Maura Mulligan, center, and her class at the end of the first six-week session earlier this year.
By Maura Mulligan
In this strange new world, I’ve invited my Irish language students to resume class in a Zoom room. Instead of taking the bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, followed by the No. 7 Train to Jackson Ave in Long Island City, I take a seat at the kitchen table, and open my laptop.
The class I teach at the New York Irish Center will arrive on screen, so I need to get my props ready. Planning to review a lesson on setting the table, I make sure I have a plate, cup, saucer and eating utensils nearby. As an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) in the New York /City schools, I’ve always felt successful using Asher’s stress-free Total Physical Response approach to second-language acquisition. It’s known internationally as TPR. I use the method with Irish language learners as well and they enjoy the fun of following a command to perform an action while internalizing the language.
But with my limited knowledge of online teaching, will my lesson work? Will I be able to make sure that everyone is placing the scian ar thaobh dheis an phláta? Will they even see my demonstration of placing the knife on the right of the plate? The camera on my laptop is broken or missing. That problem necessitates also using my phone, so we are all visible to each other. I prop up the phone behind the laptop and practice the lesson making sure I can see the props on the phone.
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I’m ready. Next I open the freezer for no reason at all and go weak in the knees when two lads, Ben and Jerry wink at me. They’re saying that Cherry Garcia will sooth my throat that’s feeling dry from lack of use. If I don’t make it a point to call someone every day, my voice doesn’t know it’s there. I tell Ben & Jerry that I’ll see them later, and then I shut the door on Cherry Garcia’s face.
It’s 7 p.m. – show time. I click on the link sent by Ryan who works at the center. I wait a few moments and there’s Ryan’s smiling face with his isolation baseball cap on backwards. I remember that Ryan is from Tyrone so instead of my usual cén chaoí a bhfuil tú, I ask the Northern way go dté mar atá tú? He tells me that he is iontach maith and asks if I’m well too. I’m glad he wants to be in this class because without him, I wouldn’t have a clue how to engineer getting the others in the Zoom room.
As the students enter my heart feels lighter. It’s wonderful to see their smiling faces again. I’ve missed them, missed hearing them sing. Cathal comes on screen showing a library background. He’s in his leabharlann I remark. Emily in her living room looks wonderfully techie in black headphones. She says she’s “go maith” and so is her twin sister Gillian. Marcia glides on screen from Boston where she is sheltering in place with relatives. I say fáilte ar ais and admire her lovely yellow curtains (curtiní álainn). Cáit is new to Zoom so she takes a while to adjust her seating so that we can see her face and not just one eyebrow. Cáit’s situation makes me laugh and I tell her ná bíodh imní ort /don’t worry because last week – my first time on Zoom was worse. I kept losing people as they moved around the screen like figures playing hide and seek in a game.
This week I’m improving because Corina, joined the class and advises me where to click in order to see everyone at once. A volunteer at the NYIC, Corina helps seniors improve their technology skills there on Saturday mornings. She remembers some Irish from schooldays, so I challenge her and Daithí who also went to school in Ireland to have a chat as Gaeilge about how they spend their days during this time of seclusion. I introduce new terms like masc cosanta/ protective mask and fan samháilte/stay safe.
Corina tells about grocery shopping for local seniors. A foodie, Daithí informs us he recently enjoyed a lasagna creation. Since that takes a bit of work, here instead is his Alasca Bácailte. He prepared it as a class project a few years ago in my class at the NYIC. It may sooth throats while waiting to be le chéile again to work on learning phrases that do not include terms like sé throigh óna chéile – six feet apart.
Alasca Bácailte /Baked Alaska
7 Gealacáin uibhe
(½ pt) Uachtar Reoite
Siúcra (7 unsa)
Ciste Na nAingeal no Ciste Spúinse
1. Bain an craiceann de na horáistí. Bris ina bpíosaí iad agus bain amach na síolta.
2. Buail gealacháin uibhe agus an siúcra go dtí go mbeidh píci ina seasamh ar an gcumasc.
3. Gearr an ciste ina slisní ¾ agus cuir dhá slisní ar gach trae.
4. Socraigh na píosaí oráiste ina seasamh ar na slisní go dtí go mbeidh cupán déanta agat.
5. Cuir an t-uachtar reoite sa chupán agus socraigh cuid de na sucraobhacha timpeall ar gach taobh.
6. Cuir na gealacáin uibhe ar bharr an t-uachtar reoite.
7. Cuir san oigheann thósta é ar feadh 5-10 noiméid.
8. Bain taithneamh as
7 egg whites
1pt of ice cream
Sugar (7 oz)
1 Angel Cake or Sponge Cake
1. Remove orange skins and seeds. Break into pieces.
2. Beat the seven egg whites with the 6oz of icing sugar until stiff peaks appear.
3. Slice the sponge cake in to 3/4 “slices and place two slices per tray.
4. Place the orange segments on top of the sponge slice to create a cup.
5. Scoop the ice cream and place it in the center of the sponge.
Place a few raspberries around to support the ice cream.
6. Spoon whipped egg whites over the ice cream sponge and fruit.
7. Bake in toaster over for 5 – 10mins.
8. Enjoy right away.
Maura Mulligan is author of the memoir “Call of the Lark.“