When people surprise you

Do you agree that it is one of the best feelings in the world when someone surpasses your expectations and does much more than expected?

Recently, I have been teaching my students the poetry unit. Usually, the students take my Junior English course because they are required to do so, not really because they are super eager to learn more about literary texts. It is a required course, not an elective one at the university. In our course, we talk about poetry, drama, novels, and short stories.

I do not expect all of my students to fall in love with poetry in my class. I simply want them to pay attention to it, to get familiar with it, and to appreciate the art of writing in such a concise form. So when I asked my students to write their own sonnets (after studying traditional English and Italian sonnets) last week, I expected resistance or complete lack of interest or motivation. I even prepared a grammar task in case they really did not want to be creative in class.

You could only imagine how surprised I was when I saw the genuine smiles on the faces of my students. They immediately got to the task. It was a warm atmosphere of fun, joy, and mutual effort. Each group was writing a sonnet on a different topic. I was cruising around the classroom and eavesdropping their heated discussions about the next rhyme in the sonnet. In my 5-year experience of teaching at the university, it is the first time the sonnet challenge has received such response and reaction.

They spent the whole class working on the sonnets, and none of the groups was able to finish. They worked with such enthusiasm that no one even noticed that the class was over. I let them go and congratulated myself with a good lesson.

So imagine my surprise when the next class they brought complete sonnets. All finished and ready. I did not ask them to do that. I did not expect them to work outside of the classroom or to spend their weekend, writing sonnets. I thought it was a one class thing. But it was not. They came to the next class and expressed the desire to read the sonnets out loud. To the whole class. And we listened to them. There were sonnets about the breakup. Sonnets about winter madness in Alberta. Sonnets about the futility of university degree. Sonnets about 8 am classes at the university. There were traditional sonnets. Sonnets with a twist. Contemporary sonnets with slang and pop culture references. It was like a poetry reading.

I could not stop smiling. It made my day. It made my week. It left such a warm feeling inside me that I decided to devote a blog post to that. To keep the memory of this class alive. To smile. To remember how people can surprise you when you least expect that.

First Encounter with Oilers

This post will be about my first encounter with Oilers, the most beloved and disappointing team for Edmonton hockey fans.

I had never watched hockey until 2017. Even though I am from Russia, the country of legendary hockey players, I was never interested in hockey alone. With my mom (not dad!), I used to watch soccer, Formula 1, and Olympic games. All kinds of sport, but not hockey. My excuse was ridiculous. I thought the puck was so tiny and fast that it was literally impossible to see where it goes or who hits it. Now I know it was just a silly reason.

In 2017, I met and started dating a guy who was a real hockey fan, an Oilers fan. He took me to a hockey game on our third date, and I did not mind as I had never been to any NHL game in my life. It was October 29, 2017. Edmonton Oilers were playing against Washington Capitals. My date picked me up an hour before the game, and as I sat down in the car, I noticed a weird oversized shirt on him. It was of a screaming orange colour. I remember, thinking in my head: “Why would he choose this shirt for our date? It is so big and bright!” As someone who had never explored the hockey culture of Edmonton during my first years in Canada, I did not know anything about the jerseys, the logos, and the hockey fashion. As soon as we entered the Rogers Place (hockey arena), I saw thousands of people wearing identical orange/blue jerseys. Everything blurred before my eyes. It was an orange mass of people, hardly distinct from each other. Suddenly, my date did not look weird to me anymore. It was me who stood out: dress, heels, evening hairstyle and makeup. Everyone looked casual, relaxed, excited for the game. There was some tangible atmosphere of unity and community. It was a new feeling for me. I felt like being a part of something bigger.

We found our seats, and the “show” began. It was a real show, a spectacle for me. I did not expect such a crazy, exhilarating atmosphere of the common spirit, cheer, and genuine happiness among people. I did not expect to be touched by listening to Canadian anthem. After 4 years of being in Canada, it was the first time I truly realised this was my home. My country. I was overwhelmed with all the sounds around me: people screaming and jumping from their seats if it was a goal; loud dance music during the intervals; interactive games for the audience; funny shots of hockey fans; and, of course, the sound of the puck gliding from one player to another. I could see the puck very clearly. I paid attention. The game suddenly made sense to me. At that time, I was torn between cheering for Edmonton Oilers and supporting Washington Capitals who had, I think, 3 Russian players (the famous Ovechkin, Orlov, and Kuznetsoff). Oilers lost that time. The game was over.

I know Oilers have been struggling a lot lately, and not everything goes the way we, Oilers fan, want it to go. We cannot help with the chemistry in the team or influence the decisions of the GM and coach. But we can preserve this sense of community, this feeling of family – and send this energy to help our team make it to the playoff!

Back to blogging

I am so happy to return to my blog. I haven’t written or posted anything for the last 2 weeks. It is so nice to be back to creative or personal writing, rather than an academic one.

My biggest goal for this month was to finish all the revisions for my thesis and submit the final copy to all the committee members. At times, I felt like revising was harder than the actual writing of the dissertation. The initial feedback of the professors made me question myself so many times. It made me question the validity of my arguments, the logic of the claims, and the relevance of the examples. It made me doubt everything. It was an emotional roller coaster. During the last 2 weeks, I often forgot about the basic needs like eating properly or sleeping more than 4 hours. My dreams became these nightmares when the lines from my thesis were floating in my mind and making zero sense. I had dreams of being rejected by the committee members. Dreams of failing the defence. All these subconscious fears, you know. It was a bit of a mind torture.

I submitted the final work yesterday and took a deep breath. In a week or two, I will know whether it is a pass or not. If it is a “yes,” the defence will be scheduled in 6 weeks. For a little while, I can forget about this madness. I can go back to reading novels, not academic articles. I can focus more on my teaching job. I can blog much more often! But for now, I am going to stop and go watch Superbowl, of which I know absolutely nothing.