Lessons on Lessons
The first week of school I was met with many surprises, lessons learned, and excitement for what the year would bring. I came in on Monday to hand in paperwork, meet my bilingual coordinator, and to take a tour of the school. I am fortunate enough to have a simple commute from my residence. I take one subway and one bus. The whole commute takes around fifty minutes. The school is pleasantly and peacefully located in a residential neighborhood next to a park. The building itself is similar to the schools in the States, tan, brick layered, rectangularly built, with brown gates acting as a protective perimeter with green vines intertwining on the metal. Once I entered, I was greeted with diverse artwork hanging on the walls made by the students. This helped bring life to what would otherwise be boring white hallways and gave me an idea of the creative outlets the kids have available.
I met with my bilingual coordinator and immediately was given specific instructions not to speak any spanish while here. This was slightly disappointing because one of the reasons I moved to Spain was to improve my spanish. But since my job is to improve their English, self improvement will have to be done after hours. My bilingual coordinator gave me my schedule and it was slightly hard to understand. I come in at different times each day and will assist in teaching the humanities course for ages 12-16. The only consistent thing is that I will end every day at 2:25pm. After I received my schedule, I had a brief tour of the building and met a few of the teachers that I will be working with. Some teachers have a firm grasp on the English language, others do not. My school is a bilingual school so the classes can be taught in English or in Spanish, which explains why some teachers did not speak English.
My first day teaching, I prepared a presentation to introduce myself to the class. My first class was art class. Filled with thirty energetic twelve year olds. With so many kids and different levels of English comprehension, I learned that although kids are grouped together based on age, their level of English can be drastically different. I learned to not use grandiose words and to have some kids translate what I said to the class. By doing this I was able to individually pick out who could understand me best. The teacher also helped to translate my presentation. At the end of my presentation, I thought it would be a neat idea to ask questions about the presentation and to give American coins to those who answered correctly. For the younger kids who won coins, the coins sadly became a huge distraction, at times being thrown. The older thirteen and fourteen year old kids were intrigued but some kids asked to switch out the coins they received. The oldest kids, the sixteen year olds, were very unimpressed by the coins. Lesson learned, not all lessons and ideas, will work for all age groups. This taught me that I will have to think and prepare individual lesson plans for each class based on their maturity and comprehension.
The rest of the week I was paired up with different teachers in different subjects.I was placed in English, Art, Biology, Geography, and History classes. Although we received a handbook on what we are to do in the class, each teacher has their own style of collaborating with me. Some teachers wanted me to speak and teach the whole class, others appreciated me as an extra pair of hands. I did not mind either approach as long as I am being used; one thing I cannot do is sit idle.
By the end of the week, I was exhausted from hearing my own voice speak about myself and give the same presentation almost twenty times, but it had to be done since it was the week of introductions, after all. I also was exhausted because some classes required more discipline than others which wore down my patience. As my patience wore down, something else grew, my appreciation. As an assistant, I am able to sit on the sideline, observe and engage whenever I want to. But teachers, those who voluntarily go into these professions to dedicate their time and energy to educate, nurture, care, and discipline, are heroes beyond measure. It is a self sacrificing profession that rarely gets the credit it deserves. Afterall, everyone will need a teacher in their life and getting a small glimpse of what teaching entails filled me with gratitude for all my teachers and professors who taught me in the past. It also filled me with a desire and ambition to leave the kids with a better comprehension of the English language.
To end the week I took full advantage of my usual three day weekend and enjoyed a trip to Faro, Portugal. It was refreshing and recharged me for the next week. I look forward to developing and establishing a sincere routine with the teachers.
No more introductions, now it’s time to be put to work.