Speaking Up is Everything

Since mid-September, I was pretty miserable at my job and I didn’t understand why. I felt a combination of being stressed out in some classes while being absolutely bored out of my mind in others. I knew I was doing my best, but for some reason that was never good enough for the school administration. I was told I should stand up in front of my art classes for the entire period with something to talk about, but was given absolutely no guidance about what to talk about- not by the teacher, not by anyone. There’s only so many times you can explain the words “paintbrush” and “colored pencils” and only so many times you can ask the what they did last weekend (played futbol with their cousins at their grandparent’s or uncle’s house), or how many brothers, sisters, dogs and cats they have.

Some classes were too young to even understand a full sentence, so I would literally walk around the classroom awkwardly until someone had a question. In fact, I was the head teacher in my art classes, as my teacher would sit in the back of the classroom and shop for apartments online (Never judge a book by its cover though. I asked her later on why is it that she always seemed stressed and why she was looking up apartments.. as it turns out, she lost her husband a few years ago, and was looking for a place to live for her and her kids that was smaller and more manageable. This woman gets points for showing up at all). Since I was mostly in charge, this also meant I was in charge of keeping the class quiet, which is impossible due to the fact that there is no true discipline system installed in Spanish schools. That’s right- that means no “flipping your card”, no “recess timeouts” or “lunch detentions”. When they get yelled at or told to stand up, most laugh, and frankly, no one really cares. I would leave that class with what felt like a knot the size of Texas in my back, trying to keep the class quiet, feeling like I was constantly being “watched” to see if I was lecturing all class, and trying to decide what to talk about. This was half my scheduled hours.

The other half were music and PE classes. I enjoyed many of these classes, but there were a few where I was bored out of my mind! For some classes I literally would sit there and hope the teacher at some point during her lecture would come up with something for me to do. I was feeling a little like Billy Madison, as she went over Mozart and his compositions..

For the first month and a half, I accepted all of this, because it was all new, and honestly I thought that maybe this was just the breaks of the job .

By mid-November, I got EXTREMELY homesick. I knew the working world was hard, but how the heck could this possibly be the way it’s supposed to be! I was going above and beyond the job description, but still was feeling like I wasn’t doing my job right. I tried talking to my school coordinator a few times that I didn’t feel like things were going well, but mostly after asking to speak with her, a teacher was sent as a messenger to tell me that I just need to “try harder”. I literally was at a loss of what else to do, so I just took it.

A couple weeks ago, one of my classes went on a field trip for the first period of the day. I had no one to teach for the first hour of the day. My school coordinator told me I should come to school anyway and prepare lesson plans for my classes. This would be fine if they gave me something… ANYTHING to plan. This was when I realized something was not matching up. I’d be happy to plan anything, if I were given any amount of guidance. This is when I realized I would be much better suited in classes that were less abstract, and more concrete, like English or Science classes. You know, ones with actual LESSONS and books? I know some people may have LOVED and thrived in those more abstract classes, but I definitely learned through this experience that my brain works in a more organized and structured manner than that. This may explain why I felt so lost and confused.. everyone learns AND teaches differently.

One Sunday night a couple weeks ago, I was up until 5am stressed that a new week was starting. That was when I knew something was extremely wrong. I shouldn’t have to dread going to work. I’m usually not one to sit around and just let things happen to me, so why should this be any different? Since I was having no luck talking to my school coordinator, I decided it was time to talk to the program coordinator. After discussing my issues with her, it became very apparent that I was completely correct in assuming that things were not going how they should. She talked to my school coordinator and asked that she meet with me, and told me if things did not clear up, to re-contact her and she would come to the school and we would have a meeting with the three of us. I finally was granted time to sit down and discuss my issues with what was happening in my classes. I explained that I personally felt more comfortable having concrete subjects like English and Sciences where I could actively come up with creative ways to teach the students something structured, versus just walking around the classroom and abstractly coming up with something to discuss with the kids.

I’ve never been so happy I spoke up in my entire life.. in just a few days, my work has COMPLETELY turned around, and I’m actually excited about going to work! This is because my coordinator switched me into all English classes, and I am trying out science classes at some point next week! The head teachers help me control the class, while I either help teach the lesson already created by the teacher, or they have me come up with a fun way to teach a specific topic. Yesterday, I read them a story and did a question and answer session about endangered animals, something they were super interested in (I even slipped in a little lesson in about Mike the Tiger.. Geaux Tigers!!). The teacher helped me keep the class under control, and at the end of the class the kids were sad class was over! Today, one teacher  asked me to present where I am from.. something you all know I could talk about for days :).

I guess this just goes to show one lesson I have learned since I’ve come to Spain- only YOU can solve your own problems.. no one else cares. As Bill Gates once said,

 Looks like that billionaire knew what he was talking about.. who woulda thunk it. 

What would you have done differently if you were in my shoes? Would you rather more concrete or abstract classes?

2 thoughts on “Speaking Up is Everything

  1. Hey,

    Thanks so much for the posts. I applied for the BEDA program this year (my Skype interview is in 2 days). I am trying to get as much understanding and precautionary information about the program as possible. I really hope it works out for me to be in Madrid, Spain in September!

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