Wednesday 11 August 2010

Teaching English in Scotland

I spent my 5 weeks out of Italy in a Scottish city called Dundee, which is about 1 hour from Edinburgh. The city was nice enough - quite similar to where I lived in London. Had it been my first time in the UK I am sure I would have been excited by the quaint townhouses and politeness of the people, but since it was not my first, or even second time in the UK the excitement factor just wasn't there. I forgot how grey the skies always seem, oh and the fact that it rained nearly everyday. I hear London on the other hand has been having a warm summer, but up north in Scotland it was a different story.

Foolishly I had packed sandals and summer dresses, but I never even took them out of the suitcase. Rather I wore my jeans and leggings most days, and was thankful that at the last minute I had decided to throw a jacket into my suitcase. I was also thankful that it was summer sale time as one thing I do miss about the UK is the shopping - great shops and real summer sales (not like a lot of 'fake' Italian ones.)

I lived on campus at the university of Dundee in an apartment that I shared with the other teachers. We taught full time 5 days a week, and half a day every second Saturday. The children were mostly from Italy and Spain, but with some French and Turkish thrown in. It was good to have a mix of students but some how I found myself teaching a class of 16 x 12-14 year old Italians. Memories came flooding back from my PON days teaching at the scuola media here in Calabria. I seem to have a sign on my head saying "pick me to teach the 12 year olds." At least at the scuola media the children bathed.

All of the foreign students were in Scotland for 2 for them it was 2 weeks of freedom; no mum or dad telling them what to do, when to shower, when to wear clean clothes.... By the second week those kids stunk. They didn't shower, didn't change their clothes and I think didn't even change their underpants. I kid you not! It was just my class though - none of my colleagues believed me until I made them come in and smell the repugnant, stale air. 14 years old and up you are interested in the opposite sex and therefore want to be clean and smell nice, maybe even use a little deodorant...but when you are 12 who really cares! By the last week one boy was coming to class with pen drawn over his face - everyday the same design which slowly faded. He had drawn on a beard and moustache at the start of the week, and it was still there at the end. Yuck! And the girls...they smelt even worse then the boys. "Teacher, teacher" they used to yell, waving there smelly arms in the air when the wanted help. I dreaded walking over and bending down to help them. My nose always seemed to align with their armpits.

So here I was with a smelly group of all Italians. I had my secret weapon though - they did not know that I spoke Italian. I had a rule (which no one followed) that only English was to be spoken in the class. I confiscated a note off one of the students and they had written (not about me) ha grandi tette which means 'she has big tits.' I had asked them to describe in English some pictures in a magazine and they all thought this not so secret note was hilarious. I took the note from them knowing full well what it meant and asked them to translate it into English. No one would until I refused to teach anymore, and with a bright red face I made the boy who had written it write the note in English and then pass it around the room.

They loved to swear in Italian too, every second word was cazzo this and cazzo and they tried to fool me by saying that cazzo was not a bad word in Italian. They got the shock of their life when on the last day I said goodbye to them in Italian, and explained that I had understood every word they had said in the class! That'll teach them. 

Other then those stinkers the bulk of students weren't so bad. Ok, there was the French boy who "accidentally" threw his text book out of the second floor window and nearly hit a colleague on the head, there were the students who fell asleep in class, there was the bunch of older students who were just too cool for school but as thick as they come, there was the boy who claimed to be 18 but looked about 30, there was the Turkish student who told me I was fat, the Spanish girls caught smoking in the toilets during lesson time, and over all very rich kids whose parents have way too much money so learning English was not their top priority. But it was a good experience. Would I do it again? Hmmm.... At least I got to see some nice Scottish castles.


Anonymous said...

WOW. It sounds as though you had quite the experience! Thanks for sharing. :)

FITRAH said...

thanks for the story...come to Indonesia..

LindyLouMac said...

What an interesting experience Leanne. Dundee not the most beautiful place to spend five weeks in, but did you get a chance to visit St Andrews. It doesn't sound like it reading your work schedule! What a shame.

Our eldest daughter went to university there and visiting her we fell in love with the town.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi breetsuts,
You're welcome :)

Glad you liked the story.

Sadly I did not make it to St Andrews - but I have heard it really is beautiful. One day I'll return as a tourist rather then a worker.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Sounds awful! The joys of Summer School! Dundee is not the prettiest of towns. I went to uni in St Andrews and it is beautiful - you should definately visit there next time you're in Scotland.