Kristina Kusakina, Spanish Educational Development Center

The first day at Spanish Education Development Center

After two weeks of constant emails pleading to work at the Spanish Educational Development Center (here and after I will shorten it to “SED”) I am finally entering the doors of this organization!  I did my research, and it is a non-profit bilingual organization that works with children, as well as adults, therefore it is unsurprising that they are very slow and a little bit disorganized. They organize different cultural events for Latino communities and give them classes of English language. It is an old building in the Columbia Heights Area (Georgia Ave Metro Station). The area surrounding the organization is also quite old and seems to be predominantly populated by lower middle class of African American and Latino (I always walk to the metro station or even walk around if the weather is nice). The classes are located at the basement of the building and overall there are 5 classrooms, a computer lab (for computer training), office, and even a kitchen, as SED center provides lunch for their adult students. No library, however. Lanita, my supervisor greeted me, gave me a special form for the volunteers (I am the only one unfortunately or fortunately), and then introduced me to the teacher with whom I am going to work. Ongisa, that’s the name of the teacher, briefly explained to me how the classes are divided – according to the level of English – there are two Basic A classes, one B level class – which is advanced, and one C (upper intermediate) class. Ongisa teaches Basic A. The first class that I helped her with was very scary for me, but Ongisa was very nice and would always tell me that I am doing great. She also introduced me at the beginning of the class, which was very nice of her! I would help students with individual activities, or I would write down the words on the board for them, while Ongisa is talking or explaining something. I immediately realized how helpful and important was my knowledge of Spanish! The mediocre level of my Spanish is just enough to help students explaining what are we doing, what the teacher wants and in addition, I feel that students appreciate it a lot and they even find it amusing (not surprised, my Russian/American accent probably sounds very funny for the native speaker). I also learn from the students, and they talk to me in Spanish during break and after the class. To be honest, I force them, as I also need to practice my Spanish. Something that I noticed that Ongisa is doing (which I discovered later was not allowed by her boss), is that she writes down the transcription of the word on the board or even Spanish Translation (which is especially not allowed). For example, she would write down the word “sister” and then the transcription below “[sista]”. I immediately thought that this is very smart and helpful for the students, especially at this level of English and I remember Russian professors doing that as well when I learned English in the primary school. Therefore, I was very surprised to discover that this is not allowed, but it’s a good lesson for me. Overall, the first two classes were a bit terrifying at first, with all 15-20 pairs of eyes staring at you intensely and with big interest (which I am not used too at all) but I felt very comfortable helping the professor and kept thanking heavens that I am not in the classroom by myself. Being professor takes up lots of energy, confidence and patience. That was something I learned within first 20 minutes being in the classroom.

This was the first entry in my “diary” that I had to keep for my requirement. Now re-reading this, I mostly smile, remembering everything that I had to overcome and learn during this semester at SED. I am happy to share they offered me a part­–time job position which I gladly accepted and I will do my training in January before starting the weekend classes.

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