Little Victories

When you’re a TEFL teacher, or even just a language assistant in my case, you come to learn that the little things make your job really worthwhile. And in a place like Olivares, where a survey to poll favorite classes ends up failing because the kids don’t like school or see its importance, this is especially true.
Yesterday, I had two classes of 4ESO to teach. Both classes were working on past simple irregular. I was so excited to (cheat and) find a great song with a ton of examples of past simple irregulars like “found” and “woke” and “was” to use. The song is an old favorite of mine, Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss” as it reminds me of my first boyfriend, Nick Pohl. I downloaded the song, put it onto a blank CD, copied the lyrics into Word, blanked out the irregular past simple verbs and came up with some warm up activities. I was ready to face one of the tougher groups – the young groups don’t behave, the older groups don’t participate, and 4ESO doesn’t behave OR participate.
The activity went like this: In class, I asked the students if they like American music. They all screamed, “YES! YES TEACHER!” I figured as such, as most music on 40 principales is American pop. I then asked what American singers or groups they liked. Most came up with Rihanna, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. “Good,” I said, “all good examples.” I wrote the name of the band on the chalkboard and asked if anyone knew them. They didn’t, so I told them they ere a very famous group from the 1990s, then played the song. In the cloze activity, students were to listen to the song once through to get used to it, then listen a second and third time and try to come up with the words for the corresponding blanks. For example, “When I _____ (to wake) up, the raining was pouring down.” I then gave the students a little time to check their books or ask their classmates for help before we went over the song as a group and decided which verbs were irregular and why. I still had some time left over, and, being a super prepared teacher, I asked them reading comprehension questions. But something as simple as, “What happened to the girl?” Are too much. I need to break down the question into, “How many people are in the song?” and “Where are they?” for the students to begin to understand that there is a car accident. Since this group of 4ESOC is a bit more advanced, we even got to talk about driving safety, since they are about 16 or 17.
In 4ESOB, we didn’t get quite that far. I’ve found that if things are a bit off from a rule or exception, there are a million questions. Most of the time, I don’t have the answer. And when I asked what happened to the girl, it took me 5 minutes to solicit an answer of “She died.” I got everything from “Ella le dio luz a un bebe” (She gave birth) to “He killed the man in the other car” before Silvia stepped in to help. I practically rejoiced when the students understood.
When I only get one hour every other week with students, it’s really hard to measure their progress. But my job here isn’t to produce fluent little students – it’s merely to help teachers establish a curriculum and to practice their English. I’m fortunate to have 7 hours in the classroom actually working with students. And I love that they ask when I’m coming or come up to me and say one simple sentence and run away giggling. It’s fun. In some ways, I wish I could just travel and pick up odd jobs and meet new people every day (which is why traveling alone is so freaking fun). Here in Sevilla, I’ve got a contract and I’ve got to start a life and worry about making rent and keeping up with friends when it costs 53 cents a minute to call. But I like the stability and I like being established. In fact, I got an internship with We Love Spain, a student involvement group, and my pet projects will be talking to volunteer orgs and setting students up with opportunities to get involved while they’re here (can we say, my thing exactly?). I think it will also give me the chance to meet new people, even if they’re only here for a little while like Jost.
For the December puente, I’m off to Brussels, Belgium for a weekend because I found 4 tickets, roundtrip, for 106 euro TOTAL. For four of us. I love Ryan Air. Maybe one day I’ll be rich enough to buy every airline and provide low-cost tickets to everyone to any destination because this world is too big to only see part of it. For now, I’m just fine wandering.
And now, I leave you all (in particular Matt Kyhnn) with a picture of a swan from Galway as big as a smartcar. Un abrazo.
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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