Written by Elle
Only two weeks in, and I’m already feeling SO great about this new teaching gig in Logroño! The kids are super fun, the teachers are kind and helpful, and the overall atmosphere is very laid-back and comfortable. Here’s a quick description of my new job and some details of the first two weeks:
As an auxiliar de conversación, I’m in the classroom to help students learn English through cultural presentations, traditional English workbook lessons (given in my North American accent, and some games/stories/conversations mixed in. It seems like every auxiliar’s experience and duties in the classroom vary dramatically (even between me, Mike, and Karrie!), so this account is unique to my two schools!
I’m lucky enough to work in two schools in the city, a 15 minute and 25 minute walk from my apartment, respectively. Both have “Infantil y Primaria”, which is basically pre-school and elementary school, ages 3-12. I work in School 1 Mondays and Wednesdays, and School 2 Tuesdays and Thursdays, with every Friday off (😜). I’m on a four-week rotation at each school, so every day is different! I work in hour-long chunks and move around to different classrooms with different teachers each day (I’ve typed out an extensive detailed calendar–color coded and all–to keep track of which school, age, and teacher I’m with each hour of my work days!).
As I walked in my first day to teach, I’ll be honest that I felt a tinge of anxiety as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was in a 5th grade classroom with (thankfully) the teacher I had been in contact with and already met once in person to discuss my schedule. He let them settle in, introduced me, and gave me the floor for the next 55 minutes. I was told to prepare a presentation about myself to show these first days, so I was ready with my powerpoint USB to get things started! (I had spent the weekend before making may powerpoint “cool” with pictures, video links, and of course crazy animation-transitions). As I taught the students all about my family, my hometown, my hobbies, and other fun facts, I was incredibly impressed with how attentive and respectful they all were. They had wonderful questions and their English was better than I had expected. Class one: complete!
That first day I had two more classes, another 5th grade (who were equally awesome), and a second grade–which I will admit was much more rowdy/inattentive. Though I’ve always taught young children, I had forgotten over my long summer break just how short their attention spans can get in the last hour of the school day! I also think I was talking a bit too quickly and above their English level.
Another factor to the slight rowdiness was me relying too heavily on the teacher’s insistence that when I was teaching, he would be the “bad guy” and deal with all discipline, and that I was only there to teach. So, when a few boys began spinning pencils and stealing one-another’s erasers, I wasn’t sure whether to step in or leave it to the teacher (who was grading papers in the corner and seemingly oblivious). Once it got a bit too loud to continue teaching, I started managing the behavior myself, and once the students saw me as a bit of an “authority figure” and not just a random guest, it got better! Afterward, I spoke to my teacher about if it was okay for me to address the children who were goofing/talking, or if I should leave it to him (trying to hint hint that he didn’t step in at all), and he simply responded “you were completely wonderful, keep it up!” I think that because I told my cooperating teachers that I too am a trained educator, they are feeling very comfortable (or maybe taking advantage?) just leaving it all to me! Which to be honest, is totally my preference! I was slightly worried about how to navigate the whole “teaching but not managing” thing, so this is much more in my comfort zone.
The next several days of teaching were a bit of a whirlwind and consisted of 4 different grade levels, 5 teachers, and me giving my powerpoint presentation a cool 16 times (Yikes! At least I’m getting realllly good at it!). It was a nice break to be in the 5 year old class where I simply helped the students with a short English lesson their teacher presented and taught them some English animals and sang Old Macdonald had a Farm; and when I saw a class for a second time and was able to teach from their workbook instead of give my presentation (though it is pretty painful to teach in this very old-school way…another post on that later!). Already I feel like a local celebrity as I walk the halls and hear the students greeting me with “Hello teacher Ellen!”, “I love your hair!”, and “We think you are beautiful today!”. Gotta love elementary school students!
So I have to say that overall, being an auxiliar de conversación has been an easy, fun, and varied experience thus far! I’m loving the nonchalance of not knowing what I’ll be teaching until I arrive in the classroom as it starts, the mixture of Spanish and English the students use to speak to me, and, of course, getting home by 2:00 every day! It has also been a great glimpse into the Spanish education system, and Ill be sure to blog about that soon!
I still have week three and four in my rotation coming up, so we’ll see if it’s more of the same, or a completely different experience as I meet more teachers, visit more classrooms, and get to know more of my hundreds of students. I can’t wait to see what these next weeks bring!