> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: November 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is Thanksgiving?

I’ve been looking forward to my first US Thanksgiving for quite some time - admittedly because I get two-and-a-half days off school… However this week my speech class have been regaling me with their definitions of this truly American holiday. In amongst the clich├ęs you can discern a genuine fondness for the rituals and routines…and a touchingly gruff and bashful belief that it is a time to ‘be grateful for what you’ve got’. How does it compare with Christmas? ‘Much better’ was the general consensus.

Inspired by my foreigner-type enquiries, another non American student asked permission to put some questions which had obviously been bothering him. What were cranberries? Were sweet potatoes regular potatoes with sugar? Did everyone sit at the same table? Could you eat anything other than turkey? The rush to educate him was very gratifying.

The mood turned a little sour when he asked, ‘What is stuffing?’ because it became very clear that the Americans have exceptionally strong views on the actual sourcing, ingredients, weight and cooking methods of the aforementioned substance. I had to physically separate two normally somnabulent football players who were personally aggrieved at the disparate approaches favoured by their families.

In an attempt to change the subject I asked about the vegetarian experience of Thanksgiving. Big mistake. I had to reassure them that I was simply asking, and not actually a vegetarian myself, just a foreigner.

We pondered the issue in silence for a moment. A vegetarian Thanksgiving hadn’t been considered. A few timid girls admitted knowing some vegetarians but they weren’t sure what they did at Thanksgiving. ‘What did they get for dessert?’ asked my fellow foreigner. Then it was ‘pumpkin pie’ versus ‘pecan pie’ until the welcome relief of the bell.
‘We will continue this tomorrow,’ I said to disperse the rabid pumpkinites, privately planning to have tomorrow sewn up in a very different direction.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Really High School

This morning’s speech class was supposed to focus on the speeches of Franklin D Roosevelt. We did manage to cover one of the speeches. Personally I found it really interesting to see the longevity of political rhetoric. I’m pretty sure my enthusiasm for the subject was a mystery to my class. Possibly this was because they were the most excited and distracted they have ever been. Rather strange at eight o’clock in the morning. Six of the class (just over 25 percent) were sitting in their American football gear –as is normal here, on a game day. The rest of the class (including me on school directive!) were dressed in the school colours of red and white… Husband kept calling me ‘Sweeney Todd’.

Tonight’s game is a bit of a milestone – if we win it, the school moves forward to the state championships. This will be the first time we have progressed this far in ten years –a long time in the life of a school.

What with Halloween just over, and the school still swilling in candy and pumpkins, today’s pre-game excitement seethed and boiled like a saucepan of raspberry jam…

I lurched through my classes (‘How Homer creates tension in the Odyssey’, ‘Understanding the characterization of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman’ and ‘Appreciating the language techniques in The Great Gatsby’) to a good-natured but frankly uninterested student body. During final hour - the school day finished with another assembly or ‘pep rally’ to give the football team a big send off.

Emotionally exhausted I returned to the blessed silence of my classroom to finish ‘doing my grades’ for the quarter. Next week we have parents’ conferences. Why does that sound more ominous than parents’ night? Never mind –we have a full day off, following the conferences. Before you start getting jealous –this will be my second day off school since it started back in August.

The late news –just posted on a local tv station website is that our football team have been well and truly trounced. Oh well, the dream is over (until next year).