teach abroad

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Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo?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: Rome, Italy

As profesores de ingles, Shannon and I get a well-deserved spring break away from the children. We decided to take advantage of all this time by making an extended trip to Italy. We figured Italy deserved a little more time because it seems like THE country to go to on a European vacay.  Stop #1 of 3 (and my personal favorite) was Rome, Italy.

We spent just over 2 days in Rome and honestly loved every minute. As usual, we stayed in an Airbnb, and it worked out really well for us. We tried to see as many sites as possible, but I think you could spend an entire week in Rome and still feel like you need more time.

Day 1

1. Vatican

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We got to our airbnb a little early due to a super early flight out of Madrid, so while it was being cleaned we decided to visit the Vatican. The man cleaning the room told us the pope comes out to speak at noon, so we thought it would be perfect timing. There were TONS of people there, but after waiting around for a while, we realized we were too late and he had already finished speaking.

2. Delicious Italian Lunch 

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On our way to the vatican, Shannon and I passed a really great looking local place close to our apartment. It looked authentic and not overly priced, our favorite. The food was by far some of the best we had in Italy.

3. Trevi Fountain  

Our next stop was one Shannon was really excited to see. Unfortunately, we were met with some disappointment because all the water is drained and they have built scaffolding all around it for extensive cleaning. We still managed to beat back the British tourists and get kinda close.

4. Roman Pantheon

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We actually found the Pantheon by accident while following the narrow and winding streets of the Roman center. We didn’t even find out what it was until later in the day. Its a really cool building, and like most ancient buildings in Rome, has been converted to a church of sorts. Every time you get close to buildings like this, you are completely amazed that people were able to build such things with out ANY modern construction equipment.  

5. Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland) 

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This was another site we really didn’t recognize, but we still really liked. Inside it’s essentially a military museum complete with guards that take guarding things super seriously and yell at tourists who step out of line. However, if  you climb to the stairs to the roof of the building, there is a really great view of all of central Rome and the ruins all around.

6. Gelato

This is obviously a necessary part of every Italian vacation. We repeated this step throughout the trip numerous times. Because, necessity.

7. Dinner

After wandering around Rome and getting around 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, Shannon and I were obviously super tired. We went back to the apartment for a quick little nap then headed out for dinner a little later.

We went to a great local pizza place (well one of a billion) that was recommended to us by anther teacher at my school. The pizza was obviously amazing and the 5 Euro liter of red wine wasn’t half bad either.

Day 2

1. Vatican (again)

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Our first trip to the Vatican was half hearted at best. Our apartment was only about 15 minutes away on foot, so we thought it deserved a second stop. This time we wanted to see the inside of the basilica, so we waited in a ridiculously long line for about an hour. But it was totally worth it, and we were really impressed by how much detail was in every inch of every surface.

2. Lunch…and more gelato

3. Colosseum 

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This was one of the big ones for both of us. We were really excited to see the Colosseum, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my second favorite site in all of Rome. There’s not much more to say, it’s the Colosseum and a must during a trip to Rome.

4. Roman Forum 

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When you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, entrance into the Roman Forum is included. This site turned out to be my favorite. It’s basically the old Roman marketplace, and it’s huge. You would need several hours to really walk through the whole area. Visitors also get to be a little closer to the ruins than you do in the Colosseum. You are pretty much walking right where ancient Romans bought and traded goods. It’s a really cool place.

5. Dinner and Dessert.  

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Much to Shannon’s dismay, up until this point, we had not tried ANY cannoli. After what I can only imagine was very thorough research, she located one of the best cannoli places in town.  We got one to go and decided to eat it after our dinner.

For our actual meal we went to a great little place that used homemade noodles in all their dishes and again was excellent. Rome did not disappoint on the food front.

Oh…and the cannoli were delish too.

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.

Selfies in Spain

Buenas mis amigos! When I was packing my life away for a year in Spain I had to decide which of my favorite clothes would make the final cut into my 50lbs of allotted baggage. While I’ve been here I feel like I have truly become the master of layering, accessorizing, and putting together solid outfits with my minimal wardrobe. So I wanted to share my daily style with all of you wonderful people.

P.S. I think I have a bit of a selfie problem… s3lfie4 s3lfie3 s3lfie2 s3lfie1

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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Cathedral

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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*click to enlarge photos*

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

Adventure time: Geneva, Switzerland

 

 

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Logan and I have become quite spontaneous since moving to Madrid. One night, Logan came into our room and simply asked me if I wanted to go to Geneva, Switzerland for the weekend because tickets were super cheap. And I responded with a very atypical reaction of “YES! Where’s my credit card?” And that was that. It wasn’t until after we booked our very cheap plane tickets that we found out Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe…

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We went to Switzerland with literally two objectives: 1. Tour the United Nations building (neat and globally significant) and 2. Eat a bunch of Swiss chocolate (the latter was obviously the more important objective to me). The tour of the UN was relatively inexpensive, and pretty cool. Look at Logan and I! The first picture is of me in the room where the League of Nations originally met and made some important decisions, you know ones that impacted the history of mankind NO BIG DEAL. And here’s Logan lookin real important in the Human Rights room (Pop culture reference: Emma Watson spoke about human rights at the UN in New York).

 

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Here is Logan accomplishing objective #2! Good work opening that tasty (and expensive) bar of Swiss Chocolate. As you can see Switzerland is beautiful, so we really enjoyed simply walking around the city, and wandering about. P.S. I haven’t mentioned that Geneva peeps primarily speak is french, which was great because Logan and I literally know 3 words in french! Granted, a lot of people also knew English so we we didn’t have to suffer too much (linguistic privilege is so real). *Side bar* if you are easily reading and understanding this post you are, in fact, a benefactor of linguistic privilege.

NIGHTtime

Geneva’s city center at night was already decorated with Christmas cheer! Look at all these lights! Logan and I enjoyed a nice long walk around and taking in the beautiful sights (P.S. walking around is free, which was very appealing to us). Our first day in the city was consumed by grocery shopping (eggs and bread), converting our euros to francs, and visiting the UN. So day 2 we devoted to wandering around old town.

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So, by now you are well aware that Geneva is known for their tasty chocolate. What you can see on the left is a photo of a chocolate cauldron that is *get this* filled with little balls of chocolate!!! Sadly, the price of this bad boy was like 30 Francs (also P.S. Switzerland is one of the few western European countries that doesn’t use Euros). The middle photo is of a market stand Logan and I wandered in to. Lucky for us it was their 75th anniversary, which meant a plethora of FREE SAMPLES!!! Our little cheap hearts just about exploded when someone finally told us we could take the free samples of food and wine 🙂 That´s right FREE GLASSES OF WINE.

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Geneva’s most recognized landmark is this fountain here (Jet d`Eau). It sprays water up real high into the sky and is a symbol of progress.  Please note that the walkway to the fountain has no guardrails to make you feel nice and safe.

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Logan and I are getting our modeling portfolios ready.

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We quite literally stumbled into this amazing art museum. Geneva is really expensive, BUT they offer free admission to nearly all of their museums. This museum had famous works of Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet.

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Next stop: the cathedral. It seems as though every European city has a really giant and beautiful cathedral, and Geneva is no exception. Look how tiny we are compared to his massive place!

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The inside of the cathedral was equally as beautiful, and offered a nice place for us to sit down and take it all in. Logan looks like an angel, dontchya think? After the cathedral we headed back to our AirBNB, got some beer and pizza and went to bed early because we had to wake up at 5am for our flight.

Overall, Geneva was really beautiful, but I have a few suggestions for you if you plan on visiting. 1.Only stay two full days; 2. Geneva is definitely a day time city, so try to get a night flight out; 3. Go grocery shopping and get some basic food so you don´t have to eat out all the time; 4. Pack comfy shoes and spend the majority of your time walking around the city; 4. Splurge for the chocolate bars, but if you want one as a souvenir wait for the airport, it´s actually a bit cheaper there.

Besitos,

Shannon