08 October 2013

Little Miss Teacher

It happened y'all. My first week of teaching is now complete.

How do I feel? Excited, nervous, frustrated?


But let's roll back a bit.

All auxiliares started teaching on Tuesday, 1 October. Many people were in the same boat as me, as in, we've never once taught a class before, much less multiple ones. So I did what most control freaks would do, and I went to visit my school the Friday before I started. Good thing too because (surprise surprise) I started walking in the wrong direction for ten minutes when I got off the metro.

The administrative building (and main entrance) to my cole.
My school is located in the Puente de Vallecas area of Madrid, south east of the city center. It's a solidly working class neighborhood, and you can tell just from walking around that it's predominantly populated by immigrants. I took three wrong turns and ended up on the opposite of the highway in a shopping center. Good work. When I finally made it to my school, I found myself with three separate buildings so I kind of just hoped for the best and knocked on the door nearest me. The school angel of God decided to bless me this time and lo and behold the school secretary opened the door. She immediately knew who I was and she took me in to me the rest of the administrative staff and the school director. From there she took me to meet Lourdes, the coordinator of the bilingual program at my school. 

You know that scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Lockhart releases the pixies and it's chaos? That's basically what the 6o of primaria class (equivalent to the American 6th grade) looked like when I got there to meet Lourdes. Despite their general rowdiness, the kids were all really excited to meet me...they had even taken bets earlier in the day on whether their new teacher was male or female. I hope not too many kids lost money...

It wasn't my first day yet, so Lourdes just gave me the basic run-down of what my time at the school would look like:

  • Work schedule: Monday - Thursday, from 10-2, for a grand total of 16 hours a week (the maximum allowed by the government of the Comunidad de Madrid). What a difficult life I lead.
  • Students: primarily 1st and 2nd year primary, which corresponds to ages 6-7. Once a week for 45 minutes I would be with the very oldest (sexto...about age 11) and then with the very youngest ("los cinco años"). 
  • Subjects: English (duh), science, and art with the 1st years. I can't even draw a stick person, but considering the kids are 6...
  • Other random thoughts:
    • Most of the kids come from really rough backgrounds (broken homes, abusive parents, etc)
    • The vast majority of the kids are the children of immigrants (mostly from Northern Africa and South America). There's also quite a lot of Gypsies.
    • The level of English is all over the place. Kind of like Spanish classes in college.
    • The 2nd years have their Cambridge exam (essentially an English proficiency exam) at the end of the year. Come February, we will be doing mock exams with them to prepare. Anyone else getting flashbacks to the IB French exam?
Oh woe is me.

And then...


The cinco años classroom
So in I came with my hot pink pants because ¿por que no? My very first class was with Lourdes and the 2o class. I'm not going to lie, the entire first day was overwhelming. My classes are not very big, so I have less than 100 names to learn (I actually only have about 85 students total), but let me tell you, it ain't easy to learn a bunch of traditionally Islamic names of which many sound essentially the same. And then there's the repeats across classes and the strange pronunciations and boom, crazy Nic.

The teachers were all SO nice. I work primarily with Lourdes and Maria (the teacher in 1o), but I see all the others at lunch. The greatest thing about being placed in such a small school is the family-like atmosphere: all the teachers get together for lunch for 30 minutes of just random but entertaining conversation. They all took the time to introduce themselves and were so welcoming; you can tell they were genuinely pleased to meet their new auxiliar.

I could honestly sit here and recount every single brilliant moment of the first week but here are the highlights:

  • I used a globe to show the 2o class where I'm from and where it is in relation to Madrid. They all got so excited about finding where they were from and showing me as well. One girl in particular is from Georgia, a country she has no recollection of since she left as a baby. I helped her find Georgia on the globe, and she kept coming back to look at it again with such wonder in her eyes. 
  • One of the girls in my 2o class asked to go to the bathroom. When she came back, I realized she had used toilet paper to give herself a headband. 
  • My 1o class is a complete riot, but they never fail to flood me with hugs and high-fives when they go home for the afternoon.
  • Truth be told, I was not looking forward to working with the 6o kids. However, they were so excited with my class and so many of them came up to me afterwards asking if I could come back more than just once a week. 
  • My 1o kids now know all their colors, all because I bribed them with candy. 
  • Stickers aren't a thing here. Whaaaaaaa...?

There really hasn't been many negatives to speak of up till now. If anything the two hardest things are dealing with all the different levels of English and having to adapt myself to British English for many of their vocabulary words (rubber, the toilets, plait, etc.). And of course, I never seem to get enough sleep..these kids all need me to be high-energy and on the ball all day because they zone out as soon as it gets boring. My miming and dancing skills have improved dramatically in just a week, and I don't think I've ever spoken this slowly in my entire life.

Full steam ahead to week 2, amigos!

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