ConversaSpain: Structured Program for Auxiliares de Conversacion in Spanish Schools
The ConversaSpain program is designed specifically for prospective auxiliares de conversacion, who are looking for teaching placements in Spanish public schools. Native English speakers have the opportunity to gain valuable experience whilst living in Spain and teaching at one of the 300 schools that participate in the program.
This program will provide participants with support moving to Spain, health coverage, initial training, and advice. The conditions and requirements, as well as the monthly stipend, will vary depending on the region:
Beth C., language and cultural ambassador in Spain
"I love the views. My town is surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, north-west of Madrid. Everywhere you look you can see beautiful landscapes. The capital city is only a 45-minute bus journey away. I have traveled around Madrid quite a lot. It's very easy as the travel card is an amazing deal!
If I had to highlight the reasons to live here I would list: the food, the prices (it's quite cheap in comparison to other places in Spain!), the people (it's a small village-everyone is very friendly), and the lifestyle (it is very laidback here)"
What is an Auxiliar de Conversación?
An auxiliar de conversación is a language and cultural assistant from a native English speaking country who helps with the English level of schools in Spain.
ConversaSpain offers an innovative work experience opportunity for different English speakers who would like to teach elementary, middle and high school students. Although generally described as a program for North American language and culture assistants in Spain, applicants from countries where English is an official language can also participate.
Having a degree is a condition to participate in Madrid and Murcia. Spanish language skills are not required. However, once the auxiliares de conversación are in Spain, they will have the chance to improve their Spanish in a relaxed, native setting. This ranges from taking Spanish classes, or participating in exchanges with teachers and colleagues; to simply immersing oneself in the Spanish way of life.
Orla A., auxiliar de conversación in Spain
“I really like the school where I teach; there is a lovely atmosphere among the staff and students. I struggled at the beginning to come up with ideas and games that would keep the children entertained but, as the year moved on, this has become much easier and I have far more ideas. My team skills have definitely improved: working as a team was a huge part throughout the year and made the experience much more manageable. I learned to listen to others opinions and to understand when my ideas weren't always considered”
Expectations of the Schools towards the Auxiliar Program in Spain
Activities and classes will vary daily and will depend on the specific requirements of the school. Auxiliares de conversación may:
- Deliver conversational English classes to students and/or staff of different ages and levels. Thus, students will practice English skills of reading, writing, and listening. While the focus will be on improving English speaking skills, teachers will still be expected to include exercises and activities which include aspects from other areas of language learning.
- Encourage oral practice in English both during and outside of the class. The role of an auxiliar de conversación includes continuously encouraging students to converse in English. Talking to students in corridors (or any coincidental conversation out of school) should take place in English.
- Explain the culture of their countries. By incorporating elements from their own culture, classes will become engaging and informative. It is recommended to the auxiliares de conversación that they bring pictures and other realia in order to share their culture with their students.
- Help in other subjects or incorporate other subjects into the class. Auxiliares may need to be flexible and include other disciplines in their teaching. It might be that teaching events in Australian, British, or American history, using songs and singing as a language tool or looking at environmental issues such as global warming are included in a lesson.
- Assist with pronunciation and grammar. Whilst focusing on speaking, pronunciation, and grammar will also be vital teaching points. Finding ways to make this fun and memorable will be a challenge!
- Prepare students for oral exams. One of the most important responsibilities will be to make students feel comfortable and confident with their English language abilities. This is for both exam preparation and for the future.
- Collaborate with teaching staff in creating teaching material, planning classes, and improving the languages department in the school. Auxiliares de conversación could be required to help with anything the other teachers might need. As a dedicated and contributing member of staff, they will work hand in hand with the other teachers.
- Act as a cultural ambassador in Spain. Participants will represent both their country and the program.
- Not to grade or discipline students or take control of a whole class.
Schools in Spain: Basic Information for Auxiliares de Conversación
As previously mentioned, participants may find themselves in Elementary, Middle or High Schools. During the application process, candidates are asked for their preferences in terms of both age and level of teaching. While these requests cannot be guaranteed, ConversaSpain does its upmost to take all requests into consideration.
Structure of Schools in Spain
Public Schools in Spain are divided into 5 sections:
1.Educación Infantil: Nursery/Preschool (two to five-year-olds)
2.Educación Primaria –ElementarySchool (six to twelve-year-olds)
3.Educación Secundaria Obligatoria –Secondary School (thirteen to fifteen-year-olds)
4.Bachillerato –Upper Secondary School (sixteen to eighteen-year-olds)
5.Formación Profesional -Vocational Training (fourteen onwards)
Auxiliares de conversación in these schools generally start teaching students from Elementary school onwards. Thus, they aren't usually teaching pre-schoolers. In the preschool level, songs, music, and games are going to be extremely important. Children are still learning their own language and therefore will learn only the most basic English.
Children aged 6 to 12 attend Elementary school. Often the structure is in three, two-year cycles in which all classes are mixed ability; and exams start from around the third year. At this age, students will benefit from a friendly and fun environment, an approachable and supportive language and cultural assistant and the incorporation of creative elements in the class. In particular, structure and familiarity but with creative variety in the classroom will keep students happy and engaged.
After Elementary School in Spain, students attend Secondary School, where they are obligated to attend classes until they are 16 years old. The curriculum can be divided into two, two-year cycles and students take many different subjects, some which are compulsory and others which are optional. Compulsory subjects often include Spanish, Math, History and/or Geography and a Foreign Language. Teaching in a Secondary school may require the inclusion of aspects of students’ lives in order to engage them. Auxiliares de conversación may find themselves incorporating social media and pop culture and spending time finding out about the students’ interests, hobbies, and preferences in order to fully engage them in class.
At Bachillerato, 16-18-year-old students are choosing to continue with their education, with the hope of taking entrance exams for university. Students still take a series of core subjects but have to specialize in one particular area in order to prepare for university. Auxiliares de conversación teaching Bachillerato students will perhaps have a different experience to those teaching in compulsory education. Here, they may find themselves incorporating other subjects and real-life debates into their teaching in order to really push their students to achieve the best results.
Auxiliares de conversación may find themselves teaching students completing their Formacion Profesional. These students divide their time between academic studies and on-the-job practical training. Participants will need to adapt their teaching to the needs of the students and organize engaging and enjoyable classes. In particular, teachers might want to focus on the specialties of their students who could be studying anything from carpentry to hair styling.