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Tuesday
Nov082011

Teaching the teacher

I was running late, but there was no way I’d show up to a Halloween party without a costume. It’d be un-American. So en route to the Kinder to judge the town’s first Halloween costume contest, I stopped at a friend’s house to plea what I thought would make the perfect getup. I snapped his bright orange goggles on my forehead, slung a razor-sharp hunting knife across my hips and let out an audible sigh of self-satisfaction. Everyone was going to dig my diver disguise.

Five minutes later, I had tingles of self-doubt. Fifteen, and I was certain of my flop. Sugared-up students with broad smiles had approached me one after the other, “Maestra! Fuiste a la playa hoy?” or “Traver, Traver, va a nadar despues de la fiesta?” Dressing up as a diver doesn’t work in a fishing village. Obviously, right? I might as well have thrown on a navy skirt suit and some business pumps to hit a K Street shindig in Washington, D.C. pretending to be a lobbyist.

That anecdote just illustrates the almost daily crumbling of one malformed idea or another about how my work here would fair. Here are a few more:

Teaching myself how to teach English would be a piece of cake

  • I mean, it’s my mother tongue AND I’m a journalist. The language fits me like my favorite pair of jeans. But teaching it is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. No amount of Googling could prepare me to stand in front of 40 nine-year-olds and get them to properly recite the words to “Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes.” But thanks to patient guidance from Program Director Nancy, a few YouTube hours watching others in action and some solid sink-or-swim moments, I can finally say I think I’m getting the hang of it.

 

 Death by classroom mutiny was a real possibility

  • Recalling my childhood classroom experiences inspired me to teach. I wanted to excite kids to learn the same way my teachers had me. But I had no delusions, not every child is eager to learn — and certainly not eager to listen to an inexperienced teacher butcher their language whilst trying to explain the rules to BINGO. I was wrong. They pay attention in class. They cling to the phrases they learn and practice them with me when they see me in the jardin. They ask questions. They love English, and I’ve had a hard time not falling in love with them.

 

I’d be speaking Spanish like a Mexican in no time

  • Spanish classes, even taken since the fifth grade, are no replacement for a true immersion experience. Somehow, all those years of textbooks and worksheets had me fooled that this stuff was easy. It’s not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My fluency has improved drastically, but it’d be an exaggeration to say by leaps and bounds. My saving graces have been making friends here who speak Spanish, intercambios and most recently Spanish classes at the La Catalina Natural Language School (more on those later).

The lessons I’ve learned while attempting to teach far outweigh anything I’ve tried to impart to my students. I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store!

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Reader Comments (2)

The Sun Also Rises is an awesome illustration! Brett has outrageous control over Jake. Furthermore, you can likewise comment the imagery since in the book

The Sun Also Rises is an awesome illustration! Brett has outrageous control over Jake. Furthermore, you can likewise comment the imagery since in the book

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