Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Confusion in vagueville

Classes with Elena at IES M have been a bit confusing and frustrating.  I still haven't met any of the classes on Wednesday, and here's how Tuesday went this week.  There are two classes on Tuesday: A class of secretaries (all girls except one, varying levels of English -- from fluent to barely any), and then a class of nine boys, maybe they study electronics.  The secretaries' class goes for an hour, then there's a half hour break, and then they come back for another hour of English.  I haven't yet met the group of boys.

Last week, Elena had said I could "prepare something" about Halloween for today.  I had already printed pictures and been working on a booklet about the holiday, so I finished and brought that along, as well as some questions for conversation practice/discussion.

I told them about Halloween in Wisconsin, from haunted corn mazes to Freakfest, while writing many words on the chalkboard and using the pictures from my booklet.  Then, we talked about Halloween in Spain, and how it's different from the holiday in the U.S., as well as many other topics (scary movies, costumes, etc.)  While I talk with them about Halloween, Elena sits in the back and watches.  I didn't know if she wanted this to last the whole two hours, the first hour, a half an hour -- no idea, because I was never told what else was planned for the day.

While the students were discussing some of the questions in small groups, I asked Elena how long she wanted this to go for.  So she asks me, "Well how long is it planned for?" I could have stopped the discussion at any minute, but I also had some back-up activities in case she had wanted it go longer.  The Halloween lesson/part ended up going another ten minutes until their break.  

During the break Elena told me it was good that I wrote some words on the board (she told me to do this last week after I met the class for the first time last Tuesday and talked without writing).  She said she had found lots of it interesting, but there were at least 8 girls with very low English levels who didn't know what I was saying.  Also, there are some girls in the class from other countries who speak English nearly fluently.  Many of them had spoken during our class discussion of Halloween.  Elena then tells me that some of the students in class said they could understand me better than those nearly-fluent classmates, since those girls talked faster -- as if this is my problem.  

After the break, we split into two groups (Elena took the lower-level English speakers, and I took the advanced students) to go over some photo copied pages from a textbook.

Oh, that's the other part -- no one has a textbook yet.  I'm not sure what the hold up is, if the school orders them and students can purchase them through the school, or what, but no one has them yet.  At least with this group they had some photocopies to use.  This is the first I've seen of any textbook materials, so I'm given a copy and work with the advanced group in the back.  That goes well.  

Then Kay joined us for the second class of nine boys.  There's a gap between the secretary class and the nine boys' class, so Elena went to eat something and said Kay and I could work up in the classroom.  What exactly were we supposed to work on?  Keep in mind, I have never met this class before. I don't know their level.  There's no textbook.  I don't know what Elena has planned for class, or what she expects Kay and I to have ready for class.  This information would be helpful but no matter what I ask, we never receive it!

Kay is at IES M Monday-Thursday, so she's spent more time in classes with Elena than I have.  She suggested we plan what we're going to talk about for the boys' class, as Elena will probably want us to present something to them.  Kay's from NY and had made a poster about it, and I had my poster about Wisconsin, so I thought we could each tell them about where we're from. 

We also decided to put a mini-comparison on the board between my university: public UW-Madison, and hers: a small private liberal arts college.

The class went alright.  It's shorter than the secretary class (only one hour), so Kay and I shared information about our states and colleges, and then the boys could ask us questions if they had any.  Very basic, beginner level of English in this class.

After class, Elena told Kay and I that the students would be on strike Wednesday, and that she would be striking on Thursday ("but I'm not going to tell the students because it's my strike, not theirs").  I asked her if we should still come to class on Wednesday, not wanting to make the trip in to school if we wouldn't be doing anything.  "Yes, of course -- the students are on strike, not the teachers."

Alright.  So I went to class today (which started at 11.40), and no one was upstairs outside the classroom. (Sidenote: The classrooms are always locked, so after the 30 minute break every day from 11:10-11:40, students wait around outside their classroom until the teacher opens the door).  Then Kay came upstairs, and we both waited outside of the English room until Elena got there a few minutes later.

As we could see, she told us no English students had come to class for that hour.  She showed Kay and I the library where we could potentially work downstairs, and then I asked if there were a place to print in the library.  If we need to be in the school when we're prepping, it would be pretty inconvenient if we had to go elsewhere (and pay) to print, too.  In my other school, IES P, we can print in the teacher's lounge, then take it to the consejería for them to make copies.  Elena said there wasn't a printer in the library, and she didn't know where we could print -- that she doesn't know where she should print. (what?) 

Kay asked her if we were all going to plan together now, since all three of us were there at the same time with no students to tend to, and Elena said she was going upstairs to the classroom. She didn't know what we should do -- we could stay and work down in the library or we could go, she didn't care.  And then she started walking up the stairs.


Kay wanted to plan what we'd be doing for next Tuesday with me, since I wouldn't see her again until then.  We quickly worked out a rough plan between the two of us, but I still couldn't get past the fact that we had no idea what the lesson plans would be for next week anyway.  What Elena wanted to get accomplished in each class and what she wants from us auxiliares is still a mystery.  How do you prepare a lesson or activity when you don't know the level/topic/purpose!?

Hopefully things will get clearer as time goes on, and if these students ever get textbooks.  

1 comment:

  1. Rimsakov,

    Could you have your students send me some spanish forenames that start with R ?