Just because I love to babble

Posted by Rachel Minns on

As a lot of you will know, from my Facebook Lives, I do love to babble and it often takes me five or ten minutes to say goodbye. I am sat here right now, not able to think of a single thing to say, but still I am talking ten to the dozen.

I used to teach English, both as a first and second language to both adults and children. I loved conversational classes, encouraging people to talk about anything and everything. My favourite lessons to teach were the summer schools filled with Catalan teenagers.

These students were from well-off families in the Barcelona region of Spain and every year, I would organise a timetable for them, which would always include conversation. The would come to Poole feeling that they were fluent in English and the poor loves would learn very quickly that they were not. The tongue twisters for the Spanish speaking students are B and V sounds - Vivacious Vivian loved to voice vigorous verses vociferously. 

It would often take the entire duration of their stay to conquer the changes to a pronunciation that they had spent their whole lives becoming accustomed to. It would also take their entire stay to for them to remember the pronunciation of the word 'Quay', such a simple thing for us to do, but complex and rather stupid to a 13 year old from Barcelona, but they would accomplish it - if they managed it they got to visit the famous Poole Quay and see the Sunseeker Yachts as they passed the lifting bridge and headed to their new homes. Then they got to binge on fish and chips the most British of foods while they practised mispronouncing the and so that it sounded right - say it to yourself now, we don't say fish and chips, we say fish n chips.

Politics is a great learning tool and the less you know as a teacher the more they have to speak, the harder they have to try to help you to understand - that could be a whole lesson in itself! A lesson where you, as the teacher can sit at a desk and become the student. You can ask complex (and annoying) questions about the different political leanings of Spain and they would answer in a way you just don't expect from children of their ages. The had it down, they knew their politics, they would put a lot of adults, in this and many other countries, to shame with the extent of their knowledge.

My first ever teaching experience was with these students. I was asked to cover some classes for my English tutor and WOW! It was terrifying, it was tiring, it was amazing! It was the best and the worst work experience I had ever had - I was hooked.

It was July and it was a joint teaching session with another teacher who had never met - it was also being observed by a teacher who helped to fund the project - no wonder Ashley hadn't wanted to teach it! 

All the kids came in with Stuart who had started the project years before, they were all under the impression that I had taught before and knew what I was talking about! I had spent a whole week practising. Ashley had given both me and Lucy a copy of the lesson plan to work from - yup that was it. We were doing a basic geography lesson really - all about the local area and the Quay (there's that word again). Well, I won't go into details, but between nerves, trying to hide that I wasn't actually a teacher and having never worked with Lucy before, it was a complete disaster and just looking at the Spanish teacher's face that was obvious! You could see her wondering where they had found us, two women who obviously didn't have a clue and were supposed to be preparing her students for their Cambridge University exams! Well I could completely understand why she felt like that - I felt like that!

We had our break, Stuart looked like thunder and I felt like a mouse in a room full of lions. I really hated Ashley at that point, but the show must go on - that is what teaching is, it is a show and you are the writer, directer and star. It is up to you to make it a success or a failure, these kids were relying on me to teach them how it should be done.

Stuart pulled me aside and told me not to worry - he seemed to think that the failure of the last lesson was not down to me but situation and this helped me to feel a bit better, but only a bit. He went through the lesson plan that I had prepared for the next session and was happy. I grabbed a much needed caffeine boost form the tiny kitchen that was to become my between-lesson haven and it would help me hide tears in the coming weeks too.

With my coffee, I walked into the classroom that had, once upon a time, served as a bedroom for the wealthy family who had owned, not just this house, but also the land on which my house, several miles away, was built.

The lesson was about music and question formation and it was one that, I may have changed with the times, but remained with me and was taught to every group I was given. It was a great ice breaker, it was a fab opportunity to be ridiculed for my taste in music and a great chance for students to inform me of what I should be listening to. It was also the start of a career that I loved and one that I miss like you miss a child. One that I really want to go back to, but I don't feel I ever will. 

I worked with Ashley as my manager for a few years (I cannot remember how many), she took me on at the local Adult Education College where I taught mainly ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and Adult Literacy. Ashley, was one of the many people who came into my life for a reason. She showed me what I was capable of, she helped me to realise a lot about myself and for that I will forever thank her.

All images are sourced from Pixabay

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