Año Cero / Year Zero

(note: this was written a little over a week ago–Friday, Oct. 5–after three days of classes at the school and a lot of bulletin board building. As my roommates and I are currently engaged in a little do-si-doing with the internet company, this is the first chance I’ve had to post anything. For what it’s worth, the bulletin board still isn’t finished. )

After the long and mostly uninteresting orientation in Granada, where they told us to only speak English in the schools and that we should never be left alone in the class, I took a bus back to Córdoba on Tuesday night and reported for my first day of classes on Wednesday morning. Well, my school is in “año cero” of the bilingual program, or year zero. Many of the teachers speak no English at all, and the kids have only had it here and there for maybe the past couple months, often from these same teachers. There are a few teachers who speak fairly well, but as a whole, the English level is minimal. Now how exactly are we to speak only in English to these teachers who don’t speak the language?

About ten minutes into my first morning at the school, I was herded into a class of 9 year olds and left alone with a bingo game that was only 4×4 and whose spaces were blank. The kids had never played bingo before, as far as I could tell. The “only speak English” bit was somewhat shortlived, unfortunately. I explained that they needed to write words in the spaces, I walked around to make sure they understood (some much better than others) and then I read aloud some words for seasons and months, which I don’t know they had heard before. It was not a great success.

Apparently the P.E. teacher with whom I was supposed to spend half of my time, who is also the vice-principal, has a hernia, and thus won’t be in school for a couple months. I will be teaching 3rd year Science (to these same 9 year olds, I think) with a woman named Lola who is both extremely nice and one of the more accomplished English speakers. Next week we’re talking about the five senses.

The rest of my schedule is still up in the air, but may still include teaching P.E. The principal, in a bit of a pinch on my first day, asked whether I could prepare a lesson for the following day’s classes. I asked what kinds of things the kids were used to doing, and she replied, “I don’t know. I don’t think they play many sports. Maybe cooperative games or ways to know your body?” Uhhh…In the end, the vice-vice-principal guy took over and I went back to constructing a 12 foot high bulletin board on the U.S.A., which was being worked on by 6 teachers at one point on Wednesday. Lots of measuring and arguing about which colors are the best. We’re left alone on the content–the other auxiliar has the same space for England, but apparently got the message we were supposed to bring posters and maps and the like of our country/hometowns. My internet print-outs look pretty sad in comparison.

I think once things get a bit more settled in the school, assuming that happens, all will be well. The kids are cute and the teachers eager to learn. Plus, I have Fridays off. But come Monday…the bulletin board looms on the horizon. I kind of forgot how the artistic kids get awarded in grade school, while I always struggled just to cut in a straight line with my tiny scissors.

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No responses to “Año Cero / Year Zero”

  1. Lindsay MacNeil

    Hey, just thought I’d say welcome to Córdoba!
    (I’m a Canadian from Alberta which is pretty close to Montana).
    Anyway, working in the Spanish school system is going to be a great adventure and I wish you all the luck!
    As you can see from my e-mail address I work at a school too, a Spanish school! Anyway, if you need anything feel free to drop by. Getting ready for May Feria already Sevillanas classes started last Thursday, if your interested, let me know!
    Córdoba is a great city, I am sure you’ll have a great time here.

    ¡Buena Suerte con tu vida Cordobesa!

  2. Becky

    Go Emily! You’ve now jumped in the middle of it all and I know you are finding the challenges rewarding. What a delight to read your latest update. I chuckle at the thought of it all; again I can see it all so clearly! You rock Ms. Emily and they are so lucky to have you. Take some photos of your classroom and little people. I’d love to see it all.

    And at the end of the day……. salute to you! Enjoy a cold one. I’m with you in spiri!!!!!

  3. ann

    that bingo thing is hilarious