free ‘cause it’s gonna be a hoot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Viva the USA

Joleen and I had a splendid, platonic date a little over a week ago. We went to Freedom Fest in downtown Provo to check out the festivities and assorted random booths. Joleen and I both indulged in an impulse buy: a new frilly bag and a tie. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out who bought what. One of the booths was advertising the "Constitution Party." We weren't sure if the constitution party was a political party or some kind of gathering where people sit around eating apple pie and discussing the constitution. I would have asked what the constitution party was all about, but fear of being given a pamphlet kept me in ignorance. Whether it's a political party of a social gathering, I was able to ascertain from the both that it involves old people and lots of knickknacks with the American flag on them.

As we wandered around a vagrant looking man approached us and asked were he could buy some cigarettes. Joleen responded first saying that she didn't know where he could buy cigarettes (although I have my suspicions that she did know where he could buy some). He politely thanked us and left. As the vagrant walked away I noticed that he was carrying a large piece of cardboard with writing on it. It said, "Why lie? I need money for beer." I appreciated his honesty, but gave him nothing.

I've wanted to buy a bike for some time, but am always too cheap (frugal, maybe?) to buy one. The last bike I had was given to me for free and it is so hard to spend more money on a new bike than I paid for the previous one. Today I was looking up bikes on Craig's List, but I quickly got distracted and instead searched employment listings in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Not because I'm interested in working there, but just out of pure curiosity. I found the following listing titled "teach me spanish on skype":
"i want young pretty mexican girl to teach me spanish on skype i will western union you the money if we can make a deal i will pay 20 dollars for each 1 hour lesson i want young pretty mexican girl to teach me you will have to teach me like a 5 yr old very slow only at night ok thx."
When I first read this ad I was little creeped out by the man (most likely in his forties, overweight, and smelly) wanting to Skype with a pretty Mexican girl only at night. Then I was a little curious wondering if anyone would respond to this ad. My last thought was being disappointed in myself for not being a pretty Mexican girl. I would love to make $20 an hour teaching someone Spanish, but I don't meet this man's only requirement. However, I'm considering responding to him anyway with an offer to teach him punctuation and capitalization rules in English instead.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Checking out of the Hotel California

I moved into a house called the Hotel California last June and spent a good 10 months living there, but I was ready for a change. In fact, I already moved. That means that I said good-bye to the Hotel California. Overall, it's been a great place to live. I loved having two fridges, a washer and dryer, and always having a parking space. I also loved my enormous bedroom and the extremely comfy couch on cinder-blocks. However, there are a few things that I do not miss.

The first is the hallway to my bedroom. As I was moving my stuff in I quickly noticed that while I am 6'3.5", the entry to the hallway is about 6'3". That means that every time I wanted to go to my room I had to duck. I was pretty peeved about that for a few days and complained profusely to my friends. I got used to it pretty quickly, but unfortunately developed the habit of ducking every time I walked through a doorway. Now when I walk through a doorway I briefly resemble a Muppet due to my slumped shoulders and bouncy walk.

The Hotel California discriminated against my height in another unfortunate way. When I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror I could only see from my shoulders down. This meant that I had to bend down if I ever wanted to see my face. Although annoying, this has had a pleasant side effect. Since I rarely saw my face I started to care less and less about my appearance and I think I even became a little less vain for a brief period of time.

The Hotel California has a weird golf picture on the wall in the living room. Not only is the picture weird, but it's hung about a foot off the ground. Not a typical place to hang a picture. One day I decided to take it down only to realize that it was covering up a large hole. I left the picture there.

My new place is great and also has a name, but telling the internet where I currently live just doesn't seem like a good idea. I like that I can see my face in the bathroom mirror, I don't have to duck to enter any rooms, and there aren't any holes in the wall covered up by pictures (that I've discovered yet). It's nice.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Adventures in Substitute Teaching

I’ve been in Washington for the last few weeks working as a substitute teacher until Summer term starts at BYU. Today I subbed at Everett High which is fun because it's where I attended high school. Also, my brother is a counselor here so the kids that know him automatically think I'm cool (and with good reason). The funny thing is that almost everyday I'm told "you look just like your brother" and "you look nothing like your brother." I'm not quite sure how I manage to look just like my brother and at the same time looking nothing like him, but it's a feat that I've achieved nonetheless.

Class elections were today and I was assigned to go to the sophomore class assembly. One of the kids who was running for class treasurer started his speech by saying, "Um, this probably isn't gonna be very good and I'm probably gonna screw up a lot." He looked at the floor during his entire speech which included him saying, "I want to be the treasurer because I like math and I'm good with numbers." I felt sorry for the kid and realized that a class in public speaking would do him a world of good.

Last week I subbed for a 6th grade class and it was awful. Probably the worst day I've ever had subbing. I'm subbing for a different 6th grade class today, but I have many of the same 6th graders as before. My biggest issue with 6th graders is that they don't seem to understand that I understand what they're up to. For example, one kid, I'll call him Luke, said he couldn't do his work because he didn't have a pencil. I gave him a give-me-a-break kind of look and told him to borrow a pencil from his neighbors. He said that no one would lend him a pencil so I bent over and picked up a grey colored pencil that was lying on the ground and handed it to him. I came back a few minutes later and he still hadn't written anything. When I asked why he hadn't done any of his work he said that the pencil didn't work. I took it from him and with it wrote in big letters on his paper "Hi Luke =)" and said, "Seems to work just fine."

Many of the 6th graders remembered me from last week. One of them said upon entering the classroom said, "Dude, Mr. Shality, remember me." It might be because I was tired or it might be because he pronounced Schilaty wrong, but I responded truthfully and said, "I meet 150 new kids everyday. Sorry, but I don't remember you." He looked rather crushed and said, "Spaghetti. Spaghetti! Don't you remember spaghetti?" "No," I replied, "I'm really not sure what you're talking about." He then sat down with an incredulous look on his face that seemed to say "How could he forget spaghetti?" However, once class started I remember him as being the loud mouth from the previous week.