Back in October, my fellow English Language Assistants and I were given the task of maintaining presentations in each of our corridors, called “The English Corner”. The intention was to introduce some aspects of our cultures to the pupils (an interesting task as our school hosts the strange combination of an American, and Australian and an Englishman; no, that’s not the first line of a joke). Throughout the year I’ve drawn a map of the British Isles, another map of how widely English is spoken, and currently, I am designing a presentation about the Arthurian legend as a creative way to teach English in Spain.
This provided a brilliant opportunity to take pupils out of class to help and to practice their spoken English as they did so. Not only did this shake up their normal routine of ploughing through the textbooks, they were able to bring their English outside of the classroom context and actually see that what they’re learning doesn’t exist solely in books. Above all, they were able to look on at the finished project and show off their hard work to their friends. The English corner was a fantastic way to maintain discipline too, as only the best boys from each class could help.
The English Corner also showed how the Language Assistant’s role can be more than simply for English, especially at a school like ours which loves spectacles and show. At Christmas, we were called upon to draw several murals to decorate the school, and our American colleague helped create a life-size Nativity scene on his corridor. Again, before Holy Week, we drew a medieval castle in painstaking detail, brick by brick, which was sadly devoured by the boys after the holidays.
Now, with the grand end-of-term festival approaching, the Language Assistants have been called upon for one final task and the order is by no means simple. First, a replica model of the school was asked for; then two miniature football pitches, a car park, and six cars; not to mention two dozen astronaut suits, all due within one week. Led by somewhat frantic teachers, the school has really pulled together in a fantastic effort which will have the proud students’ signature at the bottom.
With the final deadline looming ahead, both teachers and students have been let off the leash to work towards this single goal. As I said, this is a fantastic opportunity for the children to use their English comfortably, liberated from the classroom context. They are also treated to a unique sight as the language assistants become increasingly hysterical the pupils can clearly see the human side of their instructors. But above all, the effort really brings everyone together, from the youngest student with a crayon, through the language assistants and coordinators, to the vital caretakers who add the finishing flourish. If there’s one thing I’ll remember after this year, it will be adults and children pitching in for this fantastic effort.
March 2015. Posted by Sean M.