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Excursion March 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 9:37 pm

Two weeks ago I had the chance to chaperone a Spanish excursion (aka field trip) in Madrid.  My fourth year students were going to a political talk in the city and I was asked to attend with one of the history teachers.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous about what the excursion would entail–I was picturing students abandoning the group for something more interesting or losing someone on the metro.  Instead, it ended up being an extremely relaxed day and the field trip was executed ‘Spanish style.’

What do I mean by Spanish style you might ask…well let these few anecdotes speak for themselves:

We leave the school after rounding up what we perceive to be the whole group.  As we begin the 10-15 minute walk to the metro, two students ask if they may hop into a nearby shop for a snack and catch up with us along the way.  To my surprise my fellow chaperone said yes, so long as they rejoined the group as quickly as possible.  Even more surprising was the fact that minutes later the two students came toddling up behind us with bags of chips in hand, having truly gone to buy a snack rather than ditching the field trip!

Once on the metro the students spread out willy nilly among the train cars.  My American teacher side was thinking ‘no, no, let’s stick together…everyone on one car please…’  However, I am in Spain, not America.  Groups of students sat on one another’s laps or huddled near the poles throughout the length of the train and when we were nearing our stop myself and the other chaperone simply informed our students that it was time to get off.  That easy.

After exiting the metro, it came to my attention that we had no idea where we were going.  Well, we had an address, but no map, no directions, no clue!  My fellow chaperone proceeds to ask a loitering taxi driver who steers us in the general direction.  As we continue walking, we continue asking those around us for directions to the destination street.  After some wandering, crossing streets, and back-tracking steps we found the field trip location.  Who needs to plan ahead?!

Shockingly we arrived early.  I assumed we’d wait outside for 15-20 minutes and then enter for the talk at the appointed hour.  However, I am in Spain and 15 minutes is plenty for a coffee!  My chaperone informs the students that she and I are going to grab a coffee nearby during the down time and that we will meet up with them later.  She set a time and meeting point and off we trotted to the nearest ‘Cafe y Te’ where we ordered a drink, savored it over some lovely conversation, and then rejoined our students.  Only in Spain!

At the conclusion of the field trip, it was my understanding that we would accompany the students back to the school.  Not so.  Many students wanted to stay in the city, meet up with friends, or go home with a parent who worked nearby.  Although no permission slips had been signed, phone calls were made and after my fellow chaperone spoke with parents one-by-one and students were given permission to disband, our group diminished.  In the end, I (only I!) returned to the school.  Who knew I’d be chaperoning…myself…


Tanto Tiempo…

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 9:19 pm

Once again I’m ashamed to admit that it has been so long since I’ve updated the blog.  My excuse this time is that Tanner was visiting for the past 5 weeks and our time was spent out and about soaking up Spain.  During his visit we were literally always on the go.  Here is a look into the 5 week adventure:

Weekdays–Tanner accompanied me to school many times (usually 2 times a week).  He met every class I work with, as well as many of the teachers.  He was extremely warmly welcomed and many of the students to a special liking to him.  I must say that his blue eyes were a real hit with everyone!  And students asked over and over “how do you say guapo in English” (guapo means good-looking/handsome).  My usually difficult class loved having another teacher around to interact with and enjoyed having Tanner to talk to.  When he wasn’t at school with me, he often explored the city on his own.  A highlight was the stadium visit he did at Santiago Barnebeu where Real Madrid plays!

Helping students in English class

Weeknights–I have private classes two nights a week and Tanner made appearances for all of my students at least once.  With one family he spent the weekly hour playing soccer with the younger siblings!  After work and lessons were tried to take advantage of all the tapas locations Madrid offers.  Highlights were Casa Julio (known for croquettas), Casa Parrondo (Tanner liked the cider and tortilla), Casa Mingo (known for cider and roasted chicken), and La Musa (which has two locations we tried).

100 Montaditos--one of the many places we went out to after work

Weekends–Tanner and I spent every weekend exploring somewhere.  We traveled to Granada (where I studied abroad), Toledo (a short day trip south of Madrid), Sevilla (a town in Andalucia in the south of the country), Salamanca (2 1/2 hours north of Madrid), Avila (a quick day trip), and even Lanzarote (one of the canary islands).  Watch for a brief post about each weekend with photos and highlights!

Together in Spain

Tanner flew home to Madrid last Sunday so I’ve had a week now to settle back in and rest up after the visit.  He is greatly missed but I am so lucky to have shared so many experiences and memories with him in Spain!


Navidad en España :-)

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 9:03 pm

I was lucky enough to spend the holiday season in Spain, with two very special visitors from Nebraska.  My mom and dad arrived on December 24th and stayed through the 3 important celebrations in the Spanish Christmas festivities (Christmas, New Years, and 3 Kings Day)

It would be impossible to sum up everything we did during their two week stay.  It was amazing!  And words will hardly describe the meaningful and exciting memories made.  I cannot imagine a better way to have spent the holidays!

Our first 2 days were spent in Madrid.  We were blessed with great weather, although it was Christmas Eve and Day.  We frequented some favorite tapas locations; wandered through the center of the city taking in Sol, Plaza Mayor, Mercado San Miguel, and more; looked at the glittering Christmas lights throughout the city; spent an afternoon in Retiro Park; and even saw the Nutcracker at the Gran Via Theater!

We took a 4 day trip to Granada, where I studied abroad.  Our time there was very memorable–or maybe not so memorable after too many tapas and drinks 😉  We were invited for lunch at my old host-family’s home which was a special treat.  Not everyone gets to experience homemade Spanish food, and paella no less!

Of course we visited the Alhambra, which was a favorite for the photographer of the family.  We ventured through Plaza Nueva, Plaza Bib de Rambla, the Alcaiceria, the Albaycin, and more.  Personal highlights included breakfast and chocolate/churros at Cafe Futbol, buying cookies from the nuns at the convent in the Albaycin, and strolling through the Christmas market in one of the main plazas.

And because it was Granada, tapas were plentiful, and drinks more plentiful 🙂

Back in Madrid we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve Spanish style–in Puerta del Sol with thousands of other people.  We waited two hours outside drinking our champaign and befriending those in the crowd around us.  As the clock struck the final twelve seconds we ate a grape with each chime as is Spanish tradition.  And following the ringing in of the new year we raised our little plastic cup of cava (Spanish champaign) in a ‘cheers’ with others in the crowd.  Imagine New York Times Square but in Madrid!!!!  What a night to remember!!

Other days in Madrid were spent visiting favorite tapas spots, shopping in the artisan Christmas market, wandering through the Prado and Reina Sofia, amusing ourselves at the Rastro market, and much more.

We were fortunate enough to take two day trips from Madrid: one north to Segovia and one south to Toledo.

Our day in Segovia brought views of the stunning aqueduct still in great condition despite its lack of mortar.  We also stuck our heads inside the Cathedral and Alcazar–we especially enjoyed the view of the city from the Alcazar tower!

In Toledo, the Cathedral was the highlight, with shopping, great tapas, and a fantastic town view from the Parador lookout point being close seconds.  Toledo was particularly charming when the sun set and the Christmas lights reflected off the wet sidewalks after the afternoon showers.  Magical!

Our Christmas holiday could not have been filled with more festivities, memories, laughter, and love!

To explain–the first 6 pictures are from our first days in Madrid, followed by 12 Granada photos, 12 more Madrid shots, 6 Segovia images, and lastly 6 Toledo photos.


Adios 2010 January 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 6:33 pm

2010 has come and gone,

a year filled with change and transition

memories and grand adventures

new people, new places, a new position

Favorite Moments from 2010:

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2011 has dawned and is flying by

and I hope it will bring great things

happiness, success, and dreams fulfilled

with love and many blessings

Hopes and Dreams for the New Year

  • Travel more around Europe
  • Perfect my Spanish skills
  • Make the most of my final months in Spain
  • Maintain my long-distance relationship well
  • Successfully complete my position as an English Teaching Assistant
  • Find a teaching job in the US
  • Get my first apartment in the US
  • Maintain important friendships
  • Be happy and healthy

Happy Holidays…Spanish Secondary School Style!

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 5:41 pm

The holiday season was a busy and animated time at my school, Manuel de Falla.  It was a month in which teachers and students alike anxiously awaited the upcoming vacation from class.  There was a sense of cheer all around, and as the city lights glimmered in the Madrid centro, so did all our hopes for the Christmas season.

Spaniards are known for being experts at ‘having a good time’ and their holiday festivities lived up to this stereotype.  I was half-expecting a celebration much like ones in other schools where I had worked: a week of secret-santa gift giving, perhaps a cookie exchange, or a nice afternoon tea and Christmas goodie gathering.  Boy was I in for a treat–and a shock!  The Spanish Christmas parties were nothing that tame!

In early December a sign-up was posted for the Christmas dinner, which would be held at a local restaurant.  Everyone kept asking us auxiliaries if we would be attending and of course my name was on the list!  The evening of I arrived around 10 with my coordinator and another TA (remember this is Spain so dinner at 10 is the norm) and found that we were nearly the first to show up.  A drink in hand and some socializing filled the time between our arrival and the start of dinner, which was likely around 11.  Dinner was a lengthy experience of plate after plate of delicious food being served, accompanied by bottles of wine.  The menu consisted of typical favorites such as jamon, seafood, veggies, and pan, in addition to the main dish.  When dinner ended there was still dessert and it was amazing (those of you who know me, know that I am a chocoholic) so when chocolate melting cake came out I was in heaven 🙂

In the States, I feel that a dinner would  suffice; people would pleasantly exchange ‘Merry Christmas’-es and be on their merry little way.  Not so in Spain!  Instead, we had a gift exchange–the most interesting one I’ve ever taken part in.  I was called up along with a male teacher and we were donned in wigs and silly hats.  Our school’s music teacher proceeded to play various songs and during each song one person was brought up to receive their gift.  However, before they were given their gift they also had to don a goofy hat and dance in front of the group.  Loads of laughter and smiles came bearing along with each silly surprise gift!  And appropriately, the gift I received at the end was a wig–none other than a long straight bright red one!

And if the crazy gift exchange wasn’t enough, when the restaurant had completely cleared of other guests, the tables were cleared, lights dimmed, and music put on.  And then the real fun and holiday celebrating began 😉  We drank and danced the night away in pure Spanish fashion!!!  Here are a few photos to let you in on the fun without revealing too much!


December Response for First Year Teacher Seminar January 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 11:32 pm

In December we were asked to write about assessment and grading, a topic that proved difficult considering I am technically not ‘allowed’ to grade students work as an English Teaching Assistant.  It is always intriguing to see how something so ‘basic’ as grading can be so different within each school, district, state, and country.

“It is nearly Christmas break for the students here in Madrid and that means one thing for all of the teachers at the high school where I work: grading, grading, grading.  This upcoming week ‘evaluaciones’ are taking place, in which teachers meet for large blocks of time after school to discuss student grades together.  Each day from 4-7 this week, teachers will gather to talk about every student’s progress in each class and the grades assigned in each subject.  These evaluations happen each term.

This foreign type of evaluation is just one of many differences I have seen in assessment while in Spain.  Perhaps it is because I am a teaching assistant and therefore not technically ‘allowed’ to be a part of the grading, but I have experienced minimal levels of assessment during the first term.  I expected to see more informal assessments; the majority of assessments have been formal methods (tests, papers, projects).  There are less daily assignments turned in and assessed than I was accustomed to in the states.  However, this clearly depends on each particular class and teacher.

The main thing I have learned concerning assessment is that formative assessments are invaluable.  Since I am an assistant this year and not directly involved in grading, any input I do give must be based on my observations of students.  I often take notes when students give oral presentations or work with me one-on-one for speaking/writing activities.  These notes give me my sense of students’ English skills. I have had a few teachers ask for my input as they prepare for the upcoming evaluations and the informal notes I have taken throughout the term most certainly served their purpose.

The most challenging aspect of assessment has been understanding the cultural differences surrounding grading.  Coming into a secondary school in Spain I had to learn the grading system they use.  To briefly explain, the Spaniards use numbers 1 through 10 instead of letter grades.  A 10 is like an A+ and is rarely given.  Passing is a 5, and anything above a 5 is considered good.  It was a challenge for me to face the stricter grading that takes place.  Grades in Spain are not inflated the way they are in the US.  For example, I rarely see 8’s, 9’s or 10’s given out for student work.  And in my opinion, a 5 or 6 is not seen as negatively as a C or D might be in the states.  I have found it challenging to be in classes that provide students with less criteria and details about assessment.  I often question whether my students know how their grades are being computed, something that would be important in my own classroom. Formal and informal assessments were such an integral part of my work at Doane and in my student teaching.  Being so far removed from assessing in general has been frustrating.

I have dealt with these difficulties mainly by submitting to the fact that I have little control this year.  I accept that I may not be as comfortable with the grading patterns here but being exposed to new ideas/philosophies has made me at least re-evaluate my own.  I will be able to use what I am experiencing to improve my classroom and assessing next year.

Despite some general challenges, I can note some successes in the minimal assessment I am able to do.  For example, I have been able to collaborate with a few teachers to give my summative input before final grades are assigned.  In addition I have been able to see examples of what I do not think works well; this will help me avoid similar mistakes in the future.  I have created some self-evaluations for students to use in courses with teachers who are more progressive in their thinking.  I have also begun discussions with a few teachers about the types of assessments that are popular in the US right now.  During the second and third terms I am hoping to introduce forms of assessment that I have not seen utilized in my particular classes (i.e. rubrics, rating scales, etc.) and to make students more aware of how they are being assessed if the teachers I work with are willing.”


Happy Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — exquisitelyme @ 5:48 pm

Happy Christmas.  Who says that?  (imagine my tone of voice when I’m annoyed).  Well, my students do (I’m still debating whether it’s another British English difference or because they are translating too literally from Spanish).  Regardless, I heard a lot of it and did a lot of Merry Christmas reminding during the month of December.

The primary reason I heard that phrase so many times is because the first year students were given the task of creating Christmas cards for the primary schools that feed into our secondary school.  It was quite a project.  Students began by creating the cards in art class.  We had studied the concept of line and used a weaving method that incorporated the various types of lines (straight, wavy, broken, and mixed).  The cards turned out beautifully and the students put a lot of time and effort into them.

During English class we worked on the written message for the inside.  I brought in lists of various types of Christmas greetings that are common in the US.  We went over the format to use since they needed a title greeting as well as a more personal written message.  By the time we were finished I think most cards read Merry Christmas instead of Happy Christmas, and even if they didn’t, the students who received were certainly given some extra holiday joy!