More of my early day teaching cockups within the Cordovan classroom (part 2)

Wish I could’ve been as cool and composed as this Canva teacher!

Hi folks! I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.

If you happened to peruse my last blog, you might remember that I was relating some of the embarrassing and awkward moments experienced when teaching in my first years of living as an immigrant in Cordova (well, actually these moments weren’t just related to teaching, but very many other moments of my everyday life — it was a very difficult teething process really!).

The town where it all took place — Cordova. This is the Great Mosque / cathedral situated in the heart of the Juderia (Old Jewish Quarters) — there is also a synagogue close by. (Photo, courtesy of Canva, of course!)

But anyway, as I mentioned last time, I would continue this chapter today. So here goes:—

(Note: as before, this is quite a long blog, so be warned!)

I mentioned that I had difficult controlling some of the students, and some of them would constantly fool around, laugh and talk both under and over my voice and would eternally horseplay around, disturbing the rest of the class.

Although all this happened quite a few years back, it was unfortunately not far back enough for a teacher to be able to take the horse whip to their backsides!

So instead, I went complaining and crying (literally) to Thomas the Boss, who said that he would come in the following day and show me how it should be done.

And that’s just what he did.

He was explaining the work to the students, group by group, but then came the turn of the Terrible Trio, who, doubtless to say, were in full swing of their buffoonery.

There’s nothing like an attentive, respectful student!
Maybe innocent-looking, but NOT so!

Thomas warned me (sotto voce) that we wouldn’t be able to whack them, and that he would use alternative, but very subtle correction techniques.

I watched on enthralled as he placed himself very close to the ringleader, Santiago—so close in fact, that he was actually standing on the boy’s toes; and there he remained, applying a steady but increasing pressure.

(I noticed that as the pressure was gradually increased, the colour from Santiago’s spirited countenance soon started to fade.) The initial smirk on Santi’s face soon changed to uncomfortable surprise, followed by dumbfounded bewilderment, and then eventually a painful grimace with eyes watering. And as Santiago quietened down (illustrating just how well he had learnt his lesson), Thomas gradually released the phalangeal pressure.

However, all this had gone unnoticed by his accomplice Diego, who was still twittering and giggling and playing the right idiot behind Thomas’s back. So without any warning, Thomas turned around, gave him a glowering look and then suddenly picked up his pencil case and flung it across the room. It flew the whole length of the class before smashing against the blackboard where it crashed loudly upon the ground. The whole class was stupefied. The look of horror on Diego’s face seemed to express that it was he and not his pencil case that had suffered such cruel injury.

So from that day, the Trio Ring was disbanded and I never had any more problems with the students—no rude twittering from the back of the class nor any further degradation.

And as for the third accomplice, Mateo, well, there was not much needed there, because after having witnessed the fate of his accomplices he just cowered in the corner.

But it’s not just the rude sniggers, giggles and twitters, nor simply the general demolition of the teacher’s ego that takes place within those four imprisoning walls of the classroom. Accidents will happen too! Well, you know how kids, when bored or restless either raise their hands to ask to go to the toilet, or to drink water from the fountain in the patio. Also, it is not uncommon that they ask permission to leave their desks to come to the front of the class to sharpen their pencils over the bin that lies just to one side of the blackboard. All of these tactics were regular occurrences with my class, and when one left to go to the toilet or drink water, they all soon followed suit, dribbling steadily out of the classroom door. (I, to be honest, was thankful for the momentary respite!)

‘¡Por favour, seño! ¿Puedo ir a beber agua?’ (‘Please teacher… Can I go and drink water?’)

Or ‘¡Porfa señorita! ¡Tengo que ir al servicio! ¡No puedo aguantarme más! ¡Me meo…!’ (‘Please Miss. I’ve got to go to the toilet. I can’t wait… I’m peeing in my pants!’)

On one such occasion, Pablo, the darkest-haired and naughtiest of the naughty nine-year olds, not having been the centre of attention for at least five minutes, informed me that he couldn’t copy any of my Lowry matchstick men with their spidery, uphill annotations because his pencil had gone blunt (that is, after he had tried to unscrew all the screws of his desk with it). I acquiesced (not yet having mastered how to say in technical Spanish­: ‘That’s because you have been trying to unscrew all the screws of your desk with it!’).

So Pablo raised himself out of his chair, pushing it harshly backwards so it made a loud, grating noise and came smashing against the desk behind; then feeling satisfied with his great achievement and grinning moronically all around, seeking approval from his peers, he cockily strode out to the front of the classroom. Unfortunately he didn’t notice (since he had his head turned backwards, playing jester to the class) that the front section nearest the blackboard was slightly raised; the toe of his shoe stubbed the step with force and he fell crashing forward, heavily.

Unluckily for him he fell straight on top of the square plastic bin. He fell with such force (he was a rotund lad), that his head broke the corner of the bin, and the next minute there was blood gushing down his face and filling his eyes. I gasped out loudly, crying ‘¡Oh Pablooooo!’ which was followed by more concerned ‘¡Pablo! ¡Pablooooos!’ from the class—but we fell into a real state of shock and disarray when he lifted his blood-drenched head. So bloody was it that I couldn’t even make out whether it was his eye or the brow that was gashed open. Fortunately one of the more intelligent girls, Lucía, was quick to react (while I just stood transfixed to the spot) and she immediately volunteered to inform the caretaker so that he should call for an ambulance. I numbly nodded my head and agreed with a ‘¡Buena idea, Lucía! ¡Rapido!’.

The ambulance arrived soon after, and the two white medics and stretcher-bearer had to push their way through the teachers who had formed a circle around us: they were shaking their heads at me and clicking their tongues while shooting me steely, reprimanding looks. The paramedics lifted the howling Pablo onto the stretcher, jostled him down the corridor then raised him into the screaming ambulance.

Meanwhile, the teachers left the scene of crime and went back to attend to their disciplined broods, during which time my class had completely fallen apart. With ten minutes still for the bell to ring, there was complete pandemonium: the unhinged terrors were rushing about everywhere, tearing up and down the corridors, acting as harbingers of exaggeratedly bad news, some thrusting their heads and shoulders out of the third floor windows to the horror of the on-looking parents who were devotedly waiting in the playground to collect their offspring.

I couldn’t cope with the bedlam any longer—my nerves were sorely frayed and although there was still a good ten minutes to go, I acted rashly: in the interests of my own immediate sanity I made the reckless decision of setting them free early.

However, possessed with a fleeting moment of bravado I put my plan into action and by some compassionate gift bestowed upon me from the Divine, I managed to summon order and get the brats’ attention. I also had to let rip the peppery Spanish swear words which I had so dutifully rehearsed with Josefa, my exchange pal, and which had the immediate result of stunning them into obedience. (Why hadn’t I tried that technique before, I asked myself.)

And so I filed the kids out of the door, then valiantly marched them down the stairs (despite my knocking knees). I led them to the main entrance hall with my head held high and lower jaw slightly clenched in the pretence that my conduct had been unimpeachable.

A crowd of over-anxious mothers and staunch grandparents (raised in the times of Generalissimo Franco) were there to meet me and I could tell from the accusing look in their eyes that they would not be easily appeased. I was immediately met with their incriminating reproaches and wagging fingers, and unfortunately my ‘Andaluz’ dialect was sufficiently advanced as to understand their complaints about me releasing the children far too early; they were also stressing the nearness and danger of the adjacent dual-carriageway. (At that point I hoped that once again a crack in the floor would open up and devour me.)

I was well and truly cornered by the sea of impassable patriarchs and matriarchs, not to mention the teachers behind me and the unruly mob spilling over to my sides. I took a deep breath before then gabbling out with an exaggerated English accent some pathetic explanations and apologies; then I broke my way through the parental wall and went running over to the howling ambulance. Before I reached the unnerving vehicle the sirens had been silenced and I looked on as the paramedics were attending to the wicked imp, Pablo.

It didn’t take long to realise that he had been dramatising his semi-conscious state which, as the doctor informed me, had been only a light giddiness caused by the sight of his own blood. I saw too that the supposed gash that had caused the abundant blood flow was in fact a fine but rough nick which, because of its position directly on top of the superciliary arch, had caused the steady rivulet of blood. It had since been cleaned and staunched and made neat by a silver-coated bandage. No stitches were needed!

One of the doctors then turned their attention to me, and noting my heightened state of anxiety realised that I must be the ‘profesora inglesa’. He gave me a pitying look as he took my blood pressure (which measured 200/98 instead of my usual 120/60) and so ordered me to sit down.

He then reassured me that Pablo was perfectly alright and that his father (that giant of a man who was steadily approaching me) would be coming along to fetch him.

I faltered as I got up to meet Pablo’s father, and was surprised that instead of being angry, he stretched out his huge, open hand to shake mine and introduced himself as ‘el padre de Pablo’ (in an almost apologetic tone and with a look of resignation on his face). It seemed to denote that his son’s behaviour was the usual attitude. I told him that it was I who was very sorry for what had happened, ‘¡Oh lo siento!….’.

I also seized the opportunity to complain that I was having great difficulty with the boy. ‘¡Es que estoy teniendo muchas dificultadades con su hijo!’ — little Pablo was always fooling around and disturbing the rest of the class, or he would run tirelessly up and down the rows of desks sweeping all their contents onto the floor…

The father listened quietly and then bowed his giant body down a little to my level and said (with tears glistening in his eyes) that he was very sorry for his son’s behaviour, and that he too had had great difficulty handling him since the mother had recently passed away: she had died of cancer just a month ago.

I felt shell-shocked. I was so sad and sorry that I just managed to mutter the words:

‘¡Lo siento de verdad! ¡Cúanto lo siento!…’. (‘I’m sorry! I‘m really truly sorry!’)

I thought to myself: ‘Don’t judge others until you really know the truth…’

When Pablo did return to my class the following Wednesday (with the bandage on his eyebrow), I made sure not to give him any chance of misbehaving: I kept him close to me by the side of my desk and kept him more than busy with helping rub out the blackboard or draw the matchstick men for me (which turned out much better versions than my own). He also handed out papers and collected the flash cards and other such teaching paraphernalia. He progressed well with this new position of responsibility and looked forward to these classes where he was now respected. The other students were not jealous nor felt any favouritism, and being Spanish, were wholly compassionate towards him.

So all ended up well in the end!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my early teaching exploits!

Thank you for visiting — stay well x

Yesterday’s deluge here in the province of Cordova (Posadas)

Hi Folks! Writing this while sipping my mug of Tetley’s (tea, not beer) and still dressed in my PJs and dressing gown.

Dressing gown because, can you believe it, there has been a marked drop in temperatures after the heavy storms that we, here in Cordova province (and the rest of Spain) experienced yesterday. So now 21 °C (69.8 °F) at 8 a.m. feels cool! (Don’t worry, next week we’ll be up around the 45 °C mark again = 113 °F !)

It really chucked it down! Just a few kilometres to the north of where I live (the countryside of Posadas), in the Sierra Morena Range the hailstones were as big as walnuts, while in the south, in the plains of the Guadalquivir River, the towns and villages suffered a real deluge. One village in particular, Ecija (which is about forty minute’s drive south from my house) was a real washout. Here is a short video, you need to click on the link (good practise for your Spanish too!):- https://cadenaser.com/emisora/2020/08/11/radio_sevilla/1597164448_152224.html

Imágenes que circulan en las redes sociales de las calles de Estepa/SUR
A car being washed away by the torrential rain in Ecija yesterday

And Ecija, lying at about forty minutes’ drive from my house and actually in the province of Seville, is one of the hottest places in the Guadalquivir Valley, so much so that it is known as the ‘frying pan of Andalusia’! It is also known for its numerous church towers and steeples.

You can see the following link for some photos and also a brief overview of this historical and pretty town. There are loads of places to visit, ranging from the many churches, convents, manors, museums and archaeological sites. This link also includes an audio / video guide of some of the main places: http://www.turismoecija.com/en/

Church of la Limpia Concepción de Nuestra Señora
Hermitage of Virgen de la Valle

Stately home of the Granados family
Stately home of the Palmas family

Anyway, the storm once it passed, also left behind an impressive sky:

(In the above photos, you can see the hilliness of the land around my home and also the castle of Almodóvar del Río in the far distance. See my earlier blog for the history and legends of this castle — https://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2020/07/14/the-legend-of-the-enchanted-castle-of-almodovar-del-rio-province-of-cordova-andalusia/ — sorry, as yet I haven’t learnt how to put ‘HERE’ which will direct you straight to the link…)

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río 2009.jpg
The medieval castle of Almodóvar del Río

And apart from the castle, I can also see from my bedroom bay window (where I am now sitting) the manure heap next to my vegetable patch. (What a lovely sight!) This is a very useful view because I can tell first thing in the morning whether there has been any wild boar activity at night (they are nocturnal creatures!). Just two nights ago I spotted him at about three in the morning, snorting and hoofing this manure pile and he was just inches away from the chicken wire that encircles my vegetable garden. I had to shout out loudly in order to scare him away — this also woke up Zeus and Dingo who started barking madly at him (from a distance, so luckily he wasn’t able to gatecrash my aubergine, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, chard and wilting spinach — the temperatures have been hot!).

Anyway, this morning it was my intention to write a humorous article about some of my first teaching experiences in Cordova (awful), but I think I’d better leave that for another day. For now, I will go for a cold shower (cold because it’s cloudy and there hasn’t been enough electricity generated by the solar panels to heat the water nor work the hairdryer, though we do have forty-five panels, eight huge batteries and two very noisy converters!). So after my cold shower I will go for a walk to the Sierrezuela Hills (you can read about this if you like in my earlier blogs entitled the Sierrezuela…. https://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2020/02/05/the-sierrezuela-posadas-cordoba-spain/), and there I will collect some flat, round stones to paint. (English classes in serious dwindle due to Covid.)

A walk under the pines in the Sierrezuela Periurban Park (which forms part of Hornachuelos National Park)

So I shall leave off for now, hoping this finds you all in good health and spirits.

Thank you for visiting me, and as usual, I am always welcome to any comments and questions.

Bye for now!

An update on my vegetable patch (in the countryside of Cordova, Andalusia)

Hi folks! I’m back again, writing from my sunny, sweltering and steadily-desertifing home in the countryside of Posadas (a village of about 7.350 inhabitants, lying about 35 km / 22 mi west of the renowned Cordova, Andalusia). Temperature today is 41° C = 105.8° F, but going up to 44° = 112.2 F on Sunday. Yipee!!!

View from my house, looking north towards the Sierra Morena Hills

(For more information on tourism in Posadas and the many interesting cultural, historical and nature-based places to visit in the surrounding areas of this Guadalquivir Valley and Sierra Morena range, you can see the council’s link at: https://www.posadas.es/turismo)

Anyway, I realised that I hadn’t kept my promise that I made in my earlier blog, My vegetable patch and the mines of Peñarroya – Pueblonuevo, north of Cordova, Andalusia (28-01-2020) of keeping you updated as to the progress of my vegetable patch. I posted the first photos in January when the plants were just wee little things. Now six months on they have matured a lot and are all producing fruit, even if they look a bit higgledy-piggledy and worse for wear.

Looks cuddly — but beware!
One of the locals — also prone to gate-crashing my veg patch!

This isn’t actually my fault, but that of the wild boar, who, a few moonlit nights ago decided to make a bee-line for my green ‘oasis’ — (last year it was a stray cow that gate-crashed, eating all the vegetables, save for the chilli peppers — smart lass was she!).

The wild boar forced his way under the chicken wire, levering it up with his plough-shaped head and powerful neck, then trotted his barrel-shaped body down the lines of maturing courgettes, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and potatoes. He sniffed with delight the freshly-applied manure before then steadily hoofing around each plant while nuzzling away in search for roots and mushrooms.

Very powerful neck and head — good leverage, contrasting with the delicate feet!

He uplifted and neatly pushed aside each and every plant with his delicate paws, as well as the supporting canes. I must admit though, he did work methodically and meticulously in an organised sort of way.

 However, when I went down in the morning to water, I was met with catastrophe! It took a while to assimilate what had happened — but then I quickly set to. I feverishly started to restraighten and replug everything back in, recovering the exposed roots with the upturned earth — (while just clad in my pyjama shorts, skimpy top and flip-flops) — until I eventually brought some sort of normality back to my vegetable patch.

It took quite a bit of effort, but things haven’t quite returned to what they were beforehand, hence the unprofessional look. Also, the downside to me gardening in my summer pjs was that I got five nasty bites on my legs which swelled into big blisters and lasted about a week! I still have the marks now. (Must’ve been a horsefly or tiger mosquito.)

Mind you, it could’ve been worse, what with those amber-coloured scorpions and millipedes who are my regularly-visiting neighbours.

Yuck!
Double yuck!

My dogs, Zeus and Dingo, did try to ward off the boar by barking from afar. Here is a photo of the heroes. You can see that although they have their own cool, covered area, somehow they always decide to dig a hole in my border, pushing my watering pipe aside to then fall asleep on the freshly-watered earth.

My brave heroes — Dingo and Zeus

Oh for the joys of living in the Andalusian countryside!

So here are some recent photos (including the view looking south over the guadalquivir Valley, in the direction of the Sierra of Malaga, which lies at about 160 km / 95 mi away) :-

Thank you for reading — see you soon — hope you’re all well! xxx

(PS. If you’d like to know more about where I live — Posadas and previously, Cordova town — and what I’m up to, then you can take a peek at my blog: From Richmond Park to the historic town of Cordovahttps://anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/2019/12/19/from-richmond-park-to-the-historic-town-of-cordova/. )

WARNING: it is a long one, but does have many pictures, so just looking at these will give you a good idea of both these places!