Tag Archives: teaching

Bus Beer Bunny

These three things happened in one day.

Every morning I ride the bus to school. This particular morning, when we were about 10 minutes away from work, the bus pulls up to a stop, and the doors open to let on a passenger. Nobody was waiting to get off the bus, but the driver presses the button to open the back doors as well. He stands up, opens the little gate to let himself out of his seat, and quickly strides to the back of the bus and out the door. We watch as he approaches a lady sitting outside selling lottery tickets at a kiosk. He jokes around with her for a minute, pays for a ticket, hurries back to the bus, through the back door and settles back into the drivers seat.

That afternoon I was returning to work after lunch. As I enter the front gates into the parking lot, a man is crossing the pavement wheeling a trolley with several stacked cases of Mahou Clásico beer. I climb the front stairs, and he pushes the cart up the ramp and strolls into the school, with about 200 cans of beer.

I still have no idea what it was for.

Next, I make my way downstairs to the kindergarten wing to teach one of my classes of five-year-olds. I get the kids sitting down on the floor in a circle, where they eagerly pull up four or five chairs at odd spots in the circle, hoping that I will choose their chair and sit next to them. With a bit of difficulty I sit and get the class started… when moments later, a small, black, fuzzy animal darts under my chair and we realize that the rabbit, who is visiting for the day, has gotten loose from its cage and is making a run for it.

All in a day.


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So, that happened.

I’m teaching kindergarten and pre-school this week. 2-5 year olds. Yes.

On the bus I overheard an American girl and boy, probably university exchange students, probably in their third year, talking. One of those conversations that is impossible to tune out, no matter how you try. No matter how many threatening “I understand you, annoying guiris” glances you send back at them. I was deep into Sputnik Sweetheart and wanted a quality 20 minutes of uninterrupted bus reading time before delving back into 3-year-old-la-la land.

They were sitting at the back of the bus, and I was exactly in the middle. It was an ordinary bus, not one of those OC Transpo style giant articulated monsters, but still, with enough space that other people’s voices, the noise of the bus running and the sounds of traffic should have been enough to drown out a conversation from that far away. Mais non.

Girl, who thought herself very experienced and sophistiquée, was giving advice and admonitions to boy. Girl: “You haven’t hooked up with anyone since you’ve been here. Name one person you hooked up with!” Boy:  mutters something unintelligible Girl: “You haven’t hooked up with anyone. You’re going to regret that. If you leave here without hooking up, you’ll regret it.” Boy: “I might regret that down the line” Girl: “You will. So why don’t you just do it!? Just hook up with someone!”

Mmmnngggh shut up before I bash your heads together!

Then again, the lack of originality was fitting since Sputnik Sweetheart seems to be essentially the same story as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, with the same devices, in a different setting. I’m not sure if criticizing Murakami is a permissible thing, but there I go. This week has me feeling very competent. Short segments of time spent with three-year-olds (45 minutes or so) can have the effect of making you feel like a very capable human being. My experience.

Anyway, eventually the bus ride ended, and I got to school.

And this is the story of how I bit someone. A child, to be exact.

I have a poster of a park up on the wall, and the kids stick little pictures on it. We’re learning toys, so there are pictures of cars, teddy bears, balls, dolls, etc. For some reason, the kids LOVE this game. Can’t get enough of it. Isn’t that strange? It’s kind of boring. But they adore it. They were coming up in pairs. The group was sitting on the floor and kept inching closer, and closer, and closer to me and my tiny five-year-old sized chair and the poster. Soon they were right there, and sticking their hands up in front of my face and shouting “Me! Me! Me!*” to get a turn to go next.

If this is doesn't look like the best game ever, you are probably not 3 years old.

And then it happened. It wasn’t a hand in front of my face. It was a little hand, with little fingers, in my face. And as it shot up there, I guess my mouth was closing. And as it got to its destination, one of the tiny fingers somehow got trapped, for the slightest fraction of a second, between my teeth.

The kid connected to the hand looked up in shock and surprise. He wasn’t sure if he should cry out or shut up, and in the next couple seconds he looked like he was weighing out his options. I think he decided that he probably shouldn’t have had his hand there anyways, and that he would be quiet and wait his turn.

At least I think that’s what was going through his mind. Maybe it was actually more like “Did the weird English teacher just bite my finger? Discuss.”

To conclude: I have been washing my hands like a maniac. Dry skin abounds. If I get to the end of the week without a new cold it’ll be a miracle. Kids are dirty and sometimes stick their fingers in your mouth.

Artwork depicting toys, by the five-year-olds

* It started, of course, as “Yo, yo, yo!” but I corrected them to say “me,” at the very least.

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The new year

Everyone feels optimistic about this year. I do, too. But I also have that slightly itchy feeling that comes with not knowing what I’ll be doing for the second half of the year. AND I also have that grungy feeling that comes from it being January. January in Spain is much better than January in Canada, but it is still, after all, January. My mind and body are in mild hibernation mode.

I don’t make real new year’s resolutions. According to highly scientific surveys, no one keeps them anyway. I do have some plans. January antidotes? There is a half marathon on the horizon, 12 weeks away. It comes with sexy new shoes and a training plan.

Last year in March or April I decided I would try to read more books than I watched movies. Last year I did, and I think it’s on the agenda for this year too.

Other plans go as follows: There is an Easter holiday in Ireland, probably. Lots of weekend trips to be booked. There are some visits on the horizon (I will describe them after the fact so as not to jinx anything – but hint: visits are awesome).

And there are, as always, just under a thousand children ages 2 to 10 to imbue with a love of English – in the next weeks my kindergarten teaching extends to pre-schoolers too.

In the meantime, there is half a month of January to go. Remedies involve books, splurging on 6 euro bottles of wine, and watching the seconds tick by.

In school news:

I am now well-versed in the cool toys after hearing ALL about my students’ Christmas and Epiphany gifts. In case you were wondering, Nancy dolls, remote-controlled helicopters (!!!) and all things Wii and Nintendo 3DS are in, as is, thank goodness, Playmobil.

I got a few Happy New Year cards (my first ever, I believe). One is tied shut with a plastic ribbon and reads HAPPY NEYW YEAR and was made during the class that I was teaching.

I had the following conversation with a coworker this week:

-Is Alberta close to where you live in Canada?
I show her Canada on Google maps, showing the distance between Alberta and Ontario.
-My cousin is going to Alberta on exchange.
-Oh, which city? Do you know? Edmonton or Calgary?
-No, she’s going to Alberta.
-Oh, I see. It gets pretty cold there!
-Well, where we’re from in the North of Spain, it’s very cold in winter, like -5 sometimes at night.

So you see, Spain and Canada aren’t so different after all.


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Los niños

Last week was Turkey week at school – we celebrated American Thanksgiving. The timing on Canadian Thanksgiving was too awkward back in October. So the week featured lots of hand turkeys and story telling.

I wrote a little story about Thanksgiving for my 3rd and 4th graders. It involves turkey, mashed potatoes and apple pie. When I was trying to get the kids to guess what “mashed potatoes” were I made (I thought) a mashing motion with my hand. One kid raises his hand and goes: “Stabbed potatoes!?” Also, they thought my potato picture showed rocks. (Me, to them: “You’d eat rocks for Thanksgiving??” Them: “Umm… yes!”)

I also talked to my fifth graders about their timetables. I was asking them their favourite day of the week, in terms of classes, and one kid answers, “Every no day.” Every no day? “No day. Every day is work.” He’s ten.

Anyway, sometimes the kids do get to have some fun. Like when their teacher breaks down slightly. In one uncontrollable third grade class at 5:00 pm*, realizing the activity I was trying to accomplish was just not going to happen that day, I taught the kids the Hokey Pokey. Which usefully teaches left, right, body parts AND in and out. Super educational. And I left with (most of) my sanity (somewhat) intact.

Here is a very nice picture that a tiny 8 year old with a devilish smile and a slight unibrow gave to me.

When I leave this school, one thing I’m going to miss in an unbearable kind of way is the affection of these kids. I am regularly accosted by hugging mobs. In a first grade class I bent down to talk to a kid with a question, and after he mumbled incoherently I pulled on my ear and said, “Speak up,” to which he responded with a kiss on the cheek. Okkk…

And speaking of affection, this week I ventured downstairs to hang with the babies of the school, the kindergarteners.

The difference between the four and five year olds is mindblowing. The five year olds are incredible. Such fun. Such smiles. They learn REALLY quickly. We played games and sang songs about Christmas. Today I was gifted a picture – DRAWN IN PEN (big deal for a five year old) – of snow. It is addressed to AƧLNI.

The kids walk in with huge smiles. A couple go, “Oh, you look so pretty” (Ah, ¡que guapa estás!)… Then as more people come in, the kids point: “Mira, que guapa está hoy.” (Look at how pretty she looks today).

One girl, hearing this, nods approvingly, says “Si, igual que mi madre.” (Yeah, like my mom.)

I have this afternoon off, and as I was leaving, the kids crowded me in the hallway – When are you coming back? When will we see you again?

January, I told them. It took them a while to remember what January means. “Ok. But don’t forget.”

 *Let’s not get into the logic behind keeping young kids in school until 5:30 pm.


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