Teaching values being close to students
By Angela Mengis
Spain: My third year teaching conversational English at Encinar School in Córdoba, Spain, and I can only be thankful for having this job.
It is a full schedule from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm where I try to see most of the students every week to assess their progress and give them extra help if needed. It is challenging as one of the main goals is for them to improve their conversational skills and help them obtain certificates from the University of Cambridge from Pre-intermediate at the age of 7 to Advanced when they reach 18.
English is a highly valued language in a country like Spain where many young people have to emigrate to England, Germany and France to earn a living. Parents pay a lot of money in private tutoring and language academies to get their children to keep up with the high standards these schools require.
There are about 300 students between the ages of 6 to 18. At the basic stages of English students will not be able to have full conversations but most are longing to tell me what they did on the weekend or that they lost a tooth (and they show their little white baby tooth to me). These little students are amazing sponges, real smart, but their attention span is short so the lessons are 10 minutes.
I get them to play a game as we practice a basic grammar point that they need to improve (for example, pronouns: he, she, it). Sometime they will get a prize for not making any mistake, like an apple or a pear.
Older students will have a much higher range of vocabulary. We work on the Cambridge Exam formats: this can be the Key English Test, Preliminary Test, First Certificate or Advanced. Most students will get to the Preliminary Test, a percent will get the First Certificate and very few manage to reach a high level of Advanced.
When students come into my class room (normally in little groups from two to five students), I will ask them about their weekend. They love telling me all the exciting things they do. Lately I have started praying a Hail Mary to Our Lady at the beginning of each lesson. It is a great way to check their accents and pronunciation.
We pray for all the students and teachers in the school. I am trying to make this a habit, because as years go by some will forget all they learned with me, but at least a Hail Mary will have done them good-To them and to the whole school.
It was Saint John Bosco who said on his death bead that he only regretted one thing in his life: not having had more faith in the power of one Hail Mary.
In each level, let’s say: 7th grade, there are students with learning difficulties. These will need special attention as they may get frustrated and give up. I try and put these students together and get the most out of the weekly lessons. Some have drastically improved their marks, they smile at me each time they see me. Others have not but I still have until June!
Being close to students and making these little 15 minute lessons fun has made my three years a real joy! What I earn will never make me a millionaire but I sure am glad to contribute to the future of these lovely people.
(Angela Mengis is a Swiss-Canadian. She was born in Switzerland but moved to Spain when she was young. She studied Journalism in Sevilla, Spain and teaches Languages.)