I am completely aware that I am rubbish at this whole blog thing. The truth is, if I was blogging every day like I suppose some hard core bloggers do, I wouldn’t have time to do all the important stuff I have to do like prepare classes and organise my daily bla bla journeys and type out new class lists for my new star system at school.
Yes. Maestra Fiona has launched a new sticker star system at school. It’s called ‘Fiona’s Little Golden Stars of the Class’. I am now awarding stars for classroom participation and good behaviour, although I originally wanted to start it for the latter. Some of the kids here just don’t understand that they need to say seated in class and not shout at me and interrupt me when they feel like it. This might sound a bit snobbish from a Spanish person’s point of view, because shouting and being very vocal is simply just part of Motrilian culture. I’ve decided though, that if the kids are learning English, they’re going to learn a bit of British etiquette too.
The whole star system was perhaps born out of my own frustration. In my occasional broken Spanish and foreign accent (which is undoubtedly strange for the kids to hear) I feebly give instructions to the kids when I feel like I have to. Maybe that’s why some of them get frustrated with me.
I still wouldn’t say I’m 100% brilliant at speaking perfect, fluent, error-free Spanish – in fact I’m far from it. I’m even further away from speaking what I am going to call ‘classroom Spanish’, such as having to remember to use the ‘plural you’ form of the verb when speaking to groups, giving instructions or to try and control some kids when teachers like Eugenia wander out of the classroom. I’ve noticed that when this happens, the kids don’t see me as the main teacher, even though I feel like I am. They therefore feel that they can play up in front of me and I suppose there’s naturally less authority in my voice. I’m not, strictly speaking, really supposed to speak Spanish in class. But when you’re in front of twenty five seven-year olds, some of whom sadly have learning difficulties or are extremely hyperactive, speaking English constantly at them isn’t always going to be the most productive way to achieve results.
So the first week back after Christmas, I gave a power point presentation to the year 3’s and 4’s – arguably the worst behaved classes I teach – about how to behave like children in England. The angle I was going for was a ‘new year, new class’ thing, in which I tried to explain the new rules that we would all follow together over the next five months. I filled this presentation with pretty pictures of well-behaved English kids in their brightly coloured uniforms all putting up their hands and a smiling teacher who appeared to be speaking effortlessly to her contented pupils.
I told the children that I had visited my sister’s classroom over the Christmas holidays and that I was amazed at how well behaved all the English boys and girls were, and how I wondered why my children couldn’t behave in a similar way. This of course was a big fat lie, but it was so worth it for the silence that fell in Eugenia’s class.
(*Note, my sister is actually a teacher, so this doesn’t make me look too bad). I told them the stars were special stars from the school where my sister works, even though I had spotted them in the Al Campo supermarket in Motril when I subsequently had the whole eureka moment.
Seeing as I’m working with kids, the sticker star system was always going to involve an element of persuasion. The girl and the boy from each class with the most stars at the end of the year will win a special prize. I have, as of yet, absolutely no idea what this prize will actually be. I have told the kids it’s going to be something amazing from England, something that you can’t find anywhere in Spain. So please, if you have any ideas I’m open to any suggestions because so far I’m struggling.
So far, the I’ve seen a lot of improvement and I feel proud of the kids. The younger ones have been much better behaved, and a lot more hands have been going up in class. Last week, Ana, a year 3 who has problems with learning and keeping up in class, managed to read a whole sentence on the board in English, completely unaided. She obviously earned a star, which made both her day and mine. I’ve noticed that more of them seem to have a greater interest in English too. Others (particularly the boys) have even managed to hold off their toilet breaks until break time, which confirmed my earlier suspicion that most of the time they just fancy a wander around to get out of class.
This side of Christmas, the teaching is going much better, and I’m enjoying it a lot more. I’ve felt more satisfied than I did last year, and when I see the progress being made, it really feels like my work is paying off. Just like the kids, I suppose I’m learning myself.
Learning that little children will believe anything you tell them.