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What is Going to School in Spain Like?

By Meg C., Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid 20/21.

Going to School in Spain is Incredible, Every Day is a New Adventure

One of the main differences between teaching in Spain and teaching in the U.S. is that the students are so eager to know you! Having native Auxiliares de Conversación in their English classes is a wonderful experience for the students. You will find they want to know everything about us and the countries we come from.

My students have asked me everything from my favorite color to my favorite part of living in Spain. I love using their natural curiosity to drive their English conversation practice. I always answer their questions and rephrase them to students in order for them to tell me about themselves.

Awesome Workmates

Another fantastic part of the teaching experience here is all the new friends you will make in the workplace. I know from day one the other Language Assistants at my school have been an invaluable resource to me. My coworker Melissa is also from the United States and she took me on a tour around the school. When I first arrived, she introduced me to all the teachers and staff she got to know while working at the school last year. I also got to meet all the teachers I’d be working with within the English department on my first day. It was so exciting to be welcomed by them into the school.

Funnily enough, we discovered that all the teachers in the English department and the two Language Assistants had names that start with M! What a coincidence. We started weekly department meetings right away and I was thrilled to see how much coordination and collaboration there was.

This year has been difficult adjusting to the “new normal”: teaching in masks, frequent disinfecting, and keeping the distance at all times. So, it was great to have a weekly meeting to organize everything. Not only did we tackle pandemic protocol and curriculum changes in those meetings. We also got to know each other better and exchanged language tips in English and Spanish. Many teachers have even brought in morale-boosting gifts for everyone in the department like lavender potpourri and hand-sewn bags to hold our masks.

Another Great Aspect of Going to a Spanish School is All of the Cultural Learning Opportunities

Spanish bizcocho

I remember I was so surprised when my coworker came in and brought bizcocho (Spanish sponge cake) for everyone on HER birthday. That’s right, here in Spain it’s customary for the birthday boy or girl to bring cake or food for everyone else instead of the other way around. I also learned that people don’t only celebrate their birthdays here but also their “Saint Day”, which is the day dedicated to honoring the saint with their same name. I love the kind of learning experiences and cultural exchanges that are facilitated by teaching here in Spain.

 

A Daily Aspect of Teaching in a Spanish Public School

One aspect of daily teaching in Spain that can be quite shocking to any newcomer is the fact that it is socially acceptable to speak at the same time someone else is speaking. Sometimes while I am explaining something to the class, another teacher is explaining something or chastising other students at the back of the class. For this reason, the Spanish classroom sure can get really noisy! This can make it difficult to teach.

However, it presents a wonderful opportunity to explain to students yet another cultural difference between Spain and the country from which you come. After explaining to my students that to talk while someone else is talking is seen as very rude and hurtful in American society, my students learned to control their talkative habits in my class and experience a different way of doing things. I am so proud of their progress!

I am a Cultural Ambassador from My Home Country

Probably my favorite part of being a ConversaSpain Auxiliar de Conversación is that I get to teach students about holidays from my home country. Many holidays did not seem so very interesting or exciting to me until I saw them through my students’ eyes, when they are all sitting in front of me with their eyes open wide and mouths agape. They ask me if we really believe we can make a wish by breaking a specific bone in the turkey on Thanksgiving or if a rodent can predict the weather on Groundhog Day, and it reminds me of just how special and absurd some of our holiday traditions can be.

After teaching about these customs, many students wistfully express their desire to travel to my country and experience these things for themselves. I am so honored and happy when I hear students express such feelings. It makes me feel as though I have really done a good job!

If you want to know more about the ConversaSpain Program, don’t miss this blogpost written by Kiersten B., Auxiliar de Conversación in a school in Murcia during 19/20 school year.

Another Really Surprising Aspect of Going to School in Spain is that You Will not Have Your Own Classroom!

Meg at her class in her school in Spain

In Spain, only students have a classroom – a classroom where they stay all day without changing seats. Can you imagine? Each class has an assigned room and here it is the teachers that move from class to class each period. This has always been the system in Spain but it was especially useful this year to facilitate social distancing during the pandemic.

The drawback is that you have to learn the layout and technology situation of each classroom. And you never have one place to organize and decorate as you like. However, the advantages are that you get to experience the school on a broader level and learn what it is like to teach in different spaces.

 

Why I Love being an Auxiliar de Conversación in a School in Spain

There are so many wonderful experiences and opportunities involved in being a ConversaSpain Language Assistant. But, the absolute best part of the experience is the impact you will have on students.

One of my favorite things to tell students is that you are never too old to learn: never too old to learn a new language and follow your dreams. I had one student who was far behind his classmates at the beginning of the year, and who had convinced himself that he could never catch up. When I talked to him and explained it is never too late to start trying, he began to be more motivated and immediately started to improve. He even wrote me a note thanking me for encouraging him.

These powerful moments will make you feel like your presence in the school every day truly makes a difference in these children’s lives. Moving abroad to teach English in a foreign country is difficult, especially in the middle of a pandemic. But in the end… I wouldn’t change anything for the world!

If you want to know more about the ConversaSpain Program, don’t miss this blogpost written by Kiersten B., Auxiliar de Conversación in a school in Murcia during 19/20 school year.

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