We Are Essex

Jessie's story

Jessie Mallinson standing on a bridge near Square 2, Colchester Campus

"I can just remember getting a fit of the giggles and not being able to stop"

When I was 16 I did an exchange year in Mexico. I fell in love with Mexico and when I came back I wanted to do Latin American studies and of course, Essex at that time was very famous for it as an interdisciplinary degree. I came on a visit day and loved the fact the campus was so multicultural. It felt the right place so I applied to come here. I never thought when I came that 30 years later I’d still be here. I think sometimes my students think I'm secretly employed by Colchester tourist board because teaching beginner Spanish is about where we are and the place and I’m forever making long lists of where they should visit! 

I suppose now, having been here for such a long time having started out being pretty much the same age as my students and of course now I’m their mum and that’s quite hard psychologically to get a grip on because I feel the same. And now they all say they are born 1998- 2000 and I'm horrified and think it’s not possible but having daughters the same age makes it easier to relate to the things they’re going through.

My daughters inspire me. They’re much braver than I am and much better at communicating and have very strong ideas about the world and women and the place of women in the world and what’s right. They are prepared to call people out if they think whoever they are interacting with is denigrating or has an opinion they don’t agree with and they’ll say something and I find that very inspiring as I’m a chicken, I avoid confrontation like the plague.

They don’t speak much Spanish when they are at home but, they can understand everything which is really irritating so I can't hide anything by saying it in Spanish but they won’t speak Spanish with me, at all. They absolutely refuse. They say I sound funny because I think your voice changes when you speak a different language. I think my voice is lower when I speak English and gets higher when I speak Spanish and they don’t like it so they refuse. It’s very strange.

I can remember when I started teaching I was given some material by one of the Spanish teachers who had been here a long time and one was tongue twisters in Spanish and I can just remember getting a fit of the giggles and not being able to stop. I remember feeling sorry for the students; I don’t do tongue twisters anymore. The joy of teaching is the standout students, I mean all students are wonderful and I really love teaching and one of the great things is you never quite know what’s going to happen. You can teach the same class and it’s different everytime.


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