Day 8: How to make a teacher smile in any language

First stop on the Dissident Tour finds leader Anna Hoffman finding all the good angles to tell about the Memorial to the Victims of Communism.

First stop on the Dissident Tour finds leader Anna Hoffman finding all the good angles to tell about the Memorial to the Victims of Communism.

If a student were to ask how to make me happy, I’d say solve a problem on your own, use your creativity to go beyond what you have to do and show me you enjoyed what you learned.

Our 10 Kent State students in Prague for “Modern Media and Democracy” are doing just that:

  • Several with no techie background caught on to setting up WordPress galleries and learning not only HOW to add links to give their posts depth, but also WHY they should want to. After only a week, there’s no need for hand-holding as they have taken excellent photos for this very visual theme site and done all the work themselves.
  • The Communication Studies students, bless their hearts, have gone from humoring me when I suggested they tighten their blog writing until now they actually see how this new purpose and new audience means that my unfamiliar style really DOES work– and they can do it.
  • Those who are having a tough time getting sources are tirelessly following suggestions, networking and actually beginning to find people who will be able to answer their questions, allowing them to finish their final projects. (Try having media coverage of Romanies as your focus when this controversial minority generally speaks NEITHER English nor Czech!)
Hoffman takes more photos on the site where student Jan Palach lit himself on fire to draw attention to the plight of the Czechoslovak people

Hoffman takes more photos on the site where student Jan Palach lit himself on fire to draw attention to the plight of the Czechoslovak people

Today’s example of above and beyond is noteworthy, though. Anna Hoffman’s topic is the dissidents, the group that included Václav Havel, last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic. To learn more and to be able to photograph the sites important to this group that prepared the text of Charter 77 and worked for the fall of Communism in 1989, Anna set up what we called “The Dissidents’ Tour.”

With her in the lead, armed with a Google Map she created, seven of us spent much of Sunday touring important sites like the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, the cafe where the dissidents met, even though their lives were at risk, the spot in Wenceslas Square where student Jan Palach set himself on fire and died for his cause in 1969. At each stop on her planned route, Anna told us all the background and why this was important.

I won’t explain or share my photos of all the sites — I wouldn’t want to potentially take away from her actual project. Clearly, I don’t have the knowledge she does about it. But, thanks to her, I know much more than I did when we left the hotel this morning, and I definitely smile each time I think of all she has gained and given to others with her assignment.

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