A New Year, a New Format

Welcome back to my travel blog, I know it’s been awhile…I’ll be sticking to English from now on.

And welcome to my new metro stop at Concha Espina. I am now living in the northeastern part of Madrid, quite close to the renowned football stadium, Santiago Bernabeu, and right across the street from the Berlin Park, where you can see several slivers of the Berlin Wall mounted in a fountain.

I work at a bilingual school called Ramiro de Maeztu, 5 minutes away by bus from where I live (pretty damn lucky). I’m one of the six “Auxiliares de Conversación,” and I basically work in small groups with first graders to improve their speaking, vocabulary, and reading. These kids get taught about four classes a day in English, including science and arts, and the only classes taught in Spanish are math and language arts, so it’s a pretty intense bilingual program. The fifth-graders, for example, are learning about angiosperms and gymnosperms and plant reproduction, stuff they don’t even know in their own language. My kids are learning the parts of the body, healthy foods, the seasons, numbers, etc.

Spanish kids seem to have had no prior disciplining and are immune to being screamed at and dragged around numerous times a day. Sometimes, explaining mind-numbingly simple exercises, telling them to sit down and shut up 50 times in a row, hearing “Mabel” from 25 differences voices at the same time, and seeing the vacant look of “I have no idea what you’re saying”….all make me want to shoot myself. Sometimes. But I’m actually starting to quite like it. I don’t actually teach an entire class, so it’s not an overwhelming job, but one of the challenges is not being allowed to speak Spanish. So really, there is a lot of dramatization, gesturing, and pointing going on. By now I know almost all 75 first graders by name, including the multiple Ana’s, Laura’s, and Pablo’s.

PS. Spanish people have to start thinking of more creative names for their kids.

Madrid is the same old city as it was when I first arrived – a mixture between energetic and slow, scenic and urban. Also half of it is under construction, entire roads, even. But Sol is finally finished! And it’s beautiful, with the Madrid bear statue and the fountains. In a year or two Madrid will be completely transformed. I’ll put some pictures up when I can.

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Back from the Dead Again

Yegads, I’m finally a full-time English teacher! I guess 15 hours here is pretty much almost full time. I might be able to handle more when the need for more booze money arises. I’m working with three different language agencies that are sending me to homes (where I teach cute, clever, sometimes satanic little spanish children) and companies and law firms where I teach intermediate classes to adults. Kinda nerve-wracking, stressful, and slightly overwhelming sometimes. But thank god the interview process, a.k.a. the do-you-want-these-crappy-hours-questionnaire process, is over. More details to come.


Mas Cosas

More pictures here for your viewing pleasure:

http://picasaweb.google.com/ablefires658/Madrid#5245497706602818130

So I tried out a McDonald’s here with some hungry classmates today. First of all, they open at noon (?!) and we had to wait outside for 5 minutes before somebody finally ambled over to open the door (and this was only because there was another Señor banging on the door). Their fries are more salty and squarish. Their burgers are also more fluffy. ‘Nuff said on that topic.

We have been learning lots and lots of grammar and how to teach things like the past perfect continuous tense to Spaniards who definitely have a better idea of these things in their own language than we do. These days I’ve been silently thanking my 5th grade English teacher, who had us diagramming paragraph-long sentences by the end of the year (as well as introducing us to lots of English Romantic poetry). I will be teaching two more classes this week and I feel much more prepared and organized. I got really good feedback from my monitor about my first class last week! So I’m on a roll…