Week 7 at school meant Science Week. While the children seemed to enjoy the change of schedule and the special projects, I was thrown through a loop. As a mere conversation assistant, I am the last to find out about any events at school. So after spending a few evenings planning new lessons for the students, I discovered that most of their regular classes were cancelled. Never a dull moment, and all that jazz.
The cafeteria ladies have become one constant at the school. I have yet to know their names, but they seem to know my schedule. “Oh, you are late today!” one of them remarked on a day when I normally had an early lunch. Little details like that bring an early afternoon smile to my face.
However, the students are definitely starting to warm up to me. During the first few weeks, it was a struggle to get the kids talking, and now I can’t get them to stop. Arguments ensue on a daily basis about whose turn it is to have conversation with me. Nothing like a bunch of kids shooting out of their seats to come talk with me as soon as I enter the room!
On the other hand, sometimes the students are a little too eager and still have trouble finding the boundaries between my being their peer and their superior. I’m not a teacher, but I’m hardly a student. They tell me their woes, complain about teachers, and discuss their “extracurricular activities” that I would rather not know about. Bless their overeager hearts.
The fact remains that these students need English. Despite the official language of Spain being Spanish, the students still need a certain level of English to get into university. To enter university, students take an exam called la selectividad that evaluates their academic abilities and knowledge; on this exam, there is a portion dedicated to English. Poor English levels could prevent students from getting into their top university.
Despite the doom and gloom hanging over the heads of the older students, Week 8 brought great news. Judith, a 4t ESO student who I had given a pep talk to during previous weeks, announced that she had passed her English test with a 5.6. It was the best mark she had received on an English test that year. She was so excited and came running down the hall to tell me, but I was even more excited than she was. I knew that she could do it; maybe all that lacked was someone to believe in her.
The rest of Week 8 was rather difficult. I almost completely lost my voice. As a conversation assistant, my job is to talk. Without a voice, I was a bit like a broken pencil—pointless. I wish I could say that I navigated the situation well, but I resorted to tea with honey and cough drops and whining. The children’s behavior improved, though. Because I could not strain my voice to get their attention, I had to use other methods. Forewarning them that I had no voice made them listen better, and anytime they saw me starting to get annoyed with their nosy antics, they would hush each other up. After that, I started thinking that I should be sick every week! This worked to my advantage only for a bit.