I had pre-conceived visions of what my life as a TEFL teacher would be like; in my daydreams I was teaching knowledge thirsty teenagers who all admired my quick wit and style. They all viewed me as a cool foreigner (which I am in all my daydreams) and clung to every word of my exotic British accent (Scouse still counts as British.)
I may have been ever so slightly wrong with my vision. None of my teens even catch on to my speedy sarcasm; when I tell them that I follow Justin Bieber on Twitter they think I’m being serious, when I try to spice up lessons with some muy chulo ‘fill in the gap’ song worksheets they question my music taste (Dolly Parton “9-5” is a classic. Period.) and rather than the cool older sister figure I’d envisioned myself to be, they seem to view me as the weird aunt who thinks she’s ‘hip’ because she knows how to do the Macarena (I can, and I will)
So in my pre- Barcelona visions I was all set for teaching these angelic little teens, but there was one little thing I wasn’t prepared for – the questions. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping out a confused kid who just can’t grasp the accurate pronunciation of ‘beach’, but they’re not the type of questions I’m talking about. It all started in my first month of teaching. After explaining an exercise to a group of boisterous young Catalan boys, I followed it up with ‘Any Questions?’ – A sea of hands, ‘Yes Oriol?’
‘What’s a dildo?’
Excellent. And that was just the start of it…
After this the questions started rolling in. About a month ago a class of my teens were quietly sat (a very rare occurrence in itself) writing a composition, when a hand, accompanied by a baffled, yet serious face, crawled up in the air; ‘Dawn, what do you call a boyfriend that you just have for one night?’ - A crucial piece of vocab considering he was writing a job application letter.
In the same class we were going over some key job related vocabulary, you know the type, ‘salary’, ‘wage’, ‘bonus’. Ahhh ‘bonus’. A hand shot up. ‘Excuse me if I’m wrong Dawn, but isn’t a bonus an erection?’ Brilliant. I did have to admire, however, not only his ability to sound like a polite British man whilst saying ‘erection’ but also his stamina in having muffled his sniggers for 10 minutes while I’d talked about getting a bonus at work.
It’s not always the students who make the mistakes though. In classes I often find myself behaving like a performing monkey in an extreme game of charades. And what’s the best way to explain the meaning of the word ‘lick’ to a group of young male beginners? Why, mime eating an ice cream cone of course! And we all know what that looks like don’t we? (if you don’t, you’re definitely miming it now- I hope you’re not in public you tart…)
So, whether it’s confusing your bonuses for your boners or accidentally miming a lewd sex act, these odd little mishaps combined with classrooms of bolshie, unashamed teens certainly do make for a comical working atmosphere. And no, maybe my teens don’t view me as a cool, older sister (not to mention quick-witted and well-dressed) but for now I’m quite happy to settle for the weird aunt who doesn’t flinch when you ask her what a dildo is and doesn’t judge you if you mention your ‘one night stands’ in a job application letter.