For me, it is odd to have a fall where I’m not going back to school. Now that I have finished my graduate work at Lehigh and departed for Europe – this season I will be going back to school, to teach.
It’s a secondary school or an IES (Instituto Secundario de Educacion) in a small town directly in between Sevilla and Huelva. As you know from previous posts, I have opted to live in Seville (a city of 700,000+) and carpool with my fellow teachers. Per my contract, I will work 12 hours a week (!) which will likely include 4 hours a day, three days a week. Although my schedule isn’t finalized yet, it will probably be Tues-Wed-Thurs.
There are approx 400 students in first, second, third and fourth year (think: Harry Potter)… they are at that fantastic age between 12 and 16 years old. There are 36 profs, 18 are brand new and a handful are bilingual. The bilingual classes this year are science, history, English and phys ed. I have been to school twice now, thanks to the benevolent Sergio who has brought me to and from school both days this week. The town is almost impossible to reach by public transportation (very few buses at inconvenient times) – so the best way from either city is by car. For this reason, I am over-the-moon grateful to my fellow profs in Sevilla who will be schlepping me to and from our lovely school in the months to come.
There are two main buildings in typical white-washed Spanish beauty, with class sizes of approx 30 students. I didn’t realize how large the classes were on Wednesday – most of the students were not in school because of the huelga; but on Friday they were there in full effect. It is a small place to hold 400+ students, and they tumble all over the hallways laughing and playing, and spilling out into the courtyard between the two buildings.
Favorite moment thus far (that has already duplicated itself at least once): Sergio asks his second year students if they have any questions to ask me, in English. We do the obligatory What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from? To answer the latter I say, “I’m from the United States, I live in Pennsylvania.” Now in Spanish this sounds like “Pencil-vahn-nee-yah.” The students tilt their heads, questioning the existence of this strange place and I have to say “near New York” to elicit a more positive response. There is a lull in the conversation and one student raises his hand asking, “Teacher, did she say Transylvania? Where Dracula lives?” A brief discussion of the distance between Romania and the United States ensues.
I’m re-reading the book Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach. It suits my current travels and I enjoy the way she writes. She includes an excellent quote from Freya Stark (1893-1993), independent female traveler extraordinaire:
- “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it.”