In my last post I said that I would treat you to a dose of good old Spanglish, but I've decided to save the article until I have a little more material (and some pictures). The classroom antice of the students however, is a constant source of material. I'll still have stuff to write about from my lessons by the time Saudi Arabia's oil runs dry! So sit back and enjoy the ride. Adventures from the classroom 23.
Students have a few key phrases and words that they desperately cling to like a drowning child reaching tightly gripping a life raft. They are normally very bad at identifying words similar in both English and Spanish, but when they figure one out, they won't let it go. In a recent oral exam, one girl mentioned technology (tecnología) at least thirty times:
Is very good for the technology. I like the goods technology.
Is very much the important the technology
Yes! Newing materials like the technology.
I'm convinced that they only know three verbs - play, study and (ironically for our subject of life savers) swim. I get a lot of answers in exams like 'This morning I swam in the beach" or "My mother playing football in the house" - to which I think - No way José! The little darlings have never been that good at connecting English with reality.
My students know three adjectives - interesting, beautiful, important. They will use them to describe everything.
The assassin was very beautiful and when he swimming in the sea a interesting persons say him that Bob esponja is very important.
. . . and that was an answer to the question "What is your favourite sport?"
Another thing they cling to is the verb 'to be'. Whilst they love to tell me that they have 20 years old and they did to the cinema, they add in 'to be' at any opportunity.
I was did you go the swimming?
We be eat at the football play.
No is don't liking to the estudy. I am study the technology.
I must be doing something right as I'm receiving a few more presents this semester. It's nothing compared to British teachers who receive Easter baskets, and Christmas sacks full of iPod gift vouchers and bottles of bubbly, but its something.
Students often palm some gift off on me as an afterthought. If they enjoyed the class more or less, they will hastily thrust some food into my unsuspecting hand.
Pork scratchings and chilli sauce
All sorts really.
Some give gifts out of guilt too. When I've had to lay down the law and scold for them not paying attention or titting about in class, they'll sheepishly hand over some candy or biscuits that they were trying to flog to their classmates. For you teacher.
I did receive a nice cake for Teacher's day and a few smaller gifts. I think the students are just putting in the groundwork for me to reciprocate come Student's day.
Upsetting the apple cart:
I see my role here as to give the students something different, challenging, and unexpected. Well, anything to mess with their equilibrium and status quo really. It keeps me entertained.
I recently did a whole class with them standing up. I first made a big show of throwing away my notebook and pen as it was a speaking class. We then worked from the book reading conversations, performing them and then making up different conversations.
I was having to work constantly to stop them flopping down into a nearby chair or simply sitting on the floor.
NO SITTING, NO NOTEBOOKS; NO PENS
NO MORE BOOKS. MEMORISE!
I went around the class for 30 minutes dragging them up and performing a variety of squats and star jumps in front of their bemused tired little faces.
By the end of the class, the spare student without a partner had learned to run in between classmates to avoid the linguistic advances of the dreaded teacher, and the other students were mumbling enough English that I left them alone. At least they learned something.
I went a step farther with my level 7 nurses and took the class to the brand spanking new Roboticised clinic. The clinic is a practice building filled with medical equipment designed to mirror a real hospital. It's full of dummies (not students, the expensive robotic kind), whose disproportionately high cost is the reason that I'm writing this blog on an acorn electron computer from 1992, and why the students have to sit on water hydrants rather than benches.
Anyway, the nurses were all very excited about doing a class there and chastised me at every moment possible for not wearing my nursing whites. During the class I played the ignoramus and pretended to know absolutely nothing about the different areas and machines.
Who is that?
What is this used for?
How do I get to the Maternity ward from here?
It worked well enough, with the better students taking the lead and the worst students nodding, pointing and at least trying to explain something to me.
What is CEYE? That's not an English word.
*nodding - CEYE teacher. Yes.
What is this?
. . . monitor
What is it for?
. . . to . . . monitor.
At least they know the directions of how to get back to the classroom now.
Perhaps I didn't give as comprehensive an job interview as the famous example above, but the exercise of still proved useful. They wrote CVs and I tried to get them thinking about different nursing jobs, different advantages of them, and the skills they need to convince someone to employ them.
Even though we spent a few classes preparing for it, they aren't good at anticipating questions, or preparing any language for it. They often translate the question aloud in Spanish, then look deep into your soul to gauge whether that was indeed the question you asked. It's lucky I've got such a good poker face and steely determination.
We had the usual starting of every sentence with "Es de . . ." or "Sería . . . " and the normal addition of 'ation' onto the end of every adjective and noun they expelled, but in general, the girls did good. One of them said she didn't understand and asked politely if I could write the question down. I couldn't maintain my composure any longer, "Sorry, this is an oral exam" I explained through stifled guffaws.
In fact they did a variety of weird things in the interviews due to their nerves. They would come in and sit at the back of the room, or even take my chair in their haste. I had some give me their printed CVs very professionally, and then fail to say anything audible due to the nerves.
They look like little goofy helpless puppies when they are seated two feet away and are staring blankly at your face. I kept getting the giggles when they opened up their mouths to smile (rather than speak), displaying a startling array of snaggle teeth protruding at wonky angles. I know I've not got perfect teeth, but maybe these girls should be applying for dentistry jobs, not nursing!
One thing is for certain, Oaxaca's next generation of nurses are VERY concerned about money:
Why do you want the job?
To win money
No, that's why you want a job. Why do you want THIS job?
Good money. Teacher
I'm not the teacher, I am a human resources representative from Oaxaca General Hospital. Remember?
Oh, yes teacher.
Do you have a question about the job of paediatric nurse here?
Yes, how much money is my salary?
By the fortieth interview of 50, I was losing my mind being asked again and again about salaries. I started to throw a few curve balls at them, like saying I didn't know the salary, or that it was a charity position. Another tactic was to low ball them:
Your salary will be 2000 pesos per month. Is that a good salary for a nurse?
Is it? I earn more than five times that amount.
Oh, no good salary teacher.
Do you want the job then?
For the good salary teacher.
Mexico has got a holiday for practically everything: Flag day, Children's day, Psychologist's day, Day of the dead, Day of the tortilla, speed bump day, beans week and even clown month. OK, not all of those are true.
Mexican Student's day (23rd May) is celebrated to commemorate the 1929 liberation of UNAM, Mexico City's famous university. On that date a student was killed by police disrupting a protest that the government still controlled the university curriculum. It seems the politicians have stepped things since then as the death toll from last year's student protest in Guerrero reached the now infamous number of 43.
Now, Student's day offers the little darlings the opportunity to shout such witticisms as 'movie teacher!' or 'candy teacher!' before class starts. I would say they act like babies, but you should see them on children's day! I came prepared this time with a quiz about student's day with perplexing questions stumped them and took a lot of prompting:
What did Phil study at university?
Don't know teacher
What do you think?
Pues . . . don't know
No, that's what I teach. What did I study, nursing? engineering? mathematics? literature? art?
****** laughter ******
errr teaching teacher?
Those that showed up had some fun and fiercely competed for such wonderful prizes as tickets to the disco (I pretended I was going to get them even more excited), or a free pass for a class (they were much more excited about this one).
I offered sweets around, and several of them nearly broke their fingers by jamming in their hands to pull out one of their favoured chilli-tamarind squeezy goo candies. What ever happened to being satisfied with a couple of Jelly Babies and a mini Chomp?
Next time, Spanglish . . . I promise.