The lowdown on Year Three

Last week I got to explain the terms Hootchie Koochie, cokey, and lowdown to Spanish youngsters, thanks to a song that my co-teacher felt would be a good way to explain the cultural aspects of the United States. I hardly think that describing a couple going to Chinatown to “beat the gong around” is representative of the American experience. At least I could be there to throw in that the story was about a very specific population in the US in the 1930s ….

Hey, fellow Americans–have you ever even heard of this song?

But that’s what I’m there for. For a third year I get to use my status as an “native English speaker” to transform into a walking dictionary, flaunt my accent, and share anything and everything about life in the magical US of A.* This year, however, comes with a lot of changes.

For one, I’m simultaneously working towards a Master’s degree in Bilingual Education. This means homework assignments after I come home from school, a new group of acquaintances, the start of something thesis-like. It also means that I’m becoming very familiar with the route to Alcalá de Henares.**

It means I’m at a new school, one with a student body that rivals the size of my hometown. I meet staff members everyday, and have most of my conversations with the photocopier (the person, not the machine). That’s because I work with 25 different groups of students and am constantly making photocopies. Let me repeat that–I work with 25 different groups of students between the ages of 12 and 18. I know the photocopier’s name. I forget one student’s name as often as a learn a new one.


*Please stop asking me to explain Guy Fawkes Day. I don’t know this Guy.

**And neglectful of this blog.


My first week in September was full of introductions. I asked my students to tell me their names, which I promptly forgot. Here are some of the humorous questions they asked, which were much more memorable:

Does Gotham City exist?

What about Quahog? And Springfield?

Do you know what Wal-Mart is?

Do you know Obama?

Which is better, USA or Spain?

Do you like Spanish ham?* (usually pronounced “jam”)

Do Americans really cook with butter? My mom says butter makes you fat, why don’t you use olive oil?

Are American high schools like the ones on TV? Do you really sing in the hallways?

And the award for the most unexpected question–asked after I had passed around postcards of Arkansas–goes to:

Are you a cheerleader for the Arkansas Razorbacks?

*Call the hogs? That might actually catch on in Spain.

← Previous post

Next post →


  1. Sounds like a busy, yet forward-moving year (like my own! WHY DO WE KEEP DOING THIS??). I had an experience like yours the first year, where I was dumbfounded by all of the new people I kept meeting. Thanksfully, the diretcor listened when I told her I wouldn’t do it again after barely surviving!

    I still remember nearly all of y students from the bilingual program’s names!

  2. Cassandra

    Cat, we do seem to have followed a similar trajectory, a que si?

    I’m desperately trying to keep my head above water when it comes to all these names. One of the teachers gave me lists of names…which only works so well when you can’t put the face with the nombre. Hopefully I’ll come out remembering as many as you did!

  3. You sound so busy! And your high school sounds huuuuge! I forget where you said it is located within Madrid. Oh man. I am working elementary-school-age kids, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

  4. Cassandra

    The school is huge, indeed! The first few weeks I was as lost as the kids.

    My high school is located in Vallecas–or, as the chavales spell it–“Vallekas.” Where is yours?

  5. Wow. 25 groups of students! Sounds a bit overwhelming…
    Good luck on learning a few names : )

    And yes, I love all the introduction questions students ask!

  6. Haha, great questions! I wouldn’t mind reading your answers as well 😉 By the way, I would have loved to have an English teacher from the US when I was in school, that must be very cool and somehow exotic 🙂 In Norway, most English teachers are just plain old Norwegian.

  7. Cassandra

    Lauren–I just counted up the total number of students I work with at my new school. The final figure? 538!

    New Life – My Spanish teachers were the same; they didn’t come from Spanish-speaking countries, but rather were Americans who had learned Spanish. Having language assistants is certainly a cool concept.

  8. small world!! i’ve been going through your old blog posts and now I HAVE to make it to palam and mallorca. What camp did you do there?

    I have a canon 50d and usually use my 50mm lens.

  9. Cassandra

    Sí, el mundo es un pañuelo !

    Mallorca is a beautiful island, you should check it out. My favorite discovery was the Cap de Formentor, and Palma itself is a great city.

    I spent the last two Julys right outside of Palma working–blogging!–for an English-language camp. They have English and blogging positions if you’re looking for work this summer…!

  10. What great questions! haha!

    The only questions I get from my students are along the lines of: “Teacher, why you look so tired?”

    Sounds like you have a busy year ahead. Good luck with all those students!

  11. Cassandra

    Ha, well, I do only see my students once a week; my Monday morning students must assume those just-barely-caffeinated eyelids are my regular look.

    Thank you, and good luck to you, too!

  12. Do you know what Wal-Mart is? Ha! I remember that when I was a child my aunt used to me that if I wasn’t good, she’d take me back and exchange me for some other kid at Wal-Mart.

    Lovely pics in the Sevilla posts, by the way. I went in 2010 for a quick trip with a group of friends and need to go back. Best wishes with all of your busy activities and keeping track of your students. 538 students!….That makes for a lot of repeated names. I had around 80 last year and already had several repeated (Catalan) names.
    ¡Suerte!….o digo…¡Mucha mierda!

    • Cassandra

      Thanks for the good vibes! I’m sending well-wishes your way, as well 🙂

Leave a Reply

Read previous post:
Hiking to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Before we start hiking to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, run over to this link to get the pronunciation. Repeat: Gaz-te-lu-ga-txe! Recently,...