Well it has certainly been a little bit since my last blog entry. I've been living in Spain for just over seven months now, which means I've been teaching for six. Every teacher will tell you that they constantly learn from their students just as much as they teach them. I'm no exception. In my six months, I've learned so much more than I could have ever imagined. Here are some of my highlights:
1. Primary school is not for germophobes.
Primary school is about as clean as college dorms. You will get sick from the amounts of hugs, kids forgetting to wash their hands, and the occasional kiss on the cheek from the real little ones. Bonus points if you're as lucky as me and get to pull crayons out of Juan's nose on the regular (yes, I did just name-drop an actual student).
2. Apparently cursive is important.
In Spain, the kids learn cursive before they learn print, so refresh your cursive skills or re-learn it with them (like I did!).
3. Teachers from your past will come back to haunt you.
You WILL appreciate the teachers you had growing up even more because you'll understand them on a new level. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself repeating things I was told in school that annoyed me at the time. I've also found myself reflecting on many of their teaching techniques and learning their secrets. For example, when teachers you had growing up let you work for way longer than they originally told you, they didn't forget. They just needed a break, too.
4. Sometimes you just want to bang your head against a wall.
Kids can be so bright and so innovative and give you so much hope for the future. Yet, sometimes they put a paint brush with blue paint up their nose. Or fall off their chair for no reason at all. Or forget everything you told them 0.5 seconds after telling them.
You have none. Get rid of it. If one of your students needs a partner in P.E., and they have to go through the tunnel the other students have made, you bet you're going through that tunnel with them even if the kids are half your size. If your students are all dressing up as cupcakes for their Carnaval costume, and they're all dancing to some song about candy and sweets, you bet you're also dressing up as a cupcake and dancing with them...while the parents stand outside the school gates to watch...and everyone is taking pictures. Hey, maybe your cupcake costume fits a little weird and pieces of fake candy are taped to your butt, and you're dancing around like that. Maybe that's just me. Who knows? Bottom line, swap your dignity for humility.
6. It is 100% worth it every single day to see the kids become more confident in themselves.
I had first graders who couldn't write at the beginning of October, and now at the beginning of April they are writing full sentences with punctuation. I had second graders who would just grab me when they needed help, now they raise their hands and say, "I need help." I had fifth graders who would only ask me personal questions in Spanish, and now they have the confidence to ask me about my relationship status in English...every. single. day. It's little things like that I'll truly miss when this year is over, and I have to say goodbye to them.
I have three months left teaching these kids, and even though it has its ups and downs, this is an experience I'll never forget. The students and teachers I've worked with have made it incredible and eye-opening. I know I'll miss their invasive questions when I leave, and maybe I'll even miss the "Juan put a crayon up his nose again" (hard maybe on that one, though), so I'm going to cherish these next three months. If they've learned from me even half of what I have learned from them, I'll be happy and know that I did a good job.