a rat and a fairy

or what my students are teaching me in private English lessons.

As a way to supplement my income, I teach private English lessons. They are a great way to meet more people and to fill up an otherwise sparse weekday schedule. Using the website tusclasesparticulares I won my first student – a delightful 9 year old girl just a bike ride away. I see her once a week for an hour at a time. I also tutor a 31 year old publicist and a 40 year old businessman. It goes without saying that they are three very different students.

At first I was worried – how do I keep a 9 year old’s attention? What if the businessman thinks I’m too young? What if I am not interesting enough for the woman who could be my peer? Now 6 months into the game I look forward to every class, and find myself jotting down notes about what would work best for one or the other. Not only do these meetings line my wallet but they also give me a sneak peek into Spanish culture.

In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, I’ll have you know that none of my students are rodents or fantastical creatures. But I am learning a lot from them, and today’s class is a fine example. I was reviewing a list of vocabulary words with the 9 year old using photos on Power Point. She’s a visual learner so I try to do as much art / drawing / photo stuff as possible, which she loves. Today we were reviewing parts of the body, and since this follows a unit on animals, we include words like horns, wings and tail.

I chose the photo of a pudgy dragon to illustrate some basics as well. Eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet, etc. As an afterthought I asked her if she knew the word for dientes since it wasn’t on her original list. We discuss the difference between tooth and teeth and then I ask her what she does with a tooth when she loses it. She smiles and tells me in happy 9 year old Castellano that when you lose a tooth, you put it under a pillow overnight and somesuchspanishsoandso visits and leaves you a gift. I blink at the name lost in translation. Quien? Who? She says it again and it sounds like a distinct first and last name and it sure as hell isn’t “Tooth Fairy.” When I raise my eyebrows she tugs over my notebook and writes the name “Ratón Perez” .. and I burst out laughing.

Let’s review. Perez? A common Spanish surname. Ratón? Exactly what it sounds like – a rat! So it is here I learn the word for fairy (hada) because I have to explain to this girl that American children are in fact visited by a little princess like Peter Pan’s friend Tinkerbell, and not .. a rodent. (No offense to any of you who associate the Tooth Fairy image with the guy from The Santa Clause or, heaven help us, Dwayne Johnson).


made of stone .. or not?

Now who in their right mind decided it was fun, safe, sanitary for a rodent to climb into their children’s beds at night to drop off a gift? The only gift I can think of would not be a pleasant one, if you catch my drift. This is why I asked my student what Señor Perez does with all the teeth he collects. She informs me that he uses the teeth to build castles. You know what? I would too. Teeth must make great castles, what with all the grooves and stuff. Is THAT how they made the aqueduct in Segovia? I have no answer for what the Tooth Fairy does with her collection of molars and canines… perhaps they are paperweights in her tiny house. She IS tiny you know – she even has very small and crooked penmanship and prefers green ink. It should be noted her handwriting looks nothing like my mother’s…

I am going to buy this book as soon as I find it, because I think Miguelito probably has a darn good time solving mysteries with the fairy and my student would flip for it. In my museum hopping I’ve come across some other fantastic kids books that I may just give in and purchase. If you’re into children’s literature here are some I love: The Boy Who Bit Picasso and The Princess and the Painter.

One thing I can say for sure? I learn something new from each of my students every time we meet, and for that I’m grateful.


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