The longest amount of time I have ever been away from home by myself was 20 days. I visited Barcelona during my winter break, junior year of college, and I did not know a soul there. However, I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful mix of American and Australian students through a travel abroad program (CIS Abroad) upon my arrival.
This time is a bit different. I have now crossed the threshold of my 20 days, and I have done so, for the most part, alone. There have been no organized activities or tours of the city, no excursions, no classes, and no three-course Spanish lunches followed by trips to see Gaudi’s most famous architectural designs. But, we are comparing apples to oranges here. And while apples are crisp and shiny, sometimes you crave a different flavor. You might have to get a little bit of rind underneath your fingernails to get to that sweet center.
This month has been slow and then fast and then slow again. I have spent a lot of quality time with my roommates, who I am extremely thankful for. Meeting Julia and Adrí my third day on the island was by no stretch of the imagination a blessing, and they have helped me keep some semblance of normalcy during such a transitional time. One night, as we were walking outside, Julia looked up at the moon and said, “We are all under the same moon. That’s what I like to think about when I’m missing my mom.” Later that week (and I don’t know how I didn’t notice it before), I was staring up at my ceiling, trying to fall asleep, and I noticed that my room has those scattered twinkling stars I always wanted as a kid…and of course.. a little sliver of a moon right dab in the center of the pattern.
I started teaching, and it is not unlike how I expected, but I do have a newfound appreciation for my American schooling and for teachers in general. Teaching, ladies and gentlemen, is not a job for those who can’t. My self-directed mission during week one of classes was to understand my students’ English abilities. How should I approach the different ESO (Secondary Education) levels? And will I be mistaken for a student? The answer to the later is yes, many times.
I arrived at school with a presentation about myself and a “Create your Instagram Profile” activity that I prayed would last the class period. My first week taught me I will have to adjust sessions for the more basic classes (alphabet, colors, greetings, etc). As, I went to college for Business (ha!), I have no idea how to make a lesson plan, so if anyone in the field of education wants to drop some knowledge, please do. So far, google drive and a plethora of dutifully named subfolders has been my approach.
I am teaching high school, and while I admit some of the students are intimidating, most are genuinely curious and kind. A highlight of my week was when a student approached me and asked me to join him and his friends in their football match. Another girl from my lower level classes proclaimed, “Hi. teacher. I love you!” when I walked into the room. The eagerness to learn English is evident in many of my students, but the classroom structure is so different from anything I’ve ever seen. The notion to raise your hand in class is quite literally a foreign concept, leaving the quieter students unable to fend for themselves in classroom discussion.
In other news, Pedro Sánchez, announced a 6 month (pending approval from the Congress of Deputires) State of Alarm due to COVID-19. The government set a 6am-11pm curfew, is limiting gatherings to 6 people, and setting travel restrictions. This state of alarm applies to all of Spain except the Canary Islands, due to its low amount of cases. In fact, the Canary Islands were just recently added to the UK’s safe travel list. When I applied to be an auxiliary (before anyone had ever heard the word coronavirus), I chose the Canary Islands on a whim. Live on an island? Sounds good. Maybe I should have done more research, but my good fortune in this particular situation proves sometimes you just have to follow your gut.
Like anything in life, my experience here will be a mixed bag. If I dig far enough and have just the right amount of luck, I may be able to pull out a small treasure. Or, I could live through a Charlie Brown scenario and repeatedly score some rocks. On that note, I will be introducing Halloween to my classes this week. What are you being for Halloween? How do you plan to celebrate Halloween in a COVID-19 world? Drop your answers in the comments below.