Carving pumpkins at CEIP Hermanos Pinzon with my 2nd graders!
I know everyone is just itching to know what it's like to be an auxiliar, or a language and cultural assistant. First, I'd like to throw it back! When I first discovered CIEE through a random soul search on Google, I couldn't believe my eyes! You work 16 hours a week, only FOUR days a week, teaching English and American culture to Spanish primary or secondary students with a monthly stipend and visa sponsorship to LIVE in Spain for a year!? "Sign me up!" was my first thought. I started devouring travel blog after travel blog to learn more about this position in Spain and to truly see if it wasn't too good to be true. Everything I read encouraged my decision to take the plunge; the cons seemed so minuscule compared to the pros like: living in another country, learning Spanish, traveling to as many countries in Europe as we could on our 3-day weekends and many Spanish holidays and basically becoming a world traveller.
The process to get here through the CIEE application and the Visa process in general required dedication with all the time sensitive documents requested, but it was WORTH IT! Check out my blogs on both of these topics by clicking the hyperlinks!
My placement school: CEIP Hermanos Pinzon
I was placed at a primary school, per my request, and emailed the school about 3 weeks out to visit and go over scheduling. They were happy to receive my email and immediately set up a Friday to come tour the school and meet the administration. My school is approximately 45 mins commute from my lovely piso in Salamanca, Madrid and I live a convenient 3 mins walk from the metro. As long as you're by a metro stop, typically your commute won't be too bad.
I met with my bilingual coordinator, the designated school official who you "report" to and leave your concerns with. She speaks very good English and introduced me to all of the bilingual teachers, staff and sat down with me and the Head of Studies. The Head of Studies was also extremely welcoming with a warm hug and two kisses. She asked me which grades I would be most comfortable teaching and which day (Monday or Friday) did I want free. We didn't create my weekly school schedule then and there but I was told I'd receive it the day we start teaching October 2nd. I loved seeing the children running around and trying their best to use English to say "hi" and "how are you?" The students refer to us and their teachers as "profe", your first name, or "teacher".
So, what IS it like being an auxiliar at the school!?!
I will tell you everything. There are 3 other auxiliares at my school and we all have different schedules. Below is my schedule for a typical MONDAY, since I have Fridays OFF! I'm at the school starting at 9:00am-4:00pm.
On Tuesdays, I have a similar schedule-- the breaks are the same, just different classes. On Wednesdays, I have a late start and can sleep in until 7:45am instead since I don't have to be at school until 9:45am. On Thursdays I have a HALF DAY! I'm at school from 9:00am-12:30pm and then I have Fridays off!
The day goes by SO quickly. My school is a bilingual school, which means half of all lessons are taught in English (Science, English, Art, PE, and etc.) so the teachers ONLY speak English to them when they are in these classes.
An image placed in front of the profe's bathroom at CEIP Hermanos Pinzon
Being an auxiliar is more than an opportunity to travel the world; it is also about changing the world, and changing lives. The Spanish government created the auxiliar program to equip its citizens (from a very young age) with the means to become fluent in English or German. These languages have evolved to become absolutely essential in job acquisition and thousands of companies are requiring English in potential employees.
So as you can imagine, I came with nearly a suitcase full of teaching aids and a mind full of ideas and games to interactively engage students to learn English.
What I do in the classroom depends on the teacher. During the week, half my time is with 2nd graders, the other half is spent in various 3rd, 4th and 6th grade classes. With the 2nd grade teacher, she's very structured and I'm very involved in the students' learning: constantly talking to the students, working with students 1 on 1 or at their table in groups of 4. 1 on 1 work is typically with students who are behind in the class and need extra help speaking and using their workbooks. Group work is typically fun games that the kids are crazy about. The students LOVE the auxiliares and DAY ONE I was greeted with kisses and hugs. However most of them DO NOT love to learn English. They constantly try to speak to me in Spanish. Although I know what they're saying, we CANNOT speak Spanish back to them and have to pretend we don't understand them and/or speak to them solely in English. Also, 5-10 minutes out of 2nd grade class time is typically getting them to sit down and stop talking, haha! They love to keep busy, and that's how you win as a teacher. Bring things they can touch and open and use their brains!
The 4th graders try harder to speak English; which makes sense, they know more English! With them, the teacher asks me to review science or English terms with them. She also gives me free reign to do whatever I want for half the class or in groups of 2 at a table in the back of class. For example, we played Hangman with science terms, I encourage them always to use full sentences when speaking. They also LOVE, I mean LOVE Simon Says since they're still learning body parts.
An auxiliar definitely needs to be flexible! Sometimes the teachers ask, "Can you do a game with them to help them with their alphabets?" or "Can you teach us about Thanksgiving?" Always have a couple of low-maintenance games in your back pocket!
During the 30-min break, we have a teacher's lounge we can sit and rest. I typically use this time to sit, eat a snack and talk to the other auxiliares.
In the 2-hour break, we can do whatever we want! We (the other auxiliares and I) typically walk to the library and spend an hour there, talk, enjoy the weather or eat lunch with the teachers the last half hour.
What else do I do with my time?!
I try new restaurants, sleep (a lot), blog, explore my city, explore Spain and travel around Europe with my fiancé! Honestly, I'm in love with my life at the moment and sometimes I can't believe I packed up my life in the U.S. and moved to Europe.
I will post more and more about the auxiliar life, any questions or comments, please leave them below!!
For more travel tips and to see more of my adventures, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara