“What exactly are you doing over there in Spain?”
This is a question I think I have been asked, thousands of times, by so many. From what you’ve seen through pictures and stories, you might think I’ve just been exploring Spain and creating lots of memories with my family. While I won’t deny this as truth, during the weekdays you can find me at an English Institute working with native Spanish speakers.
The International Immersion Institute is an English academy located in the heart of Valladolid in the Plaza Mayor. The management team at the Institute consists of three lovely women: Heather, Melissa, and Nuria. When learning any language, there is normally more emphasis on grammar rules and writing skills, rather than oral communication. The Institute’s mission is to offer oral English communication and allow for the students to feel confident and improve their speaking skills in a fun and interesting way.
In the beginning of this internship, my JCC classmate, Greg, and I had very little responsibilities. During the first few weeks, we were mainly getting a feel for the classroom atmosphere, learning the students’ names, and simply just adjusting to this way of teaching. Depending on the day, I would either work during the morning, in the evening, or both. Normally during the morning, I would be assisted by Greg and one of the management team leaders to work with only one or two students. In the evenings, I acted more as a teacher’s assistant that would maybe do an activity with the students or go over vocabulary.
By late October, early November, I started to take on greater roles within the classroom. Depending on the class, sometimes I would teach half of it or even all of it. Beginning on the first Friday of November, from noon-1 p.m., I taught a class by myself to women ages 21-25. The feeling of officially being in charge and making my own lesson plan for the day was absolutely frightening, but when I realized that I could hop up in front and be myself without anyone telling me how I should teach was such a satisfying feeling. The student’s facial expressions of smiles and laughter gave me such positive feedback and encouraged me to keep the enthusiasm up throughout the entire class.
During the final week of November, I had to create a lesson plan to teach to the classes with teens. Choosing a topic might have been the most difficult thing because the management team wanted it to be something unique or near and dear to me. After evaluating what I’ve done in my life, I found that I do very mainstream things that most kids around the world do: play sports, attend summer camp, participate in a Missions Trip, etc. With a little help from Greg and how he was always thought of me during high school, “the extracurricular Queen,” I decided to have my lesson plan be about extracurricular activities and to compare and contrast education in America and in Spain.
Here in Spain, there are no extracurricular activities within the school setting such as Student Council, Honor Society, Yearbook Club, Psychology Club, etc. I briefly explained to the students what they are and asked some “Is it true?” questions. Some examples of the questions that I asked to the teens included: “Is it true that you call your teachers by their first names, is it true that you don’t have honors classes, and is it true that they buy their textbooks for high school?” Because all the teens come from different schools in Valladolid, they all had different answers; furthermore, this activity was the first time during my entire internship that I saw the whole class raise their hands and voice their thoughts and opinions. It was so interesting to hear what they all had to say and I loved to share similarities and differences from American education.
This past month of December was spent reading and writing pen pal letters from Warren Area Elementary students, preparing a Christmas song and dance for the students’ parents, creating a fun news report that got the students very excited for class, and saying their goodbyes to Greg and myself.
Last Friday in my final Beginners Group class, I received lots of sad goodbyes, warm hugs, and big kisses as the six amazing women I have created awesome friendships with the past two months, didn’t want me to leave. The friendships that I have made the past few months with not only the teachers, but the students are ones I will always cherish. It has been awesome to see all the progress each student truly has made in the past few months while attending the English academy.
Something that I found extremely odd during my internship was that I am majoring in Early Childhood Education, but struggled the most with my group full of 4-year-olds. Because of them being so young, they didn’t have much knowledge of English except for colors, numbers, and animals. I will admit that they were great listeners and really picked up on the vocabulary fast; however, any response they normally would say to me, would be in Spanish. As time went on, I figured out if you nod your head and respond in English with “okay” and move on with the lesson, they will listen and all is well. I am definitely excited to use the knowledge that I have learned here for my two education internships that I have to take next semester.
And so, before I left for Spain three months ago, I would answer the question of “What exactly are you doing over there in Spain?” with the answer, “Oh, just doing an internship and living with a host family.” Three months later, I can write an entire blog post and talk about it for hours.. if café con leche is involved.