BEDA

Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key

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Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo? I did. And do you know what I learned from them? NOTHING. I’ve learned that classes should be really fun and engaging and as a teacher you should always try to make it seem like a different form of entertainment. Any subject can be interesting if you sprinkle some creativity into it. (I once made a dating game to practice physical description words)

2. Teaching is exhausting

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As a student you don’t fully comprehend or even try to understand the effort your teacher is making. Your job as a student is to sit, listen, and learn. Your job as a teacher is to facilitate, present, listen, ask 1 billion questions, get everyone involved, try to be creative, manage the classroom, I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

3. Don’t underestimate your audience

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Just to clue you in, in my classes I talk in English 100% of the time. Even with my super young students (5year olds), and they can still understand what I want them to do. They can follow directions, and even answer a lot of questions. It’s easy to disregard small kids’ intelligence, but I wouldn’t.

4. Things will go wrong, learn to BS

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How many times was the Internet down, my PowerPoint was broken, or an activity I planned didn’t take up the whole class period? More than once. But thinking on your toes is essential in teaching. I learned to BS my way through a class period by playing a random game, thinking of a last minute activity, or resorting to asking tons of questions.

5. Become fluent in body language

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It is SO easy to tell when students (or any audience) is not interested in what you are saying or doing. When you notice people’s eyes starting to glaze over, you have to switch it up and be a bit creative (refer to lesson 1). Don’t just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s obviously super boring.

So I know most of you aren’t ESL teachers, but I think the lessons I’ve learned as a teacher can be applied to any career field. Being creative and adaptable, knowing your audience, and thinking on your feet are invaluable skills for anyone.

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Adventure Time: Venice, Italy

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Stop #2 on our Semana Santa vacay was the beautiful island-like city of Venice! We arrived to Venice by train, and we were instantly greeted by one of the city’s beautiful canals. We then instantly realized we had forgotten to look up directions to our hotel before we got there, this is of course a problem when your phones don’t work… While Logan and I usually stay at AirBNBs when we travel, there weren’t any in Venice so we stayed at a moderately-priced hotel (woo hoo big spenders. Luckily it was pretty centrally located so we were able to ask a nice lady at the train station for directions (the old fashioned way). Our hotel was also super close to this Basilica.

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So the thing I liked about Venice is that there really isn’t a huge array of globally renown monuments and historical landmarks that you HAVE to see. This aspect makes Venice the perfect city to simply wander around and take in the narrow streets (there are no cars, only boats), the winding canals, and the numerous colored houses. This is exactly what we did.

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We were only in Venice for a little over 24 hours, but honestly that’s all the time you need there. We did see some of Venice’s more popular tourist attractions like Saint Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge, and the Grand Canal.

5 Things I absolutely loved about Venice:

  1. Gelato is everywhere and super cheap (I’m talking 2 euro status)
  2. There were 1 billion adorable dogs (lots of muts)
  3. There is a lunch special similar to the Spanish Menu Del Dia
  4. The gondoliers really all wear striped shirts and straw hats
  5. The canals and scenery in general is TDF (translation for mom: to die for)

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3 Things about Venice I thought were weird/annoying

  1. The winding streets often end in a dead end
  2. There are like 3 places on the whole island where you can cross over the grand canal
  3. Everything seems a bit touristy (like does anyone actually live in Venice…?)

Stay tuned for the next stop on our Semana Santa vacation: Barcelona.

3 Spanish Habits I Envy

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1. The double cheek kiss

 This is the most common greeting in Spain. Not only do you do it when you first meet someone, other acceptable times to give besitos are: if you haven’t seen each other for a few days, holidays, birthdays, or simply just because. Something about the intimacy and kindness of this greeting is really touching to me, and I desperately wish this was common in the states *hmph.*

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2. R&R
  Taking things slow, resting, and relaxing are pillars of the Spanish lifestyle. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, I’m saying that they are better at mastering a good work/life balance (at least what I’ve seen from my colleagues and roommates). So let’s all take a chill pill and understand most seemingly stressful situations are actually nbd.
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3. Not drinking to get drunk
  Fellow youths take note. If you set foot in any bar here you’ll immediately notice the striking differences between these bars and the ones in the states. Whether it’s the florescent lighting (but hey, at least I can see your face), lack of club music (I can actually hear you *gasp*), or the tapa that comes with every drink – Spaniards know what’s up. The bar scene is geared more towards catching up with your friends, eating some good food, and ultimately relaxing (refer back to habit #2). P.S. it is still very easy to get drunk solely from red wine and beer.

Adventure Time: Manchester, England

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What? Manchester? Everyone knows London is THE city to go to England.  Before you judge our English destination, you should know two things.  One, we still plan on making a weekend trip to London, so don’t be worried we’re missing out. Two, Manchester is actually a fun, cheap alternative to London.

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Originally, instead of spending the whole weekend in Manchester, Shannon and I planned on taking the train from Manchester and spending Saturday in London.  However, we kind of missed our window to get the cheaper train tickets and decided it would be better to spend an entire weekend in London instead…especially after we sort of fell in love with England.

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Now down to the trip.  We stayed at a nice Airbnb really close to Manchester University.  It was a pretty central location and made it really easy for us to walk everywhere we wanted to go.  It also meant lots of drunk college students at night, but its quaint because they talk funny.

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We got in really late on Friday night, so Saturday was really our first day in the city.  We started off by getting the traditional English breakfast at a little place called Bowlers.  It consists of bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, mushrooms, beans, toast, and coffee/tea.  I admit the beans are a little weird, but I ate it all.  I wanted to taste English culture, and evidently that means eating beans on buttered toast for breakfast. After our healthy meal, we decided to walk around the center of town for a while.  We went to see a few sites like the cathedral and a little victorian era cluster of buildings, and later stumbled onto the shopping area.  Manchester has a really good shopping district and a huge mall in the center of town.  We spent a while wandering around the Americany mall and even went into Aldi to find some real peanut butter.

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We were still pretty full from breakfast so we decided to forego lunch and grab an English pint from a cool little bar in the center.  Naturally, I chose a Sam Adams because…America. After spending some time in our room relaxing from all the walking, we found a collegy place to get dinner.  I felt like we were the only ones eating because I’m pretty sure 7:30ish is a little late for dinner for them.

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After that, we went to a few more places to get a couple more pints.  We had to take advantage of the good beer because Spain has like 4 types of the same crappy stuff.  I have to say though, a pint seemed like a lot of liquid after spending so much time drinking cañas (200 mL glass) in Spain.  The bartender seemed baffled by the fact that I wanted a half pint and by the fact that I asked for it with an American accent.  I get the feeling they don’t get a lot of tourists there.

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On Sunday we went back down to the center to do some shopping.  We found the Manchester Primark, and I’m pretty sure it was Shannon’s shopping heaven. To be fair, the store is really impressive.  It’s like the size of a WalMart, but only for clothes. We also went and grabbed a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake, treat yo self – am I right?

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We worked up an appetite walking around the never ending land of Primark and decided to get some lunch.  We found a cool English pub with lunch deals and decided to get fish and chips and a beef pie.  They were both really good!  I’m not sure I’m among those who hate English food.

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After that we went to John Ryland’s Library to see some cool old stuff.  Basically it’s a really old library that looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie with old books and really great architecture. By the time we left the library, it was getting late, and we had to catch our flight back home.

Adventure Time: Lisbon, Portugal

sunnySelfie Lisbon, Portugal: aka the hillier version of Spain. On a whim, Logan and I decided to hit up Spain’s neighbor to the East for our last couple of days of winter break. Logan and I have realized we are actually pretty laid back travelers, so we didn’t go to Portugal with any to-do items. As always, our main objectives were trying the local food and touring the city by foot.

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We were in Portugal for 2 full days, and in that time we saw a lot of the city. With our tourist map in hand, we set off to see some of the mega old buildings that litter the streets of Lisbon. Above is a picture of the Church of Santa Engracia, they were doing construction inside so we weren’t able to go in. Across the street was a super beautiful park, full of wild geese, swans, and ducks.

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Lisbon still uses ancient street cars, so Logan and I used it to see the other side of the city because we didn’t want to walk up and down the city mountains (seriously, walking around Lisbon feels like continuously walking up a giant ass mountain). P.S. the street cars are actually pretty expensive, 1 ride costs 3 euros.

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We ended up walking up and down the hills of Lisbon because we got off our street car too early, and saw the old convent, the Santa Justa Lift (an excellent view of the city), and the main plaza. We eventually made our way to the Rua Augusta Arch which happens to be right by the water. Look! Sand!

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We started our second day in Lisbon bright and early! Our first stop was one of the most famous sights in Lisbon: Jeronimos Monastery. The courtyard was BEAUTIFUL, it was definitely worth the 5 euro entrance fee.

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After the courtyard, we walked the short distance to the water. This monument was built to honor and celebrate the achievements of all the Portuguese explorers. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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Our last tourist stop was the Belem Tower. It originally served as a watchtower in the early 1500s. We decided not to go in it because we were really hungry and wanted food (priorities, am I right?).

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One of my favorite things about traveling is that it gives you an excuse to eat whatever you want (just trying to experience the culture….). Portugal’s food was on point. The typical Portuguese meal consists of meat, rice, and fries with a bottle of wine *yum.* We also tried the typical pastry: Pasteis de Belem (second picture) *also yummy*. Overall, Portuguese food was delicious and inexpensive – my favorite combination.

Another country down, many more to go!

Adventure Time: Cologne, Germany

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Hello friends & happy holidays! I was lucky enough to spend these special days with my two most favorite people, Kayla and Logan. As teachers, Logan and I get a nice long winter break *yay* so what better time to travel the world? It was easy for us to decide on Germany and Amsterdam (next post) because Cologne is known for their amazing Christmas markets and Amsterdam is easy to get to from Cologne (if you count a 4 hour bus ride as easy….). Prepare yourself for Christmas Markets, really tasty German food, and some old buildings.

1. Christmas Markets

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Cologne had not 1, not 2, but 3 Christmas markets!!! They were all within 15 minutes of each other, so we didn’t have to worry about public transportation. I’ve been a bit obsessed with going to a German Christmas market ever since I researched them my sophomore year of college, so this was like a dream come true. You can easily spend hours walking around looking at all the different booths (which we did). Each market had roughly 75-100 booths *not exaggerating* offering a ton of different goods: food, candy, gifts, toys, everything your little heart could possibly desire.

2. Super delicious & wonderfully tasty German food

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Germans know food. As far as I’m concerned, this is now an undeniable, indisputable fact. We definitely ate our way through Germany, and I’m so glad we did. Brats, pretzels, tasty drinks – you name it, one of us most likely consumed it. It was delicious and also super affordable (my favorite combo). I already miss it.

3. Old buildings & such

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Cologne’s cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany (over 20,000 visitors A DAY). It took 600 years to build, and allegedly holds the remains of the 3 kings in a very impressive solid gold tomb. It’s in the very heart of the city, and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. Really, pictures don’t do it justice. It’s so massive you have to set your camera to panoramic setting just to get the entire building in it (or stand really, really far away).

landmarksSadly, a lot of Cologne was destroyed during WWII, so there aren’t many historical landmarks remaining. But there are a few scattered throughout the city. The site on the left is where nuns used to pee; that’s right it was originally a bathroom attached to an old convent (history is riveting, right?).

Here are a few more random photos, just in case you didn’t quite get your fill.

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Besos y abrazos,

Shannon

Adventure Time: Toledo

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KAYLA IS HERE!!! No, you aren’t seeing double, that’s my twin sister, Kayla, who is hanging out with us in Madrid for a few weeks. We wanted Kayla to see an older part of Spain, so off to Toledo we went. Toledo: the land of Marzipan, old ass buildings, and lots of hills.

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Our first objective was hunting down the typical tasty treat Toledo is known for, marzipan. It’s a cookie-like dessert made from sugar and almonds and other things I’m not sure of. If I had to describe the taste I would describe marzipan as edible cookie dough, so obviously it’s delicious.

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Next stop was seeing the Alcazar, which initially I was really pumped about because of the alcazar in Segovia was super awesome. But Toledo’s was a bit of a disappointment. The inside of the building has been transformed into an epic maze-like museum of Spanish history. It’s cool if that’s what you’re in to, but I just wanted to see the view of the city from the top patio. It took us like 35 minutes to actually find the patio, and when we did the view wasn’t that good *womp*. It’s a good place to go if you want to look at a bunch of old armor, but other than that I’d say skip it.

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After a Menu del Dia lunch, we made our way through the winding, hilly streets of Toledo to the Cathedral. If you are going to Toledo please keep in mind that it is very much a walking city, although the different sights are relatively close to each other, the winding streets make it a bit of a journey. This cathedral is super old and super beautiful, but you have to pay 11 euros to go inside, so we decided to just marvel at the outside of the building and the take in the intricacies of the architecture.

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Next sight on the list was the monastery, Toledo has a mosque, a cathedral, and a monastery! So we wanted to get a look at each one. I regret not paying the 3 euros to tour the inside, so if you have the chance you totally should.

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On our trek back to the train station we took the beautiful Bridge of San Martin. This bridge was built during the 14th century and it’s the best way to get to the city center. Sadly, the day turned quite gloomy near the end and we were rained on a bit, but don’t worry it didn’t ruin our trip.

I’m happy the three of us were able to explore another niche of Spain!

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon