Who You Calling Teacher?

Profe! Profe! Teach-ARRR!

Who, me? Ah. Yes, me.

On the first day of school, my principal instructed me to speak in only English in front of the students, and the other teachers told them that I don’t speak a word of Spanish. They planted seeds and let the gossip spread until the principal introduced us at the welcome assembly and confirmed it: The new English teacher doesn’t speak Spanish. Jaws dropped and 7th-11th graders started to whimper. “But…but…how will we pass? NO Spanish? Nothing?!?”

I was a bit skeptical about this strategy at first, because it’s only a matter of time before the gig is up. While the 7th and 8th graders have accepted that I somehow comprehend their questions in Spanish even though I “don’t know the language,” the ninth graders were onto me within minutes. “How are you answering our questions if you don’t speak Spanish?? We know you understand us!” Um.

It’s difficult to fake, especially because in a bilingual mashup, my brain thinks bilingually and can’t discern between the languages quickly enough. When students are rapidly firing questions at me, I can remember to answer in English, but I can’t determine in which language they asked.

Confusing.

This year is going to be a lot of work. There is a huge variance in English level even within grades, limited resources in the school and a fragmented class schedule. I have a lot in my favor, though.

I’m teaching all my classes on my own, not with a co-teacher. For me, this is beneficial. I’m ok with the team thing, but I have a lot of ideas, and I don’t do well working with someone who doesn’t like my ideas as much as I do.

My biggest class is only thirty students. They happen to be sweet, bright eighth graders.

My school has books. They are legitimate books that provide a structure and curriculum to follow. Also, they’re in American English, not British, so I don’t have to worry about trying to teach “I’ve got a brother” or the use of “holiday” when one means “vacation.”

The other teachers are incredibly supportive and caring. My principal, as well, listens to me and makes sure I know what’s going on.

My students are nice. The 7th graders have severe ADHD and the ninth graders would rather throw themselves down the stairs than speak English, but they smile and say “Bye teacher!” and even “I like your class, teacher!” I was the nerdiest, school-loving kid my whole life but I don’t think I’ve ever thanked a teacher for class.

Ten months ahead to mold minds.

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