Thursday, 3 May 2012

End of an era

The Old Library Centre, Lerwick
Tonight I taught my last ever lesson in the building where I have worked for the past three years.  Since 2009 I‘ve been based at what is locally referred to as “The Old Library” a slightly dilapidated nineteen sixties style building on the windiest street in Lerwick. The whole building has a welcoming, informal ambience, from the kettles and mugs in the vestibule to the cosy classrooms.  I have felt at home here since day one, and my learners have often expressed similar feelings.

Next week we’re moving to a brand new, custom built building down at the docks, which is beside our almost completed arts centre, and along from our award winning museum. There is a lot of light reflecting glass, and everything is shiny and freshly painted. Yet it all seems a bit impersonal, more imposing and less relaxed than the classrooms where we have been so happy.

Before leaving my house, I packed a garden trowel and a steel tin in my briefcase.  I felt that this valedictory lesson could provide a way of reflecting on what the class had learned since arriving in Shetland and enrolling on this English course.  I am also aware that we may well be approaching the end of an era: this is a class who have, in three years, made outstanding progress. Who knows if they will choose to brave the longer walk to class in the driving wind and rain of a Shetland winter night to an English class on which they are no longer utterly dependent?  I guess time will tell…

I unpacked the earth begrimed trowel and tin from my brief case and asked the class what we might use them for. Someone suggested that we might plant a flower, while others looked pretty blank.  I wrote time capsule on the board: and everyone started nodding in recognition.
We began by reflecting on our experiences in the building, and discussing what people digging up our capsule in fifty years time might find interesting. The class came up with the following questions:
      When did you first come here?
·         What were your first impressions of this place?
·         How has your life changed since coming here?
·         What do you think life will be like in 2062?

The class then split into groups and discussed these questions for eight minutes, while I circulated, offering language input and facilitating the discussion. Learners then took it in turns to report back on one other learner’s answers, while someone else wrote down one of the sentences, using a reporting verb. Before long, we had a sentence for everyone:  Karmen said coming here was nerve wracking at first, while Rita thought that people would no longer read paper books in 2062. These sentences were placed in the capsule.
We emptied our pockets and filled our time capsule with coins, tickets, lists and a diary page. (It became clear that a latecomer to the class had not quite understood the time capsule concept when he placed his house keys in the tin!)

Finally we ventured out into the evening chill and buried our time capsule. The exact location of the time capsule, and its dig-up date, will be framed along with a photo of the class, and displayed in the new building: a reminder of a box of very happy memories. 

After the burial...
X marks the spot...

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