Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What am I doing here?

Living the dream? Surviving? Usually depends on what day it is.
Six years ago I moved to Spain to teach in an 'immersion' school. The children are Spanish, I teach them in English. At interview, the head told me that the children in my class (6 and 7 year olds) were 'fluent'.
I wondered later if I'd misheard. Maybe he'd said, 'Effluent'?
After 25 years of successful primary teaching in the U.K. I suddenly found myself confronted by the biggest professional challenge of my career, how to teach Spanish children in English. Not teach them English, teach them in English. That's maths, science, history, geography... the whole primary bagful. 
'Immersion' schooling is a wonderful idea, particularly good when the children have made it as far as secondary and their English is coming along fine. But remember me, I've got them at 6 and 7 years of age...
If life inside my classroom is a 'challenge' then life outside is worse. Did anyone ever tell you that 'everyone in Spain speaks English'? Wrong. Sure, a lot of hotel and bar-staff in tourist areas will have enough English to get you a drink and a bed for the night. But I'm not in a tourist area and the average Spaniard's grasp of English is as poor as the average Brit's grasp of Spanish. (And I'm probably a little below the average). EU stats claim that less than 20% of Spaniards have 'conversational standard' English. If I struggle in the class, imagine what happens outside...
So, the stage was set for a life of confusion and frustration.
This blog is the current state-of-play. This is me, here, now. Six years on and finally able to explore the country a little. There are still crazy things to report from the classroom, but I've also been able to get to know a bit of Spain and an (embarrassingly small) bit of Spanish.
These are the things that I want to share with you through this blog. The less well-known parts of Spain, the strange fiestas and celebrations that surround Spanish life, a few hints and tips about the language, the difficulties to be faced living as a foreigner when your grasp of the language is slight and, of course, the joy to be found when teaching 25 mini-Manuels (and Manuelas)
If you ever consider doing something similar, I hope this blog doesn't put you off. What I hope it might do is prepare you a little better than I prepared myself.

If you like the blog why not read the eBook? Zen Kyu Maestro, An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure available from Amazon. 
For a free sample chapter, click HERE.


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