My first day at Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos in Madrid, Spain and all of my expectations were proven wrong. I am working with the 7th grade and the 5th grade during their English lessons. Colegio Highlands is a network of Catholic, private schools from preschool to secondary (middle school). Both Colegio and schools in the US separate the students by grade--here in lies the only similarity.
At Colegio students' attend school from 9am until 5pm with a 2 hour lunch break during which they have their "after-school"activities. The students are in separate single-sex classrooms--for example I am teaching in 5B boys but there is also a 5B girls. Additionally the school emphasizes a bilingual education which they achieve by hiring teachers who only speak English--except in reality all of the teachers speak Spanish but the English teachers have spent a long amount of time in an English speaking country and are "from that country". My 5th grade CT is from "England". It is interesting to me that all of the students buy into this when the teachers clearly know Spanish and speak English with a Spanish accent.
The students were told that I am from America and do not know any Spanish. I promptly messed this up when I answered a question that a student asked in Spanish. After which the students proceed to ask me over and over ¿Hablas Español?---do you speak Spanish? I was rather impressed with their dedication as they tried to trip me up and get me to say something in Spanish--one student said "Say hola in Spanish." After much convincing they finally decided that I do not know enough Spanish--little do they know, I know enough Spanish to understand everything they are saying!
My next challenge came shortly after--explaining the difference between "isn't" and "doesn't" as question tags. I discovered quickly that I do not know the proper grammar terms--i.e. modal verbs, auxilary verbs, collocations, question tags. Both of the my CTs quickly discovered this as well and stopped asking me to define what they meant (thankfully!).
During my time in the classroom I am a walking English dictionary, a pronunciation expert and a speed talker. I am constantly asked "what do mean" which is their way of asking "what does this word mean." I always hear the question with aprehension. Sometimes the word is simple to define like "hurricane" others not so much--words like "should", "ought to", "must" are much harder. As a native speaker, both the teachers and the students are constantly asking how to say things correctly. Although according to the students I have a Wisonsin accent, subsequently they were shocked when I explained I was from Connecticut. Additionally, as a native speaker I know I speak quickly--but according to the students I speak "without breathe". I am working on speaking much slower and enunciating as much as possible. By the end of the day everyone seemed to understand me!
I look forward to spending more time at Colegio and practicing my skills as an English teacher to a whole class room of ELLs! I am sure come next Tuesday the students will be ready with more "why americans do ____" questions. (They refuse to believe that 28 degrees F is cold...among other crazy American things).