Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Epistemology, Subjunctive Mood, and Pizza

I love teaching Italian. Love it absolutely unabashedly smashingly 100%. Especially during the summer at the university. When the students have to look at it every day, it is an avalanche of information, but we're so absorbed in it that it gets in our bones.

I also love it because it's Italian. Have you ever heard a more beautiful, expressive language? Really? Right. I thought not. Sometimes just the sounds of Italian can be enough to choke me up and put tears smarting in my eyes. Some poetry is so mellifluous it could bring the world to its end. I was talking with an Italian friend once and I asked her if Italians realize just how beautiful their language is. "Ma certo," - of course - she said, out of hand.

And today was extraordinary. First off, you have to know that I have just the best little class right now. They are all working very hard and have their footing better than I did when I took Italian 102. Italian 102 made me cry. I have never felt more stupid than I did taking Italian 102, which is saying a lot. Let's just say that I am not the person from my Italian 102 class who was voted Most Likely to Be an Italian Teacher. I probably came in last for that, and my professor would probably die of shock if she found out. Anyway. I have a great class of students who are working hard.

So today started normally for a quiz day: vocabulary review, grammatical review, quiz. And a five minute break after the last person finishes their quiz. Well, the five minute break ended and two of the students were still gone, so I waited an extra minute but then we just went ahead and got started going over last night's homework. We hadn't gotten too far when one of the missing students poked her head in. She made a funny wincey face and then asked (in Italian), "Can we eat in here?" I consented. Both girls came in with slices of pepperoni pizza. And they're like, "Do you want some pizza? There's free pizza down in the quad." So the students in the class were all "Let us go get pizza!" I looked at the clock, and they were like "We'll stay late! Let us go get pizza! Come on! You want some too!"

And they were right. I love pizza. It may be the perfect food, along with gelato, pork chops, and chocolate. But I don't do pizza often because, let's face it, I don't need to be eating a whole pizza myself. Well, it has been such a good class. So I gave in. The two with the pizza stayed in the classroom, and the rest of us went down. It took about 7 minutes, and we talked Italian while we were in line. I did start to second guess myself that we should have done it after class, but when our last class member got the next-to-last slice, my misgivings went away. We went back up to the classroom. (The teacher for the next class was outside the classroom. She gave me a funny look as we walked past her, into the room, with pizza. Oh well.)

And this is where the class became brilliant. Because you see, language is always better if you are talking about real things, and there we were, biting into hot yummy slices of pizza, a perfect circumstance of real life having brought us to that point: some friends told some other friends about something that they had experienced.

And today's topic was the subjunctive. And here is how the lesson went.

Two students came in and said "There's free pizza in the quad." To them, the statement was absolute true fact. They had been there. They had stood in line and listened to the band performing there. They had received the pizza, and nibbled on it already. Everything about what they said was real.

For the rest of us, though, it wasn't real yet. The situation for us was different. We had to believe or not believe about the pizza. Our situation was this: "We think that there's free pizza in the quad." For all we knew, they were playing a joke on us, or the pizza would be gone before we got there, so in our case, "there's free pizza" was something that lacked complete certainty. And that would be expressed in the subjunctive.

Hooray! and perfect.

1 comment:

audrey said...
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