La Escuela

Big news! But, first a few little updates since it’s been a little while – I’m shockingly very busy always.

1. I drink fresh squeezed orange juice everyday – thanks to the fact that there’s orange trees everywhere around me. And, despite the fact that I generally can’t deal with pulp in my orange juice – it’s worth the cringeworthy pulp. For some reason, there’s this sense of “active yes” while traveling, as in saying yes to everything as to not miss out on an experience or moment. I wonder why this is harder to access when I’m at home – although, it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps something to bring home with me?

2. Sometimes these kids that I’m working and living with scream loud and resist their English lessons until I want to push them over. Other times, of course, they sit down & pay attention, give me besitos, and they’re my favorite people in the world. It depends on the hour.

3. I went to Sevilla this weekend with Amelia and two of the other Au pairs living in Palma del Rio – and I got to see an old friend from home! It was incredibly beautiful, the streets were small, old, and full of carts selling roasted chestnuts, wildly creative street performers, and tons of horse carriages. We visited the Plaza de España, among other things, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as striking or fairytaleistic in my life. The few photos that I have don’t do justice to what we got to see. Allow me to paint a word picture for you – I would ask you to close your eyes and imagine this while you read it, but you, in fact, need open eyes to read, so maybe find a friend to read it to you, then you can close your eyes and imagine it.

We started outside. The sun was out, maybe one or two small clouds in the sky, and it was that perfect temperature between hot & cold. We were surrounded by a huge palace, a palace made of stone, covered in intricate, colorful tiles, and large arches & doorways, full of history and endless stories. When we walked in, in front of us was a flight of long, wide stairs made of granite.  At the top, it split into two more flight of stairs – one on the left, one on the right. In the center of this first flight of stairs was a man softly playing the guitar, accompanied by a harmonica at his lips, playing the sweetest songs. His gentle music set the perfectly warm atmosphere for seeing the palace. It wasn’t only warm against my skin, or warm in the sense of feeling not hot, but not cold. It was the kind of beautiful warm you feel on the inside when you see your favorite person, or hear your favorite song, you know the soft and comfortable, inner warmth I’m talking about. We walked up the sun-kissed steps to look over the center of the plaza, feeling the soft welcome of the music. He was playing “What a Wonderful World” and what a wonderfully beautiful, awe-inspiring world it was inside that palace.

I hope the word picture worked. I can’t explain completely the feeling of walking up those stairs, seeing what we saw. But, I will say it would not have been what it was without the man and his guitar. The power of music, am I right?

In any case, I’m going to share some photos here of the Plaza de España.

   On another note, these were taken on an iPhone camera – so hell yeah to that.

Okay – now for the big news. When I was first speaking with this family that I’m working with about living here, I had asked about volunteering in the school that the kids go to. I want to be a teacher in a few years time, so I thought it would be great to get some experience inside of a Spanish classroom, while improving my Spanish speaking skills, and offering something to the students.

If anything, I was expecting to be the kind of volunteer I’ve been in the past in American schools. Something close to a teacher’s assistant; cutting these papers, preparing that project, keeping an eye on those kids, doing a couple special activities with these kids, etc. Nothing to challenging. But, when I had a meeting with the head of the English department at their school, she asked me to prepare my own lesson. (Cue overly confident “yeah, I can definitely do that, absolutely.”)

She told me it’ll be American Culture week the following week, so I’d be perfect for doing a couple lessons about culture in America. How cool, right?!

Well, yes, for the most part. But to be honest, I was pretty nervous. I had never created my own lesson, and on top of that, I had little knowledge about how much English the students would be able to understand, what they knew about America already, and what they would find interesting or totally boring. At this point, I was feeling oddly itimidated by 11-16 year-olds – not terribly uncommon for a first time teacher, right?

Then came the challenge of “American Culture.” For one thing, it’s somewhat difficult to speak objectively about the culture you come from. It’s harder to have a sense of things that might be seen as interesting to others outside the culture, when it’s just the breakfast you eat or the music you listen to everyday. Plus, America is a giant (really quite a humongous country) melting pot of culture, full of all kinds strands and variations. It seemed rather tough to pinpoint a few things that are all “American.”

But, then I remembered a couple things. First of all, my own birthday is on the most American day of the year in the U.S. – the 4th of July, AKA the day Americans get to flaunt & love on itself. It’s littered with red, white, and blue, and full of all things American.

The second thing being that this lesson is all about the very thing that I’m dedicating my studies to at school. The values, norms, items, traditions, and everything else that create a culture. Put in other words, I’m an Anthropolgy major. This is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy exploring and breaking down everyday.

So, I used those two aspects, and some other little things, to create a mini lesson about the United States of America. I got to school with a four page PowerPoint, and my entire life of living in the U.S. It seemed like it would be enough.

Upon reflection, I was not wrong. Truly, I could have been sufficiently more prepared (but what teacher is 100% prepared for their first lesson?), I could have spoken slower and clearer, I could have asked many more questions, I could have come with an activity to do so the students didn’t have to spend most of an hour with me talking to them – really, I could have done a lot of things more or differently.

But, I luckily also did a lot of things. I started some conversations, I inspired some little laughs and chuckles, I caused some shocked faces, and I spoke, in total, for three full hours to about 120 students who now know a whole lot about what we eat on the 4th of July and what trick or treating is – so I’d say I succeeded in a couple different ways.

I have an amazing opportunity working at this school, with these students, and I can’t wait to see what other lessons I come up with in these next few weeks.

Now I’m off to memorize the Star Spangled Banner (again…?) and research the difference between American English and British English.

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