Saturday, April 11, 2009

aprovechando el tiempo

The weather the past few days has been beautiful - after a heat wave early this past week (as a result of which I have sworn off taking the subte - I'm still a bit traumatized after a some-stranger's-sweat-dripping-on-my-arm incident), it's been consistently in the mid 70s, sunny, and clear blue skies. Not wanting to stay inside, I went on a photo-taking stroll through Palermo yesterday. Here are some highlights...

These three were taken at El Rosedal, a rose garden, which is inside El Parque 3 de Febrero in Palermo. Thousands upon thousands of roses...I took a lot of pictures, but you get the idea. One of my favourite parts, though, is the security: if you so much as look the perfectly manicured lawn,  a man with a whistle and shirt that says "Guardian" will yell at you. 

A couple friends and I spent the afternoon here...not a bad day.

Most of the streets in Palermo are lined with these kinds of trees...whose name I should probably look up.

Che: el musical argentino. It worked with Evita, so why not Che?

There's a lot of cool graffiti and artwork all across the city - these are just some that got my attention.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

teaching, de nuevo

It's been one week since I started teaching. Right now I have two classes, although since there is only one student in each class, they're more like private lessons. One of my students is Brazilian and he's preparing to take the TOEFL iBT (a test which determines one's English proficiency) in order to apply for a Master's degree program abroad. I was a bit nervous going into my first lesson, as I had no idea what to expect and wondered how I would manage to create enough material for a two hour lesson. But once we got started I got a sense of what he needed to work on, and went from there; before I knew it the two hours were up and I had plenty of ideas for activities for the next lesson. He's a good student, probably at a low intermediate level, and his dedication makes the lessons more enjoyable. Also, since he is preparing for a standardized test I have been giving him tips on how to write more effectively, recognise what the reading comprehension questions are asking for, etc - I feel as though I'm preparing for the SAT again, and being a bit of a nerd, I kind of like it. 

I started my other class yesterday, but already I can tell it will be a bit more tedious. I have to travel to Belgrano, which is an outer, more residential barrio that's about 20 minutes away by bus (if you get off at the right stop, that is.) The student is 23 years old and has just moved to Buenos Aires from South Korea, so his Spanish is non-existent and his English is limited to the most basic expressions. With no common language between us, the lesson got off to a rough start: he spoke to himself in Korean and laughed quite a bit; I'm hoping he found our initial inabilities to communicate comical, and not my feeble attempts to explain "My name is Julia. No, your name isn't Julia; my name is Julia." I'll be teaching him three times a week, and now that I'm more familiar with his level I'll be able to adapt my lessons accordingly. 

Along with these two classes I hope to start a third private lesson sometime this week. My Spanish tutor's brother-in-law was looking for an English teacher, so we met up several days ago for an "interview" - I explained how I would run lessons, gave him a placement test, and we had a brief conversation. Being a doctor, his schedule is a bit difficult to work with, but obviously I'm going to do my best to accommodate it - especially since I can name my own price. 

So busy, busy, busy again. Well, sort of. Yesterday, for example, I taught from 10-11.30, then I had my Spanish lesson from 1-3, and then I taught again from 7-9. Not a crazy schedule by any means, but figuring in transportation time with actual lesson time, my day went by pretty quickly. And now that I have responsibilities again, I spend less time dicking around and more time planning lessons, etc. It's a good thing. 

I find it a bit odd to go from teacher to student back to teacher again, all within the course of one day. It's definitely keeping me grounded, in the sense that I am continually reminded of the difficulties of learning a foreign language and can thus empathize with my students. One is less likely to become frustrated and consequently ineffective as a teacher when they remember their own personal struggles as a student. Yesterday, for instance, I had quite the mental block and said, "Cuando regreso a casa tengo que hacer...¿como se dice 'nap'?" My teacher looked at me, smiled, and said "siesta." Oh...yea...I knew that. 

Also, since my Spanish tutor has a lot of experience and, in my opinion, is very good at his job, I find myself conducting my lessons in a similar style, and adapting some of the activities that I have done for my students. Moreover, at first I almost felt guilty or stupid when I couldn't effectively answer a student's question. I had to look up an explanation in my reference book, and after a little research the matter was cleared up. Obviously teachers aren't expected to know everything, particularly all the complexities of grammar. But I still couldn't help but feel a bit inadequate, and hated the silence between us as I scrambled to find an accurate explanation. But then I remembered that my Spanish tutor has done this several times, that it's quite natural, and did not make me doubt my Spanish tutor's abilities in any way. Rather, I would have questioned his methods had he not double-checked the reference book. So while a bit disorienting at first, the whole simultaneously-student-and-teacher bit has been working out for me.