19 February 2012

Teacher, Teacher!

That's what they call me: "Teacher." A student wants to ask a question: "Teacher, what does this mean?"; they see me in the hallway: "Good morning, Teacher!"; they see me on the street, "Hi, Teacher!" When I was doing my course in San Francisco learning how to be an English language teacher, many of the students there also called me "Teacher", but I thought it was because there were so many student teachers who changed every day and they couldn't remember our names. Of course now I realize that for most of those students, that's how they would address a teacher in their home countries. Here in Colombia it's customary to call your teacher, whether high school or college/university, simply "Profesor" (for a male) or "Profesora" (female), or "Profe" for short, so English language students will just translate that and call their teachers "Teacher." As we're teaching US culture as well as the English language, on the first day of class I told the students that in the US in a school like this they would likely call the teacher by his or her first name and they are welcome to call me "Barbara", but very few actually do.

I'm getting used to the "Teacher" moniker, although sometimes I wish I could call them "Student" because there are so many & it's hard remembering everyone's names! And many of the students' names are not "typical" Spanish names like Carlos, Maria, Sergio, Juana, etc.; there has been a trend in the past it seems (from the ages of the students) 20-30 years in Colombia to name kids with "different" (often taken from another language) sounding names, the famous example is "Usnavy" as a name, ie, U.S. Navy & pronounced "Oosnavie." I don't have anyone by that name in my class, but it gives you an idea. "Lady", often spelled "Leidy" or made plural and with an addition, such as "Misleidis" or "Yusleidis" is another example of how a word in another language has been taken and made into a name. Or there are different spellings of "foreign" names, such as Deisy, Jhonathan, or Brayan, or brand names (Westinghouse, Freixenet) become first names.

Beyond trying to learn names (which I've successfully done in my current classes, but class groups change every four weeks), the first two weeks of classes have gone fine! I'm teaching two beginner classes and one advanced; with the beginner classes I sometimes use Spanish but not with the advanced. So in one respect, teaching English is not that great for my own Spanish learning, but I'm learning more and more each day about teaching and about the English language. In a truly geeky way (that my mother and friends Dave, Lisa, and Maureen, among others, will especially appreciate), I love learning all the "whys" of English grammar as I prepare for classes, figuring out the answers to students' questions, using various resources and my Spanish knowledge to try to anticipate what their questions will be, and I hope to fascinate you all with these details someday when you come visit or when I next visit you!! :)
The Centro Colombo Americano is the white building on the left with the US & Colombian flags. The old city wall is straight ahead and the Caribbean Sea just beyond that!

This coming week is the Cartagena International Film Festival here, the most important film festival for Latin America. A Hamilton College friend has been invited to participate so I look forward to seeing him & getting an insider's view of the Festival!

More photos of the Centro Colombo Americano in Cartagena here.

No comments: