This week has been trying. It’s cold again and I’m cranky. Coke Light sucks and I woke up to street construction the past two days. It sounds as if there is a pigeon in the walls of my bathroom. My shower head sprays every which way. And I could go on.
I taught one of my private class students, Eduardo, to say he “woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” You could say I woke up on the wrong side on Monday and have kept doing so all week long. You’d think I’d learn my lesson.
I really don’t like Thursdays. But other days are okay. Usually. On Wednesday, last hour, right when all our bellies are growling and clamoring for the sumptious delicacies from mamá’s kitchen, I have a group of first years. They’re all 11 and 12, hungry, and restless. Not a good combination, in case you were wondering. They don’t like listening. Normally, the students are, although misbehaved, nice. Not yesterday. Oh no. One student asked me, “But Kaley? What have you done? You looked better before.” Admittedly, I had my hair up with a headband and wasn’t at my hottest. But seriously? When did my appearance become up for discussion? Sit down and tell me that in English and maybe then I’ll pay attention.
Today wasn’t much better. I swear, they care nothing and I mean nothing about learning English. The thing that really gets my goat is that this is free. In the future, I will charge you upwards of ten euros an hour for the privilege of talking to me, kiddos. But now they don’t give a damn. They’re fine with the status quo—e.g., not knowing more English than hello, goodbye, and how to count to ten. I exaggerate, but only a little.
As I said in this post, my students are embarrassed. That doesn’t stop them from making fun of me. Of course not. My accent is constantly ridiculed and laughed at, but I still keep trying to help them, translating if needed, even if such behavior is strictly forbidden by the auxiliares’ handbook. So you can just imagined how steamed I get when I try to say someone’s name and my vowels are perhaps not as clear as they should be (forgive my American close-mouthed pronunciation). It’s all I can do not to let a few choice words fly. I’ll admit, it’s happened. Not that they understood. Sigh.
What I’m saying is hey, North American Language and Culture Assistants, it’s not all fun and games and happy English learners with cute accents. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), the kids are bratty and the adults treat you like a mildly retarded foreigner who doesn’t really fit in nor get things here. But take heart, my friends. There are plenty of good times that make up for it: travels, coffees in smoke-free (!) coffee shops, the sunny Plaza Mayor of Salamanca, delicious tapas, and sometimes even a romance or two. So I’ll keep chugging along, hoping that students under my care will one day want to learn the so-called global language, lingua franca of 2011. I shan’t quit.
Not today anyway.