Monday, December 24, 2012

My First Semester As A "Profe"

     Well, the world didn't end but the semester sure did. On Thursday I finished my first semester as a(n) (assistant) teacher. I loved it. It's sort of cheating I guess, because I don't have the responsibilities of grading papers or disciplining students, but still, I teach classes. Being an assistant is great, because I only have each class once a week, so the students are always excited to see me.
     The kids are really great. They're also really talkative. You cannot get a class to be silent for more than ten seconds, ever, except one class I have of 12 year olds who are all very good students and love to learn. Well, 1 for 16, could be worse. But what the classes lack in discipline they make up for in amiability. I can't go five steps in the halls without five students saying hello to me.
     The last week of the semester was the best week. I prepared a Hanukkah lesson for all of my classes so that they could learn something new and not be bored with the same old Christmas lecture. It worked. Many of the students had never even heard of Hanukkah. I told them the story, some traditions, gave them a worksheet, and finally two Hanukkah songs. First, we listened to them ("Hanukkah O Hanukkah" and "I Have A Little Dreidel"), and then I brought out a guitar I had borrowed from the music room and we sang the Dreidel song. It was great, everybody was entertained and happy, and all week I would hear kids singing the refrain in the halls. After we sang the song, I played a little Blues tune on the guitar, which is what they really wanted me to do. I was greeted with loud applause, chants of "¡Tú sí que vales!" (which can be translated as "You are really worth it"), and requests for more. It was really great to see them all interested. Afterwards, I asked them to sing a traditional Spanish Christmas carol, of which there are many. They sound much more like Hanukkah songs than popular American carols.
     The week prior, I had gone to school on Friday (I don't work on Fridays) just to teach a couple of P.E. classes how to play baseball. I had done this once before, and since then all of the gym teachers have been asking me if I could come teach their classes. The kids really love it and I am happy to teach them. No one really plays baseball here in Spain. It's like rugby in the U.S. You don't find many people who know exactly how to play or have seen or played a game. So I suppose I'll continue next semester guest-teaching baseball when I can.
     It's only been a little over two months, but I've learned a lot about teaching. For one, it isn't easy. Trying to entertain 30 kids (or at least get them to listen) is pretty difficult. But I have realized that if just one person is wanting to learn, it's worth it. Also, I've learned the benefits of teaching the same lesson more than once. The first time is like a disaster compared to the third or fourth time. Hopefully, with practice, first lessons will be more honed. Thirdly, being a teacher means I learn every day, whether it be a teaching method, a way of explaining something, how to deal with a situation, something about Spanish culture, or even about British culture (the student books are Oxford). I really enjoy being in a learning environment.
     And then there are the other teachers. They are extremely nice and helpful. I have good relationships with all of the English teachers, as well as the music teacher, a couple of P.E. teachers, the cafeteria lady, and various people. Before I arrived I had heard of auxiliars last year being uncomfortable in the break room because of the economic crisis, but that has not been my experience at all. Everyone is very pleasant and it is a real pleasure to be at school.
     En fin, I had a great first semester (or technically, trimester), and I am looking forward to the new year. I know I will continue to learn and hopefully I will improve as a teacher, or as the kids call me, "profe."


  1. So nice to get first-hand accounts of your experiences in Madrid. Great idea to maintain a blog of your adventures while there. I look forward to reading your entries on a regular basis. I might add that I am extremely proud to have such a multi-talented nephew who is also an all around good guy!

    Uncle Bill