I am going to throw caution to the wind for a moment and write about some of my students without password-protecting the post. I just want to share my pride in them for a paragraph or two.
I’ve been doing music video lessons with my students for about a month now. Each week has brought more and more participation and progress from all of my students. Even the least eager students work now! I finally got participation up to 100% this week with an All American Rejects video. I took their work home and graded it, the worst grade being a B-. I brought the dialogues back in to school the next morning and handed them back. The students were literally jumping for joy at their good marks.
“Mas! Mas!” shouted one of the “delinquent” students who never wants to do his work, “Bay plius!” He pointed at his paper, excitedly saying “B+” in Russian and grinning ear to ear. The other students were equally excited with their grades–nearly ecstatic to have received such high grades. I told them, “I’m really happy to give you all good grades. All you have to do is work for it a little and you’re going to do really well!” They all worked very hard on their grammar lesson that period and came up to double-check the homework assignment I had given them. These are “The Crazies” no more. I barely recognize them.
Now on to the meat of the post.
This story is probably over a month old by now but I waited, holding out hope-against-hope that I would be able to find a link to the relevant media. Alas! No such link has yet been found! I will do my best to tell the story with the meager, non-video visual aids that I have at hand.
One day, while I was teaching, I saw that the Ministry was calling me. I stepped into the hall to discreetly answer my phone and Young Mariam told me that “Hi, Raughley! A driver is coming to get you in one our to go film in a village.” Excuse me? It’s the middle of the work day and you’re sending me a driver in one hour to take me to a village to film something? “Yeah, I think it’s some commercial or something.” Okay, super.
I waited around after classes for the driver to come get me and, according to the finest Georgian traditions, after two hours he did. We drove in awkward silence for a solid twenty minutes up a hill behind a museum and into the outskirts of Tbilisi–the further outskirts than I’m used to, that is.
I arrived at a positively beautiful school tucked away on a mountainside. I could literally see my house from there! I met a woman named Terri (She’s a third group volunteer and this was her school) who was whisked away to film a segment with first graders and their laptops. Laptops, you say? Yes, I do declare.
Terri’s school is apparently a “model school.” I don’t remember what number it is or where exactly, but it was just built and it’s gorgeous. It has a very modern, fully functional computer lab and every first grader is issued a small laptop when they arrive at school. President Saakashvili and the Minister of Education attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the first day of school. It’s a very nice place.
When I first arrived, the director of the commercial said, “Oh I’m glad you’re here! Please go sit and wait somewhere.” Yes, good thing I hurried my ass over here to wait around. I was told that twenty minutes would be needed to film Terri and then they would come for me. I still wasn’t sure what I would be doing, so I just went along with it and did some Georgian homework by myself. It was awesome.
After about an hour (gotta maintain traditions!) a small herd of eighth graders showed up and started chatting me up. They were nice kids, but I wouldn’t have minded being left alone at that moment. Oh well, it was no bother. Next, a teacher and several men with a camera and equipment march into the computer lab where I had been sitting. They wanted to film my portion of the commercial in the computer lab.
I was told that I would have to pretend to give the kids a lesson but that the microphones were not recording, so I could say whatever I wanted. They set up a camera and began filming from the back of the room.
I wanted my “class” to look dynamic so I asked, “Who wants to answer a question?” Several kids raised their hands and I called on one, motioning him to stand up, “What’s your mother’s name?” “Khatia,” he answered. “Very good, sit down.”
Next kid, “How’s today’s weather?” “It’s fine.” “Excellent, please sit.” Essentially I just peppered them with random questions to get them raising their hands and popping up and down in their seats.
After that segment was filmed, the director told me she wanted me to write something on the board. The school’s English teacher, Nino, helpfully offered me a vocab book which I could hold, to look scholarly. I glanced at the page before me, looking for something I could write on the board. A picture of random foods drew my eye and so I began to write.
I went down the list, again looking for visual dynamism (this is a commercial after all!), and asked the class, “Raise your hand if you like Grapes!” Most of the kids did, in fact, like grapes. Turkey was less popular, as were carrots. Bananas a khatchapuri got unanimous approval, but the real winner was Cake. Cake had everyone raising their hand, including a rather sheepish looking Nino who was standing off camera in the back of the room.
The director then asked Nino to join me for some “joint teaching” and for us to huddle over a student’s computer screen, pointing and exclaiming as he wrote “Samegrelo” in bolded, fancy type. It was a good shoot, I thought, but it wasn’t done yet! Next we took the show outdoors!
The day was a bit overcast, but not terrible, if I recall correctly (That disclaimed should probably be the title of my entire blog, seeing as it’s based heavily on distant-in-the-past anecdotes remembered with the aid of the photos I’ve taken). The director handed me a slip of paper and said, read this into the camera. One of her crewmen lowed the Georgian flag from the flag pole so that it was about level with my head/shoulders.
I stood next to the flag and recited, “The talent and eagerness of the Georgian children proves the success of this program!” with as much talent and eagerness as I could muster. It turned out pretty well, I suppose, because we wrapped it in two takes and moved on to our final scene.
As any of you who have taught before surely know, the best lessons are the impromptu lessons you deliver on the steps of a school. The director wanted to capture one of these magical moments of teaching on film and so she asked me to stand at the top of the steps reading from a textbook with the children gathered around, looking into the book, excitedly babbling amongst themselves, etc. A few students were pulled aside and strategically placed in frame else where on the steps to give the scene some vibrancy and realism (I can’t speak for other schools, but at mine the kids always stand around in the yard reading in pairs).
The only textbook on hand was a World History book in Georgian. I flipped through it and found a page on WWI to read with my students. It had a nice map and some photos that I could point to as I talked to their bobbing heads. They couldn’t really understand what I was talking about as I spoke at a pretty fast clip and used some very specific vocabulary (How many of you people who are “fluent” in foreign languages can talk about barbed wire and poison gas? More power to you!), so I decided to dumb it down a little. I pointed at a map with the Central Powers and the Entente colored Green and Purple. I said, “It’s green versus purple. Do you know green and purple?” I asked, searching to engage the students, “My shirt is green.”
An eighth grade girl looked up at me, dreamily and said, “And so are your eyes….” Yes, yes they are. Ahem, let’s film another segment please!
This final segment had me teaching from the history book as we all walked down the steps in unison, again, a perfectly natural occurrence in educational setting. It wrapped up the day nicely and I said farewell to Nino and her students. I tried to give my contact information to the director so she could send me a copy of the commercial, but to no avail.
I have since seen my commercial on TV twice. Once, I was a little, shall we say, out of sorts in Svaneti and just remember seeing my bright green shirt (and eyes) jumping out at me from the TV. A few days ago Luka burst into my room saying, “Raughley, Raughley! TV, you, now!” so I skidded into the tv-area to catch the commercial. It’s quite nice, I must say, and I think I did a good job! I’m the only one of the four or five volunteers in the ad who got a Georgian flag fluttering over my shoulder as I spoke, that’s gotta count for something, right!
My students, friends, and colleagues see the commercial much more frequently than I do. I get messages on facebook that tell me,
Lukas Cowey: The more I see your commercialon TV, the more I feel bad and insecure about myself
David Baker: I saw you on TV!
and attention from my teachers and students for both the commercial and the billboards. All in all, I kind of like being a minor, minor celebrity. It’s really quite fun! As I told Ilya, “Gushin, billboardze. Dghes, televisorshi. Khval, Hollywoodshi.” (Yesterday, billboards. Today, TV. Tomorrow, Hollywood.)