Updates on School

Ages ago (October 21st, in fact) I wrote the last post about my school and haven’t written any more about it. I’m going to try to correct or update probably everything I said so long ago.

Last time I said: I’ll probably be doing Music and PE, and with all of the 6th graders (which thankfully I’ll see a bit more) I’ll do science classes. (Update: none of this happened).

So I only see the 6th graders once a week. The only grades I repeat are the 3rd graders who are the worst in the school and are exhausting to everyone (not just me). I see every class of every grade once then with 3rd grade I see them twice for double science or one science and one English.

I am mostly a science teacher, apparently. “Social” science (like population, geology, hydrosphere, prehistory, history) and natural science (photosythesis, 5 Kingdoms, cells, nutrition, biology, anatomy). I teach 15 classes and only 3 are English. The other 12 are all science. So all that stuff about music and PE never happened and was never discussed again.

Last time I said: The school is already strange enough with its layout… the maze. Go through the principal’s area past another tricky false door and up the stairs … This new building is like a rubiks cube twisted around and around. 1B and 2A are on the bottom but 2B is on the top. Explain that. (Update: as of Thursday I have learned there are two hidden 3rd grade classes tucked away behind and around these other classrooms. They’re behind the bathrooms and through some coat closets). 

So it took me almost a month to be able to confidentially walk to my classes. I’m joking – I still can’t do it. I still have to check my schedule every time I go to a class. Even today I stood in front of a shut classroom door and got my schedule out again to make sure I wasn’t going to walk into the wrong room. Because the rooms are all out of order it makes me doubt I’m in the right place.

For instance, when you walk down the 6th grade “hall” you walk by B, C then A. Explain that? When you walk to the middle grades you walk by 4B then have to go around behind a corner to 4A then 5A then 5B. So nothing is consecutive at all. It’s not ABC it’s BCA or BAAB. So it messes with my head.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade rooms are in an entirely different building. If we had a little bit of money we could connect the two top floors by a bridge but that will never happen. You have to go down the stairs and across the basketball court then back up the stairs to the younger grades. This is the building that I said was a rubics cube twisted around. It really does have secret bathrooms and coat rooms you have to go around or through to get to the classroom door itself.

So walking by these and up the stairs you would pass ABAABA. No solid A, B, A,B.

Last time I said:  The school is half broken all the time: the internet usually doesn’t work, the toilets don’t have seats or toilet paper, half the computers are running Microsoft 2006, and once the water completely stopped running.

Yeah, so this hasn’t improved at all. The power actually went out for a week and no one could/would fix it during that time. On Wednesday I was teaching my first class of the day when the power just cut out. Some emergency lights stayed on but it turned to chaos. Spain is, and I’m not sure if you know this, incredibly sunny. So it was just as bright as when the lights had been on. The children, ever craving chaos (and especially this monster class of 3rd graders) went right to work lowering the shutters and trying to plunge the classroom into complete darkness. My coteacher, bless her heart, didn’t actually notice it getting darker and darker until it was pitch black and then shouted at them to put the shutters back up. Which they didn’t do and she had to go do. 3B why do you do these things to us?

Fortunately this is the younger students building (see map above). So the power outage only hit that building not the whole school. I went to most of my classes in the big kids building and didn’t deal with it. On Monday I brought my lesson in to the little kid’s building and the teacher said “There’s no power, so what will you do?” “Well I prepared something on the computer(expecting it to be fixed after 6 days). “Well you can’t use it so what will you do? You need to think of something.” So even after wasting hours making lessons I had to scrap them and just come up with something on the fly. Without help because, you know, I’m an assistant teacher and that must translate to slave. Most teachers text in the back while I single-handedly lead everything. Even with the little kids who understand nothing. I played around with flashcards and then just handed them over to her. I did my end of things, your turn.

I got to repeat this horror show for 3 more classes. They finally got the power back on a week after it went out. School ends at 2pm every day and we had the weekend – at any time people could’ve come and fixed it.

Speaking of broken, I usually have to make worksheets by hand. They look awful but it’s not like I can use any computers:

This computer will turn on and work for exactly 10 minutes then will shut off. Its a 1998 I believe. They had to replace the floppy disk drive with a functioning CD drive that includes USB ports. Ugh. The broken, askew clock that’s been there for forever is my favorite part about this picture.

If I make something at home and want to print it at school I have to write down the 200-character long URL (like http://google.drive/oi334uw4erne3o23uwn54532ceowkehadDDjdflkafdl2FD3423jadfADfdFHLdEWl23jhlwjtEECEADh23rhl23krnf2l3h32lfh32) and manually type that into the secretary’s computer while she hovers over me nervously. I can’t use my login and USB drives create a virus problem for both home and school computers. The virus thing is so bad that most important computers at my school have huge papers taped over the USB drive threatening anyone who would dream to put a USB in.

So no printing. I have taken to tracing a paper over a computer or even over my phone. Of course I’m using my own limited data to do this. The only wifi network the teacher’s can use has a 40-character password that you have to type into your phone with your fat little fingers that goes something like Iamwearingablueshirttodaywhatamidoingfridaynightprobablydrinkingwinewhateverithinkthiswifipasswordislongenough

But all in Spanish so I can get past the llevaunaazulcamisa and then bugger up the rest.  This is also assuming it’s working which it never is according to the people who have successfully typed it in

I complain about everything being broken (none of the toilets have seats, did I mention that? You sit right on the porcelain) but things are worse all over the place. Here’s a blog I found on Facebook talking about the roof collapsing in a small-town school. Spain, especially poor little (huge) Andalucia is a huge difference from Korea where we often had 1,000 dollars to spare at the end of the year. We had to spend it or else they wouldn’t give us as much money the next year. So in Korea we had too much money. Here in Spain (where we are, at least) we’re struggling to keep basic needs afloat.

In the last post I said: In the past I’ve mentioned I spend 5-10 hours on a powerpoint. I’m not exaggerating. In Korea I really did spend 20 hours a week making 3 powerpoints for the 3 grades. Now I have 6 grades and 12 different classes to prepare for and I’m spending about 2 hours per powerpoint…So this cannot continue. Overworking a powerpoint is a bad habit that I need to break. Not to mention the viruses are inevitable if I keep doing this… So when I mentioned I’m not doing powerpoints anymore they told me “I have to”

In Korea I had to prepare for 3 grades. Here I have to create:

  • English for 2nd (2 classes)
  • Science for 1st (2 classes)
  • Natural science for 3rd (2 classes)
  • Social science for 3rd (1 class)
  • English for 3rd (1 class)
  • Natural science for 4th (1 class)
  • Natural/Social combo for 4th (1 class)
  • Natural/Social combo for 5th (2 classes)
  • Science for 6th (3 classes)

That’s 9 different lessons I have to create for 6 grades. Because I’m thorough and because many of the teachers are usually texting or doing extra work in the back (not helping me) and because I’m being expected to fill the full 45 minute lessons with activities, lessons and games … I’m lesson planning for about 20 hours a week.  When I vowed to make games not involving powerpoints I couldn’t get very far before people told me I absolutely had to use the powerpoints. I’m able to recycle a little but it’s not great. It’s a habit I said I need to break but there aren’t any alternatives.

  • If I make half a powerpoint and expect the other teacher to help they get snotty about it and act like I was lazy for not filling the whole time.
  • If I make a game without a powerpoint it turns to madness which they often wont help control the kids.
  • If I make a worksheet it has to be by hand or very rarely a print-out.

So it’s all powerpoint-lessons all the time. I spend about 2 hours on a powerpoint because the kids don’t really speak English and because I have to teach complex things like xylem and phloem with photosynthesis or where chyme, chyle and a bolus are in the digestive tract. So I can’t just walk in and draw the terms on the board. I have to go slow, use a lot of slides and use about a thousand pictures.

Fortunately I’ve solved the virus problem by not bringing USBs. I make all my “powerpoints” on Google slides at home and just log in at school. This works unless I forget to log-out of my private account and then I’ll find weird things like a video of 35 continuous Hours of Shania Twain on YouTube – that I never watched but someone at school watched under my account. Strange.

The other reason I make insanely time-intensive powerpoints is because the book is terrible and the Spanish educational system involves a lot a lot of notes. Some people just don’t learn this way so I provide the only pictures of what things are.  I show them pictures and movies detailing step by step how science works. When I’m not there they sit through a college-style lecture complete with copying huge texts word for word into their notebooks. Yes even 3rd graders do this.

The teacher types out huge texts while the kids copy it directly into their notebooks – for about 15-30 minutes it’s dead silent with just copying. I’ve never even done this in college.  I know they learn some of this stuff by copying but there’s one thing to say “When we chew food it mixes with saliva to become a round shape called a bolus. In the stomach the bolus mixes with stomach acids to become chyme. This is a yellow-ish substance. In the small intestine the chyme becomes chyle. A white milky substance.”, and a whole other thing to show them pictures and animations demonstrating this process. They learn it by seeing and understanding it. Not by writing about some strange yellowish substance they’ve never seen. They don’t even know the word “substance” or “chew” or “saliva” or “round” anyway.

I feel bad for my students so it makes me work even harder on powerpoints and activities. This means I have no time to be on the computer blogging and especially not studying Spanish.


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