Miscellany and Trivia

Anecdotes about teaching English – Four

MTr 5 Teaching English


I have been teaching English for many years in Los Angeles, a small city in the south of Chile. I have taught adults, teenagers and young children. The story I am recalling now took place in a small basic school of very deprived children where I worked in my first year as a teacher. This class was formed by children of eight or nine years old and they had one head teacher who taught them most of the subjects, except English – I was their English teacher – and Catholic Religion, which was the job of another colleague. During one of the first lessons I was teaching to them the names of some school things such as pencil, book, crayon, etc. They had to look, listen and repeat and they were all very enthusiastic about the activity.

Then one little boy raised his hand and asked me in Spanish, of course: So 'lápiz' in English is “pencil”, but then, how do you say “lápiz” in Religion? I was very surprised with this question but it made me realize I could not take for granted that students know what we think they should. In this particular case I had to prepare a lesson to explain what languages are and that people from other countries speak in a different way. It is an anecdote that makes me smile now when I remember it but that helped me understand that a teacher has to check his/her students’ previous knowledge and experiences before starting a new lesson. 

Anecdotes about teaching English – Five

MTr 6 Teaching English

Big people words

A group of kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed to the first grade. The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk!

You need to use ‘Big People’ words”, she was always reminding them.

She asked John what he had done over the weekend.

I went to visit my Nana.”

No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use ‘Big People’ words!”

She then asked Mitchell what he had done.

I took a ride on a choo-choo.”

She said “No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use ‘Big People’ words.”

She then asked little Alex what he had done.

I read a book,” he replied.

That's WONDERFUL!” the teacher said. “What book did you read?”

Alex thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride, and said, “Winnie the SHIT.”

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – One

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Leonardo was “illegitimate.”

Da Vinci was born in 1452 near Vinci, in what is now the Italian region of Tuscany. By most accounts, his father was a notary and landlord named Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci. His mother, Caterina, is commonly believed to have been a local peasant. However, some experts believe that Caterina was actually a slave owned by Messer Piero.

Da Vinci's parents never married each other. The young da Vinci lived with his mother until he was 5 years old and later moved into the home of his father, who had married another woman.
The artist's journals show that he maintained a somewhat distant relationship with his mother throughout his adult life, exchanging letters with her only from time to time. His writings suggest a closer connection with his father, whose death da Vinci mourned deeply.

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – Two

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Leonardo was “unschooled.”

Unlike other well-known Renaissance artists, da Vinci never received any kind of formal education. He did, however, receive instruction at home in subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics.
Growing up in rural Tuscany, da Vinci spent much of his time outdoors, where he marveled at the natural world. His journals indicate that he had an especially ardent interest in the properties of water, as well as the movements of birds of prey. In fact, the artist recorded that his earliest memory was of a dream in which a bird of prey landed on his face and pushed its tail feathers between his lips.

It wasn't until his teenage years that the budding artist was sent to Florence to serve as an apprentice for Andrea del Verrocchio, a prominent Florentine painter. And it didn't take long for the student to become the master. Rumor has it that after da Vinci painted one of the angels in Verrocchio's work “The Baptism of Christ,” the much more experienced artist was so humbled by the young man's talent that he vowed never to paint again.

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – Three

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Leonardo was “very … slow.”

Da Vinci was a notoriously slow painter, and many of his works were never finished. In addition to housing the famed (and finished) “Mona Lisa,” the Louvre in Paris is home to “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne,” an unfinished painting depicting the Virgin Mary, an infant Jesus and Mary's mother, St. Anne.
Hanging in one of the Vatican Museums is “St. Jerome in the Wilderness,” another unfinished da Vinci painting — this one portraying the hermitic St. Jerome and his companion, a tamed lion.

Perhaps the most intriguing of da Vinci's unfinished works is his painting "The Adoration of the Magi," which allegedly features a depiction of the young artist himself. The painting, left incomplete in 1481, has been held at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, since 1670.
In addition to these unfinished paintings, da Vinci left behind many unfinished inventions. In fact, there's no evidence that any of the artist's inventions were ever built. Similarly, none of his writings were ever published during his lifetime.

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – Four

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Leonardo was “persecuted.”

When da Vinci was 24 years old, he was arrested along with several male companions on charges of sodomy. When no witnesses came forward to testify against the artist and his friends, the charges were dropped. But da Vinci's journals suggest that the allegations were somewhat devastating to a man who liked to keep his private life private.

Da Vinci may also have been scared for his life. In 15th century Florence, sodomy was a crime punishable by death. Not long after his case was dismissed, the artist left Florence for Milan.

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – Five

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Leonardo was “combative.”

After abandoning his patrons in Florence to start afresh in Milan, da Vinci needed to drum up new business. His strategy was to ingratiate himself to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Under Sforza, da Vinci was commissioned to create what would have been the crowning achievement of his artistic career: a giant bronze statue of a horse. The project was abandoned when France invaded Italy at the turn of the 15th century.

But a giant warhorse wasn't all that da Vinci had planned for the Duke of Milan. Upon offering himself to the House of Sforza, he set forth his plans to build numerous “war devices.” Included in da Vinci's sketchbooks are plans for cannons, smoke machines, portable bridges and even armored vehicles.

Like his flying machine, however, there is no evidence that any of these war machines were ever constructed.

Anecdotes about Stephen Hawking – One

MTr S Hawking 2 anecdotes
Stephen as a boy

Born in Oxford on January 8 1942 - 300 years after the death of astronomer Galileo Galilei -Professor Hawking grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire. After being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - at the age of 22, Hawking was given just a few years to live.

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