La Vuelta al Cole

I woke up yesterday morning peeing in my pants, both from drinking a few beers before bed and from sheer excitement. It was finally October and I could finally go back to school in Olivares and start working.

I initially hesitated about returning to school before this date, mainly because I didn’t want to get attacked. I can get a little awkward with my Spanish and with forgetting people’s names (hello, we have 85 teachers in my center) and not even being a teacher. Moreover, I knew the kids would ask me about my dog and my boyfriend and my summer and, honestly, I wasn’t ready for it.

I sat on bus M-270 with a student from Valencina to Olivares, passing the same things I used to stare at four mornings and four afternoons a week. Nothing has really changed about the campo, which is actually refreshing. Even though Olivares is close to Sevilla (just about 10 miles west of the city), it seems a million worlds away. I remember bringing in postcards as a writing activity and having my students tell me most of them had never been out of Andalucia! Many of them only go to school until age 16, then drop out of school to become farmers, plumbers, bricklayers or gardeners. Their parents see no practical use for English, so many of them just tune out in class.

As soon as I walked in the door with Alejandro, I thought I was going to pee again. I was immediately welcomed by the Consejeria staff, which make the photocopies and dole out pieces of chalk. Emilio was poking fun at me as always and Meleni hugged me really tight, as she usually did on Thursday afternoons when I left last year. I snuck into the teacher’s lounge before any students could see me. I was greeted with lots of kisses and questions about Kike, of course! I have to say, I really felt like they consider me a colleague, not just some American kid who dicks around in class for 12 hours every week. Last year, I was twice as young as the other auxiliar, meaning I got on with the kids well, but didn’t relate to the teachers like Martin did.

But this year, I’m the only auxiliar. Nieves learned late last week that the other girl would not be coming to Heliche, so she called me to tell me she’d need to change my schedule. She didn’t want to make too many changes, so she was able to keep me working just three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday). She also put me in classes with the best-behaved kids who would benefit most from having a language assistant. I offered to go half the period or alternate weeks to accommodate more classes, but we’ll see. I’ll be teaching the bilingual group of kids, who receive 40% of their coursework in English, in their language classes, one hour of music and two of art each week. Then, I’ll be in English classes for 6 hours and have an hour for conversation and one for planning. Doesn’t sound too bad, but I’ll be the only music teacher. I won’t have to give grades other than participation and use of English.

I wished we had another person to help cover the classes, mainly because my director works so hard. She;s put in a lot of time to making the bilingual program successful and has had a lot of disappointment in just one month. Emilio, the music teacher, has left to finish his masters (leaving me with his lesson plans! YIKES me alone with 12 year olds!). Carmen, the history teacher, didn’t pass her English exam and cannot teach in the program until next year (which gives me incentive to stay again!) and now we have one less assistant. She can’t comply to everyone who wants to have one-on-one conversation hour, or even to kids who have asked if I can cover a class. It was hard seeing them and having to tell them I wasn’t teaching their class.

There are two new teachers in the English department, both younger males. This is better for poor Miguel, who was the only one last year, save Martin. One is new to Sevilla, and I hope I can help him meet people because he’s really nice. I greatly missed Angela and Silvia, the two young teachers from last year, because it seems like there isn’t a single young teacher in the school this year! Regardless, Neme was ready to give me advice about Kike and Lucia told me to get oil and not butter with my tostada. Everyone had the same things to say: You’re skinnier and your Spanish is better. Because Spanish people are so blunt, I figured they were telling the truth!

We’ll see how it all goes. Nieves is really open to my suggestions, and I feel like they trust me. It’s so comforting to feel like I belong somewhere and that people appreciate the work I’m doing. I don’t know how much the kids learn, but da igual. They’re getting exposure to a native and learning that not all Americans have guns!

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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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