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October 31, 2010

Last Saturday, CIEE and I went to Córdoba. The main attraction there is the Mesquita, this absolutely giant mosque that, thanks to the Inquisition, now has a giant, beautiful cathedral in the middle of it, too. Totally nuts. It seems like a really interesting way for this mosque to be preserved, because if it hadn’t been converted into a Christian place of worship, it definitely would have been torn down. But the cathedral also removes much of the aesthetic of the mosque.

Either way, gorgeous, as you can see:

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On Friday, CIEE had this optional volunteer activity that I signed up for. I can’t say I was totally into the idea, but Sarah and Amy signed up for it and I knew I didn’t have anything better to do and… it can’t be a bad thing, right?

The nature of the trip was to go to an elementary school and do Halloween activities with the kids. Halloween does’t exist in Spain except as something imported from the states to give kids a reason to dress up and eat candy and young people to party. So basically what it is in the States, without the tradition, the tricking treating, and all the best parts.

The first class I went to was first graders or so, but they seemed younger (and very well could have been… even though I am in a school 4 hours a week I still don’t understand the grade names mean). They were also NUTS. I don’t even want to talk about it, except to say that there was young little boy who was wearing a Portland soccer sweatshirt. I tried to explain the significance of this to him, but I don’t think he got it. Oh well.

The second class, though, was WONDERFUL. I did not have any desire to leave whatsoever. I would have just sat around and hung out. They were in second or third grade, I think, and even though there were only about 15 kids, there were two teachers: one male and one female. The woman was much quieter, but the man was awesome. He was so funny and animated and had a great relationship with the class. Here the teachers at the elementary school level seem to be much closer to their students – they don’t shy away from hugging or joking around. Amy says there is a lot of kissing in her class of 4 year-olds. The one day I was observing an elementary school class, multiple kids made the teacher cards with “I love you, teacher!” all over them. Adorable.

In this second class, Amy and I did a pumpkin carving demonstration, which was fun. And then we had all this time we didn’t know what know what to do with. They asked us if we knew any Halloween songs and urged us to sing one, but there aren’t really very many. This is really the only one I know:

So we put Monster Mash (that exact video) on the really awesome touch screen projector that was in the classroom (legitimately one of the coolest thing I have ever seen in the classroom) and we all watched the video. I started kind of doing the twist-ish (because how can you not, I ask you?) and then something really weird happened: the kids were amazed. They kept asking me how to do it and seemed very impressed by my dancing ability which, let me tell you, has never happened before. I started teaching them how to do it, and when the song was over, the teacher had us all make a circle and they were all dancing and singing and laughing and trying to teach Amy and I to dance flamenco and the sevillano, without any success. It was just all so happy and free! These kids were allowed to play and just have fun, they were all encouraging each other, most were participating. It was really great.

I’m going to try really hard to work elements of that half hour into my classes when I start teach (in a week! AH!). I’m not sure how my middle schoolers will feel about this, but we’ve got to make the classroom a little more fun, positive, and creative if we want great things to happen.

And on that note, I leave you with two amazing TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson. As someone who will be leading a classroom – even if only for four weeks – they are really inspiring, but they are also really funny and just motivating. I love TED because I just get this awesome sense of hope and a new desire to do something positive and smart for the world every time I watch. Or almost. Some are boring.

But you should watch these.

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