I am not a professor or even, a teacher!
Ok, I admit it. I am not a professor or teacher (although my elementary school kids do call me “profe/teacher”). I am prancing around Europe pretending that I am a fancy schmancy English professor but it’s all lies. I work at a public bilingual elementary school in Madrid, Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacion or a North American Language and Culture Assistant, they mean the same thing. They mean that I am an assistant to the teacher. I bring my “fancy schmancy” American English accent and my knowledge of the United States of America to work and that pretty much prepares me for what I have to do on a daily basis. I don’t write lesson plans unless it’s for a something special like a holiday (Halloween, Thanksgivng) and I don’t teach the class by myself. Alright, alright. So you aren’t preparing classes or in the class by yourself, you aren’t teaching alone and you aren’t in charge of any kids…
That has to be pretty easy then, right?
In comparison to other jobs, not gonna lie, you should be pretty jealous. However, one thing that I have learned about my job is that we are teaching British English to the kids. No, the kids don’t ask me if I want “a spot of tea” on a daily basis, but they do throw their “rubbish” in the “bin” instead of throwing their “garbage” in the “garbage can” and things of that nature. That being said, I have learned a lot in the last couple months.
Mostly, I have learned that I have been taught lies my whole life.
First of all I’ve learned the date. Today is: weekday, day of month, 2013.
It’s Tuesday, 12th of November, 2013. Not to be confused with Tuesday, November 12th, 2013. Also, you must add the word “of”, if not, you’re very much wrong because today can not be and never will be “Tuesday, 12, November, 2013”, nor will it be the “12st of November”, trust me, the options are endless with the combinations of these words. Don’t let them fool you. There is only one right answer and in Spain it’s not, Tuesday, November 12th, 2013.
It’s Autumn, not Fall.
If you ask one of my first graders what the season is, they will tell you, “The season is Autumn”, in the cutest british/american/spanish accent they can muster up and although you may hate that they don’t know the word Fall, you will appreciate that they understood the question.
Also, the temperature outside is 48 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is shining. For my first graders, that means it’s: sunny and COLD.
What? Since when is 48 degrees cold? is this because Madrid is the capital of the country and if Madrileños say 48 degrees is cold, then it must be cold, right? All I know is that these kids would be freezing if they were in the Midwest today, 19 degrees and snowing, now THAT’S cold!
So, these kids are learning all sorts of fun things (the weather, the date, etc), do they pay attention? What are Spanish kids like at school?
Pay attention? We’re talking about 6-year-old here. All I know is that they love their rubbers, their pencil sharpeners and really anything inside of their pencil cases.
I think one day, a girl spent an entire one hour class period sharpening all of her crayons. Another day a different girl spent a 45 minute class period erasing. Just…erasing. Why didn’t the teacher stop them? I don’t know. Sometimes things just happen, and if a kid is quiet and peaceful while sharpening all of her crayons, why not leave her to it? I think that must be the mentality at least.
Lets talk about the contents of pencil cases.If you have a pencil case, you are basically set to spend the whole day playing with your school supplies, why? Because it’s fun.
First, there are no erasers in Spain. You must “rub it out” with your “rubber”. Yes, Teachers do tell kids to “rub it out”, it’s a British thing.
Also, a hard days work may include sharpening all of your crayons and pencils.
Oh no! The teacher caught a kid playing with school supplies. What happens? Do they get sent to the Principals office? Nope, no principal. They have to go stand by a green dot on the wall.
Or if they were talking, they may be sent to the corner with a mask…
Later on, the kid may have to pee. They will ask,”May I go to the toilet please?”. They don’t mean to be rude by asking for the toilet, they would like the restroom, which just so happens to be where the toilet is located.
So, the kids have talked about the date and the weather, they’ve played with their school supplies and then asked to go to the bathroom. Where does the learning come in?
Here, with Max and Susie! Max and Susie are two British characters that are full of all sorts of fun phrases and songs. Phrases include, “What’s this?”, “It’s a ball”, “These are pencils”, etc. Songs include, “I can sing a rainbow” or “Days of the Week”. My life pretty much revolves around Max and Susie while I am working. Our goal as auxiliares is to get all of our kids to remember and understand all of Max and Susie’s fun phrases and songs!
Is this Tiny Ted? Yes, it is! Phew, mystery solved.
This specific exercise is meant to focus on “Is this your____?” “Yes it is” or “No it isn’t”
Now, what sort of grammatical things are taught to first graders? They are taught many things, but let me tell you about some things they are taught incorrectly.
They are taught to say, “My favorite toy is THE ______” instead of saying, “My favorite toy is A/AN _____” or “My favorite toy is MY _____”
The teachers are very tough about the kids using the word “THE” when stating their favorite toy. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert but if a kid said “my favorite toy is my bike”, I would be happy. Even if they said “My favorite toy is an iPad”, it makes sense. What doesn’t have the correct sound for me is when a child says, “My favorite toy is the car.” I suppose in a book somewhere (in England), it must say that’s correct, it just doesn’t sound right spoken!
Another thing they are strict about, when there is an apostrophe (they call it a “stroke”), the letters that are separated CANNOT touch.
Please notice the minuscule space between the letters. This is real life. I definitely need to go and re-write everything I have ever hand written apparently, because I haven’t put a space between the letters that were divided by the apostrophe!
What is your teaching experience like? Have many things surprised/confused/shocked you? Have you had the same experiences that I have had?