I was meant to post this long long long ago… I wrote most of it whilst sitting in the airport waiting for my plane home. Being the unorganised and forgetful person that I am, I never posted it up when I got home, so here it is now.
(20th December 2014)
For the past fortnight I’ve been trying to teach the kids a bit about how Christmas in England is celebrated. I say ‘trying’ because in some classes it’s been a real struggle. The kids here are vocal and expressive. Eugenia, (a year three teacher) says that they’re rude – that their upbringing is partly to blame and I can kind of see where she’s coming from. Across all the age groups that I teach, (being significantly worse among the younger ones) the children constantly interrupt the teacher, never put their hands up and only listen to their classmates when they can be bothered. They of course don’t realise that their being rude, as after all they are only kids, but when you’re trying to talk to a class of twenty highly energetic and occasionally uncontrollable children who constantly shout out and who do more talking than thinking and always seem to need the toilet every ten minutes, it’s hard to deny that Eugenia is probably right.
Never have I ever watched a John Lewis advert so many times in one week. The kids loved Monty the Penguin and when Eugenia spontaneously interrupted me herself by inquisitively clicking on last years’ Bare and the Hare, (kids must learn from their teachers, I suppose) I wasn’t expecting her to burst out crying and run out of class – emotionally, it was too much.
On Thursday, my last day before I flew home, it took me a good five minutes to successfully finish my explanation of a mince pie. Here’s a nice little excerpt from Thursday’s class:
“O, es como chocolate!”
-No, it’s not chocolate.
“O, es carne?”
-No, it doesn’t have meat. It’s a sweet.
“Es un dulce?”
–Yes, a bit like how you have turrón here in Spain…
“Es como turrón?”
–No, let me speak and I’ll tell you…
“Maestra, puedo ir al baño?”
-Do you really need the toilet Enrique?
-Ask me in English
“Can I go to the toilet please?
-Alright, but be quick. Right, mince pies are…
Toilet breaks are so frequently taken in this school that I reckon the average child must miss out on about a week’s worth of lessons every year. Alejandro, my year five art teacher, told me that this is a very ‘Spanish’ thing to do – to take a wander out of the classroom when boredom sets in.
I always finish Thursdays with the year fives for art. I begin this class in the most monotonous way (albeit by Alejandro’s request) – by re-running the presentation of classroom phrases and vocabulary which I made at the start of the year, when none of the kids knew how to ask for simple things or understand basic instructions. I’m drilling the stuff into them slowly, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve noticed an improvement in a lot of them. After the mince pie fiasco earlier on in the day, I subsequently introduced a new slide which shockingly stated that there would be a toilet ban for every kid in Alejandro’s art class in 2015 when Maestra Fiona is present.
The silence that fell was incredible.
Instead of a nativity play, music performances have been taking place throughout the week and parents are invited to come and proudly watch their little ones. There have been recorder performances, with a rendition of Greensleeves which (I can truly testify) has been practised long and hard by all since early October. Goodness knows how the music teacher copes with a class of twenty kids with recorders.
There have, however, been some awkward moments this week in class too. In Spain, as in Italy, Christmas Day isn’t really celebrated. It’s 6 January when the Three Wise Men come and drop off the presents. When explaining this to the kids, I frantically made up some stuff about how the Three Wise Men always get lost on their way to England as the days there are shorter and so there’s obviously no big bright beautiful shining star to guide them like there was in Bethlehem.
It so worked.
I’ve never spent Christmas away from family or friends and to do so in a country which doesn’t really celebrate 25th December like we do would be weird.
The fam have been asking me what I want for Christmas over whatsapp. In truth, I don’t really know. I don’t exactly care that much either about the fact that I don’t know. The John Lewis advert really was a good’n this year and I guess I should only practise what I’ve preached to the kids really: presents shouldn’t matter, because Christmas is a time for el amor real. Everyone always says sentimental stuff like that about Christmas, but it’s only when you’re away from home do you actually appreciate its meaning.
Even if Monty didn’t spend Christmas at his real home, at least he’s found real love.
Feliz Navidad everyone, año prospero felicidad.