I’ve barely scratched the surface of my experience with teaching English, but I wanted to share a little bit based on my initial impressions with the kids. All I’ve done so far is give an introduction Powerpoint with some basics about myself to each class, and afterwards they practice their English by asking me questions about other things they want to know about me or the United States in general. The questions have ranged from basic to cute to entirely inappropriate. I will give you some of the more entertaining examples, in order from the most frequent to a few oddball questions that I’ve only gotten once:
Have you got a boyfriend? This has come up in every single class, even after I tell them that I’m 23, making me 5-10 years older than all of them depending on the class. Upon seeing a photo of my family, one girl even asked me how old my brother is. I kindly informed her that he is 13 years her senior; not to mention the fact that he is married and is now a father. See, even North Dakotans are considered exotic in some parts of the world :-p
Do you have Facebook and Tuenti (like a Spanish Facebook)? This question has luckily only ONCE been followed by “What is your surname?” (there’s that darn British English they’ve all learned) and none of them have tried to add me on Facebook…yet.
Do you like Justin Bieber? A couple of them have even asked whether I’ve seen him “in the street.” Yeah, all the time. He just walks around in the Midwest in his freetime.
Does everyone in the US own their own gun? Heck yes, we live in AMURIKA!
Do you go to London a lot? This question clearly demonstrates their general lack of geographical knowledge. I’m sure my geography wasn’t stellar at that age either. I mean, maybe I thought London was in the USA too. They ask me a lot where I’ve traveled, and mostly they want to know if I’ve been to NYC, LA, and Miami. One girl, however, asked if I’ve been to Mississippi. That one threw me off.
When they ask about the weather, their eyes about pop out of their heads when I tell them it regularly reaches -40 degrees in North Dakota in the winter. Then the question is whether that is in Celcius or Farenheit. Curiously, the two actually intersect at that exact point. For simplicity’s sake (and to not seem like a total nerd) I just tell them “Celcius.”
|-40||-40||233.15||Fahrenheit equals Celsius|
|-320.42||-195.79||77.36||liquid nitrogen boils|
|-452.11||-268.95||4.2||liquid helium boils|
I had a fun time explaining to them what “auto-start” is the other day. They could hardly believe it existed, let alone the fact that a majority of people where I come from have it installed in their cars.
As a general rule, the secondary school (middle and high school) students in Spain are far less well-behaved and disciplined than students in the United States. That may seem an ambitious claim to make given my small sample size together with the enormous size of the “secondary school” population in the US, but I still don’t think it’s an incorrect assumption. The teachers here told me this would be the case right from the start. “The newspapers all over are saying it,” they say, “the kids here are loud and disrespectful when compared to their peers in other countries.” I have to say, I agree very much. There is a good handful of them that are very polite and eager to learn. For the rest, school is just another facet of their social life, and they do what they can to see to it that it is not hindered by silly rules and lessons. I feel like I’m shouting over them about 70% of the time, and for the rest of the time there is almost always at least one or two students talking amongst themselves that I have to compete with. This simply wouldn’t have flown in my middle or high school. One class I attended on Monday was completely out of control. They maybe paid attention for five minutes, but I spent the rest of the class watching their main teacher yell at them in Basque and Spanish as he unsuccessfully tried to bring order to the chaos.
Speaking of Basque, the school I teach at is VERY Basque—as in, every sign in the school is in Basque. At first, I wasn’t even sure which bathroom I should enter. There is almost no Spanish. Anywhere. The teachers speak to the kids in Basque in almost every class, meaning I have no freaking clue what’s going on except for when I occasionally hear them say my name, or when we finally switch over to English. From my standpoint, it goes something like this:
“Kaixo, klase! Hona hemen Megan da! Blahblahblahblahblah…eta…blah bat blah blahblahblah? Bai. Bat blah blah blaaaah blah. Bat blah. Blah blah MEGAN blah…blah blah…BAI? Okay class, now we are going to speak in English!”
The English that these kids have been learning in school all their lives is, as mentioned before, of the British variety. It’s adorable most the time, but frustrating at times too. The differences seem subtle when you’re a native English speaker, but they become quickly problematic when you’re teaching someone who has learned a different type of English than the one you normally speak. I’m sure they’ll soon adjust to my less proper, American English 🙂
My experience at IES Urritxe BHI has just begun, and I’m sure I’ll soon have lots more fun stories to share. If you have any questions about things I’ve discussed in this post, or if you’re also an ESL teacher and can share in my sentiments, please feel free to write in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading. ¡Que tengas un buen fin de semana!