The Burning Questionnaire: Paco Gascón

As Take a photo and... creeps towards its third birthday, I thought we’d revisit another ‘early days’ blog post and get to know its author in glorious technicolour – though in shades of blue and amber would seem to be more appropriate 😉pacogamosaicPaco is a teacher – yes! a real one! – based in beautiful Jaén (a must visit area for hikers and nature-lovers), in Andalusia in Spain. And if there’s one thing that Paco knows about, it’s what does and doesn’t work in the state education, secondary classroom, so it was with great pleasure that I added his contribution to our ‘using images’ blog. As a film buff, I was also chuffed at his choice of title….. Now almost three years have passed since that post from early 2012 and Paco is back! So it is with great pleasure and a bow that I bring you…. Francisco ‘Paco’ Gascón. (And, as our first ever MUSICAL BQ, the interview comes with built in soundtrack, too!) 😀

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What is your full name, and where did it all start?
Everybody calls me Paco – actually, it’s a very common short-name for Francisco. So, my full name is Francisco Gascón Moya (we take both dad’s and mum’s family names in Spain). As far as I know, my first surname has a French origin, whereas the second one comes from a literary Castilian region, La Mancha.

Image by Chiew Pang (@aClilToClimb) at eltpics

Image by Chiew Pang (@aClilToClimb) at eltpics

My journey began in the afternoon of a warmer than warm June day in a neoGothic hospital in Linares, Andalusia, SE Spain. Mum told me she thought something was wrong because I didn’t cry a bit when doctors gently tapped me on my back when I was born; they found it awkward, too, so I was given an injection with some kind of drug that would stimulate my crying… And, well, once I burst out crying no one could stop me and I kept on bawling and howling for hours.
You just asked where, not when, didn’t you?

What music do you listen to or sing along with while driving / cooking / in the shower / contemplating your navel?
I’m a real music fan. I like listening to music anytime anywhere and, today, I can really enjoy any kind of music, ranging from bossanova to flamenco or from alternative folk to dubstep. It just depends on the mood I’m in, really.

What’s the most satisfying – or frustrating – aspect of your job?
As it reads on my Twitter bio, I’m a Secondary education teacher working in a state school in Martos. So, even if I normally teach English, it is not the subject (ELT) that’s central to my job, but rather the recipient, aka, teen students – as a matter of fact, I’ve had to teach Spanish, Geography or even ICT more often than not.
Accordingly, satisfaction or frustration come along with either achieving or failing to achieve goals on the part of the students.
Let’s get practical. One of the most rewarding teaching experiences I can remember was the day we could send a gipsy kid to college. Due to a series of assorted socioeconomic reasons, the school dropout rate at early stages is alarmingly high among gipsy students, so the day we could help one of them access Higher education against all odds we were delighted.
On the contrary, those occasions when you try hard but fail to motivate students and they

Image by Csilla Jaray-Benn at eltpics

Image by Csilla Jaray-Benn at eltpics

finally give up are absolutely disappointing. That’s just depressing. There’s another thing I also find particularly irritating: those days your lesson plan involves the use of lots of hi tech devices, you spend ages sorting everything out and eventually, nothing seems to work and, suddenly, you’re compelled to go freestyle and whip it all up. That’s just @#$%&!

Writing, training or teaching? Why?
Teaching, definitely. I like writing, but I seriously doubt I could make a living that way. Furthermore, I don’t think I’m qualified for teacher training. And even if I might not be a teacher by vocation – I’ve also worked as a graphic designer or salesperson – I’ve learned to enjoy my job and I always try to do my best (I swear).

A teacher from your schooldays:
Mrs Sagrario Garzón, my primary education language and literature teacher. She made me love language, enjoy reading and grow self-confident. I just can’t thank her enough for what she did.

What was the first thing you learnt as an ELT teacher?
I taught my first group when I was 23 and it was a class of adult learners. I walked in, stood by the blackboard and introduced myself. Everybody thought I was just joking pretending I was the teacher and it took me quite a long (and hard) time to convince them I was the real one. So the very first thing I learnt when I started teaching was to appreciate the importance of good classroom management.

What motivates/inspires you most?
As I’ve already mentioned, the feeling that you’re helping students succeed and achieve goals is fully motivating and satisfying. A couple of years ago I took about fifteen teens on a school trip to London. For most of them it was their first flight and their first trip abroad and they were freaking out at the thought of having to get by in an English speaking environment. However, they were quite happy to find out they were able to cope with situations that required the use of English and discovered that all they’d been learning at school was a tool they could use for real communication. I must say I felt happier than them.

Image by Clive Elsmore (@CliveSir) at eltpics

Image by Clive Elsmore (@CliveSir) at eltpics

Do you ever cry at the cinema?
I don’t think I’ve ever cried watching a film. All in all, I find some songs more emotional or moving than films.

Your favourite meal? Where? And perhaps with whom?
Paella by the sea with family and/or friends. Ice cold lager, some idle talk and plenty of time. That’s it.

A book?
There have been many, but I read 2666 by Roberto Bolaño a couple of years ago and it blew my mind. I read it in Spanish, so I don’t know whether the English translation is good or not, but every respectable bookworm should give it a try.
If you could travel back in time, which era or moment in history would you go to? Why?
Maybe France (Paris, more precisely), 1789. Western societies owe much to the French Revolution and if I could move back in time I’d like to witness all the historical events that made our world as it is today.

A dream?
Respect, equality and social justice. It’s no joke. When it comes to dreaming one should always remain ambitious.

Favourite film? Why? What does it make you think of?
Choosing one single film is quite a difficult task, so I’ll just pick one out of my top hundred list, and the Oscar goes to… Blade Runner. I loved everything in it: plot, cast, scenery… It was an unusual sci-fi movie as it raised deep philosophical questions and made up a totally influential aesthetic universe. I saw it twice long time ago and I keep such good memories that I dare not watch it again in case I feel disappointed. I’ve heard the script for Blade Runner 2 is ready – I hope it doesn’t fail to live up to expectations.
Keyboard, mobile device or pen & notebook?
I don’t think it is a matter of choosing one tool to completely forget about the rest of them. So, even if I have a soft spot for ICT devices and hi-tech gadgets, I’ve never given up the pencil-paper combo, especially when it comes to taking down notes – I’ve tried hard to become a faithful Evernote user but I’m all thumbs (almost literally) when I’m typing on an Android keyboard and I must do it fast – the result is often a load of illegible lines. On these occasions, I acknowledge my clumsiness, put my mobile back in my pocket and proceed with a nibbled pencil and a piece of paper. No problem.
Day or night?
I’d always been a night owl – either for work or leisure. I feel more relaxed, less anxious at night. However, as I grew older and had to change habits, I began to appreciate the advantages of being an early bird – you suddenly realize you have time to do twice as many things as you were able to do when you used to stay up late.

Image by Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) at eltpics

Image by Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) at eltpics

A season of the year?
Dog days, no doubt. I love travelling and summer is the season when I’m really able to get around. Besides, I’m fond of every single summer cliché: swimming, the beach, the endless sunsets… and, to top it all, I can easily stand the heat, which is quite an advantage provided you’re based in the south of the Iberian peninsula. The end of summer is the most depressing time of the year for me – I have even set up a Spotify list of saudade songs to help me get over it.

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One thought on “The Burning Questionnaire: Paco Gascón

  1. This was a very interesting interview to read. Among others, what you say about how rewarding it was to see a gypsy student move on along the education system resonates highly with me. I have worked with gypsy students; children and adults. I know how difficult it is for them to overcome socioeconomic restraints and stay in education. Thanks.

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