Week one was intense. I went into school on Tuesday, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that my Bilingual Coordinator -the teacher who requests the auxiliar from la junta (government)-is fluent in English, and extremely cool. My coordinator taught Spanish as a foreign language in Miami, and has traveled more in the US than I have.
I didn’t have a schedule, so I went around with my coordinator to her classes, met some other teachers, and introduced myself to everyone. I wasn’t used to standing in front of 20-25 students, but since I’m the expert in my field (English) I felt confident I could thrive. Also, I had prepared a short presentation introducing myself (excerpts below), covering why I was at school, how long I'd be there, what I'd be helping with, where I was from, my family, and my hobbies. No longer than five minutes, but I had fun visuals, and afterwards, we played a game with the students to help them get to know me, and practice their question words.
The top questions (have you answers ahead of time):
- Favorite fruit
- Favorite animal
- Favorite color
- Do you have a child?
- How old are you? (to which they gawked every time)
- Favorite movie
- Favorite futbol team
- Do you play futbol?
The best misheard answer:
When asked what my brother-in-law’s name was, I answered (Jordan), and they thought I said my brother-in-law was Michael Jordan. I really should have let them believe it.
As an auxuliar, you have to make it known that you don’t speak any Spanish, otherwise students will rely on you understanding them in their language, rather than try to speak in the foreign language. If the first or second graders didn’t know the words, I would have them speak in Spanish to the teacher, she (all “She”s in this case) would translate to me, and I would have them repeat the English back. I did this 13 times, with approximately 260 students.
I haven’t worked a person-facing/non-computer-crunching job in years, and I am exhausted. You have to stand the entire time, and be 100% engaged. It’s a giant change, but I love it. No technology unless you needs computer visuals that your textbook can’t beat, and you’re directly helping form knowledge and interest in useful subjects. Pretty rewarding.
How TEFL prepared me:
- Giving feedback
-When to be immediate, and when to be delayed
-To which students? Quickly identifying who is most shy, who knows the answer but hasn’t left their silent period, and not to identify each mess up
- Identifying pronunciation trends
-There are certain syllables or sounds that latin languages don’t pronounce, or Spaniards do not have in their language
-I’m considering taking some of the continual pronunciation issues, and developing their own individual lessons, because students may not be noticing
- Students are harmless
I got called a vampire for being so pale, and was requested to show my fangs
- First impressions establish your relationship
I’ve gone with “friendly and helpful expert”. The friendly part will probably come back to bite me, but what are you going to do? You need to get them on your side first somehow.
How TEFL could not have prepared me:
- These classes are not your class
TEFL prepares you to develop complete lessons for students of a similar English level. Teaching potentially 16 different classes in a school with Infantil (Pre-K) to 6th grade might take more planning time
- This is not the beginning of the school year
Dedicating time to learning hundreds of names in the first week didn’t happen, and I don’t think it would have stuck. Hopefully in time, by working with the students I’ll learn their names, levels, interests, and more.
- Reprimanding on week 1
Can you? Should you? I still don’t know, but didn’t.
Check back next week to see if I'm going to achieve my destiny early and be an art teacher, and to see if somehow I find a place to live!