Friday, July 16, 2010

School Daze

My classes at the university are wrapping up, we have exactly two weeks left. This is the gritty part of teaching, I'm discovering: the tests, oral speaking exams, final projects, final exam, GRADING ALL THIS JUNK, and deciding who gets to move onto the next level and who doesn't. And then (gulp) telling them that they will have to retake the module. This is not something I excel at: confronting people and passing open judgement. Especially because I know how meaningless grades actually are, and that when learning a second language, it's the process that counts.

I keep telling my students that I can relate to their position, part of the reason I am teaching in a Spanish-speaking country is the benefit of improving my own language skills. After taking two years of college-level Spanish, I came to the conclusion that immersion and hands-on experience is the best way for me to learn, and that this goal of speaking Spanish somewhat fluently, was an objective for my lifetime. Not to be accomplished by the time I graduated. Not to be checked off some list like buying milk from the store. And certainly not after completing six levels of nine-week courses.

I'm not sure what levels I'll be teaching for the next module. All I know is that one of the teacher's is leaving (she teaches during the year at her home in Hawaii. Hard life.) And there is not a replacement teacher coming as of yet. This leaves me and another teacher, as new to this as myself, to teach four levels of university classes. I will, however, be granted a one-week vacation between ending and beginning modules. This is such a relief, as I am needing a break! You may think that I am probably spending all my days basking in the sun with the sea lions, snorkeling with the sea turtles, dancing salsa all night, and in between, causally teaching some English grammar. May I correct you?

I teach four hours of classes everyday, but this doesn't tally in my office time, time spent planning and grading and meeting students to do make-up work. I also teach two people from the community privately, fours hours a week each. I also teach a small group of young kids (ages 5-7) two hours each week. These three side projects also demand their own planning and activity organizing. To top it off, I am completing my internship, using this position as a teacher of English as a second language. I have written background reports, turned in assignments by deadlines that seem to creep by faster and faster. I have a special project to design and complete for this internship, my last requirement of my career as a Bachelor student. In my free time (sic), I am designing an Environmental Education program for the local kids and teens, hopefully to begin by September. Plus, I brought my grandfather's ukulele with me to this little island and I'll be damned if I don't teach myself to learn to play it! If I can't learn to play a ukulele on a tropical island, than there is no hope for me, I fear.

So here I sit, alone in an empty classroom after giving and grading a test, trying to decide how to plan the final two weeks in my two classes. I want to put the books away, toss the workbooks, too. I want to play games and do projects that are useful in everyday situations of communicating in English. I want to have fun. I've brought in music, we've played charades and 20 Questions and written ad-libs.

I am writing study guides, the final exams, grading rubrics for quizzes and oral exams. I am planning a "tea party" to elicit good and bad manners that differ culturally. I am giving mock job interviews. They are "hosting" a cooking show, telling the process and order of following directions. They are researching a different country to which they would like to travel, reporting the weather, and giving advice about what items I should pack, depending on what activities there are. And I am planning a party. With food. And Shrek. In English, por supuesto.