The Student Who Became a Teacher

Admittedly, when I started applying for the opportunity to teach English in Spain almost a year ago, I was thinking less about the “teaching” part and more about the “living and traveling in Spain/Europe for 1 year” part.  I knew I loved Spain, I knew I loved traveling, and I knew I loved to speak Spanish and wanted the chance to improve my skills.  But teaching?  What did I know about teaching?  Nothing.

As you know, I started my job teaching at CEIP Antonio Gutierrez Mata at the beginning of October.

My school is known as a ‘bilingual school’ which basically means that about half of the classes are taught in English and the other half in Spanish.  I work Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9am-2pm.  I teach 4 year olds and also 1st-5th grades.  The 4 year old class is the most difficult because these kids barely speak Spanish…mostly we just sing songs and color.

Something that I really was not expecting from my teaching position is the fact that I am not really teaching English.  Rather, I am teaching classes and lessons IN English.  I teach mostly science which was SO difficult at first because everything is so technical.  Can you imagine teaching (or trying to learn) about the layers of the Earth, the solar system, and why we have seasons in a foreign language?  It was a terrible feeling to be speaking to a class and asking questions and knowing that there wasn’t a single child in the room that understood a word of what you said.  How can this bilingual initiative work in Spanish schools if the children don’t even have basic knowledge of the English language?  At first I was probably even more frustrated and confused than the kids were.

But then it happened.  I think it was my biological fight or flight response.  I could either give up, or I could fight and work harder and FIND A WAY to make a difference in this school.

I spend my free time scouring the internet for materials and/or lessons I can use to help my classes.  I have become somewhat of an artist and draw pictures on the chalkboard daily just to illustrate what I mean.  I’m even an actor.  Sometimes the easiest way to explain things is to just act it out no matter how silly you feel.  Hey, self-inflicted  dizziness is a small price to pay for my science classes to understand the difference between “rotation” and “orbit”.

I’ve finally begun to find my purpose here.  It took a lot longer than I anticipated but the sense of accomplishment and pride I feel when I know my students have understood, and more importantly learned something is indescribable.  It feels great to help people, but it also feels good knowing that I am helping myself along the way.  I am learning just as much, if not more, as these kids.

I’ll never forget what one of my most influential teachers from high school told me.  He said, “If you ever get the chance to do something where you are going to feel uncomfortable, out of place, or awkward…DO IT”.  Back then I had no way of understanding what this meant, but for some reason his words stuck with me.  Now, I discover new meaning behind these words every day.  I am uncomfortable in Spain sometimes, and most certainly out of place.  I feel awkward speaking Spanish, and even being a “teacher” with no previous training or experience.  But none of that stuff matters.  The ways in which you learn and grow from these uncomfortable situations makes it all worth it in the end.

Happy Halloween!


A day in Marbella

I realize it is probably wrong of me to post about Marbella before I post about Malaga, where I am actually living, but oh well.  Malaga, you will have your time!

Today a couple friends and I took a little day trip to Marbella, another beach town that is about 45 minutes west of Malaga by bus.  We really had no plans or any sort of agenda for what we wanted to do once we got there, we just wanted to go.

And so we did.

But, not before fueling up on a delicious (not to be confused with nutritious) breakfast of churros con chocolate.

Luckily for me, this little gem of a cafe is located right here in Malaga, so you best believe I will be returning.  The churros are  cheap and greasy, the chocolate is thick (and perfectly acceptable to DRINK), and the coffee is strong… a splendid way to start any day!

Once we arrived in Marbella we started walking aimlessly out of the bus station until we stumbled upon a little corner bakery that we just couldn’t pass up.  That’s the beauty of not making any plans…you just go wherever the wind blows  you.  Today the wind decided my sugar level needed to be through the roof so after much contemplation I finally decided on THIS:

It was a great decision…the middle part with the berries was the best.  🙂

After our second breakfast we wandered around Marbella’s old town for awhile.  The streets were really pretty- all of the buildings were white and there were flowers or plants hanging from almost every balcony.

We didn’t really do anything that was officially “touristy”- mostly just walked around admiring the views and snapping photos.  We did stop inside a random cathedral and watch a baptism for awhile though…that was kind of fun.

After our city tour we headed to the beach.  Unfortunately it was really cloudy today, (really rare for La Costa del SOL!) but we enjoyed our time anyway.  Some of my favorite pics–

After awhile we decided it was time to hang out with our good friend Don Simon for a few hours….

Here in Spain we drink a lot of Tinto de Verano-  basically it’s just cheap boxed wine mixed with orange or lemon Fanta.  I know, I know….we are SO FANCY!

Once we said farewell to Don we found a restaurant for lunch (it was about 4 pm), stopped at the bakery AGAIN for coffee and more treats (don’t judge), and eventually meandered our way back up to the bus station to catch the 7 pm bus back to Malaga.

In all it was a great day.  Good friends, wayyy too much food, fresh air, and a change of scenery.

Mi Piso

Hello internet connection, I missed you!

We FINALLY got our internet installed last week and although I know it sounds a little pathetic, a huge sense of familiarity has been restored in my life.  All I can say is it feels good to be back…and also to be completely caught up on Season 4 of Mad Men.   😀

Anyway, as promised, here are some pictures of my new digs!  The apartment has 3 bedrooms and 2 full size bathrooms-one is in the master bedroom and the other one is shared.  I didn’t take any pictures of the bathroom to post because, well…that’s weird.

First we’ll start with the cocina:

It comes “fully” equipped with a refrigerator (not shown), microwave, and stove.  Notice how I did not mention an oven.  Apparently ovens don’t exist in Spain.  The apartment I was staying at in Sevilla didn’t have one either.  How is that possible?!  How am I supposed to cook pizza? Or BAKE anything?  WHAT???  Ok, maybe it’s not the end of the world, but sometimes it certainly feels like it.

Oh, that little sunny area in the back is where you can find the washer.  Notice how I didn’t mention the dryer…those don’t exist here either- we use the sun!

Moving on now to the living room/dining room area where you can relax on one of these brand new, super comfortable, really clean couches!

If you can’t tell by the picture, I was being highly sarcastic.  These couches are by no means comfortable, new, or clean.

The other side of this room looks like this:

It consists of a table we hardly ever eat at (mostly eating is done on the concrete blocks whoops, I meant couches), and a reading corner or something to that effect.

We also have a very large and lovely patio.

Besides the sofas (ok I’ll stop now), the absolute best thing about this apartment is the VIEW!  You already saw what the sunset looks like from my bedroom window, but the back of the apartment overlooks a forest which is actually the ridge where the Gibralfaro (ancient fortress) of Malaga sits.  If you look hard, you can see part of it in the upper right hand corner of this picture…

Other side of patio…

Now my my bedroom!

It’s pretty plain and simple but what can ya do.  It’s basically my sanctuary for the rest of my journey through Spain so I’ll take it for what it is and enjoy waking up to such a spectacular view each morning.

Missing in Action

Hello all!

I am so sorry I have been MIA recently.  I currently do not have access to internet in my apartment so blogging is pretty much out of the question.  A lot has changed in the past few weeks though, so I’ll give you a quick update:

On September 25th I left Sevilla to move to my teaching destination, Malaga.  I spent my first 5 nights in Malaga in a hotel, frantically searching for a place to live.  I visited all sorts of apartments before finding the perfect fit.  One of the most “memorable” places had 6 bedrooms, 1 tiny and horribly dirty bathroom, and 1 kitchen with a sink full of dirty dishes. I wasn’t asking for much more than a bed to sleep in and roof over my head during my apartment search, but I just can’t handle dirty dishes or bathrooms.  Gross.

At last I found a place that met my criteria: A bed to sleep in, Spanish speaking roommates (2 girls), and close proximity to the city center.  Our apartment is located on the top floor of our building and has views of the entire city of Malaga.  So, while we are completely disconnected from the outside world in terms of phone and internet, we do have the pleasure  of enjoying beautiful views each day….like this one from my bedroom window-

Just a teaser- the next post will have pics of the inside of our pad 🙂

I’ve also started teaching at my school.  I work 12 hours a week- Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  I am assisting all kinds of classes with ages ranging from 5 to 10 years old.  I will be teaching Art, Science and P.E.

In addition to teaching in the mornings, I’ve also found another part time job to fill my evenings; giving private English lessons for another 12 hours a week, Monday-Thursday.  So far, my private lessons have been a great experience and I am really enjoying them!  The kids are great and I am so happy to be working for such a nice family.

Needless to say, between apartment hunting, exploring my new city, private lessons, and my “real” job, I’ve been pretty busy since arriving in Malaga!

I promise to be a better blogger once I am re-connected with the world.  Hasta luego!