Friday, October 8, 2010
First day of work
This next post should catch you guys up. (I did two posts today, so be sure and read the other one first.)
Thoughts on my first day of work: Monday October 4th, 2010.
I got to my school today around 8:55 in the morning. Spanish schools are in session from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The kids start school at 3 years old and are in escuela infantil until they’re 5 years old. They then enter escuela primaria from 6-11 years old, and escuela secundaria from 12-16 years old. At 16 they can either go into a bachillerato for 2 years in preparation for university or straight into the workforce. At 18, provided they passed their bachillerato courses and the university entrance exam, they can enter la universidad for 4 years for a grado or what we would call a bachelor’s degree.
The grading system in Spain is also different from the U.S. Students are graded on a scale of 0-10. Usually grades above 5 are considered passing. Also contrary to the States, students in Spain are less concerned with their grades. Usually just passing the class is enough. Grades are also distributed publicly- as an announcement in front of the class. The teachers also have no problem telling the students that they failed because they are stupid or lazy. The students aren’t babied here like they are in the States. Basically, you are how you are and there’s no use hiding it.
The school I’m teaching in is an escuela infantil for children 3 to 5 years old. Obviously the teachers here aren’t that harsh with their students. However, the idea of personal space still doesn’t exist. For example, one of the 5 year olds in my class peed his pants during the lesson and had no problem walking up and telling the teacher what happened. He also didn’t mind that all the other children noticed, or that the teacher loudly pointed it out, or that he had to change his pants and underwear in class. Needless to say, this same situation would have happened much differently in the states.
Back to when I first arrived at the school. All the schools here are surrounded by walls, which I imagine is as much to keep the students in as it is to keep everyone else out. I’m greeted at the gate by a rough looking old man. His skin is approaching a leather-like consistency, several teeth are missing from his smile, and it looks like one eye has gone blind. Creepy. This is a school for children, right? Did I take a wrong turn and end up in the crazies?
Turns out I was wrong. I did arrive at the right place, and my unease was misplaced. The man I described is named Pepe and is the caretaker/janitor of the school. He is actually a very nice guy and all the kids love him. Whew. Close one.
I came into the school and talked to the principle a little bit who gave me my schedule. I work Mondays 9 to 12, Tuesdays 9 to 2, and Thursdays 9 to 2. Not too bad I’d say. I think I can deal with that. The school currently employs an English teacher named Sandra and I’m to assist her in class. The kids are divided by age: 3, 4, and 5 years; then each age is further divided into 3 groups: A, B, and C. Each group has a classroom and a homeroom teacher and we move from class to class. Mondays we have an hour with each group of four year olds. Tuesday mornings we have an hour for each group of three year olds, lunch from 12-12:30, and 30 minutes with each of the five year olds until 2 p.m. Finally, on Thursdays we have an hour with each of the five year olds, lunch from 12-12:30, and 30 minutes with each four year old group.
As far as the actual teaching goes, it’s not too tough. Sandra prepares the lessons and I help her manage the class and provide the native-speaker pronunciation/sentence structure. The only downside is that the lessons are bit repetitive because we do the same routine with each of the A, B, and C sections. However, Sandra is very sweet and has encouraged me to bring whatever I can to the table. I think that once I become accustomed to the school routine and I can start contributing more to the lessons.
Let me leave you with a quick word on my students. They are impossibly cute. American children are just downright ugly in comparison. They all wear orange smocks that are embroidered with their name, and walk to and from class holding onto the shirt of the kid in front of them. I must look like an alien to them, because they all just stare at me with wide eyes a little too big for their head.
All in all, I think this’ll be a pretty good year.
P.S. This weekend is my first experience with a wonderful Spanish invention known as a puente. A puente happens when a holiday falls on a day like next Tuesday. Instead of just taking off Tuesday, the schools are closing this Friday and don’t resume until Wednesday. Makes sense, huh? Why work Monday when you’re just going stay home Tuesday. And yeah, you guessed it. My next week is a one-day work week. It’s a hard-knock life.