As many of you have heard, as of yesterday I am officially an English teacher at American School Way, a school in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá. Let me run you through how the process took place:
-On Friday, I was introduced to the school by a girl from Canada who I met through our mutual couch surfing host, who has been teaching at the school for about 6 months, now. She vouched for me and I was asked to come to the school again on Monday morning with paperwork (CV, letter of recommendation, college transcript, etc.)
-On Monday, I came back with my paperwork at 10 AM and was asked if I could start training at 1:30. Eager to start, I left and had lunch and came back at that time to start training with another estadounidense from L.A. They were very thorough. To give you an idea, the training lasted until a quarter to 9.
-Each of the classrooms are identified by a different US state, except for the several French classrooms, which are labeled with French words. Our training was, for the majority of the time, in a classroom titled, “Illinois.” Ironic, don’t you think? Our training was done by a friendly man named David; about five feet tall with a long black ponytail that reached down past his belt. I can postulate his height because there is a short hallway from the receptionist area to the classroom with a ceiling that tops out at around five feet. He joked that it was just his size. David explained there are different levels, but within each level (the levels divide the class), your classes will be comprises of up to six students who most likely all be in different places in the book. Each program is made up of around 80 classes, so you may have a student who is having their first class and a student who is having their 80th class. “Es complicado,” I commented to David. He explained that you divide the amount of time you have (80 minutes) by the number of students you have that day. If there are six students, each one will receive 13 minutes dedicated to their section. He showed us how to find the videos and audio on the computer that correspond with the readings in the book. He showed us this super silly sitcom created specifically for teaching English. Here’s how one of the episodes played out:
Two men are sitting on the couch watching a game on TV. A women comes behind them holding new clothes she bought from the store. “Do you like this blouse?” she asks them? One of them turns around for a second while the other stays staring at the TV. “Oh that’s a great blouse,” the first man says. “Yeah, I love that blouse.” Cue the laugh track. She smiles and puts the shirt back into the back. “What about this dress?” she asks. The same situation continues with the men agreeing to like clothing they haven’t looked at.
I couldn’t help but think back to my Spanish classes at Lincoln Hall and Niles West, to La Catrina, the telenovela with bad acting and dramatic zoom ins to reveal a girl with cringing with concern; showing off her clunky braces. I remembered how I was a pain to my teachers in my Spanish classes, how little I wanted to pay attention. Fortunately the students at this school are pretty much University students and older, people who want to be there. Still, I remember why those classes didn’t work. Front and center was always the stress being put on the grades, rather than the importance of communicating. For that reason, it wasn’t until I got to Argentina that my Spanish speaking abilities really accelerated.
The other trainee and I sat in on a few classes, both with excellent teachers. In the first class, the teacher was helping the students with a simulated dining experience. He would come back with the completely wrong order and the students would have to explain that they didn’t order those dishes. Later, the other student and I had to go through a class, making sure we could perform all of the logistical duties: making sure all the books were checked in where they should be, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on the students’ paperwork, etc.
For the month of October, I’m going to be doing private classes, taking the classes and apartment of this girl I met from Canada while she travels for the next month. (I move in there in less than a week.) Starting Wednesday, they’re throwing me in with the lions. Wednesday through Friday my schedule will be 1:30-9pm: five back to back classes. This is the normal schedule. Then Saturday there will be more classes from 8 AM to, I think, about 1:30. After October, my classes at the university will continue in a similar fashion. Later this afternoon, I’ll be accompanying Becky, the Canadian, to her private class to get to know the student and how to get there.
For now, I’m sitting at a Café chain of a popular coffee brain, Juan Valdez, located next to the “Centro Cultural de Gabriel Garcia Marquez” in La Candelaria neighborhood. I’m drinking a café con leche and am about to do some serious brushing up on grammar. At my interview I was asked to explain things like Past Perfect and Future Needs-Improvement, or whatever. Either way, I was like…
TIME TO STUDY!
I’m sure I’ll have some serious embarrassment to write about in the near future, so stay tuned!
((Slips on banana peel)) ((Laugh track))