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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Teacher Allison

     Hola blog readers! I meant to write this post on Sunday night before week two started but I got busy doing nothing. :p Anyway, so its Tuesday night of week 2 of teaching. I just finished eating dinner (risotto, because I am a bad ass chef) with 2 out of my 3 roommates and now we are watching the Spain vs. Scotland football game. (I have learned the hard way not to even joke about calling it soccer in Europe.) Tomorrow there is no school because it is Dia de la Hispanidad, AKA Columbus Day so I am super excited to spend the day relaxing on the beach.

Sometimes I wake up and can't believe this is really my life. Fo real, I am in love with my job. IN LOVE. Seriously. I only work 12 hours a week but I am so excited to go every day. The kids I work with are awesome, they are so much fun to be around and the teachers are the same. I am unbelievably lucky to have gotten an opportunity like this. Like I said in my last post I work with 1st and 2nd graders and with 4 different teachers. Its really really interesting to see the different teaching styles and to see who is a better teacher (I hope none of them read this!!!!). But really, its super obvious who actually knows English and who is a better teacher.

Maria Jose, the 1st grade teacher I work with really doesn't know English at all, honestly I am really surprised that she is one of the bilingual teachers. I have 3 classes with her and one planning hour. During her classes I sit at the desk and watch, and if the kids are doing an activity I walk around and check in with them and help if they need it. Even though its a bilingual class (which in reality means its supposed to be in English) 99% of her class is in Spanish. I am supposed to be there to help, but really I feel unused in her classes. During last weeks planning period she told me that she really needed to work on her English, so I would answer her questions in English, then she would give me the deer in headlights look so I would switch to Spanish. Unfortunately for me, my accent is really thick so she can't understand me half the time even when I speak in Spanish. I digress, so she was asking me to pronounce things for her so she could pronounce it properly for the students, but she still wasn't getting it. For example, the kids are learning about breakfast, lunch and dinner. In their book there are lists of things that people eat for the meals, she asked me how to pronounce “juice” so I said “juice” and she kept saying “yuce” and I would correct her and say it slowly and still she was saying “yuce” and instead of biscuit she says “bisquick” I told her that Bisquick is a brand, but she just wasn't getting it. I know I am probably sounding like a stereotypical American right now getting mad that she doesn't speak English very well, but really, if you are going to be a bilingual teacher you should really be able to speak both languages. Or if you can't speak it that well, let your assistant who is fluent help out a little more. I have corrected her in class before but it really doesn't do anything, so I guess in her classes I am just going to help individual students and just sit there the rest of the time. But in her defense, she is taking classes at night, so I'm sure it will get better as time goes on.

I also with with the gym teacher, named Esther, 2 times a week. She is a ton of fun, I really like working with her. She speaks English pretty well. This is the 3rd year that this school has had the bilingual program and only the 2nd for gym to be bilingual. So even though she speaks English pretty well I am there to help her translate and make sure that what she is telling the kids is correct. It is completely insane how much energy these kids have during her class. Those are definitely the most difficult classes I have during the week because I am used to kids being quiet and not having to yell at them as much as I have to here. We are working on a little assessment of their abilities, both athletic and their capability to follow directions. The first class I had with her I did the assessment with her, and the following class I did it by my self. I had to do the whole thing in English and I felt really bad when the kids didn't understand. One of the questions is to say a sport where there is only one participant and one where there are multiple. When I was doing the assessment by myself I tried to use the simplest English possible but the kids still would just stare at me with the look of “seriously lady I have no clue what you just said” its definitely challenging. I really have to think about what I say to them. But I am really proud of how hard they work, they try so hard to understand me, and even though I am supposed to pretend I don't speak Spanish, if they repeat what I said to them in Spanish I will tell them if they are right or not. Luckily they haven't quite figured out that since Teacher Allison understands Spanish she must be able to speak it too. :p

Javi, the 3rd teacher I work with is like the complete opposite of Maria Jose. He studied in Ireland when he was in university so he speaks English fluently which is great for the kids. So needless to say his classes are 99% in English and only in Spanish if the kids need discipline or are just really confused. He lets me teach too which is lots of fun but scary too since the kids don't understand English super well. Right now we are working on parts of the body so they can now sing “head, shoulders, knees and toes” in English. We play a lot of games in his classes too and its really funny to see the kids get so worked up over a game of hangman. I seriously thought they were going to cry at one point! So during week 1 I just helped out where needed and did review lessons with them so they can hear things pronounced with a different accent.
Working hard....with wine of course
At the end of last week he asked me to prepare a little lesson about the US for today so I had my first attempt at teaching by myself. I spent a good chunk of time this weekend looking for worksheets and ESL lesson plans about the US. I don't think I would have a problem teaching this age at home, but here it is A LOT harder, especially when I am by myself because their English is so basic that I really have to think about how to word things so they will understand. So after a few hours of searching I found a color by number US flag that I thought would be a good activity. I had that, a flag that I colored (because I am dumb and didn't bring an actual one), my crazy big US map that I bought in Sevilla, and my books of Colorado and Kansas pictures.

I was surprisingly nervous when I got on the bus this morning and it didn't help that I got to Campohermoso late because there was so many people on the bus, so I pretty much ran to school, and while I was running I passed the guy who usually lets me in the building. I assumed that he wouldn't just leave the office unattended so I didn't ask him to go back and unlock the gate. So when I got to school I rang the buzzer a few times and was standing outside for about 10 minutes when I realized that I would just have to wait until he came back. But! I am dedicated ( :p) so I jumped the fence, and I don't think anyone saw me. Haha. Anyway, so by the time I ran into class they were doing a different activity, so I didn't end up teaching in that class.
     I had to in the following class though. So I put my huge map on the board and attempted to explain what states were. I showed them what the size of Spain would be compared to the US, showed them where I am from, where I went to school and then the parts of the flag. I put on my facebook that my first attempt was semi successful and that was because Javi was sitting at his desk translating everything I was saying for them. So yeah. But, by the end they knew how many states there are, which state and city I am from and where I went to school and the parts and meaning of the flag so mission accomplished. :) 

I could keep going for days about my life here, but this post is getting crazy long so I think I will leave it at that! :)


  1. lol I love reading your posts, even after I have heard all about it! I WANT TO COME VISIT so you better be slinking around rich peoples houses more ma'am!

  2. Alison, With the teacher that is having a hard time with pronunciation or any student for that matter, use little mirrors. Have them watch your mouth as you say the word or sound then have them try to copy that while they are looking in the little mirror. It really helps them to see that they are not placing their lips or tongue in the same position as you. Just my two cents worth.
    Christi Paulson (your mom's friend from Salt Lake)

  3. Thanks Christi! That's a great idea!!