Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Badger Blogging Blitz: Day 2

A few weeks ago I saw on a LinkedIn group that some UW-Madison alumni would be blogging every day for a week about their lives as English teachers in South Korea.  It was called "Badger Blogging Blitz."  This week I'm doing the same, but blogging about my days as an auxiliar de conversación in Madrid. 

6:31 - I wake up.  No, my alarm did not go off (it's set for 9:10).  I open the window and grab a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea and turn on the news.

7:10 - Try to fall back asleep.  At some point I do, but it took a long time.

9:10 - Alarm goes off. Super tired.  My head and throat feel like I'm getting a cold. Nooooo!  I reset the alarm for 9:20, then get up and get dressed.

10:00 - I arrive at the bus stop on my street; hope I haven't missed it.

10:03 - Bus arrives.

10:09 - I get off at my stop and walk a minute to my Tues/Weds school.

This is kind of hard to see because the trees are so dark, but see those dark red prison-esque bars surrounding the entire buildling?  Yup, that's my school.

10:15 - The bell rings, which means their French class (that they have in the same room with the same teacher before English) is done.  Nobody opens the door like they usually do to let me in, so after two minutes I unlock the door with my key and go in.  The students are all separated and quiet; looks like they had an exam in French class.  The teacher is at the computer and doesn't say anything to me, so I just sit down in front and wait.

10:20 - The bell to start English class rings.  A minute later, the English teacher says to the students (in Spanish), "If you're staying, you're here.  If you're not staying, disappear."  Then most of the class got up and left, but six students stayed.  I assume this is due to the huelga (strike) today.  She then had me take the six students into another classroom and talk with them about food for the hour.

11:10 - When I came back to the main classroom at the end of the hour, the English teacher told me she forgot about the strike when she scheduled the French exam for that morning, but she didn't understand why some students stayed after French for English.  She thought they should be striking because the cuts in education are an important issue.  From 11:10 - 11:40 is recreo, a morning break, so I stayed in the classroom.

11:18 - English teacher leaves for a coffee, so that frees up the computer for me to work.

11:40 - The bell rings to start the second hour of English, and now four of the students have left and only two remain.  Also, the other auxiliar Kay is now here; we overlap during this one class every Tuesday.  So it's one teacher per student, and the English teacher sends the four of us to another classroom to talk about whatever.

12:30 - When the bell rings, Kay and I head back to the main classroom to say goodbye to the English teacher.  Kay's father and sister are visiting her in Madrid this week, so the teacher asks her about it and suggests places to go.

12:52 - Reach the bus stop.  A minute later two older men come and sit down at the bus stop.  I really love the old people at my bus stops and on the bus from my neighborhood.  The old man today greeted me with, "Hola, buenos días, ¿qué hay?"  At least once a week one of the elderly people at the bus stop will start a conversation with me.  A second man sat between us and he wasn't as cheerful, so the talking stopped there.

13:02 - The first, more cheerful old man comments that it's taken a long time; it's already been 12 minutes he says.

13:04 - Bus finally arrives, with a second bus right behind it.  They must have somehow gotten off the normal schedule.

13:11 - Since I'm still not feeling too well I make a pack of ramen-like noodles (chicken flavor), which is my comfort food when I have a cold (since you can't buy chicken noodle soup here).  I bring it into my room and work on some pages of a Spanish expressions book.  I'm in unit 3 today: money.

14:00 - Finish four pages of Chapter 3.  Half an hour later I decide it's nap time.

16:15 - I wake up, still feeling terrible and tired.  I start planning my two private lessons for that night.

17:00 - I leave the house and walk to the same house as yesterday, this time for a class with Rodrigo's sister Natalie and her friend Ellie: my two thirteen-year-old girls.

17:15 - Class officially starts.  The girls start telling me about their weekends, then Natalie begins talking about her birthday party next Friday, June 1.  Her birthday is this Sunday.  (Lots of birthdays this time of year!  Pablo's birthday is June 1 (my other student), my mother's birthday is May 30, my brother's birthday is June 2, Hannah's is on June 7, and Hermann's is June 19 -- haven't forgotten yet Herm!)

My two thirteen-year-old students

17:46 - We're in the middle of a grammar exercise from Natalie's book when Ellie out of the blue asks me what "shot" means.  I tell her, "Well first, it's the past tense of to shoot," and I make a pistol with my hand.  "It's also what you might get when you go to the doctor's office," and I take a pen and do the action of giving a shot so she knows what I'm talking about.  "No, no, Rebecca.  But it's in a song - " I cut her off because I realize the third meaning I'd forgotten is probably what her song was referring to.  "Oooh, well if it's in a song it's probably a shot of alcohol," then explained the concept to her.  She was searching for a song on her phone but I didn't want her to play it because Natalie's mom was still home, and she'd probably wonder why Ellie was on her phone listening to music.  Anyways, so I thought I knew what song it was when she first told me it was a song, so I start singing "everybody, shots shots shotsshotsshots shots shots shots..."  "Yeah!" she says, "That's the song!  You know it?"  Yup...

18:14 - My alarm goes off and I pack up quickly, since the sooner I arrive at my next lesson, the sooner it's done (what logic).  I walk to the metro, ride it for about 15 minutes, change lines and ride for another 15 minutes.

19:00 - I'm up in Pablo's apartment and class starts.  He's beginning to learn the past tense of some verbs, so I ask lots of questions beginning with "Did".  He knows how he's supposed to answer, but at one point he answers one of my questions, "Yes, I didn't," while giggling a bit.  I make a funny face and ask in a confused voice, "Yes you didn't? But that doesn't make any sense!"  "No, no, Rebecca," he continues, "No, I did!" and he laughs again.  At least I know he knows those are wrong, so even though he keeps saying them I'm not worried.

19:52 - Pablo's younger brother Sergio joins us for the last bit of class.  He only knows a handful of English words (he's 4 years old), so I grab a few books and some toys and we play while I keep speaking so he hears the English.

A street near Pablo's house that's always got two lanes of cars parked on one side of the street, hence many are parked in.  When you hear repeated honking in the city, it's usually because someone's been parked in.

20:47 - I arrive home, still feeling super ill (what a fun week to blog about my days...).  I collapse on my bed, write some letters, start blogging, check emails, that sort of thing.  I don't really feel like eating anything.

23:15 - Going to tackle today's two questions, then I'm off to bed whenever I finish blogging.

Questions - Day 2

1. How does your own school experience at the age of your students compare to that in Madrid? 
When I was 16-18, I had lots of work outside of school.  Homework, papers, group projects, orals, quizzes/tests to study for, etc.  At least in my English classes here in Madrid, the students never (or rarely) have homework, they don't do group projects or skits, and they never have quizzes, only exams (not as often as I had tests).  They just come to class (if they come) and their level of engagement varies.  Another difference is that when I was 16-18, attendance was mandatory at my high school.  Now I teach at an FP (Formación Profesional) which is kind of like a technical college, but it's public.  As is common in Spanish universities, in many of my classes there are 30 people enrolled but only 10-15 will show up for class (on a good day).  Also, at that age I had a job after school,and I also was involved in a ton of clubs/orgs/sports: manager of the girls' basketball team, peer tutor, copy editor of our school paper, cross country, vocal jazz, show choir, solo & ensemble, student council, FBLA, and probably other things I've forgotten about.  There aren't extracurriculars at my schools (that I'm aware of), and this is normal in Spain.
2. If you had the opportunity to change 5 things at your school, what would they be and why?
In no particular order...  
  1) Computer lab - I would add one (though obviously budget restricts this), because I think there are so many great interactive sites and activities that an English class could do in a computer lab.
  2) I would add bulletin boards or put up some posters or something.  Our English classroom is quite dull and the walls are bare (except for a U.S. map I brought, and the state posters Kay and I made at the beginning of the year.  The rest of the school looks like this, too.

  3) I would make the students have to pay some sort of fee to attend this school.  I mean, after all this is post-high school.  And maybe if they had to pay something for it, they would only enroll if they actually wanted to learn and would come to class.  Earlier when I said there were 30 enrolled and 15 that come to class, I think it's more likely than not that there were students #31, 32, etc., that couldn't get in this year because the class was full.  Yet the classroom is always more than half empty.
  4) I would add extracurriculars.  I learned a lot in all of my extracurricular activities throughout high school.  You become better at time management. You meet new people.  You gain skills that aren't taught in a classroom.  The benefits are numerous.
  5) I would make the students buy the textbook and bring it to class... somehow.  At the beginning of the year we didn't have a book.  Once it was chosen? purchased? some students bought it and others purchase/made a binned photocopy of the book (Oh yeah, Spain violates tons of copyright laws.  When I was a student at the university people would photocopy entire books all the time).

So from the top of my head, those are five things I would change in my schools.  I'd really like to have some sort of power to change the whole education system over here and make it less about memorization and more about hands on learning and problem solving. But that's an issue for another day.

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