To commemorate my last day working in the IES, I give you one last look at my lovely student’s choices. I was sad that in the last few weeks they haven’t been as entertaining as usual, but I am happy for what I have been able to witness this year.
“Why the hell do you work in an art classroom?” The above question is as common among my friends as it is among my students. “If you can’t help me with art, then why are you here?” – a question that’s almost always a daily occurrence. Sigh. Short version? I’m a young, privileged college graduate from the United States who was hired on a Spanish government program (see explanation from Como Consulting) who makes more than the minimum monthly wage of most Spaniards, and now, I get to “make conversation” to improve your “[nonexistent] English skills.” I have paid vacations. I live on a Mediterranean Island. I don’t pay taxes.
(Slightly) Longer version: The above holds true; but small details are missing. I am in an art classroom because of confusing political struggles and ever-changing education policies (TIL, or Tratamiento Integral de Lenguas, a regional policy, caused a whole mess of problems, and sure pissed everyone off. It has since been annulled and replaced by a national education policy, LOMCE. On the high school’s website they explain that their curriculum corresponds to the “Pla Pilot d’Educació Plurilingüe” (Plurilingual Education Pilot Plan). For this reason, art, technology, and informatics are the given subjects taught in English. Therefore, they assigned their given language assistant (me) to “encourage English conversation” in art classes. What that actually means is, I am in the middle of a loud, distracted, inappropriate, smelly (especially after recess), touchy and (often) violent classroom, and in the midst of the barbarity I’m supposed to make conversation with them. Sometimes, when things get really out of control -like the time one of my bipolar Moroccan students (who frighteningly looks striking like Eliza Thornberry) pulled her scarf over her face and took the squirt bottle of cleaning solution, started speaking in Arabic, and told everyone she was a terrorist – I sit back and observe. I often feel like Amanda Bynes’s character Viola Hastings in She’s The Man the first day she walks into Illyria disguised as her brother Sebastian, and her walk from the car to her dorm room is met with a tangled mess of football players, the marching band, silly string and Frisbee players. Except in my case instead of the marching band and Frisbee players, it’s flying rulers and compasses, pencil shavings and crumbled up erasers, and paint brushes tinting students faces and splashing water.
The most difficult part of that job is that it’s not an English class. It’s an art class. I can encourage conversation. I can ask them about their weekends and I can attempt to make them use art related vocabulary. But in the end, they are graded on their art assignments. They are not required to have a certain level of English. Because of this, most of them are generally extremely confused as to why I am there. Just the other day, one student asked where I worked, and why I replied, “this school,” he was shocked. He thought I volunteered my time to come to school and hang out with them. Often, I confess that I am also confused as to why I am there (then feel guilty about having much higher salaries than their parents for doing virtually nothing). It’s almost as depressing as it is funny. It’s May, and I don’t think my students are any better off than they were at the beginning of the year. I still have one student who blushes and giggles when I ask how she is, and then I hear her say in Spanish “No me entero de nada” (I don’t get it). Some kids fake it until the make it. Walking into the room is often like pressing an automatic button. Sometimes I look at a certain kid, and without saying anything s/he’ll reply, “Fine thanks and you,” but it actually comes out like one word: “finthonksindu.” When I say, “Hi guys” the boys love to reply, “HEY! We’re not gay!” And when I ask if they went to the beach over the weekend, they love to say to “HEY, DON’T CALL ME A PUTA.” My all time favorite? “Hey guys, what’s up?” to which they reply, “no, I don’t want your whatsapp (referring to the app Whatsapp). It stopped being funny since before you started saying that. It’s also very popular to Hispanicize English words. Some examples:
- “I’m apprendation English!” (I’m learning English)
- “He is molestation me” (He’s bothering me)
- “I’m terminated” (I’ve finished)
- One kid seemed to think that the typical response to “how are you?” was “I’m happy.” It was too cute so I didn’t correct him.
Sometimes, they just speak slow and distorted Spanish that they believe sounds remotely like English, and talk to me like that.
So, if they’re not learning English, what are they learning? One upside of being a disregarded English conversation assistant, is that the students give up on English – but they don’t disregard you as a person (well, that’s a lie. Some of the 13 year-old girls really despise me). I’ve gotten to hear the gossip of the student population, comfort the girls when their boyfriends break up with them (I keep a copy of Bendetti’s No Te Rindas on hand to give to those whose tears are particularly heavy), and be exposed to the underworld of the 12-year-old homework mafia. One of my students was running a business. How did I find out? He had a huge bag of change. When asked why he had it, after much hesitation he explained. He charges 50 cents for 6 exercises. He does other kids’ homework and has made a profit out of it. Younger groups prefer doing the boy’s hair with pins and clips, while the older groups lay on each other, hug, give backrubs and let their hormones go wild. I do take comfort in the fact that they also barely care about their art assignments. There is a group of 12 year-old boys who I have literally never seen work on one project. They have a 0 in the class, and they don’t care. One of them, who is a model, has the highest self-confidence I have ever witnessed. It’s a bit sickening. The best part? He’s British. But he refuses to speak English with me. He acts as if he doesn’t have the capacity to speak. Frustrating? YES. Aside from crumbling up erasers and making fake cocaine lines out of it and pretending to snort it, their other favorite hobby is: penis drawing. I have never seen so many penises in my life as I have being an auxiliary in an art classroom. They are fascinated by drawing them. Big, small, black, no color, ejaculating, flaccid, you name it. They have a big imagination. They love to draw them on desks, pencil cases, at the top of their papers, on the chalkboard, and on their classmates’ arms. They also love to show me once their done, like a trophy. “Look how much I accomplished today, I’ve drawn a penis and labeled it “Black cock!” And with that, I’ll leave you with one of the penis artwork I could document. Feast your eyes on the talent among them.
And you? What is your classroom like?
I should have guessed that within one week, the kids’ wardobe choices would entertain me so much that I would be called to write another short post about them. What’s your favorite out of all of these?
We’ve got some more good wardrobe choices from the youth of a Ibiza. Take a look!
Violence in Society
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States. This post is my way of doing my part to create a better world, free of violence.
The autonomous región where Ibiza is located, the Balearic Islands, has the highest rate of domestic violence in Spain. As someone who previously worked at domestic violence and rape crisis center, I know devastating effects and vicious cycles that violence perpetuates. Gender violence (inside and outside the home) is a societal issue that cuts across race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, and other factors (need some definitions? In Spanish? in English?)
While men are also victims of gender-based violence, heterosexual men continue to be the main perpetrators against women. In Ibiza, this is certainly true. In 2014, 836 cases of violence were brought to trial, the highest number of complaints ever recorded. There were also 211 protective orders issued.
We recognize that people who perpetuate such crimes are not necessarily born violent; rather, often they have been conditioned by society to believe that they can control or exert their force upon another person solely based on their gender. It does not happen overnight, either.
Children and adults alike are bombarded by peers, the media, and their superiors subconsciously teaching certain ideals. Imagine the images that my students see on a daily basis in Ibiza: stereo-typically ripped, tan, gorgeous men with multiple, big-boobed, huge-assed, long-haired, skinny, tanned women at their side. Doing whatever they want. Sexual encounters happening in public, music with degrading phrases such as “bitch,” “whore,” and “dumb slut” (and even worse. See the Mexican organization Fondo Semilla’s campaign Sin Darnos Cuenta (without realizing) that exposes the violent lyrics in pop culture music), and a girl’s worth based solely on her sexualization.
This isn’t just Ibiza. In fact, it is an issue of all societies. But I can’t help feeling that growing up in a “liberal party paradise” can lead to some misconceptions and confusions about what’s safe and violent-free, and what’s not. Liberation without education can be dangerous.
Teaching Early On
There are moments when as a young, female teacher, I can already see examples of manipulative behavior the young boys are learning. If students aren’t doing their work and goofing off and I mention something to them, it’s common for them to interrupt me and say something like, “Allison, yoo are berry beautiful [you are very beautiful],” as if their compliment will convince me to leave them alone.
The alpha males of each class make some sort of obligatory statement about another female student’s “nice ass” or “growing tits” on a daily basis. Nice boys are accused of being “maricones” (faggots) and are forced to show their physical strength to prove their heterosexuality. Worst of all, I can’t stand little 14 year-old boys’ fingers trying to literally tickle me to try to earn bonus points. No, I do not like it when you touch me and it’s not appropriate for you to give me a neck massage.
The bottom line is, the root of all future violence is learned behaviors of disrespect for and disregard of other human beings. You might be thinking, “…but those are just teenage boys.” Exactly. And how did we get to this point of accepting violence? Unfortunately by saying things like that.
Where your role in the classroom comes in
Teaching correct behaviors early on can have an impact on future relationships. As Kinsey Confidential reports, violence prevention is most effective when all sectors of society are on the same page. If the media, the education system, and home life all teachers the same values of respect and consent.
The Spanish government passed the Ley De Salud Sexual y Reproductiva in 2010, but reports show that it has not effectively implemented the sexual education it promised. Luckily in Ibiza, representatives from Consell d’Eivissa come to the schools (amount, length of workshop, frequency, and content depend on each year of the ESO) to give different workshops on bullying, sexual education, violence prevention, and drug and alcohol abuse. I am not aware of the curriculum nor of its effectiveness, but it’s on my list of things to investigate.
(What do violence prevention and sexual education have to do with each other? Where there is a comprehensive sexual education program, it includes topics of respect towards romantic partners and creating cultures of consent. If there is no sexual education, at least a violence prevention curriculum can address such issues.)
But we know that such consistencies are hard to come by, especially when so much input is giving youth contradicting information (examples: empowerment v. objectification or flirtation vs. harassment).
When seeing cringe-worthy behavior and abusive language coming from students, one might feel powerless. One might feel like no matter what they say or do, it might never change things.
Regardless, we never know the power that a simple, well-constructed comment can make. Not to mention, leading by example is key in education. I’ve noticed that in every class, there are plenty of opportunities to subtly give students a different perspective. However, I’m not always perfect at my comments, and often my emotions get the better of me. I know very well that by making someone feel alienated it is no way to make them understand. But sometimes, I am too reactive.
For example, sometimes the art teacher lets students put up youtube videos to listen to while their working on drawings. A group of 15 year-old boys that sits together were all giggling. One of them got up and put on a song, and the other boys were sneering at this point. I noticed something was going on. After the boy sat down, I walked over the computer and noticed that he had put on a song called “Raping you tonight” (Esta noche te voy a violar). You can only imagine my reaction. I flipped out, caused a scene, and probably did no good to make this student understand why putting that song on was so wrong.
I’ve since tried to take a deep breath and think before critiquing someone’s speech or behavior.
As an Auxiliary
Because working as an auxiliary with the Spanish government is a lower-level position without much authority, there are pros and cons to doing your part to create an environment of respect.
Because I don’t have any disciplinary authority, I can tell the main teacher and rely on him to follow through with disciplinary actions. However, it’s difficult because we are not often on the same page. I once overheard a boy creating a story about how he threw a girl in a pool, drowned her, and then ran his car into pool to smash her. I was horrified, told the teacher, and response was, “they are so immature.” THAT’S IT?! Violence begins with acceptance, humor, and normalization of such behaviors.
That’s when I decided to try my best to create a culture of care, at least between my students, and in the one classroom I have semi-control over.
Because I’m an auxiliary in art classrooms taught in English, students work on their art projects and my role is circulate the room and make conversation. Sometimes I ask them about their project, utilizing art vocabulary in English, and other times we just chat about their weekend and what’s going on in their lives.
I’m not sure why, but students tell me a lot of things that I would never have considered in a million years telling a teaching assistant or teacher. Perhaps it’s because I’m young. Maybe because I’m a woman. Or maybe because I seem open and relaxed. I don’t know why, but regardless, I am happy that students are so open with me because it gives me an opportunity to share with them my opinions.
Over the course of this year, I have seen several repeat behaviors committed by my students. Below is a list of the most common, and how I have come to address them.
- Abusive name calling
Abusive name calling is directed towards both males and females. Often times in a joking way (which still does not excuse it) and other times in a bullying way. Sometimes when a male member of the class gets angry at a female member, his go to phrase to insult her is “puta” (whore).
What you can do: If I overhear this language, I first say 1) why did you call him/her that name, 2) is that an effective way to resolve a conflict, and 3) Being a “whore” or “faggot” does not make someone less of a person or worthy of your disrespect, and 4) please do not use such violent language, at least not in the classroom. They typically have histories of violent action related to them, and you should not take a term like that lightly.
Where it could make a difference: verbal abuse, bullying based on sexual orientation, slut shaming
- Touching without consent
This is a difficult topic, because it has to do with cultural norms. It is very common for my students to hug or put their arms around teacher or administrators. Among them, the students kiss and hug each other a lot, friends slap each other’s butts, and tickling is very popular.
What you can do: If a student touches me, I will kindly ask that they please do not do that without my giving permission. If I see students get uncomfortable with another student’s physical touch, I will make a comment that without someone’s consent, you should not touch others in inappropriate ways. I also made a rule at the beginning of the year if we could please have no ass slapping in the classroom. I’m sick of it.
Where it could make a difference: rape, sexual assault
- Violent touching with “friends” or “family”
Students also hit, push, and shove each other, both in friendly and aggressive ways. If I see something, usually my eyes get wide and my mouth drops open, and they will say things like, “I can hit him. He’s my friend,” or “I can slap her. She’s my cousin.”
What you can do: I will typically make a comment regarding the fact that no matter what a person’s relationship to you, it does not warrant your violent behavior, whether in good fun or seriously. A person is a person, no matter if they are your friends, family, or romantic partners.
Where it could make a difference: physical assault, gender violence, rape, sexual assault
- Bragging about sexual encounters
Especially in the older age groups, the boys love to tell me about their “wild weekends.” Recently a boy just told me he “fucked three girls in one night.” After I cringed at the repulsive image that flashed through my mind, I proceeded to give him some advice.
What you can do: Typically when boys tell me things like this, I say, for example, “Carlos. You are allowed to do whatever you want in your free time. I’m not your mother. But the only thing I hope you do is make sure that you use protection, make sure that the other person is one the same page as you, and make sure that it is enjoyable for both/whoever you are with.” Or, perhaps, with repeat abusers, I tell them, “You know what I always say. Do whatever you want, as long as it is safe, with consent, and with respect for the other person.”
Where it could make a difference: consent, sexual assault, sexual health (STIs)
- Slut shaming
Because I spend a lot of time overhearing and often conversing with students, they love to tell me about their personal lives and they often gossip. I overhear so much slut shaming: “she had sex with him.” “That girl gave that guy head,” etc. Most often than not, it is in a degrading way towards the teenage girl. I was shocked (or maybe I shouldn’t be. Because that is our society) by the way that other girls were talking about girls’ behavior.
However, this is how we are in this situation. As my beloved Simone de Beauvoir says, “El opresor no sería tan fuerte si no tuviese cómplices entre los propios oprimidos” (The opresor wouldn’t be so strong if it weren’t for the accomplices among the opressed).
What you can do: In these situation, depending on the maturity level and age group, I take this as a opportunity to open up a dialog. When they were talking about a girl who was filmed giving a blowjob, they called her a slut. I asked them to explain why. They said because she did it. And I replied to them that, “Just because a girl performs a sexual act does not make her a slut. Maybe she made a mistake by letting someone film it. Have you ever made a mistake?” I also try to make sure that they know that no matter what someone does, not matter if a girl is sexually active or not, that 1) they should be aware of how they are treating the girl and the boy differently, and 2) just because someone does certain activities, does not negate that they are human beings, worthy of respect, care, and kindness. They don’t have to agree with it, but they do not have to bully the girl either.
Where it could make a difference: slut shaming, sexual assault, abusive language, verbal abuse, gender stereotypes .
Societal change doesn’t happen over night, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something that each one of us can do. Because of my low-level of authority, I have found comfort in the hope that perhaps some of my comments or corrective speech can make a difference in at least one student’s life. At least I hope that my comment will provoke a reflection or change of thought. Even a desire to understand more.
What have your experiences been in the classroom dealing with violence prevention? How have you handled it? What do you say to your students? Tweet at me! @yasminesoyyo
What? You had so much fun looking at my students’ clothes in the last post, and you wanted more?
You are so lucky I’m looking out for you.
Here are the latest entertaining wardrobe choices:
Teaching English at a high school in Ibiza turns out is a lot like what I imagined it would be like going to high school in California. Us Indiana kids, we were sure smitten by the O.C. (Who are you? Whoever you want me to be… [WHO SAID IT?])
I always imagined kids in California would hang out on their two story, motel-like school with an open courtyard in the middle, throw things at other kids, you know, that kind of stuff. Kids come to school walking, on bikes, or on skateboards. They smoke weed before class. They go to bonfires on the weekends.
Oddly enough, my high school in Ibiza is eerily reminiscent of such stereotypes I held as an adolescent.
Sometimes it feels like there are absolutely no rules. As if it was a giant free-for-all.
Especially when it comes to the dress code.
It’s not so much that I am judging their rules or way of educating the children. Rather, it is more surprising because this idea of wearing-whatever-you-want was so foreign to me as a teenager.
I’ve never seen so many naked female bodies on teenage boys’ shirts. Am I offended by the female body? Absolutely not. Am I offended by the way they wear it and degrade it? Absolutely.
Many of the girls wear next-to-nothing. I do wonder if their exposed bellies get chilly. The good news is, there is very little shaming of what girls wear and very little of the “she’s distracting the boys with her exposed body” speech. Right on!
I remember being scrutinized to no end in junior high and high school. I was constantly being asked to measure the length of my skirts or reevaluate the “skimpiness” of my blouses. I found it humiliating and offensive, and I am happy that my students don’t have to go through the same.
Even teachers dress much more informal that I would have expected. I’ve seen male teachers wearing tracksuits (no, not the gym teacher) and sandals and female teachers in see-through leggings and low-cut shirts. I personally feel more relaxed in this type of work-environment.
Girls and boys alike are generally into graphic tees, timberlands, scarves, and anything that has to do with marijuana or Ibiza clubs like Amnesia or Space.
One of the habits of my Ibicenco teens I particularly enjoy is that of wearing “neck scarves.” Imagine a headband, or piece of fabric that looks like it was cut off from a turtleneck, and then placed on your neck to keep you from catching a cold. Not quite a scarf, yet too thick to be a headband.
My friend Lisa, who had never seen them before, asked one of her teachers.
She asked, “What are those exactly?”
To which the teacher replies, “Bragas del cuello. You know, panties of the neck!”
While I still haven’t been able to snag a panties of the neck photo, I have attempted throughout the year to take photos of my favorite wardrobe choices by my students. Sadly, I can’t sneak it all the time. But when I can, I do. Here are some that I was able to capture.
Do you teach English abroad? What are some of your students favorite wardrobe choices?