Schooling it, winging it

Three weeks into my new job as an auxiliar de conversación, I have come to appreciate and embrace the hilariously laid back, incredibly flexible and arguably dysfunctional Spanish educational system. I have spent the majority of these past three weeks giving presentations on Halloween which has included singing the skeleton dance on YouTube about fifty thousand times.

I´m amazed at the lack of organization there is here. The teachers rock up at nine o´clock and go home at two, when the school day finishes. Some leave me completely unattended in class with the kids whilst they go and make photocopies or catch up with their marking. This was a somewhat daunting experience at first, (restoring order to a class of 25 kids in Spanish wasn´t what I was expecting) but maestra Fiona is slowly mastering the art of giving out orders.

My series of Halloween presentations were launched during the second week, even though I was conscious that the actual day was over two weeks away. There doesn´t seem to be much of a curriculum that teachers follow, it´s whatever goes, according to what the teachers are feeling. For example this week I was very confused. I couldn´t remember if we were in week 1 or 2, so I decided to ask. The deputy head told me we were in week 1, which is what I had assumed as it was my third week in the job. I turned up to other classes according to my week 1 timetable, only to discover that other teachers though it was week 2. My coordinator seemed to think it was week 1, as I had started in week 2.

I never found out, and still don´t know. I hope I haven´t caused enough confusion for them to introduce a week 3.

Classes with Eugenia are crazy. Eugenia is a woman in her thirties who keeps on telling me she has to improve her English, but always speaks to me in Spanish, recounts her personal problems to me and always seems to be unprepared for lessons. She sporadically leaves me alone in class with a handful of screaming kids, before returning to restore normality by illegally speaking Spanish, seeking help with YouTube. Last week my anatomy lesson on the skeleton turned into boogying to Just Dance. She whispered to me at the front of the class that the most powerful organ in the body is la pene, (those of you with a lack of Spanish can guess) before abruptly ending the lesson to dish out Juan´s birthday cake, fifteen minutes before break.

I don´t think the kids learnt much about the skeleton.

Nevertheless, this bilingual school is pretty impressive. The kids have their science, art and music classes entirely in spoken English. Children have to ask to go to the toilet in English, and all basic classroom instructions are spoken and written in English. What´s amazing though, is that none of the kids seem to be able to string a sentence together in English, but they understand everything that´s going on. The other day I lead an entire lesson on vertebrates and invertebrates, conscious of the fact I hadn´t studied such stuff since secondary school so I had to familiarise myself with the topic before class. During my preparation, I stumbled across the words ´echinoderms´ and ´cnidarians´ in the textbook wondering a) what these were, and b) how to actually pronounce them. No one noticed I winged it.

The music teacher approached me the other day, asking me for a Halloween song she could play to the kids in class. I suggested the skeleton dance, and left before she had the chance to invite me to sing it with them.

Hasta luego kids, go celebrate Halloween with a bang. After that I never want to hear the word ‘pumpkin’ uttered again.


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