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Posts Tagged ‘war of the worlds’

032717-ESL-class-Providence

I volunteer with English Language Learners at two agencies in Providence and one in Boston. The classroom teachers are all quite different in their approach, and I learn from them all. JVS in Boston has a rapid-employment model, so all the English learning is geared toward what you need for a job.

At one Providence agency, I work with a teacher who has brand-new refugees, some of whom, because of war or poverty, have never been to school in their native countries. She keeps the atmosphere friendly and light, but there is an understandable level of seriousness, given how new everything is to the participants.

The teacher I assist at the Genesis Center has a class of immigrants whose language skills are a bit further along and who mostly come from Spanish-speaking countries and are not refugees. I believe the woman in the hat, above, is from Puerto Rico — so, born a US citizen. She wants to improve her English and loves to write.

On Monday, the teacher was following up on the previous week’s discussion of periodic tables, the instability of hydrogen, and the 1937 crash of the German pleasure blimp the Hindenburg in New Jersey. He showed the crash film to the class, one that I’ve seen often enough to know I really can’t take it. I look away.

I said, “What’s interesting is that when Orson Welles did his radio play at Halloween the following year about Martians landing in New Jersey, many listeners were so sensitized to disaster they thought the radio play, presented as real news, was true.

I said, “It might be fun sometime for the class to practice their English by reading the script.”

The next thing I knew the teacher had found the radio play on the web and was passing around copies.

When we were halfway through it, we discussed the ways Orson Welles had adapted the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic to New Jersey, with an authentic-sounding ballroom broadcast that was frequently interrupted by a studio announcer switching to reports of an unusual light burst on Mars and (after some more of the big band concert) a shiny cylinder falling on a farm in Grovers Mills. Details like the boom heard as far as 100 miles away in Elizabeth, New Jersey, added to the verisimilitude. So did the on-the-ground reporter conducting interviews with the farmer and a scientist who didn’t believe in life on Mars, as police sirens wailed in the background. We talked about how panicked some listeners were and how they jammed the lines at the radio station.

The teacher next had people write their own endings to the story. It was a lot of fun. The students don’t speak much English, but they certainly got the point about the panic. One woman, remembering how in her hometown some individuals thought the turn of the millennium was the end of the world and did away with themselves, put that into her story. Others envisioned panicked parents rushing to schools to pick up their children.

It was serious in a way, but we laughed a lot. I felt grateful to work with a teacher who is able to make up a good lesson on the spur of the moment like that.

Photos: David Buchalter

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In order to get down to the beach for a good shot of the structures I’ll call “War of the Worlds,” I had to negotiate a very steep, very slippery path that reminded me of my age at every step.

 

You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.” …

I thought of The War of the Worlds when I took the photo of this, the first, deep-water windmill in America and its giant parent, which is assembling the next four windmills.

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The beach on the south side of the island is beautiful, and since I don’t often scramble down there, I took photos of the tide pools and one of the many towers people build with smooth beach stones.

Moving right along, there’s a mobile of sea creatures that I made in an art class with my oldest grandchild. He made one, too: a jellyfish, a shark, a whale (he chose to make an orca) and a sea turtle.

I also have shots of a quiet “tug hole” (a peat bog), reflections of houses on the far side of Fresh Pond, a lotus, flowers against a stone wall, a box of pink impatiens by the outdoor shower, a monster crane getting delivered to Paradise, and magnificent city shadows.

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080316-building-shadows-Providence

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