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.