Since it was the second week of December, Christmas worked its way into most lesson plans. As a person who never gets sick of Christmas lights, Christmas music, Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, etc., I was quite eager to go into Full Christmas Mode.
One of my favorite moments was when a child in my first primary class connected language in a creative way. Most of the younger students learn English by repetition but don’t know how to use English outside of the context they learned it in. However, I had a little Christmas miracle. I asked a group of students, “Who comes on Christmas?”
“Santa Claus comes…silence!” responded a student. I sat thinking for a moment before I understood what the student wanted to say.
“Yes, Santa Claus does come silently! Very good!”
To contrast this cheery moment, I got upset when a student in fourth primary (equivalent to fourth or fifth grade in America) decided to announce that Christmas magic wasn’t real.
“There is Christmas magic everywhere! The beautiful Christmas decorations are magical. The Christmas lights at night are magical. IT’S MAGIC.”
“Vale, it’s magic,” he rolled his eyes.
Then the child hit another student, so I had an excuse to send him back to the classroom. The only cooperative student in that rowdy bunch of students turned to me quite earnestly and said, “Courtney, it’s magic.”
That Monday, I met the new host family that I will be living with next trimester. This family has two five-year-old girls from previous marriages, and the grandmother of the family used to teach at the school. According to the head English teacher, the grandmother now just cooks delicious food and talks a lot. I think we’ll get along just fine. I’m excited to live with younger children: they are so affectionate and just want to play.
It was a prosperous week. I got pictures from the two girls that I babysit, hugs from super-smart Marina at school, and I even got a folder with the emblem of the school on it. Almost three months later and I really belong! Even one of my batxillerat classes greeted me with enthusiasm. It’s normal for me to walk into a first primary class to hear a gleeful chorus of my name, but imagine 30 17- and 18-year-olds shouting your name with gusto. It’s so difficult to get that kind of enthusiasm out of teenagers, but I did it! Another Christmas miracle!
They do dote on me. One day that week, they had an exam, and three separate boys came out of the room to tell me that I had an exam and that I could leave.
“Courtney, we have an exam today, so you can go to lunch early.”
“Thanks! Good luck!”
“Courtney, exam today. You can go home if you want.”
“Yeah, Pau told me, thanks.”
“Courtney, exam! You get to rest!”
“Yep, got it, thanks guys.”
During Week 12, the last week of school before Christmas break, all the children were mentally on vacation and the teachers were stressed with evaluations and organizing all the Christmas festivities. As a conversation assistant, I just got to talk about my favorite holiday all the time. I did a presentation to a class about how Christmas is celebrated in the United States, and the students were very interested and liked the pictures of my family and I during the holidays.
Early that week, I got to see my first and second primary classes perform the dances that they had been rehearsing all month during P.E. Yes, I call them mine because those children think of me as theirs; they get really upset if my schedule changes and I don’t go to their class! I felt like a proud mother while watching them dance. They are far too cute! The performances by the secondary students on Friday, however, was drastically different: lots of terrible hip hop dances and pelvic thrusting. Not as cute.
By Thursday, my older students had completely checked out of school. We played a game where the students wrote the alphabet in the margin of a piece of paper, and next to the letters they had to think of as many words about Christmas that started with each letter. Most of the time, the game worked out quite well. Then there were the times that it didn’t.
My trouble-making PDC children (students who are on the verge of failing their secondary education), decided that a Christmas-appropriate word for the letter “f” was “fucking.” I sputtered and said no repeatedly before giving up and moving onto the letter “g.”
Many students got the alphabet wrong, and I was dismayed when some of my ESO students only managed to write down five words. If I had asked some of the students in first and second primary to do the same activity, they would have managed at least seven or eight words. There are huge gaps of education in English. Students go through waves of motivation and expectations, and once they start falling behind, it’s difficult to catch up.
Despite these hilariously sad moments, I had some happy Christmas moments during the week. The two little girls that I babysit, Chloe and Olivia, asked Santa Claus to give me a present. The mother told me this, and I melted. Maybe American Santa Claus will have to get Chloe and Olivia a present too! The other great news was that Judith passed English. Judith, who had been dismissed by teachers and had not passed a single English exam that year until I gave her a pep talk at the end of October, passed English class for the entire trimester. Amazing turn-around!
There were no regular classes during the Friday before Christmas break, but all the staff had a big lunch in the cafeteria together. Rebecca, one of the other conversation assistants from England, and I decided to brave the festivities together. Pretty much we just drank beer and laughed at appropriate moments. There was singing, there was food, there was dessert, and there were presents! Even us lowly conversation assistants were not left out, and still got a basket filled with chocolate.
Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Bon Nadal!