12/06/2013

Procrastination 2.0: Teaching

Heyyyy, 

I managed to struggle through last week's 4 consecutive exams, although I don't know how - I'm pretty sure I got about 8 hours sleep throughout the whole week. I've already got one of my exam results and I can safely say I've passed one of my modules and got half of the credits I need for this year. Where the other credits are going to come from though, I have no idea. I'm not the best at getting exam results (my stomach's gone all fluttery just thinking about it) so I'm going to move swiftly off the topic until I've finished all of my exams and I've got all of the marks back. Until then, though, I'm going to have to fill the blog another way, which brings me to today's topic... teaching!

As I've mentioned in other posts, I've been teaching English whilst I've been in Spain. Loads of people I know teach in specific English schools or academies, but I don't, I give private classes instead. Why? Because I didn't think it through, when I came to Spain, I had no idea that I'd be able to teach, because obviously I have no particular qualifications except being English and doing an English degree - and doing the first year of an English degree isn't particularly good preparation for teaching English as a foreign language. Anyway, the story of how I fell into teaching: I was out one night, and a girl who was a language assistant in a school (hi, Lisa) was talking to me about teaching, because the English teacher at that school was looking for a native speaker to do some conversation classes with her daughter. The next day I was given her email address and it turned out she had some neighbours who were looking for an English teacher too, so she introduced me to them, and I began teaching their kids as well. 

I only teach on Mondays, not for any particular reason, that's just the day that all the children I teach were free, and I give three classes and each is an hour long. I teach (or taught) children of different levels, a 12-year old girl who is a really fast learner, but had only just started learning the grammatical features of English; a brother (aged 12) and a sister (aged 10), the brother knew the basics of English and his sister didn't know anything, but their mum wanted me to teach them together (I've stopped teaching them now as it was getting to the end of the school year and they had other things to do); and a 13-year old boy who speaks English really well because he'd been on summer camps and to academies when he was younger.

The 10-year old girl made me this because it was our last class.
#bestteacher


Because of their different levels/abilities I had to teach different things and in different ways. For example, with the 12-year old girl, I'd focus specifically on grammar, then ask questions using that grammar as conversation practice. With the brother and sister however, I taught basic nouns and verbs, and then asked the brother to put it into the past tense or future, so he'd be tested too. The 13-year old boy was a different kettle of fish too and with him the classes are more conversation/vocabulary based as he generally understands most grammatical functions in English. 

Doing conversation classes is hard. Harder than teaching in an academy (in my opinion). You have to plan your lessons in advance, and you have to be the judge of what would be an appropriate topic for certain ages and certain abilites, as opposed to being given a curriculum or a text book and being told to teach from that. I equally have to print out and find my own resources, and make sure they're all correct and things. It's hard, man.

Anyway, to sum up this incohesive mess, I like teaching although I didn't choose to do it originally, but it's hard and stressful and I'm not entirely sure whether I'm doing it right. Ah well. 

That's it. I'm going to go and convince myself to revise... at some point in the future. 

04/06/2013

Procrastination: Learning and the University

I'm meant to be revising, but surely writing about my exams is the same as revision? Yeah, I'd say it definitely is. Anyway, I'm going to let you know exactly how the Universidad de Zaragoza works, the subjects I've studied, and why I suddenly agree with spending thousands of pounds of higher education (although the £9000 a year thing is still pretty steep...).

I don't have any pictures of the university,
so the pictures for this post are going to be like this. Sorry in advance.


Right, so, the university is Aragón's main (or only) public university, there are private universities in  and around Zaragoza too, because Zaragoza is the capital of Aragón, so it makes sense that most of the universities are based here. A public university in Spain is one which is funded by the region it is in, so the prices/quality differs from region to region (thank you, Wikipedia). I have no idea how much it costs to go to Zaragoza, but I can only assume the students aren't going to leave £30,000 in debt - although neither am I.

The university isn't as fancy as other universities, and by other universities, I mean Edge Hill, as that's my only basis for comparison. In most of the classrooms, there is literally just a blackboard and a projector screen. By blackboard, I mean blackboard, not a whiteboard, a blackboard. With chalk. It's a bit of a culture shock when you first get here. In a similar vein, there aren't as many resources as there are in the UK. There isn't a library filled with computers (haha, as if there's a library filled with computers at Edge Hill - YOU KNOW. YOU GUYS KNOW.), it's instead filled with books. But maybe not enough books for each course, which I know could be an English complaint too, but there is seriously like one copy of each book for a course. While we're talking about the library, if you return a book back late, you don't have to pay a fine, instead you CAN'T TAKE OUT ANOTHER BOOK FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME, which was a truly marvellous shock when I was writing an essay. Good one, Zaragoza.

When I say that there aren't enough books for each course, it's not necessarily a bad thing (i.e., you'd only need them if you were writing an essay) because you have to buy all the compulsory texts, which are photocopies of the books instead. Compulsory texts in Spain means compulsory, or it does in Zaragoza anyway. It's not in the loose 'just as long as you have a general idea and know who said it' sort of English approach to Literary Theory - which, of course, isn't the English approach and I have never blagged any exam or essay because of this technique - the Spanish approach is more 'remember that small insignificant part of the text you didn't highlight? You should have done. Welcome to hell' sort of way. I panicked in the first lot of exams when that happened.

Speaking of which, exams! Wonderful, wonderful exams. It would appear that, at Zaragoza, there's no such thing as a coursework-only module. Essays are generally optional (unless they aren't, listen in the first few classes or that'll come as a bit of a shock to you) and the optional essays are used to bump up your grades from the exams. The compulsory essays, however, are torture. When I say torture, I mean that I've only had one really bad one - although I hear other courses set horrific essays - and I handed it in a couple of days ago. It was 19 pages of hell. Hell here is 'A Study of the Illocutionary Act and Its Use in British Sitcoms'. Ugh.

For English courses, I have only had one open book exam, and all the others have been closed book, however not in the English idea of 'closed book'. It's more of a 'six-closed-books-and-three-essays-and-four-literary-theories' sort of approach to an exam, so you're more being tested on your memory and ability to revise than your ability to analyse (of course, analysis is involved in the exams, however context seems to be the be all and end all - most exam questions tend to begin with 'contextualise and analyse...'). I have a terrible memory and a complete inability to write a cohesive argument in a time limit, if exams are your forte, though, you're in for a treat.



I think now I'll let you know about my classes, if you're all ok with that? Yeah? Good. Ok. So. The credit system in Spain is different to how it is in England, in that, at home, there are about 6 modules a year, all amounting to 120 credits, because each is 20 credits. En España, however, each course is worth 6 credits, and the overall amount I need to get is 60 credits (if you're a language student and this is your year abroad, however, the amount of credits is significantly lowered). I had to choose 10 modules in total. These were: Historia de la Lengua Inglesa I, Estudios de la Novela Inglesa, Literatura y Cine en los Países de Habla Inglesa I, Estudios de Literatura Norteamericana, Variedades Geográficas de la Lengua Inglesa, Gramática Inglesa II, Otras Literaturas en Lengua Inglesa, Tendencias y Contextos del Cine en Lengua Inglesa, and Literatura Inglesa IV. Some (*ahem* two) of my classes are absolutely pointless. I won't name names, of course, but the tutors generally just go through that week's reading in class - no powerpoint or anything - and that's it. For another of the two, the students do presentations on the readings, which get marked, however the tutor says no more about the topic, and I, personally, find it really difficult to make notes on presentations given by my classmates in the offchance they're wrong. But that's only two classes.

And that, to my knowledge, is everything I know about studying at Zaragoza, or everything I can remember anyway. If you have any questions about it, just let me know. :)

Also... If you're studying too (and don't want to, and are in university), search #gcse or #alevels on Twitter - or the equivalent if you're not from England - or just the words on Tumblr and cackle maliciously. #schadenfreude