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Las Navidades Escolares

21 Dec
Teacher Agape Dinner

Teacher Agape Dinner

Today is the end of the world! At least as we know it. So say the Mayans. Here in Bilbao, it is the festival of Santo Tomás, a day when the people of the surrounding villages come to the city to sell their wares for Christmas – crafts and  local food. At school, it was a day of parties and celebration for la Navidad. The students prepared for a couple of months, wrote the scripts and performed the skits. I was amazed at the creatiity and political astuteness of this generation of students. Everyone knows about the Spanish economic crisis, right? About all of the severe cuts the government has made? Well, these students don´t like it and they let us know! They had a very cute skit where students were sitting comfortably at desks with large, oversize pencils. Then a group of officials arrived with the ¨recortes¨ and cut the pencils in half, took away the desks and half the chairs, leaving students to make do with very little. Sound familiar? I was surprised by the political awareness of these young people.

After the student performance, the day ended for the students and began for the teachers. Teachers arrived in the Sala de Profesores for an Agape with chorizo, vino tinto, txokoli, pan, y murcilla – which was absolutely delicious! And yes, there were alcoholic beverages served on school premises for teachers, purchased with school monies! What a novel concept.Overall a very nice day. Off to the festival de Santo Tomás!


Siempre aprendiendo y probando

28 Oct

Last evening I went to a quedada, a get-together, with a couple people I knew and met some other fantastic people. There were twelve of us total. The wine was great, the food was good and the company best of all. But, as I continue to discover, I am learning something new every day besides words to add to my castellano vocabulary. Perhaps I am giving away my uncultured background here, but eso es; I hereby divulge my ignorance. Then again, if no one tells me, how do learn? I have one advantage to being here in Spain: they believe it is just different in the States! And in many ways, yes it is. But I was just doing some research and discovered that I have been doing it wrong all these years.

The correct way to hold a glass of red wineLesson Number One: Drinking wine. Hold the copa by the stem, not the bottom of the goblet, so as not to warm the wine with the temperature of the hand. Well, I knew that for champagne and white wine, but for red wine does it make a difference? I mean, red wine is already room temperature. But apparently it does, so I now will hold my wine glass by the stem. (In my defense, one of the glasses of red wine was served chilled and I wanted to warm it up!)






Lesson Number Two: Finishing a meal. Place your fork and knife together across the plate, with the handles at five o´clock and the tines and blade at ten o´clock. This demonstrates that you are done with your meal and that you are pleased with it. I knew all about placing the silverware on the plate, but had been crossing my fork and knife on the plate. Apparently that is an insult, indicating that you are displeased or dissatisfied with the meal. Before the server took my plate, my companion beside was sure to explain this to me, so I quickly corrected myself so as not to offend anyone.



Disfrutando un café con lecheFirst new experience: Café con leche (and a lot of azúcar). My friends and family know that I do not drink coffee. My feeling is that if you have to learn how to drink it, it is not worth drinking, so I never learned how to drink coffee. But here I was, at the quedada, and everyone was having coffee after the meal. And here in Spain, they serve the very fuerte coffee in the cutest little tazas! I just had to try some. My first taste of café con leche (coffee with creme) was like drinking dirt…seriously people, how do you do it? So I added a packet of sugar. Yes, a little better. The gal across the table offered her half packet of sugar and, Voila! perfect cup of coffee. So now I can add that to my list of new adventures. Who would have thought I would have to travel across the Atlantic to try coffee?!


Second new experience: Karaoke, Spanish style. When the ¨gang¨ suggested we go to a Karaoke bar, I quickly agreed. What better way to experience some Spanish culture than to watch and listen to people singing their hearts out. Of course, I thought I would get a good laugh, too, as many people singing Karaoke usually aren´t the best singers in the world, myself included. I also wanted to see if there were any differences between the US and Spanish versions. It´s official folks; Karaoke is Karaoke, no matter where you are. Some great singers, some mediocre singers, and some who can´t carry a tune in a bucket if their life depended on it, yet continue to sing song after song, much to the dismay of all the other patrons.

Overall, last night was a great learning experience and an absolute joy to meet more new people here in Bilbao. If I didn´t have so much to learn, life would be dull and lifeless, which is perhaps why I am loving this place so much.


Un Día Escolar en España

5 Oct

8 am. Thirty minutes before the school day begins. Normal reporting time for teachers back at Collins High School, where all my colleagues are teaching. I approach the building and begin to wonder, “Is anyone here?” The parking lot is empty. (I have been there before when there were many cars.) No classrooms had lights on. There were no students milling about. The halls were empty. All the doors to the classrooms are locked. The halls are dark. Not a soul to be found.

After about ten minutes, I finally found the Jefa de Estudios, and she gave me a quick tour of the school where I would be having my classes. That is when I discovered that I would be moving from classroom to classroom, and the students stayed in the same room most of the day! I had heard rumors of such, but never did I actually experience such a thing. So I went back to the Seminario (the English teachers’ planning room) and waited for the English teacher with whom I would be working first.

I had prepared a PowerPoint introducing myself because the teachers had told me they had projectors and computers in the classrooms. But when I entered the room, all I saw was some student desks, a teacher desk and a whiteboard. Lo and behold, the teacher of record took out her keys and unlocked the desk and Voila!, out pops a laptop and all the fixin’s for a 21st Century classroom. I assembled everything very quickly, popped in my USB pen and began my presentation. The students, freshman level, (3ero ESO) were very attentive, except for occasional talking here and there.

The second English class…huge difference! They were 8th graders (2do ESO) and were doing everything they could to show off in front of me. I finally just started talking, brought one of the girls up beside me and made her my “friend” for the day. She quieted down and was much better behaved. She eventually sat down. Another boy continued to talk continuously, so I asked him to come up and be “pretty” and model for us. I demonstrated in front of the class what I wanted him to do, with exaggerated movements. The class laughed. He stayed in front of the class for a few minutes, then I allowed him to sit back down in a different seat, away from his friends. Overall, they were just competing for my attention, but were a good group of kids, once they settled down.

I then had a two hour break. (I can get used to this life!) I gave the intro presentation to another class of freshman, and they were delightful. I also have one sophomore History class to end the day at two o’clock on Fridays. This was the best class of all, as they asked me questions about why I came to Spain, what did I like about Bilbao, and others about my family and what I like to do.

A few things that are different that I am not sure I will ever get used to…They call their teachers by their first names! This shocks me! How do you distinguish between a teacher and a student? Teachers wear jeans every day to school and dress fairly casual (not all, but many). I kind of like this idea, but again, how do you distinguish between teacher and student? The bell, if you can call it that, is a siren! It scares the liver out of me. More than once today I almost jumped out of my skin, and I knew it was coming. The bell sounds more like our fire alarm warning. No clocks, anywhere! I remember this from the last time I was in Spain. Classrooms do not have clocks, hallways do not have clocks; you need to have a watch or your cellphone to know the time, lest that awful siren scare you to your grave! Teachers travel from class to class, not the students. Teachers have to carry their things with them and set up the technology each time they want to use it, wasting valuable time.

I am sure that I will notice other similarities and differences between our schools as the year progresses but these were the most notable differences today.

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