Skyping with Ryan

April 5, 2012
Last week I was in charge of leading morning assembly. That meant that I was also in charge of “dealing” with the late comers. I chose to hold detention during break time but I also wanted to do something to reward the students who came to school on time regularly. The grade 7 class had the lowest number of tarty students so Oliver and I told them we would do a special activity.
We announced that they were going to Skype with someone from America-my brother. After trying to explain Skype, they understood that they would be able to meet a person in America, the details were just a bit fuzzy to them. Then I told the 7th graders that they had to give us a list of questions by the end of the day (this was Monday) so that I could send them to my brother, Ryan, and he could be ready to answer them on Wednesday. I worried all day Monday that no one would submit questions, and that the activity would flop.
At the end of the day I went up to meet Oliver at the computer lab and asked if anyone, maybe even just 2 or 3 students, were able to turn in a question. Oliver laughed at me as he carried over a stack of paper. Each 7th grader turned in a full sheet of questions. One girl wrote 22 thoughtful questions about American culture! I went to see their class just before they left school and told them how well they did with their questions.
Oliver and I decided to pick one question from each student. It was difficult to narrow it down. We ended up cutting questions like “Who is your best artist in America?” and “What kind of trees are in America” because they were too specific and questions like “Why [did] the European countries colonized Africa?” and “What is the human being activities [in America]” because they were much too broad. It was interesting to see the questions they came up with.
We finally narrowed it down to this:
What is your name and surname?
How old are you my friend?
What type of family [do you] have?
Which music do you like?
What can you eat in America?
Do you keep cow and goat?
What subject did you like in your school?
Which job you like to do in your country?
What do you like about your culture in your country?
In America [do] they have black people or not?
Who is your leader of your country?
[Do] you have dam in America like Maguga Dam?
On Wednesday morning, Oliver set up in the computer lab, making sure the internet connection was ok and aiming the school projector at the wall so everyone could see the video. The students came in and we called Ryan.
It was really great to have the conversation about American culture. Everyone knows Oliver and I are from America but people don’t necessarily feel free to just walk up and start asking questions so it was great to have a set discussion about it. Ryan was able to reinforce the idea that America is a nation of immigrants- that there are all kinds of food, people from all over the world. This is a really difficult concept for the students as their country is mostly made up of one tribe of people. Ryan talked about the Hoover Dam, that our president is Obama and we have another round of elections coming up, what a hamburger is, why he likes rock music. Wow, that sentence right there is just chalk full of Americana.
Right after Ryan said goodbye and signed off I asked the students what they thought of it. They didn’t say much so I launched into a long winded explanation how cultural exchanges like this really open your mind up to how big and diverse the world is. The students responded simply that yes, they enjoyed it, and asked if they could do it again.
As they were all walking out, there was a brief discussion in Siswati among two of the boys. Once everyone else left, they came back and said they had a question. They walked over and put their hand on the wall and looked very curious as they asked how we were able to put Ryan on the wall.
Rebecca is Currently Reading: Believe it or not, nothing. Haha and I just posted that huge reading list last week.
Oliver is Currently Reading: Nothing. Yes, that is believable.
We are Currently Watching: Gilmore Girls, Season 6

P.S. We have just found out about a couple of letters getting lost in the mail.  If you sent us something and we have not replied that is likely the reason.  Oliver sometimes loses the keys when walking around the house–so I guess the occasional letter is bound to disappear when traveling almost 10,000 miles.


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