Thursday, August 21, 2008

La vida cotidiana : en la escuela

Don Quijote's global reach doesn't actually extend as far south as the 35th parallel so, even though I arranged and paid for my classes here through dQ headquarters in Salamanca, the school is not a don Quijote school per se, but has so-called "sister status". What this appears to mean in practice is that they follow much the same format for classes - that is, morning classes have more of an emphasis on covering formal grammatical constructs, while afternoon classes are devoted to conversation.

Two changes are evident though, both of them entirely positive, in my view. The first is that they are less strict about sticking only to grammar-related stuff in the morning, and will substitute watching a film, or - if the mood of the class is such that it seems like a good idea - just let the conversation unfold (this willingness to abandon the strict grammatical curriculum is particularly helpful at the more advanced levels). The second, extremely welcome change, is that - for students taking six hours class a day, instead of going straight through from 9 to 3, with just two 20-minute breaks, we actually get a whole hour for lunch at 1pm, reconvening at 2pm. I can't emphasize enough how much more civilized this is.

So far, the teachers have been uniformly excellent - better than many of the dQ teachers I've had over the past year. They are highly enthusiastic, very good at managing class participation, and seem much more imaginative in their use of multi-media and their choice of materials to discuss during class. I'm really liking it a lot, and am learning a lot.

It's a relief as well that, each time when I return to class, I appear to be forgetting a lower percentage of what I had learned previously. I've started to read pretty extensively, starting with Argentine authors like Borges and Robert Arlt ("el juguete rabioso"), as well as my near-daily dose of my old favorite, "El País".

The only slight snag is that, unlike at the various dQ schools, the demographics of the student body are much more homogeneous, and I appear to be the only student over 30 in the whole place. Which is fine - it's not as if there's any kind of age-apartheid, or anything. It's just that - well - have you spent 30 hours a week in a classroom with a bunch of 19-year olds recently?

They're sweet as all get out and everything. But, Lord, at times - they are just sooooooooo damned young.

At times it makes me wish for the glib certainties of youth again. But - then again - maybe not!

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