As part of my cultural experience while studying abroad in Spain I decided to tutor kids in English at a local public school. Twice a week I head out to a local public school near the Magna shopping center and meet with about 20 kids, on a good day, aged fourteen to sixteen. The tutoring sessions are something I decided to do completely separate from my coursework and extracurricular academic activities. Initially, the primary intent was to improve in my Spanish language capabilities. However, it has transformed into an entirely different and rewarding experience than I expected.
I don’t understand kids and while I’m not necessarily scared of them I was undoubtedly apprehensive to tutor younger kids at first. However, I believe getting yourself to do things you are not comfortable with or have never done before only rewards you in the end. Now every week one of the things I look forward to the most is the tutoring sessions and I think that is in large part due to the interaction with the kids more than anything else. Much to my surprise all the kids are incredibly engaged and interested in learning and improving, which makes the sessions immensely easier and enjoyable. The tutoring sessions are completely voluntary so none of the kids are forced or obligated to attend. When I approached the principal of the school about tutoring I was expecting maybe four to five kids that would be interested. Instead, the roster of the tutoring session is 20 plus students and more than 15 regularly attend the weekly session.
Culturally, I wasn’t sure exactly sure what to expect, as I had never encountered much less interacted with kids much younger than I. I thought for sure there would be some differences but teens in Spain are pretty much exactly like teens in the U.S. save some minor differences. There exist the same stereotypes of burgeoning young adults, some are shy, some are outgoing and can be obnoxious, some can be bossy and assertive, and others can have a very short attention span. Either way, I was surprised to realize that I really enjoyed interacting with them.
In the United States we are taught one of the best ways to improve your knowledge and proficiency within in a subject is to teach to others. Other than the interaction with the kids the other benefit has been the opportunity to work on and improve my Spanish. The tutoring session has actually turned out to be one of the most effective ways in improving my Spanish. We teach the class in English and the themes are English-learning oriented. However, due to the levels of the students, the majority of the time we are using Spanish to explain English language concepts and things about America. We try not to make the classes too boring by making them as interactive and hands-on as possible. We incorporate games that we learned growing up in our Spanish classes like pictionary, categories, and grammar games that make them work in groups and are actively engaging. Teaching them also has been a learning experience for me as it has allowed me to work on orally communicating in Spanish. Ultimately, holding these conversation classes have only helped to better my Spanish while affording me a rewarding opportunity to work with kids.