Shrinking World

I got my new timetable last night, first from the Carmelitas, then from my own school. The end result, as of a few last-minute additions this afternoon, is a twenty-two-hour working week. Not a truckload by regular working standards, but the longest by a yard in my working life so far, and a world away from the twelve-hour maximum we had dangled in front of our faces at the first British Council meeting. So much for that holy four-day weekend! I’m lucky enough to have clung on to three days of freedom, and I had to stick out my neck for that. At the very least they let me have Friday off instead of Monday, which gives me quite a few more days off in the long run, though navigating back to Villafranca on a Sunday is going to cause some headaches, mark my words. Still, I signed up for the back end of nowhere and that’s where they put me. At the very least I’ll not be getting bored here. I don’t have time to get bored. And I haven’t even started on any of the music groups yet…
But hey, there’s thirty kids who now know what a loon is, what it sounds like, and consequently why we say ‘as mad as a loon’. That was an icebreaker and a half.

Teaching at both a state school and a private school gives me the opportunity to take a look into both worlds, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how very different they are. My main obstacle with the state school kids is getting them to be quiet. Their English is good, but they quickly revert to their mother tongue for argument’s sake. Conversely, my private school pupils have a very high level of English, but they just won’t talk. And in primario, it’s every man for himself. I’m expected to take those classes alone, so it’s a biweekly war with a small army of Spaniards in the making, shouting everything and everybody demanding attention at the same time. The one thing they all have in common is the inevitable ‘do you have a girlfriend?’ interrogation, to which the answer has reduced from ‘not anymore’ and ‘not yet’ to a simple ‘no’. It’s easier that way. It doesn’t stop them changing tack and asking ‘what about boyfriend?’, but hey, at least that’s as far they go. One kid in primario had a particularly unfortunate way of phrasing it this afternoon – are you gay or “normal”? – which I tried to rectify as best I could, Catholic school or no, but I guess it went over his head. On the plus side, I haven’t been hit on by a guy for several months now. It must be a new record. Maybe I’m doing something right! That, or I simply haven’t been going out. Probably the latter.

I’m now in the curious position where I find myself teaching across every conceivable age group, from the rowdy little tykes in primario right the way up to people my own age in grado superior; and then, of course, there’s the private classes for adults in the afternoons on top of that. Teaching kids and adults is one thing, but with students your own age it’s an odd feeling. I guess the real catch is that in a town as small as Villafranca (I remind you that, by my standards, it’s still pretty massive) the chance of getting to know anybody on a non-professional basis is rather slim. I bumped into some of the girls I teach whilst out walking last week and they were adamant that they were going to find me a girlfriend in Villafranca. The trouble is, where does one draw the line? Because, like as not, anybody roughly my age in this town who I don’t teach (a number which shrank even more this afternoon) probably has a sibling I do teach, and that makes things rather complicated. I wouldn’t say no to a Spanish girlfriend – sheesh, who would? – but it’s easier said than done. The auxiliares in Almendralejo, the nearest city, don’t have this problem, as there are plenty of young people there for the job prospects on offer, but here it’s a family town, like I said before. And I’m still very much in that mindset of ‘absolutely no fraternization with the students outside of class’, as I had drummed into me in my last teaching job last summer. Which means if I want to meet people my own age, I’d better check out Almendralejo.

Here at least, I’ve had a stroke of luck. There is another auxiliar placed here in Villafranca, though like more rational minds than mine she chose to base herself in Almendralejo. A bright and beaming button of a Texan. I must have gone berserk speaking English with a native speaker at last after almost two weeks without doing so, but she bore it patiently enough and gave me an insight into Almen life. Apparently there’s a nightlife scene. Who knew? I was beginning to forget what nightlife is. And yes, they abide by Spanish hours; ergo, a far more rational 11pm until 6am mentality. That, at least, makes the possibility of a night out in Almendralejo feasible, as far as buses are concerned, though it’d probably knock out a whole weekend in the process.

All in all it’s been a pretty long day at the office. Those 8:15am starts are very hard on the eye but I’m simply going to have to get used to them. It’s largely thanks to them that I have Friday off. Monday isn’t the longest slog – that’s Wednesday, from 8:15am until 6:30pm with one hour for lunch – but it’s certainly one of the more mixed. I teach a bilingual gestión y acogida class in the morning (essentially, life skills: interviews, CVs etc), then a mid-teens 3º ESO, then I have twenty minutes to walk to the other school and mentally prepare for the chaos of a class of six-year olds, after which I get a free lunch from the nuns (probably the best part of the job) and return to take my final class of the day, a private school version of 3º ESO, before hopping down the road to my private class with my lawyer friend. And thus is a light day.

It’s bonkers. Good bonkers, paid bonkers, but bonkers nonetheless. It’s like last year, but without the music. That’ll come, you just watch. It’s the only thing I’m genuinely missing right now (I sang through the entire Northern Lights set when I was home alone yesterday, until the neighbour told me to shut up. Oops.

So there you have it. Busy, busy, busy – but I’m never truly happy if I’m not truly busy, that’s what I always say! Yet another example of yours truly not knowing when to shut up. So here’s BB, shutting up. BB x

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