by Jiyoon Chon
‘Tis the season! With the holidays fast approaching, my days at el Colegio Santa Maria la Blanca have been consisting of endless Christmas carols, or villancicos, paper snowflakes and ornaments, and of course, countless stories of cool gifts from Santa Claus and los Reyes Magos from past years and wish lists for the coming Christmas. It’s definitely been a refreshing experience spending the holiday season with such young kids. During the past three months working as an (almost) first grade teacher, I’ve been having the time of my life. Sure, I have to deal with the chaos of crying kids mumbling in Spanish or the frenzy of a mob of little girls begging to braid my hair, but all the perks that come with being a first grade teacher have made it all worth it.
First and foremost, I have my own little crew of assistants, sparkling-eyed and ready to help with any favor. The kids take great pride in being chosen to go fill my water bottle or getting to deliver a note to the next door teacher.
I also get a daily dose of self-esteem boost. Five-year-old kids seem to love just about any adult simply for existing—I’m always showered with hugs and kisses, the little girls bicker about who gets to hold my hand in line, and if I’m ever gone for a day, almost every kid in my class comes up to me the following day and asks, “Why weren’t you here yesterday? I missed you!”
Every day is a free comedy show. Sometimes, I literally have to bite my tongue to keep myself from bursting out laughing. The kids have the cutest dance moves and say the most ridiculous things. They wear their thoughts and feelings so plainly on their faces and sometimes it’s like I’m watching a melodramatic soap opera. Losing an eraser (or, as they say in Spain, a “rubber,”) is apparently the most devastating catastrophe, and the kids’ futile efforts to get the teacher’s “ok” to using the bathroom are quite amusing.
I get to polish up my British accent and grammar. Since the kids in Spain learn British English, a lot of the times they understand me better when I say words the British way. It’s really become a fun game I play with myself. They never seem to notice that my English randomly sounds different. I get to use words and phrases like “rubber,” “hasn’t got,” and “tidy up,” and it’s adorable seeing the kids suddenly understand me when I say “little” with an accent.
Last but not least, I get to constantly fall in love with and learn from a classroom of angels. For a while, I think I’d forgotten what it looks like to really smile from the inside out and radiate happiness. The kids taught me just that. Their innocence and capacity for kindness and positivity are truly incredible. As we become older, everything seems to become so complicated and tangled up among the stress of social norms, expectations, and media. I admit, I, too, was a victim. But now, I am finally learning simply to be and to love.