After 25 years of teaching in the UK, Jeremy Dean and his wife Linda decide that it is time for a change. An English immersion school in Spain seems the perfect idea, until they arrive and realise that none of the children speak a word of English, and that their Spanish skills might not quite be up to scratch.
Zen Kyu Maestro is the story of Jeremy’s first year of teaching in Spain. It’s well-written, and full of hilarious misunderstandings. The children in Jeremy’s class are great characters, hugely energetic and enthusiastic. Living in a very ‘Spanish’ area means that the book is able to show real Spanish life and culture, often very different from other ‘ex-pat’ type books I’ve read. Jeremy and Linda haven’t just moved to Spain, but they’ve moved to an area where they must become immersed in the Spanish way of doing things. They are in a huge minority of English-speakers, and the thought of being in hospital, needing serious medical care, when you barely speak the language, and no one speaks yours, is terrifying. This is far from the idea of Brits moving to Spain because “it’s like home, but with sun.”
Whilst reading, you’re given the impression that their move has been difficult, and that they do sometimes have a twinge of regret, but the negatives are hugely outweighed by the positives. Jeremy is used to teaching in the English system, with far more paperwork, rules and a far stricter curriculum, but once he embraces the disorganised way things work at the school, it seems to get easier.
The stories of Jeremy’s classes are brilliant; his students are often entertaining, and more so for not meaning to be. I wish that someone had taught my times tables to the tune of the Macarena – I might remember them now if they had!
(This review was also posted on TheRabbitBooks. I was sent Zen Kyu Maestro for review.)