I woke at at 6:45 AM on Friday morning with first day of school jitters! It was my first day of teaching in Madrid, and I was not only nervous about getting to the school on time by the metro, but also talking with the kids. Although I have been working on improving my Spanish skills since coming abroad, it has been a challenge and they are not nearly up to par to be walking into a Spanish classroom. I arrived at the school and within a few minutes one of my cooperating teachers found and me and ushered me up to her classroom. Without even an introduction to the students, she took four girls who had high English language skills, and sent them to the library with me to "have a conversation in English." Not only did I not know where the library was, but I didn't know these girls names, or how good their English even was. To say the least, I was freaking out!
The beginning was a little awkward, I had four 15 year old girls all looking at me to lead some grand conversation in English that I hadn't even planned. But soon after talking to them for a bit I realized their English was not only way better than my Spanish, but extremely impressive for freshman in high school. It was so interesting getting to just sit and talk to them about their daily lives and what they do for fun. The girls all agreed that they have barely been having any fun lately because of their studies. I asked if there was anything in particular they were studying for and they said just the regular subjects. I could hardly believe that. When I was a freshman in high school, even though I was studious, I still had loads of time to hang out with my friends. These girls were so stressed about their work. When I asked them further if there was a particular university they wanted to attend, they all looked around confused and then laughed. None of them had their sites on a certain school, but were just studying for the sake of the "now" and learning. This seemed really different to me than students in the United States. Even students who often don't look too seriously into the college process and sort of "pick a school at random" often had a dream school growing up or a school they always wanted to attend. One of the four girls wasn't even sure she wanted to attend college in Spain.
When I asked the girls where they would travel if they could go anywhere in the world, three of them replied New York City. They had a little twinkle in their eye when they said it and looked off almost dreamingly, I swear! I asked them why New York City and none could really give a response. It was so cool because it hit me then that New York City to them is like Paris or Rome to me. I don't necessarily know why I dream of visiting there, but there is a little part of me that fantasizes about this unknown life in Europe!
I am so excited to be working at the San Rafael. I feel lucky that for a few hours every weekend I get a chance to dive into the heart of Spanish culture, their schools. Additionally, as it seems so far, my main role is be leading conversations with students in small groups to get their practical language skills down. This basically means that I just get to talk to Madrid natives for a couple hours every Friday, I'll take that! It's also really cool I am coming to Madrid this semester and getting the opportunity to work in a school. One of the teachers told me that there are a lot of major changes going on in the school system currently, and that in the near future school choice will be an option for every student in Madrid. This teacher mentioned how it will be interesting to see the impacts of this play out and I certainly agree! The particular school I work at is sort of like an American charter school. It is publicly funded and privately run; it is also a Catholic school. Every student at this school has chosen to be there which I believe definitely adds to the schools community (as I am sure I will find out in future weeks!)