I have a job! Did you know that? I’m just making sure, you know. It’s sort of prestigious and really selective and totally hip and … wait. Did I just say hip? I think that proves it’s totally not.
I am not a teacher, yet I am not not a teacher. I’ll wait until your brains wheels start to turn again after that sentence. Ready? Okay. I am a conversation assistant; I go to class and talk until I’m blue in the face and the children don’t listen. It’s fun! You sound all breathy and hoarse, which is obviously great for my future career involving 1-900 numbers and late hours. No really, they listen. Sometimes. Most of the time, they just don’t understand me. I’ve got a funny accent, you see. It’s native and I pronounce Spain as Spain and not Espain. I use funny phrases like “How’s it going?” instead of “How are you?” I don’t say trousers and trainers; I say pants and tennis shoes. (Isn’t funny how little tennis is played while wearing tennis shoes? I’d say a good 99% of the time, people wearing tennis shoes are definitively not playing tennis. Hm.) They are not used to my voice, my intonation. They are used to their teachers, who repeat the instructions in Spanish. It’s a rather annoying truth really—they know it will be repeated in Spanish, so why bother trying the first time? They’re just conserving energy, you see.
I am a cultural ambassador. (Beware, my ambassadory skills are formidable.) This means I tell them about the U.S. and try to look as cheerful as the above Americans at all time. My smile may be plastered on, but gosh darn it, I must convey a positive image to the outside world. I do not fulfill their idea of a typical American, though, and this may be my downfall. I don’t really like meat and potatoes and my favorite band is not, as one child asked, “Laddie Gaga.” I don’t often wear blue jeans with “trainers.” I eat lots of vegetables. (No comments here, family.) I speak Spanish fairly well … HUH! Whodathunk it?
I work Tuesday to Friday. Yes, it’s a cushy job. My favorite part is the midmorning break, from 11:10-11:40. The children all bring some sort of snack (be it a Serrano ham sandwich or these airy corn chip things or what have you). The teachers all go to a nearby café, which has a table reserved for us and another for a nearby elementary school. We are VIP. The owner and his wife run the whole establishment and know what each person wants before they ask for it. Some get pinchos, little appetizer-ish things. Most get coffee and several smoke, annoyingly. I have learned to expect it, but still. I always smell like smoke upon leaving. It’s a great time to see them act normally, although an older teacher urged me to put on a jacket before I caught cold. (I did feel as though Mario’s mother were there in spirit.) It’s nice to have real conversations and get to know them on a more personal basis.
Check back soon for more in-depth discussion of my classes and the students (not specific ones) in them.