Just short of my one year anniversary of living in Spain, I have officially re-entered the world of the working. I have begun a completely new “career” at age 40. Yikers. The best part? It’s doing something I’ve wanted to do my whole life, since I can remember, since I was lining up my stuffed animals in my bedroom and teaching them fractions (I liked saying “numerator” and “denominator,” what can I say…).
This past week I started teaching an after-school ESL program to three groups of kids at two elementary schools right here in Corrales. FUN. And SCARY. I have each group for an hour or an hour and a half twice a week – two groups on Monday/Wednesday and the other on Tuesday/Thursday. They are mixed age groups, anywhere between 3 and 10, in one case all in the same session, and therefore with extremely varying levels of English. And an hour and a half is a LONG TIME.
The first day I was so excited and SO petrified at the same time. I mean. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I was that nervous. Heart pounding palm sweating nervous. How ridiculous am I? In ANY case, I made it through the first week relatively unscathed. My first days were just a wee bit hairy and I’ve concluded this will just be a series of trials and errors.
A little background info. To accommodate the main meal in the middle of the day, schools have always had a schedule something like 9 – 1, and then 3 – 5. The kids go back and forth twice and eat at home with the family. Well, this year, the public schools here changed to a schedule that runs all the way through the day, and lets out at 3 (the one private school did not, so I meet with that group during the break in the middle). Thus the need for after school programs. BUT, just picture a handful of 3, 4, and 5 year olds who have been at school since 8 something in the morning, maybe for the first time going the full day, and they show up to spend 3:30 – 5:00 with me. I am the only thing standing between them and their mommies or daddies. One poor little guy showed up sobbing, and sobbed for 90 minutes straight. (He was not the only cryer, but the others eventually came around.)
Other challenges? In a nutshell, my stuffed animals were a much easier audience. Many of these kiddies don’t know enough English to follow directions for a game or activity, and I’m lacking some of those words in Spanish (purely because I’ve never had to use them before) nor do I have the vocab to discipline them. It’s also a bit difficult to find a way to corral a group where there is a 3 year old and a 10 year old…picture this: we are all sitting in a semi-circle, everyone is paying attention except for the little one who periodically throws herself off the chair and rolls around in the middle. Which immediately cracks everyone (including me) up.
And up until now, I’ve been searching for my own materials too (I just found out that we have access to some books, so this will help). Let me just say, in case you were curious, there are literally a GAZILLION ESL websites out there. Pre-written lesson plans including flashcards, activities and everything, sites that you can make your own Bingo cards with words or pictures, sites where you can make word searches, an endless supply of blogs written by ESL teachers and youtube videos of classes. I am simply amazed. It’s like information overload. But it’s awesome. There is a world full of people like me, doing exactly the same thing, facing the exact same challenges.
SO. As I enter my second week, my confidence is building. This is like a cool and crazy adventure, worlds away from my life in a cube. I can totally handle this (okay I’m still a wee bit nervous and I repeat these words as I am walking to class). I will not be up until 3am trying to create lesson plans, and I can fill classes with enough activities and songs to keep them busy and interested so that the random 3-year old does not take a pencil and draw all over all the desks when I turn my back. 🙂
Now if I could only stop singing “Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…”