Sympathies and symphonies

One of the courses I have been teaching for the last couple of years at KUIS is a Creative Writing class – to be more specific, “Creative Thinking, Living and Writing”. I was in class the other day, with my students – they were working in groups on creating the plot for a fairy tale. (One of the things we do is to tell different stories in different formats, from fairy tales to manga.)

I was walking around the room, observing the interactions within the groups, giving a piece of advice here and there and trying not to interfere too much with the whole process. The task was to take the characters they had created during the previous class, integrate them within the story while at the same time thinking about the reasons why they performed certain actions.

It was then that it happened. In one of the groups, one of the students – who was writing down a paragraph of the story – suddenly stopped and started to talk:

How do you spell sympathy?

She pronounced it shimpashee, à la japonaise.

How do you spell sympathy? Oh, wait, I think I have it in my phone.

She took her smartphone in her hand, opened the music player and started scrolling down looking for something.

Oh no, I only have symphony. No sympathy.

And the screen was indeed full to the brim with songs called Symphony in… And just then, another group member interjected:

But they’re the same! The first part is the same! S-y-m-p…

Yes, you’re right! S-y-m-p-a-t-h-y. Sympathy!

This time, she pronounced it in English.

The whole exchange didn’t last more than 30 seconds. I didn’t say anything, I just stood there quietly observing the whole situation, thinking all the time that this is the reason why I choose to let my students use their smartphones in class. I truly believe that, if used wisely, they are an extremely valuable resource. After all, you find both symphonies and sympathies in them.

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