Everyone I have met in Spain, as well as everyone back at home, has asked me similar questions: “What are you doing here?” or “Why are you going to Spain?” These are valid questions; if you’re going to go to another country for a semester, there’s probably a good reason for it! While there are no less than a thousand different factors that contributed to my decision to come to Spain for the spring semester, I wanted to take a minute to explain exactly what I have been up to over the past month!
In short, I’m an English teacher! But I won’t stop there… I’ll give you the full scoop as to exactly what teaching English in Valladolid entails.
My official title is “English Instruction Intern for United Cultures, S.L.” Through one of the many opportunities offered through Jamestown Community College’s experiential learning programs, I am currently an intern for United Cultures, which is a small, family-run language organization. According to JCC’s experiential learning web page, “very basically, experiential learning is learning by doing.” I have been doing just that; through my time in the classroom, I have been learning the different elements that go into creating, preparing, and executing lesson plans for all my classes.
Preparing lesson plans was something I had never done prior to coming here. Although I have tutored elementary schoolers for years, this aspect of teaching was completely new for me! Heather Espeso, our supervisor for the internship and owner of United Cultures, has been critical in showing us the different steps that go into this process. We meet with her on a weekly basis with ideas of different activities we may want to try with our classes, and she critiques them, gives us feedback, and gives us more materials for other potential projects for students. When we first got here, we spent a lot of time observing the different classes, but now that we have been here for a little over a month, we are really “getting our hands dirty” leading classes!
I teach in a variety of different classroom settings. Our main classes are in a local public school named Ponce de Leon. There, we teach elementary school age children. We have children from kindergarten age all the way up through primary school. Since I have been here, I have learned the importance of teaching a second language to students at a very young age. Because so many of these kids stay with this after school English program for many years, you can clearly see an improvement in the levels of English that the kids are able to comprehend and use over time. Even if you are skeptical on the amount of information younger kids are able to retain, they are undoubtedly taking in the vocabulary like “sponges,” and, due to this exposure, they find it much easier to learn the language more in-depth when they are a little bit older.
At Ponce, we have a theme each week that we focus on with our students. When we first arrived, the kids were learning about winter and different winter vocabulary. A few weeks ago we had a pirate week, and we focused on Valentine’s Day for the week of Valentine’s Day. Last week was Goldilocks & pen pal letters to American students, and this week we are starting animals!
In addition to classes at Ponce, I also have individual classes with one of the students from that school, one-on-one conversational classes with a couple of students who live in my host family’s neighborhood, ASPAS (which is an association for hearing impaired children), an infant day care, and daily English classes with two of my host sisters. I am definitely keeping busy with this internship!
More than a third of our time here is already over. Time absolutely flies; it feels like we just arrived here yesterday! I am definitely looking forward to the next two months of teaching, living, and learning in Valladolid, Spain!