I explained previously that in my home country, I practised as an attorney, for a number of years.
Now, due to fact that for some unbeknownst reason the Spanish government has decided I am not allowed to work (formally), I work illegally since I have a skill that seems to be rare in my host country, namely that I can (allegedly) speak English, and as such, I am a teacher. You can spot the irony here.
In any event, I now teach children and adults alike the art of speaking and writing English.
Today I had the privilege of talking to a Spanish mother, and due to the nature of this discussion I thought it prudent to share same:
1. Her nine year old daughter is in my class. Lovely girl, very sweet and eager, she does all her written work perfectly, but she is so shy, she refuses to talk. Fine, I was once upon a time an introvert, so I can relate. I believe positive reinforcement makes a tremendous difference and as such, I don’t demand that a shy child part take in class. Clearly I am wrong in this thought.
2. Her daughter’s marks in English improved from the equivalent of 50% to 90% since I have been teaching her. Yes, I can boast about something.
3. However, her daughter’s own full time teacher (who is also the child’s formal English teacher), told the mother that she must talk to me, because the little girl does not talk enough. I must “make” her speak to me in English.
Right. I stand and listen to this and would like to tell the mother the following (in English, of course):
1. You daughter is an introvert. Deal with it.
2. I am supposed to teach a “fun” English class. “Making” someone talk hardly falls in the category of “fun” in my view.
3. I am not the child’s formal English teacher, she has one, and surely this teacher can also “make the child talk”.
4. I could sit on her child and make her speak English, I think however such behaviour could have serious repercussions for me.
5. On any given day, I have a group of approximately fifteen screaming (Spanish speaking) nine year olds for one hour in my class. This hour is normally spent as follows:
Ø I have to ensure that I don’t kill the children;
Ø I have to ensure that they don’t kill one another;
Ø I have to ensure that they do not all go to the bathroom all at the same time, which they of course do want to do, ten times during one class;
Ø I have to deal with this mob who for some reason every Monday, or in fact any day that ends with a - y -, has lost their ability to speak, read, understand, comprehend or listen to English;
Ø I have to encourage them to take less than one hour to settle down, got to the bathroom, take out their books (which they for some reason almost always forget), look at the board and start their exercises;
Ø I have to, during each and every class, explain that “he is for a man”, and “she a woman”. One would think this explanation would, after the one hundredth time, stick. Indeed not;
Ø I have to translate each word and sentence;
Ø I have to encourage, beg and threaten certain children to just complete the exercises (of which the answers are written on the black board I might add); and
Ø I have to prevent children from climbing out of windows, kicking a soccer ball, throwing scissors, pens, pencils and the like.
As such, my time to ensure a shy little girl who out of her own does not want to speak English, or Spanish as far as I can gather, talks in class.
I am however incapable of saying any of the above to the mother, due to the fact that not only is my Spanish so limited, but, further, when her daughter then runs to me, gives me a hug and says she loves English, I think, all right, take a deep breath, and just…smile and nod.