The ultimate teaching experience: La bamba... English way

03-06-2013 18:55

"Hi everybody! I'm Nelly and today we're going to talk about songwriting." Eight pairs of dark eyes look questionning and friendly at me from the other side of the classroom. Some students form the word with their lips and others copy it from the whiteboard. Teresa and Antonio, the nestors of the group, nod happily towards my guitar that lays quietly in its case underneath the board. The timid Eva and Luis look around a little anxiously and Eduardo lays back in his chair with his arms crossed upon his chest.

Time for a warmer to wake everybody up. After a few minutes of playing with a ball and a guitar they can distinguish high notes from low notes and melodies from arpeggios. Major ("happy!") and minor ("sad...") chords turn out to be too difficult, but that doesn't mean they're less fun. Of the five rounds that I prepared (each round a little harder than the one before), we just make it though one. But it's a good one :).


The students like to come to the school: most of them are between 20 and 40 years old and looking for a way to create new chances for themselves. Some of them have booked a one way ticket to the north of Europe, hoping they'll find work there, others have to do an exam to get a particular job. Nurses, journalists and painters with no work, trying hard to find a way to move forward again. But there are also retired people and youngsters, looking for a way to get by or to pay for their upcoming studies. I've seldom seen so much eagerness to learn!


The game after the warmer turns out to be a bit of a disaster. Yesterday night I used all my artistic talents and the creativity I had left to make thirty six colored cards that are related to musical professions, but it seems that I either have to seriously improve my way of giving instructions (probable), or my drawing-qualities (also probable), or both (most probable)...

The students are so dedicated to their task of trading their cards in the right way, that I feel sorry that I already have to get them back together after a few minutes. Teresa rattles continuously to no one in particular, Luis and Eva have seem to forgotten their timidity and Eduardo is the most diligent of all. Not that that means that the result reflects their effort: we end up with the colorful collection of cards stuck to the whiteboard in a random way. But before they go back to their desks everybody knows what a lyricist, sound engineer and composer do, and that's what it's all about. 


After reading a little text it's time to make some music: to the melody of "para bailar la bamba" we sing "I want to be a popstar / composer / lyricist" and the students tell why they would choose that profession. Antonio is so enthusiastic that he spontaneously starts to sing his little story. Combined with a little choreography. Eva and Luiz sing along naturally while smiling all the time and the sixty-something years old Teresa talks about one minute and a half about why she wants to be a lyricist...

Check the video at                               

The energy still echoes when I collect my materials and put them in my bag. The last weeks of eight hours of classes a day and the average of five hours of homework have exhausted me, but I'm pretty sure Eduardo, Antonio, Teresa and the rest forgot about the world outside of the classroom for just a brief moment, just like me. And they even learnt some English while having fun... And that's been well worth it!


Hopefully they'll keep believing in their dreams and keep on doing their best as I've seen them doing in every class this month. We may meet again some day under the Spanish sun or in an English speaking country... 

Good luck guys, it's been an honor! Olé!