I.E.S. El Fuerte is the name of the high school where I teach English. El Fuerte’s bilingual program is new and all the staff is very ambitious to create a bilingual environment. The teachers are learning English as well, so many of my days at work are spent speaking only English.
Watching the students and speaking with them is a perfect demonstration of how learning a new language comes more easily to children. It seems the more years in one’s age, the more difficult to pronounce, remember, and understand a second language. The younger students learn more quickly and have less trouble recreating the sounds that traditionally give native Spanish speakers trouble (“sh” or “st” for example). I never realized how difficult English is until I began this job, trying to find ways to explain grammar other than “That’s just the way we say it”. And reading. Spanish words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled, there are even accent marks to tell you which syllables to stress. In English, as we came across in learning to read, words aren’t always what they seem (would, bought, bake).
I am lucky to have such well-behaved students, as most children in Spain are famous for acting like orangutans. They are very eager to participate and also kind to one another. The first year students are at the wonderful age where they haven’t yet noticed that boys and girls are too different to be friends, or who has money and who doesn’t—they haven’t learned the cruelties that come with teenage angst.
Every day of the week the first and second year bilingual students have one class in English, with me. For the hour period the lesson and all communication is supposed to be in English. Many students think I don’t know Spanish. I am an assistant in Math, P.E., and English Language and I have weekly meetings with each teacher to prepare the class. The Physical Education teacher is especially motivated and I love working with him and playing with the kids. Assisting the English language teachers is also enjoyable. One of my favorite classes was the day I taught the children “Yellow Submarine” and we learned vocabulary like “waves”, “friends”, “sea”, “life”.
This week and today have been exceptionally enjoyable as it was Halloween. The students were very enthusiastic in their pumpkin carving, classroom decorating, and gory costumes. I acted as a judge for the contests and it made me remember being in school, so passionate and spirited about things such as classroom decorating. I think those activities are just as important in education as the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic. Today’s festivities make me excited for Thanksgiving, where I can teach something to unique to my culture, to Christmas, Valentine’s and Easter too.
Working with children, always excited and enthusiastic, fills me with energy. I love the students very much. And I can see there may be a problem because I just want to spoil them all.