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Notes from a Teacher on Holiday

Category: Freelance teaching

Well, I have one more year of teaching under my belt, and now I find myself on vacation by the beach in Galicia, a nice place to find yourself I might add. So I’m recharging my batteries and finding time for my hobbies; and forgetting all about English teaching? Actually I’ve dreamt I was teaching a couple of times, so maybe I can improve my methodology in my sleep, ha, ha.

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In any case, as I said I’m enjoying myself here in Galicia, and I’m speaking much more Spanish, however I’m not really refreshing my English, which is a bit of a shame. I have friends who spend the summer in England teaching a month or two, then staying with friends and family.

I’ve heard teachers jokingly say that as your students’ English level gets better, yours gets worse. That’s funny but you do actually have to make an effort to avoid language contamination: if you hear the same mistakes day in and day out, after a while they begin to sound right. In fact, I recently heard a teacher talk about her students’ ‘assistance’, when she meant ‘attendance’ (the Spanish word for ‘attendance’ is ‘asistencia’).

In any case, to fight that I do a lot of reading, especially fiction, in fact I’m currently reading the sixth book of "The Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan. I’ve also been watching documentaries and films in English; actually the same sort of thing I tell my students to do.

This year I’m taking the whole month of August off, although in other years I’ve taught private classes here. Actually I view vacation as a time of unemployment because as a freelance teacher, no work means no pay, and that makes things a bit more stressful. The idea is you save up for your vacation, but I personally find it difficult to save up for anything; there are just too many products or services I suppose my family and I need, a cool vacation being one of them. And it is cool here, the heat wave melting the rest of Spain hasn’t quite reached here.

Of course, in this shaky economy I’m lucky to have work at all. One advantage of teaching is that the demand for teachers tends to be fairly steady and not much affected by the economy, though pay and conditions are. I know a lot of Spaniards are going abroad in search of a decent job and salary, as are several of my students; and my son as well!

The Spanish brain drain is sad, but it does mean more students in our classes. Actually I’ve been told that a lot of teachers are looking for greener pastures as well. So fewer teachers may mean better pay and conditions for those of us sticking it out. Having said that, I’ve also heard that in hard times more people join the military, it’s steady low-paying work: teaching may be the same. The English unemployed take a TEFL course and have a go at teaching. It would be interesting to see some statistics on this.

While on holiday I sometimes give some thought to my holiday Truth or Lie game, which I play when classes start up again. On the first day, as an ice-breaker, I tell my students about my vacation, but I tell one lie. Students can ask me questions at any time and I answer them telling the truth, or lying if they ask about my lie. When I finish telling them all about my holiday they guess the lie. Hey, let’s play right now! Here goes.

One evening my wife and I took our dog out for a walk and we locked ourselves out of the house (we both left our keys inside). We spent that night at my brother-in-law’s, the next morning one of our neighbors lent us an X-ray and we used that piece of plastic to break into our house. It took me about 20 minutes. It was all embarrassing and stressful.

I rode my mountain bike about four days a week with the locals. I got caught in the rain a few times and got wet and muddy, especially muddy.

I went kayaking two or three times a week. You can rent kayaks for seven euros an hour. It’s just something I did in addition to cycling. My legs are fine but my arms and shoulders could use strengthening.

I did one-day fasts on four different occasions.

I read four novels. Like I said, mainly Robert Jordan’s stuff.

My wife and I had a will drawn up. Things like that are cheaper in Galicia than in Madrid.

My daughter (aged 22) made a short film with some of her friends who were visiting us, a horror movie they called Zombie House. They did it for laughs, and it was hilarious, especially the out-takes.

So what was the lie? The students of course ask me question and ask about details and try to catch me out. So do you give up? The lie was that I didn’t really go kayaking, but I’d like to! In fact, I was also watching these people windsurfing and thought I’d like to give that a go too, but no time and money for so many hobbies.

In any case, now the students play the game. You give them about three to five minutes to think about their last holiday (or weekend) and to think of their lie. Then you put them in groups of threes or fours and they play. You monitor, and when they’ve finished you can give them feedback on their mistakes on the white board.

Well, hope all you holidaymakers are enjoying yourselves. It won’t be long till I’m back in the classroom, though it looks like I already am in my dreams. Happy teaching!

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