Thursday, October 14, 2004

This Is What We Call Distraction

Here are some happy things I was thinking about as I took my walk last night. I am going to tell them to you so that I can not think about the absolutely horrible experience that was teaching this morning. Then I will tell you about said experience. Jeannie, I left fish comments on the last post. lol.

I really would like to have stayed in Lisbon for a bit longer, but not just to see the museums and touristy crap. I mean, touristy crap is great in context, but there was something about the atmosphere of the city that really made me seemed to be a place with a lot more contrast than Spain. For all they keep drilling into our heads here that "Spain is not like America, Spain is nothing like America, Spain has completely different problems than those of America", Portugal is, well, less like. I don't know. This isn't coming out right. It had something to do with standing inside H&M and looking out the spotless plateglass window onto the crumbling apartment façade opposite, or seeing a near-empty McDonald's while people were crowding into the falafel restaurant across the street. The people didn't seem to have the chaotic, self-flagellating desire to Americanize that I've seen in Spain, though if you ask a Spaniard they'd deny their McDonaldses to the death. Portugal seems to be the reed to the Spanish oak tree.

Also good about Portugal - diversity yay! And it seemed like something that was completely natural, whereas in Spain we've had a lot of discussions about racism (both intentional and un-) and just the fact that people stare at you in the street if you are blatantly not Spanish. There no one seemed to care. It was great not to be an object of language-barrierized discussion, if only for a few days. (Also, no Germans pointed and laughed about my shoes on the subway. That was good.)

I am seriously spending multiple hours fantasizing about Indian food now. I can't get it, because - wait, let's have a game. Can someone guess how much cash I have? It's less than twenty dollars.

It's less than ten dollars.

It's less than five dollars.

It's less than one dollar.

Closest guess - in either Euros or dollar equivalent - gets a postcard at some point.

Ok. Now I will tell you about today's horrendous teaching experience and why I switched classes. Vale?

I showed up to the school to meet my new group of kids, and let me tell you that they are ADORABLE. 4th graders, all super-super-cute. They sang me a song about a circus in English as I came in, and my heart almost melted.

After the circus song, the first thing we did was say the Our Father. That was ok by me, since it's a Catholic school and all, and I didn't have to say it (wouldn't know how in Spanish anyway). Then they started talking about the fact that they have their first Communion this year, and that was really cute, because I was imagining little white dresses with frilly lace. And then the teacher asked me if I was Catholic.

"Umm, no, I'm not."
"Oh. Well, then what are you?"
*Probably wouldn't be a good idea to have to explain agnosticism, atheism, or anything of the non-sectual sort to a classful of impressionable 9 year olds.* "My father's Greek Orthodox, so let's say I'm half Greek Orthodox."

I got a weird, weird look for that one.

Then the teacher had to leave the room to get something and I was placed in front of the class (maybe 30 kids). "Ask her questions, tell her about what you study, and do it in English if you can." That actually went much better than I was expecting - of course the kids in the back were talking, but what can you expect? I'd just stepped in, they don't know me, I'm not a teacher. A couple of kids asked about the Statue of Liberty, and they all listened to me explain how you can't climb up to the torch. They were really quite adorable.

Then the teacher came back.

"Today we are going to do a skit. Here, take this red pen. Follow me and put a NOT FINISHED on the paper of anyone who did not do their homework."

Can you pronounce an ellipsis? I'm pronouncing an ellipsis. DOT DOT FREAKING DOT.

That is not my job. That is the teacher's job, it is not my job, and luckily I got away with just following her as she did it and not putting pen to paper.

Then the skits started. The kids were supposed to have memorized all the lines for all the parts (given, they were small) and be able to recite any one when asked to do so. These are in English, mind you. So the first group comes up, and they can't get past the first couple of lines, and I'm trying to shoot them encouraging smiles when the teacher cuts in.

"This is very, very bad. I can see that none of you, not one, has studied."
"I did, I swear I did study, but -"
"Obviously, you did not study enough. You are putting on a very bad show for Allison. Allison, what do you say to this kind of performance?"


"I say...that it's very hard to memorize a bunch of lines like that - I'm twenty years old, and I still can't manage to do it sometimes." I try again with the encouraging smile, especially to the little kid who was supposed to go first. This is when I get shot evil look #2 - a look that says "you are not playing the role I have called upon you to play".
"But the other class did it perfectly. Alejandro, go call in four kids from the other class."
The other class comes in and performs the skit without missing a beat.
"Now, Allison, you see what REAL studying looks like."

Skip forward in time a little bit, and once again it rolls around that we must check homework. I am again summoned to take a red pen and start chastising these poor kids that I haven't even formally met. I hope to escape the same way I did last time - smile and nod, follow quietly - until the teacher takes Alejandro's workbook and shoves it towards me.

"There. Write Not Done in red and put the date."
I can't. I just can't. This isn't what I was put here to do, and I say quickly, "I'm sorry, I'm just really not comfortable doing that."
"¿Ah no?" Evil look #3. She passes through the room quickly, shooting occasional unkind comments to her kids as I lean back on the desk and try to avoid bursting into tears of shame.

Needless to say, I got out of there as quickly as possible.

I've changed teachers and dates.

I feel bad for the kids I've abandoned.


Blogger Coral Clarke said...

I guess 12 cents

10/16/2004 7:33 AM  
Blogger :D said...

I guess 73. and I want a postcard regardless. (I just wrote you a letter on Friday. *guilt trip guilt trip!* haha

Actually, I'm making a second guess of 17, just in case! haha again :)

At least you were able to switch teachers... I do hope you (respectfully, of course) let her know why, though. It's not like anything bad could happen to you for it, and it may have long-term and wonderful effects for generation after generation of impressionable young kids. :) I know you're shy... but, you know... facing fears and all that. anyway, I don't think you're as shy as you think you are. ;)

10/17/2004 10:12 PM  

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