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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Service Learning Class

Ok, so I realized that I haven’t really written much about my other experiences here in Spain besides the food, my family, and traveling. I am taking a service learning class over here about immigrants, which is actually turning out to be really interesting. I volunteer 3 hours each Monday for this class helping to teach an English class in a nearby elementary school. The school I work at is called Colegio Alberto-Sánchez and is a public school with a moderate number of immigrants, and a lot of gypsies (that is what they are called, I’m not being racist here). The president of the school told me the first day that the gypsy girls marry when they are 13 or 14. Also, the gypsy students tend to come to class with dirty clothing, lacking boots, without their books, and tend to be very outspoken and unruly, since in the gypsy culture there aren’t really any rules for kids. A lot of the immigrants come from Morocco or Bulgaria or south America.

One of my students, Marrod, is a Moroccan immigrant who came in September, and I also have another girl from Bulgaria (I don’t know her name) among others who I haven’t found out yet/been specifically told who they are and where they are from. This past Monday I was working with Marrod helping him fill out a vocab list of English and Spanish words for clothing. It was interesting to see that he actually didn’t know a lot of the Spanish words, so his “English class lesson” was actually working to help teach him Spanish. The poor kid is behind the level of all his classmates (because he just started studying English and Spanish this year) so he has different worksheets that he has to work on alone during class. They are soooo boring. He literally has been coloring fruit and clothing (to learn colors and now clothing names) for the entire time that I have been helping with class…so about a month and a half now. This past Monday was the first time that I actually sat down and worked with him for the entire class. I ended up playing a game with him, because his worksheets were so boring he couldn’t concentrate on them/didn’t want to do them. I would tell him the name of a piece of clothing (in English or Spanish – the Spanish ones were harder for him!) and he would pretend to put it on, or point it out in the classroom if it was a girl’s piece of clothing. He started laughing when I accidentally told him to put a dress on. He said to me, “But I don’t have one!!!” and continued to giggle for quite some time. After class I saw him go up to the teacher and say something. It was only at the start of the next period that she told me that he had asked her if I was going to come again the next day. Poor Marrod I wish I could :(

That same Monday I was summoned by one of the female gypsy students. She didn’t have a workbook and wanted me to get a photocopy of the worksheet for her from the teacher. Here in spain public schools apparently they have to pay for their books. When I asked the teacher for a photocopy she replied that she was making no more for that student. She said that the girl refused to buy her book because she doesn’t like English class (not a financial reason – the teacher pointed out that she always shows up with nice clothes). In fact, right before this encounter the girl had summoned me over and asked if I liked English, haha. Seriously? When I said yes she responded “Why?! It’s not useful for anything! I don’t like it”. I really didn’t know how to handle this, but it was really sad to see her refusing to learn something that could potentially help her down the road.

There is one guy student in the class who is always goofing around and never serious – Christi. I actually had the chance to sit down with him this past Monday and play the “platter” game where you had to choose what you were going to “eat” through the exchange of “Do you like rice?” “Yes, I like rice” “Here you are”. (Sidenote: Spaniards cannot say “sausages” to save their lives). Once I started playing with him he actually got into the game (first time I’ve seen him ever do an activity in English class) and I feel he actually learned something, for once.

The teacher I work with here really doesn’t have any control over the class. The students are always walking around and talking. Spanish teachers also yell a lot more, and directly at the perpetrator for a good amount of time (which is the only time that the other students are completely silent…they all love listening to the student’s disciplinary talk). A lot of the time I feel like the kids don’t really learn much in class, which is hard to watch, since I feel like if she conducted class differently it would help them learn more, and in a more fun/engaging way. I don’t really have a role in class, besides bringing in American money next class, haha. I just walk around helping to check homework, answer questions, and make them concentrate. Lately I’ve been trying to focus on one-on-one help, which I like a lot better since I feel like I actually accomplish something, and the student I help likes it a lot more, too.

This weekend is Lisbon, Portugal! I’ll write about Córdoba/Granada soon, and also about my lovely experience in the Prado museum a few weeks ago! But for now, I’m just going to go research/read/write my 10 page art paper on El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz by El Greco. Interesting, but still painful and complicated…If anyone wants to come tour the Prado Museum with me, I am now a certified Greco expert. And I could probably do Goya and Velázquez justice, too!

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