Sorry: Not White Enough to Teach

Can you imagine the color of your skin — not your professional experience — being the deciding factor in your teaching career? That seems to be the case in China. I know we still have a lot of discrimination to deal with in the world, but this is just pathetic.

Read this story to see what I’m saying. In China, English Teaching Is a Whites-only Club

The funniest thing is, the Asian guy in the story is discriminated against in…Asia.

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What I have learned, What I will miss

As my time here is coming to an end, I’ve been thinking: what have I learned about this experience? What will I miss most about Spain? What will I not miss? Or will I miss this at all? Undoubtedly, I will. Some of it, at least.

But first, what have I learned?

Apart from having gained amazing experience in teaching, one of the things I’ve learned is that no matter where the world takes you, no matter the culture, education gets you ahead. It is the same everywhere in the sense that it is encouraged, it is vital, it is a very powerful tool. The yearning for learning is very much alive in these children (maybe they’re just a bit lazier and not pushed hard enough by their parents, but they’ve been really good kids). My experience has been unique because I was thrown at it with no formal training at all — it’s been very raw — and I have had to learn some things on my own because most of these teachers for some reason thought that I was already a teacher. Yeah, that’s part of the charm of Spain: disorganization.

Still, I keep learning. I have learned so much more about the Spanish culture; having visited about 20 regions—and counting—you may feel like you already know Spain like the palm of your hand. Working with Spaniards has made this whole experience a lot better and more Spanish (compared to the first time I lived here). Also, the time I’ve been living here, I always wanted to be surrounded by locals. I always wanted to go where the locals went. What is the point of mingling with tourists from my country? I mean, sometimes it is fun. But I came here for a reason. I wanted to emerge in the culture as much as possible, and it has paid off.

The Strait of Gibraltar (North is to the left:...

The history of Spain still fascinates me. I work with people who are full of knowledge…although most of them haven’t been to as many regions as I—a non-Spaniard—have, but they are knowledgeable of their country’s history (and may I add, very patriotic) and they have passed along some of that knowledge to me. The principal assistant, with whom I carpool, has been like the “Spain Bible” to me; she knows absolutely everything, from wine to places visit, to history of the smallest towns. I’ve learned a lot from her.

I’ve learned about the country’s geography and its climate. For example, I can tell you that the south will be an inferno in the summer. How do I know that? Because it’s only May and Ciudad Real, which is not even deep in the south, is hot as hell right now, at almost 2AM! Geographically, I love Spain because most of its boundaries are the ocean. It is a giant piece of land on water. (I’m really trying to keep this elementary.) You can find a beach in Spain in any of the cardinal points and of course they have the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. That’s pretty cool for its citizens—there’s always that option to easily move to an island to escape la rutina.

Those are some of the things I’ve learned. Now on to what I will miss the most. Or should I list what I will not miss first? Yes, here it goes.

I will not miss:

  • Ciudad Real
  • Banco Santander
  • Spain’s customer service system
  • La bendita Siesta Time!
  • Mercadona’s theme song
  • Talking and watching Fútbol (soccer) 24 hours a day
  • The neighbors slamming their door, day in and day out
  • The apartment’s paper-thin walls
  • My Flintstones’ mattress
  • The bathroom faucets
  • My cell phone company, Vodafone
  • The washer
  • Carpooling (too tight of a ride!)
  • Not being able to take the trash down until past 7PM

And now what I will miss:

  • Living abroad
  • My students
  • The good times spent here
  • Spain’s tipping system
  • The plentiful and cheap good wines
  • The easy cheaper weekend travels
  • Mercadona’s cheap, good-quality groceries
  • The restaurants and tapas bars!
  • Madrid’s nightlife, Sevilla, and the Mediterranean Sea
  • Shopping at Sfera and all the chic inexpensive lines
  • The mostly-quick Renfe rides
  • Transportation punctuality and efficiency
  • The relatively pleasant weather
  • Leaving work at 2PM
  • The crazy amount of holidays and days off!

I’m sure more will be added to these lists as I continue my life here, because I’m not done yet! 😉

Bruises, Scrapes and Missing Teeth: A Day with 1st Graders

When working with children, you never really know what to expect. At any given moment, anything can happen. Kids are very clever, but they are also so fragile. Among my students for instance, many of them always seem to have a runny nose—it’s like the eternal cold—and, on occasions, one or two will hurt themselves while playing outside, thus scratching their everything.

A few weeks ago, first grade student Esther came running, showing me her smile, which was now missing two front teeth. Filled with excitement she said, “I lost two teeth over the weekend!” Esther doesn’t talk that much in class, so I felt very special she wanted to tell me this. She’s such a sweetie. As adults, we’d be terrified if that happened to us, but the little ones get so excited about their teeth-less smile…I find it adorable.

My nieces are around that age and one of them got a complex about her smile when she started losing her teeth. I didn’t know kids that young could actually feel insecure. It wasn’t a big deal in my time, but times have changed. So now, every time I see kids losing their teeth, I make sure to let them know how CUTE I think their smile looks. And it’s true.

Anyhow, what I witnessed today wasn’t all that cute. There were bloody mouths, bloody noses, scratched elbows and bruised knees. My first grade students didn’t see me last week (I had switched my schedule around in order to make it to Las Fallas) and they were very excited to tell me all about their past two weekends. As I entered the room, they ambushed me: “Teacher Marcia! Teacher Marcia! [Incomprehensible speech as they all tried to speak at the same time.]”

It was getting a little out of control, so I had to lay down the law. I asked them to sit down and raise their hands if they wanted me to hear their stories. One by one they began raising their hands. Lucia goes first: “I was running and I crashed against a tree.” Ouch. Poor girl had cuts and scratches all over her nose and cheeks. What kind of tree was this? Or how fast was she running? I wondered. Alejandro then raises his hand, “I lost one tooth today.” Then it was Beatriz’s turn, “Me too, teacher!”

I see Manuel, the most active little boy I’ve ever known, jumping by his seat (typical) trying to get my attention. “Yes, Manuel?” I say. He comes running to the front of the class, rolling up his pants leg above his right knee. “Seño, look, I fell on the playground and hurt my knee AND my hand.” Oh my…  I always worried about that little boy; he moves around way too much. It can’t be safe. Manuel set the standard by showing me his wounds because then everybody wanted to show me something. Maria also came up to me rolling up her sleeve, “I fell, too, like Manuel and cut my elbow.” They went on and on and on…

I couldn’t believe they all hurt themselves at once, in one day. It was only 12:30 past meridian! How much energy is in these kids?

Then, as I am finally ready to start my lesson, Maria—the same little girl with the bruised elbow—interrupts, “Teacher, I’m bleeding from my nose!” ¿Cómo es posible? Seconds later, Beatriz’s mouth is all bloody from the tooth she had just lost… Meanwhile, my face looks like this:

HA! I must admit, I was terrified after all that shows and tales. But we all made it through. Class was quite fun today, actually. After everybody cleaned themselves up and settled down, we did the “Hula Pokey”…