Finding Your Voice

Hi Everyone,

Today is the last day of February and also Mardi Gras, the annual parade and celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana. Related imageMardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday”, which is the day before the celebration of Lent. There are special foods, like the king cake, and special costumes are worn in the parade and balls at many krewes (or clubs) around New Orleans. There is also lots of music and walking bands all around New Orleans today. Take a look at this video which shows some of the history and traditions about Mardi Gras.

Today’s conversation was about “Your Voice”. We use our voices to communicate and make lots of different sounds. Something we communicate are stories, so we use the narrative verb tenses, past simple and past continuous.Here is the quick practice we did of these two verb tenses.

Ok, now let’s get to our topic – Your Voice.  The human voice is various sounds made with our vocal cords and lungs. We all have various “tones” of our voices from low to high and everything in between. These “tones” can elicit  emotions and feelings. But, most importantly, your voice is your identity. (anytime you call a friend or family, you just say “Hi. It’s me” and everyone recognizes your voice).

We then discussed the expression “find your own voice” – which basically means to have your own opinion and be willing to express it : to have the courage to speak up. Here are 9 quotes about finding your voice that we discussed together. One particular quote was from the movie Dead Poets Society, where the teacher, played by the late Robin Williams, encourages his students to find their own voice , and find it sooner rather than later – watch it here:

We discussed how to find your voice, and how sometimes it can be difficult. We watched this video  by Allsion Shapira, who describes how she found her voice with her guitar.

At the end Allison says that finding your voice is not the ending, it is the beginning.

Lastly, we talked about voices and what we think of different types of voices. Do women have to try harder in the professional world to make their voices different to appear confident and in charge? Is their a difference between male and female voices? Why? Take a look at this video that discusses the issues that women from NPR face:

After watching we talked about the issues raised here by these women, and certain cultural issues that women in other countries face with “finding their voice” and being heard.

Thanks everyone for contributing to today’s conversation! See you next week!




Hi Everybody,

Before we started our conversation on success, we did a review and practice of “small talk” which is basically casual conversation, something that “breaks the ice” or fills in awkward silence between people. The number 1 topic of small talk is the weather , it’s “safe” and we are all aware of weather.Related image

Small talk is usually used when we are waiting for something, like a bus, train or subway. Or while we are waiting on line in the grocery store, or waiting in line at the movies or a concert or at a restaurant. We use small talk at parties, weddings, and other social gatherings. We use it when we are in an elevator or in our apartment buildings with our neighbors. We also small talk with our mailman, when we see him.

Some topics we try to avoid are politics, religion, and other personal, sensitive topics. Here’a a exercise we did about small talk, take another look to review some topics.

Today’s topic of conversation was success. Image result for success video by lara leeWe often think about success as power, status, prestige, wealth, confidence, achievement, accomplishment, happiness, and fame.

But, we added the intangible elements to success like having a dream, sharing with others, and love. Take a look at this short video from the film, Fame, in which a student describes what success means to her.

After watching we discussed this idea of the emotion or feeling aspect of success and that maybe this student was just naive in her view of success.  After some more discussion on the societal views of success and our own personal views and experiences we watched this short video on success. Take another look here :

After watching we discussed the ideas that the narrator discusses and how we felt about them. Here is the transcript of the video , so you can read along as you watch it. We talked about how traditional male and female roles are changing, and that certain countries and certain environments view success differently. We agreed that success is personal and unique to each of us.

Thanks for your thoughts, ideas, and participation today! See you next week!

Special Event –  see our classmate, Graziela Medori, sing in concert this Thursday , February 23rd at 4:00 p.m. at the Berk Recital Hall at Berklee School of Music, 1140 Boylston Street, here are the details.

Amor Vincit Omnia

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

Die gantz Welt in ein Klebenblat by Heinrich Bunting (on display at the Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library)

Yesterday we had a tour of the map library with librarian, Michelle LeBlanc. Michelle showed us the current exhibit of maps depicting Shakespeare’s plays. One of the maps, which was on the floor in the entryway, showed Romeo and Juliet in Verona! (how perfect on Valentine’s Day!!) Michelle also explained some very old historic maps of Boston, before there was an airport or Back Bay. Please check out the map library’s website here and you can explore all the great treasures of the map worldRelated image

After our map library tour we got down to the business of Valentine’s Day.  Statistics indicate that the most common place to meet a long term partner is at work. Image result for happy valentine's day

So, we looked at two romantic stories that involved people falling in love at work. These two stories are very different with the first one, Post-It Love, which is about two very shy co-workers who communicate with one another in a very unusual, but, effective way!

Take a look at the video here:

After watching we talked about this “office romance” and our own personal experiences. Next we listened to the romantic story of Ruben and Rachel Salazar, who met each other because of a typo in an email, even though they lived 8,000 miles apart. Here’s the link to their true story A Typo Spells Romance for RP Salazars , so you can listen again.

Rachel and Ruben were married after they spent a little over a week together, but, we agreed that this was a very sweet and romantic story. To wrap everything up, we discussed the phrase  love conquers all (or in Latin, amor vincit omnia). Certainly love conquered shyness in Post-It Love and conquered distance, different cultures, and an on-line romance in Ruben and Rachel’s story.

Thanks for all your thoughts, ideas, and contributions to yesterday’s conversation!

Image result for love conquers all and amor vincit omnia


Hi Everyone,

Today was the exciting rolling rally for the Patriots 5th Super Bowl win!!!

We started off today with a discussion of qualities we would like a romantic partner to have using abstract nouns –  bravery, compassion, confidence, enthusiasm, generosity, honesty, hope, humor, independence, intelligence, kindness, loyalty, optimism, patience, strength, sympathy, tolerance, trustworthiness, and more.  This led us to the abstract noun, beauty, which was today’s topic of conversation.

How do we define beauty? What makes a person beautiful? Is beauty an idea? Does money influence our idea of beauty?  We agreed that beauty is personal and subjective and can be found everywhere. We are bombarded with beauty ideals in fashion magazines, in the media, on the internet, all over our social, psychological, physical and cultural lives. Image result for beauty in print media

We talked about our obsession with appearance and how it affects us and our society. We seem to care less about what’s inside a person, and focus on the outside.


We watched this video of “Try” by singer Colbie Caillat , which basically encourages women to not try so hard and just be yourself .

Next we talked about self image and how it relates to our lives. “Image is powerful, but, image is superficial” says fashion model, Cameron Russell. We watched this TED talk by Cameron and she describes her experience as a fashion model and reveals some personal insights into her world.

After watching we discussed Cameron’s thoughts on image as perceived through her beauty and some injustices and concerns she has experienced. She encourages  people to live “real” lives, as she changes her outfit in the first 10 seconds of her talk.

Lastly, we talked about beauty around the world. It seems like their are a lot of similarities and social pressures to look beautiful, but, at what cost? We prejudge each other based on the false impressions  of beauty. We watched this final video about The Atlas of Beauty which is a collection of pictures of women around the world and hopeful shows our individuality and diversity is celebrated.

You can see more photographs on the website here.

Thanks for all you ideas and thoughts on today’s topic!

Image result for beauty quote