A Day in the Life, pt. 2

In case you didn’t already do the mental math, a school day that lasts from 9:00am. until 2:00pm results in 25 hours of school per week, 22.5 hours of classroom time if one subtracts the daily half-hour recess. Of those 22.5 hours, the Junta de Andalucía – the government of this southern “autonomous community” – requires the bilingual teacher’s aids such as myself to impart 12 hours of English class. (Andalucía’s bilingual centers are almost universally Spanish-English, but there are among the 600-plus auxiliares throughout the community a handful of French and German teachers as well, and even one Chinese teacher.) C.E.I.P. Riofrío has got children ranging from 3, 4, and 5 year-old preschoolers through 6th graders. Students of all these levels dedicate a varying amount of  time to learning English, although I should mention that I do not actually work with the 3 year-olds. As I understand, 3 year-olds are in fact very busy adjusting to become somewhat functioning people, and the Junta believes it is  important to reward the students who do not pee their pants with access to a native speaker. (I imagine 4 year-olds are mature enough not to pee their pants, because how else could they be mature enough to maintain a serious relationship?).

I spend 3 2/3 hours a week with the 6th graders, by far the most of any age, which suits me just fine, as these kids happen to be my favorites. I often find myself looking forward to my next 6th grade lesson, and rumor has it the feeling is mutual. (Yes, I know I haven’t posted any rumors in awhile, and this  comes about as close to a legitimate rumor as the Spanish media’s insistence in Ronaldinho’s partying/bongo-playing habits. Uhh, you may need to google that one. But what can I say? Arcos is supermegatranquilo.) Perhaps what I enjoy most about my group of 11 and 12 year-olds stems from their ability to use humor productively, as opposed to practically all the younger students, whose unrefined antics are impressively successful in disrupting the flow of a class. Instead of the average derisive attitudes adopted by the under-10 collective, usually yielding a more tense and fragmented group, my English superstars, as I will never call them, laugh with each other.

The 6th graders, needless to say, are also the smartest students, in and of itself not surprising for the school’s oldest students. But the combination of their easy personalities, their budding analytical skills, and their extra weekly hour of English affords us a special opportunity to explore some fascinating extracurricular applications of English. Our Friday afternoon classes, much to the pleasure of kids and teachers (Toñi an I) alike, have become loosely structured discussions about various aspects of American culture that I consider to be of particular interest. The first such idea that came to my mind was, naturally, to teach the kids some irrefutably amazing English-language music. I had noticed that the cheesy and soulless tunes on the Oxford University Press’ textbook-accompanying CD’s had gotten the children bopping around in their seats without the slightest objection. So I thought to myself, hey, if OUP’s blatantly patronizing and half-hearted in-house attempts at anything from electonica to the blues to funk can actually resonate with the students, I could downright inspire them with a solid selection of legitimate songs.

So the next Friday I came to school armed with a mix-CD and 25 lyrics sheets – with words missing, of course – and proceeded to turn my entire 6th grade class onto the classic American soul revelation of Sam Cooke. The song I employed was “Wonderful World,” which if you can’t place by its title, is the one that starts with “Don’t know much about history / Don’t know much biology…” The music not only practically drove the kids into an ecstatic trance, its subject matter was school-related to boot. The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” was received almost as well, but didn’t seem to click in quite the same way.  It is, nevertheless, my duty to ensure Beatles awareness. I assume that is why they pay me.

Last Friday, I dedicated the hour to an exhaustive look at the game of baseball. They are passively aware of the sport, mostly because a couple of the popular TV programs in their age group are Japanese, but they haven´t got the slightest clue about its intricate beauty. I drew a diamond on the chalkboard, and explained hits, outs, pitching, home runs, foul balls, innings, etc. Throwing the Spanish names of Ortíz and Ramírez out there was a foolproof way to pique their curiosity. My auxiliary materials for this lesson were Boston Globe front pages from late October, which defended my lecture´s thesis that ¨I am from Boston, and we are ´THE BEST!´¨ The kids also had the good sense, when presented with a big glossy photo, to ackowledge that Fenway Park ¨es muy guapo.¨ This Friday, Toñi´s husband, a gym teacher at a high school in Arcos (the same one Alberto works at, actually), is going to bring us some bats and balls, and I am going to teach them how to play baseball! Toñi asked me how many balls we would need, and I said a lot, because a home run is when you hit it over the fence. This dissapointed her, and she told me I would have to pay for that, so I think I´m just going to throw the kids a lot of sinkers. How do you throw a sinker?


~ by lincolnbrody on January 22, 2008.

3 Responses to “A Day in the Life, pt. 2”

  1. I have to say this now or I will forget it. I did notice the title of this/these post(s) and made the connection, though I should note the song might not be appropriate if you are still in the music-introduction business with these, or any other, children. They might hear “He blew his mind out in a car” and put the dots together.

  2. Reading your blog is such a pleasure. I have to add two suggestions that might be fun. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” for the Beatles and “Dirty Water” by The Standells for Boston… with portions of lyrics unintelligble as might be appropriate, of course.

  3. Coincidentally, today (Jan. 22) is Sam Cooke’s birthday. He would have been 77. One good Beatles song for the 6th graders might be “Here Come the Sun” (easy to hear the words, pretty straightforward English). Some other songs that come to mind have kind of opaque meanings, or unfamiliar vocabulary, or are just plain out-of-date (what is this “USSR” that they sing of getting back to?) Also, how about some good acoustic Dead songs—like “Ripple,” maybe. Or something from a famous Boston area band, like Aerosmith?

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