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Auxiliares in Primary School: What I Know For Sure

What I know for sure

Helloooo fellow and soon-to-be auxiliares/teachers abroad,It's Kamala again! 

I’m am a HUGE advocate for learning from experience. Experience is one of life’s greatest educators. But, it never ever hurts to be given a “heads up”. If you’re having a tiny bit of anxiety as a 1st year auxiliar/English teacher/teaching abroad in general, dive into our blogs here. We’re experiencing it first-hand. I spent an hour or two a day reading blogs about living and teaching abroad--I wanted to know the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s a dose of experience for you, straight from my heart and fondest/not-so-fond memories:

  1. Try to secure housing AT LEAST within 1 hour commute (Metro, etc.) from your school. Seriously, I know it’s only 16 hours a week, but as you may have seen in my post about my actual schedule--chances are you’ll actually be in school a full day 9am-2 or 4pm. Living in the center of Madrid sounds cool but if you’re not placed near it--you can also take a metro into the center! You have to be in school 4 days a week...do you want to be on a train for 16 hours plus a week!?!?

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  2. Communicate with your Director/a, Head of Studies and teachers. Up front, talk with them and make sure you’re clear about their expectations of you. What do you do if you’re sick or running late? In class, teachers are typically really excited if you have a cool game to learn English with the kids or love it when we create materials (board games, etc.) for their classroom. You should have a teacher or your coordinator on WhatsApp and a means to communicate after school or over the weekend if necessary! Also DO NOT PLAY HOOKY, honestly, we do have a LOT of days off. This will also ruin it for future auxiliares. When you're very sick, let them know and they'll understand--you may be required to bring in a doctor's note. Talk to your school! At my school, when we want to take a holiday (the term for vacation/day off) for travel or something else--it absolutely has to be important. For example, some of the British auxiliares requested two days off extra before the Christmas holiday because flights were significantly cheaper to go home and be with family. This is okay! Make sure you tell them in advance because you'll have to make up the hours.

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  3. The kids will NEVER be completely quiet so don’t stress about it! I teach in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th grade. The kids are NEVER quiet. NEVER. Maybe for a couple minutes during an exam or video, but someone is always going to be talking, chatting with their neighbor, playing with their pencil cases--etc. They can’t sit still; the teachers typically yell at them in Spanish if it gets too crazy loud, but if a couple kids are talking here and there the teacher just continues talking over them if the majority of kids are paying attention.

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  4. Spanish kids hug and kiss you, and stare at you. In Madrid, it’s perfectly okay to hug and kiss the students back--to say nice things to them, to play with their hair and kiss their boo-boo’s (hygienically). You will see a lot of affection between the teachers and students--kissing on the forehead, the cheek, and warm and loving hugs. If it doesn’t melt your heart when a tiny human is super excited to see you and throws their arms around you, you may or may not be a robot or an unactivated sleeper soldier. About the staring--coming from the U.S., a lot of Spanish kids have watched American films, dance to American music and might even eat American products, but it’s rare that they’ve met an American before (besides other auxiliares). Back to hugging, believe it or not, tiny humans are powerful in groups--sometimes one student will hug you, then another...and next thing you know you're struggling to balance from the weight of 15 or more students!

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  5. Be flexible everyday. Bahaha, I know this is evilly vague--it’s because I want you to really READ this tiny paragraph. When you come into the school, you’re probably going to work with different teachers in different classes! We all know teachers come in every shape and size and personality. Some might be more prepared or more lax than others. Some days I’m asked to lead the entire lesson with no prep (for example: Social Sciences, they’re learning about first aid and penicillin.) This is fun for me--it means I have free reign to make students come up in front of class and play games! Acting ANYTHING out and being a really animated person is EASY to do on the fly.
  6. Theatre skills help so much! When learning English in primary school, they are learning things like: emotions, instruments, sea animals, animals, occupations, boy/girl etc. Once they pair the pictures to the vocab words, it’s SO EASY to use ALL of class time “Acting it Out!” Let’s say the students are learning about sea animals, you can call one student up to the room and have them act out the sea animal, have the class raise their hand to guess. Emotions too! I had a small group of 5 students (this is typical, I rotate 3-5 students in a group for intensive english) and I would dramatically act out being sad and they have to guess. Not only does this reinforce their learning, it is entertaining and they are so excited to act out as well. Drama is good in this case.

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  7. Make them RAISE THEIR HANDS!!! If you tell the class “Who can tell me what the weather is like outside?!” Everyone’s going to start yelling or “Me! Me! Me!-ing” at the same time. You MUST tell them to raise their hands as much as you can. EVEN in small groups of 2 children, I’ve learned this the hard way, trust me!

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  8. EVERYONE loves STICKERS! or “pegatinas!”. Be it 2nd grade to 6th grade, they LOVE and would KILL for stickers! Okay, not kill but severely injure! Stickers are super motivating for 2nd-4th grade especially. When I have them in groups of 2-8; I make fun theatre games or read them stories and ask them a question on each page. I turn EVERYTHING into a fun competition where they win points and depending on how many stickers I have, I will give the winner 3-6 stickers of her or his choice, and 2nd to 8th place will have one sticker less than the preceding. They are obsessed with the stickers I buy from “Accessorize!” They’re always excited to work with me whether they get stickers or not--and I haven’t noticed a sharp change in motivation--but it’s always fun to reward them with stickers. They’re certainly more eager to read aloud and try their very best to speak.
  9. DON'T USE YOUR PHONE IN CLASS. For one thing, this is sometimes considered rude, and most schools will ask that you're not on your phone. Another thing, students are SO distracted by your phone. Sometimes, I'll tell the teacher that I want to show them a video or play a game--this is okay. But if you're texting a friend, or your SO--this is a no-no.

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  10. You should hang out with your fellow teachers! Trust me, I'm sure one or two of them at least want to hang out with YOU! In my experience and in speaking with other auxiliares, most teachers are going to be your age or only a bit older. Either way, they probably know the best bars, best food and how to make the most of Madrid. Why not be friends with the people you work with in close proximity 4 times a week? Plus, you could improve your Castellano!
  11. No one really knows the term "auxiliar". You're called "profe" or "teacher" or your first name by all your students, and when asked by anyone you meet in Spain you say you're an English teacher or "Soy profesor/a de Inglés". If you say, "I'm an auxiliar" to anyone who's not an auxiliar, they probably won't know what you mean...  

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  12. This is one of the coolest "jobs" ever. You get to live abroad in Spain, in Europe! You have over THIRTY days OFF for Spanish holidays and school break where you're free to travel the world. (This is not including the fact that you have 3 day weekends!!! Plus you only work 16 hours a week!? YES, you're going to have those days or weeks when you're gonna wanna scream "I HATE KIDS!", you're students are acting up and can't be quiet for two seconds, and maybe they just plain don't want to learn English. Breathe! It's okay! :) You have this unique opportunity to escape your own cultural limits living in a completely different country and you can also share your culture with others. We can influence a positive sentiment towards the United States.  Being an auxiliar does not even feel like a job to me, more like a higher calling to prepare the next generation of bilingual leaders to raise stronger and healthier families.

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I’m dying to hear your thoughts and questions on what it takes to survive as an auxiliar!

Signatura

For more of my adventures, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara

 

Time Is (Maybe) An Illusion

It’s a curious thing, time here in Spain - it seems to follow the speed of light while still lingering around the so-called ticking time clock that we all at least once in our lives watched with fury, waiting for something else to begin. My days at my Spanish high school are starting to become a routine as well as the names of people there (I wonder if it’s a coincidence that I can only remember those of the English-speaking teachers…). This grudgingly brings me to my struggle with reconciling my pre(or mis)conception that I had at least somewhat of a hold of the Spanish language and culture. In reality, I have found the lack of English to be the bane of my existence here as ironic as that seems being that I am an English teacher. Now, I know I am exaggerating, but I can say for certain that I understand what it’s like to feel different, even alone at times but still part of a larger community and family. And surprisingly I have found ease knowing I may never fully assimilate into this community even though it will always be there.

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Looking back on these past few weeks, I am able to focus on my two non-exclusive reasons for being here: (1) to teach english and leave a mark on this small town and (2) to explore the beautiful country of Spain and take advantage of my time off from Dartmouth. And thus my desire to travel led me to the heart of Madrid for a weekend where, for the first time not only was I able to hold multiple English conversations and get to know others teaching abroad with this program, but finally stepped into a big city that I could perhaps call home one day. Madrid has taught me the value of relationships, beauty in nature and architecture, and the liveliness of a cosmopolitan but yet tranquil city. Being with my host family in Ponferrada or Salamanca for a little getaway or spending an afternoon in León (the closest city to my little
pueblo), I am slowing beginning to realize the beauty of life in Spain. With that I can say I made the right choice (few of you know about my internal conflict of whether or not I should come here, but rest assured that I wouldn't have changed a thing).

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There are many things that defined life in the United States that I have always taken for granted (one being peanut butter) and hardships that come with living within a culture that’s not yours. Little things people do (or don’t do) help you better understand your own roots and open your mind to change. At Dartmouth I could never imagine spending an hour in a bar just sipping coffee and talking to people - there’s so much I could have done in that hour - but here I cherish it. And that’s where this whole time perception comes into play. It’s hard for many Americans to simply let go of time and live in the present rather than planning out every day to ensure top-notch productivity. Ask the average Dartmouth student. Taking hour-long paseos and stopping at a bar or cafe to tomar algo seems like a surrender to time but instead is more of a gift from the latter. And a gift I'm fortunate to accept. 

Yesterday at lunch with my Spanish family, they explained to me why people burn receipts. Actually burn receipts from places such as the grocery store. Because if these tiny pieces of paper fall in the wrong hands, things can get messy (i.e. your neighbor will find out you’ve been buying just too many bottles of whiskey and share the news of your newfound "alcoholism" to your other neighbors and family). Small town woes, as I’d like to think. This helped add more context to the strength of relationships and meaning of time here. It's interesting to live in a place where people know and care about everyone else, which is something I picked up very quickly at my school, to the point where personal shopping habits become a target of gossip. Instead of telling myself to make every moment count I find it better to tell myself instead to just breathe and watch what happens. Carpe Diem and cheers to more 6am adventures! 

Un abrazo,

Bethany

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Esperen por una versión en español. 

Making Lessons Fun

Take everything you know about school, and toss it out the window.

Spanish schools are a whole new ball game.

I went to Spain thinking that I would just be assisting with speaking. Little did I know that I would be creating entire lesson plans, and leading classes of 30 students. The teacher is in the class, but they have handed me the leadership role.

This is hard. And it was not what I expected at all. 

Many times, I have stood in front of the class not knowing what to do. I have learned to go with the flow. I have learned to improvise.

Silence has a different meaning in Spain than in USA. In Spain, silent means a low hum or chatter. I have had to change my perceptions. 

The most important thing to remember is to make it fun. 

Students don't want another day of class. They want to have fun. And when your students have fun, you are having fun. Because, suddenly, that student in the back of the class who is always quiet is suddenly participating. That is the rewarding part, and it makes you feel like you are making a difference. 

I have prepared worksheets, readings comprehensions, various powerpoints...

The most effective lessons involved a simple game of Go Fish, which works asking questions.

Other games that I have had success with are Heads Up (a phone app), Taboo, Jeopardy, word dominoes, and hangman. Students, from 1st eso to 2nd Bachillerato, love hangman!

Another difference with Spanish and American schools is Spanish students know how to compete, and they like to win. Even more than American students. Just picture a Spanish fútbol game and the energy, then put it in a classroom. Remember to keep students calm during all this fun...

So good luck teaching! Make it fun and you will enjoy the days more. It's a cliché, but seeing your students smiling and learning really is so satisfying.

January is a difficult month. Everyone is fresh, back from the holidays, broke from paying for trips around the holidays and no private lessons in December. The homesickness has kicked in. We miss home.

This is the time to pull your friends close. We have been here for six months, and the newness has worn off. This is the time to reach out and find those challenges, because they are not jumping out at you like they were four months ago.

We are half way through our time in Spain. We have as much time left as we have been here.
That is both daunting and frightening.

But you can do it! Just grab your friends and go grab some pinchos.

Why must it piso hard?

Just like in any good House Hunters episode, I had unrealistic expectations of what my piso (flat/apartment) would be like.

  • A mix of people from various countries
  • A balcony looking to a bustling, yet quiet street
  • Double bed
  • High ceilings
  • Old style with updated appliances
  • 400€/ month (~$475)
  • Close to a park
  • Close to my school
  • Private bathroom

The list goes on…you get the idea. Unrealistic (but not impossible). Yet somehow I wasn’t the only one who set these standards. It wasn’t even 2 minutes into seeing my first place that reality smacked me in the face.

        My first piso appointment was set for the day after I arrived in Spain. I heard about it through a high school friend of my sister who has settled down in Madrid. She came with me, which I am forever grateful for! I felt like a fish out of water. What do I ask? How nosy is too nosy? How long do I stay? How do I know if they like me? And to add another layer of complication: it’s all in Spanish, which is a skill I continue to work on (hence why I’m in Spain, but still). In my opinion, I did terribly. I was awkward and naïve and, again, grateful for Cait. Ultimately, it turned out just fine, but it was a shock to the system.

After combing through Idealista and having frequent panics, the apartment I decided to take was a two bedroom in barrio de Salamanca. It was with a 37-year-old Spaniard who is a journalist. I was happy...for about 3 months. I moved to a new apartment halfway through my year in Madrid.

The reason I decided to move was because I felt I was paying too much for what I was getting. It was 480€/month (not including bills, so it was over half of my paycheck) and in a tiny little room with a window that looked out to the wall of a building. The floors creaked, the toilet didn’t always flush properly, and there was no heating. Despite the initial perks I saw, I knew I needed to move.

I asked friends if they knew of anything and I revisited old housing profiles (see ‘apps & downloads’) to start my search. Ultimately, I found my new apartment through a friend who tagged me in a housing advertisement on a Facebook group that I’m apart of. I was the second person to see the room and I snatched it up! Now, I pay 300€/month (not including bills) and live within walking distance to my school. Most importantly, I have central heating so I’m not freezing my butt off 24/7!

The housing search can be stressful, so here are a few tips for finding housing:

Set realistic standards

It’s good to daydream and imagine your perfect place – do that! But also recognize the ‘must haves’ in your apartment. Doesn’t it sound amazing to have your room open up to a balcony that overlooks Retiro, has a dog, and is close to all the great metro stops and restaurants? Totally, but you likely have a budget. Make a list of everything you’d like, but prioritize and keep an open mind when looking.

Know your deal breakers

To go along with your standards, you’ll likely need to compromise on something so figure out your absolute deal breakers before getting started. For me, a deal breaker was smoking. I don’t mind it on the street, but I knew I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment that smelled of smoke.

Get on multiple housing platforms

There are a bunch of avenues to find your apartment. A great site to start with is Idealista, which is the most popular one. People are always posting and listings go quick. Easypiso is another site that helps link people to apartments. Another way to find a place: Facebook! Look for postings or post your own little bio in the various Facebook groups that are available to auxiliares in Madrid.

Apps & downloads

WhatsApp is a must have. Most landlords will use this app to message. Beyond landlords, it’s the way most Spaniards contact each other. Bonus: if your phone plan doesn’t have calling minutes, you can call through WhatsApp no problem. Again, Idealista is another important app to have. The app will help you snatch up new listings quicker instead of sitting in front of a computer. While there are plenty of other ways to find an apartment, Idealista is the most used and a great place to start searching.

Beware of scams

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find a place before arriving to Madrid. There are plenty of scams waiting to prey on foreigners. The first 2-3 weeks in Madrid might be stressful, but wait until you’re physically here to search!

Happy hunting!

Besos,

Claire

Back from break - games, chaos, and routines

As another week of work has already begun I wanted to stop and share some of the joys that the past several weeks back at school have brought... After being on break for what seemed like forever (and yet, simultaneously, felt as if it was over in the blink of an eye) I was anxious to get back to school - excited and nervous to see how the break had impacted the students.

The first day back there was a theater taking place in the school for the first and second grade students. So, instead of teaching, I had the chance to spend time with another auxiliar playing games and doing activities with a dozen or so students who didn’t have permission slips for the show. It was a nice way to ease back into the routine and spend a little one-on-one time with a couple of the students that I work with in the classrooms.

I did my best to arrive back in Madrid with a few new ideas for our daily class “routines” and took the opportunity of starting the New Year with some new songs and ideas on how to, more actively, engage the second graders. I was uncertain about how the kids would respond but have been pleasantly surprised with how much they seem to enjoy the new activities. (One boy, who definitely dislikes English, even told his aide that she couldn’t pull him out during routine one morning this past week because “I don’t want to miss the games with Stephanie!”) I know that there will continue to be days that are better or worse than others but I really see how much the past few months have taught me about the importance of loving what you do and helping the students to love learning as well. The “games” I play with them serve as study activities as we review their vocabulary, subject matter, and grammar but do so in a way that they don’t feel nervous or anxious. It allows them to take a shot at practicing what they are being asked to know without feeling singled out.

It might seem silly but just switching up the way that I call on students (like having them pick names out of a hat instead of me choosing students that are raising their hand) or how I correct an activity (inviting students write the answers on the board rather than me just posting the answers) is a simple way to motivate everyone in the classroom (especially when they know that their name will be taken out of the hat - meaning that they won’t be called on to participate - if they are not behaving!). And it’s not just the students that are more engaged when I take the time to switch things up; the excitement is contagious! The little change in routine adds a renewed enthusiasm and optimism for the rest of the class period.

Even today I came to a new realization; sometimes you just have to go with where the students are at. After break, all the students are hyper and sometimes getting them to focus and be calm is about as possible as walking to the moon. So, when I realized that even the threat of taking away the “fun” of the question ball was failing to quiet the 25 voices that were surrounding me, I decided to use the energy and uninhibited excitement to help with studying some of the more tricky grammar that we’re working on - the present continuous. In true “goofy” excitement, I asked each student if the individuals in a picture were doing different things (none of which were actually happening in the photo) and having every student practice the response “No, they aren’t”. Because I was willing to be absurd and funny, they were intrigued enough to quiet down. (I think they were all waiting to see who had to answer “yes, they are”...) There was laughing and yelling when I finally asked, “Are they drinking hot chocolate?” and all the students shouted, “Yes, they are!” It sounds ridiculous, but if it works, I will happily oblige the silliness!

It’s true that children pick up more than we sometimes would like to think and it’s also true that our attitudes can impact the attitudes of others around us. I really believe that the (genuine) excitement and enthusiasm a teacher shares with his or her class can motivate and inspire more than we may ever know!

So, for anyone considering applying as an auxiliar, don’t worry about whether you have enough “experience” or if you “know enough” (trust me, I’ve learned more about the geosphere, the hydrosphere, the layers of the atmosphere and more all from the past semester of studying 4th grade social studies then I can even remember from all my years in public school!). Worry about if you are willing to bring energy and joy into the classroom; worry about if you’re willing to create games and share goofy moments with children who will love you, (sometimes) hate you (or the fact that you will only speak to them in English), exasperate you, exhaust you, rejuvenate you, and so much more. And then, when you’re done worrying, apply!

-Stephanie Moss
(Mk 10:13-16)

Tips For Teaching

This week I’ll switch it up and devote my post to some tips I have for future auxiliares.

Tip #1:  BE FLEXIBLE

One week a teacher told me she wouldn’t be in for our class the following week.  Instead of class, she told me she’d send me instructions for a game I could create for the class in two weeks.  Now, I’m pretty sure this is not the norm.  I was given a heads-up.  I’ve heard from other teachers that they’ll show up to their class only to find a substitute teacher or no teacher at all.  Others have said they’ll arrive to class only to be told they’re not needed.  While this can be frustrating, ultimately you’re still getting paid for these class periods you “don’t work.”  You can use this time to prepare for other classes that week or read that book you’ve been dying to read.  Ideally the teacher will tell you ahead of time and give you something to prepare during that period.  But maybe not!  Who knows!  The hustle and bustle of some other work cultures is not prioritized here.

 

Tip #2:  BE FLEXIBLE

In a slightly different way…  I graduated from college with a BA in art history.  I spend one-third of my school-week in biology classes.  ‘Nuff said.  Initially I was concerned.  Science was always my least favorite class.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t connect with it the way many other students did and do.  It’s definitely one of the most exciting classes I’m in here.  The teacher is a powerhouse.  She has the most command over the classroom of all the teachers with whom I work.  The students have a lot of respect for her and it shows; they pay more attention in these classes than in my other ones.  I’ve already learned a lot from this teacher’s style of teaching--lead-by-example teaching.  She rolls along with the subject matter with an almost frenetic energy.

On top of all that, the biology classes reinforce lessons that are important.  The teacher devotes class time to relevant information such as global warming, nutrition, and general hygiene.  Just last week I gave a presentation created by a fellow auxiliar on illnesses related to the digestive system and respiratory system.  Some slides talked of the dangers of smoking, of not brushing your teeth, of not flossing, of drinking alcohol, and so on and so on.  Needless to say, you only have to be a human being to connect with these lessons.  I’m currently creating a presentation on genetic mutations.  Not my forte, but I try to have fun with the formatting (font, font size, color, images, animation).

Moral of the story:  you may be in classes that don’t particularly excite you.  This may not matter at all.  All classes are an opportunity to learn as long as you keep an open mind.

 

Tip #3:  BE FLEXIBLE

Ha ha.  I crack myself up.  Something that’s not so funny?  Commuting over an hour and a half to work.  Personally, I don’t mind my hour-and-fifteen-minutes commute.  It gives me time to wake up and prepare mentally for the day.  This manifests in my listening to music the entire time.  When the program talks of placement in Madrid, that does not mean the city center (though it could!).  Madrid is one of seventeen autonomous regions/communities of Spain, so there’s Madrid the City and Madrid the Region.  Keep this in mind when putting down your suburb preferences.  Research them in order to make an informed choice.

 

I never liked stretching.  Some people call me go-with-the-flow, others call me rigid.  Regardless of your own malleability-status as you read this right now, being an auxiliar can do for you whatever it is that you need it to do for you--including forcing you to stretch yourself to be the best auxiliar you can be.  “Ask not what your auxiliar-position can do for you………..” -- that’s how the quote goes, right?

Día de los Reyes Magos

Christmas time in Spain is just as magical and wonderful as it is in the United States. Every city puts up a tree, festive lights are hung from the buildings, and children look forward to playing with toys on Christmas morning…

Oh wait, that last one doesn’t apply to Spain.

Gifts are most certainly brought, just not by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night. Rather, it’s the Three Wise Men that visit homes and leave gifts the night before the twelfth day of Christmas aka Three Kings Day - el Día de los Reyes Magos.

I happened to be in a small port town in southern Spain called El Puerto de Santa María on January 5th, the day before Three Kings Day, and was treated to a spectacular show of festivities prepared for the occasion.

As I wandered through the narrow cobblestone streets, I suddenly found myself in the midst of Christmas music and crowds of children and families huddled together trying to catch a glimpse of the floats passing by for the Three Kings Parade. Children in costumes sitting on the floats tossed out candies, and the children in the crowd scrambled around with bags, gathering up as many pieces as they could and squealing with joy as they counted their treasures.

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After the last float passed, I fell in line behind it and followed it to its destination - el Castillo de San Marcos. The magnificent castle was decorated with flags to welcome the Three Kings, who climbed up and stood between the stone pillars, telling the story of their visit to baby Jesus, and tossing out gifts to the children below. Jolly music and merry singing filled the air, along with puffs of “snow” and colorful confetti. The happiness of everyone there was palpable and infectious. 

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It was an absolutely marvelous celebration, and an experience I would highly recommend to all Spain travelers!

New Year Struggles & Halfway Mark

This year, I didn't feel this grand commencement of the new year like I usually do. This need or desire to begin anew, to have a clean slate or fresh start didn't exist . I think it's because I've gained some perspective and experienced immense personal growth that starting over wouldn't be right because this specific journey feels so continuous: rather than 2017 and 2018 being how I define my time, it'll be "the year I lived abroad."I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be - something I've never felt or can even explain. It's this intuitive knowledge and understanding. I now have this mindset that no matter where the year takes me, there will be both good and bad. My intention (cough, "resolution") for the year is to embrace this balance. To focus my energy on the good while acknowledging and feeling the feels of the bad, but not let it cloud the hope that good that will eventually come again.

With January almost over (HOW?), I find myself in a bit of a rut. When I was abroad, one of my best friend's moms told us that "bad days happen everywhere." And it's so true. While I've never been as happy as I am now, there are still going to be days when everything seems impossible, things hurt and you break into uncontrollable tears. Just because I'm living out my dream, doesn't mean each day will be perfect. It's life. It's messy. I've had a few of those this past month when I honestly didn't have any from August - December. I'm really putting my "resolution" to the test and letting myself feel how I feel and know it will pass. Easier said than done, of course

One of the reasons I think I am in this rut is that it's the second half. I went home for Christmas and it warmed my heart seeing my family just a few days. It reminded me of how much I miss my family and friends and exactly what I'm missing out on (FOMO is real people — WHY?). The thing is when I'm in Madrid living my day to day, I don't have time to really think about it just because I am living my best life. It was bittersweet coming home and leaving. When I bought my flight home for Christmas in July, it seemed so far away but I knew that would be the half way point. and here we are. About half way done and it scares me.

Time is flying by — I am no where near where I thought I would in terms of my Spanish, I have so much I still want to do and not sure I'll get to it all, and and now is the time to think about renewing. Talk about STRESSFUL. However,

I'm trying to take one day at a time and prioritize the important things. Here's what's on the list so far.

  • Trips: Florence, Prague & Croatia/Montenegro 
  • Spanish: Attend more Intercambios (at least one a week) and start taking spanish lessons 
  • Madrid Living: Go to a new bar/cafe at least once a week
  • Self care: Journal and blog once a week - still working on this one :) 

 

 

 

Another Week: The Nitty-Gritties of Teaching

This was an interesting week at school.  I feel much more integrated into my classes.  A geography/history teacher assigned a group project to make more use of me in the classroom, which is very nice.  In one of the classes, however, some students were clearly incapable of working independently in a group.  This group of boys was laughing and joking around the entire class period.  I have been focused already on one of the students in that group because he has trouble remaining silent.  He calls out, he has to comment on everything, he interrupts his classmates, and often he talks back to the teacher.  I have this class twice a week with two different teachers, one of whom, luckily, is their tutor (each class has a tutor, a teacher that devotes one period a week to talking with the students--kind of like group therapy, I presume).  This teacher and I are always talking about the behavioral issues in her class.  With her, they act appropriately, but without her, they get a bit out of hand.  While they have improved as a whole, there are still some students who are struggling.

Recently another teacher mentioned that all of the students in 1º ESO were just last year in Primary School.  This struck me.  And made sense of a lot of the issues some of my 1º ESO classes have.  This is why I feel more like a babysitter or a police officer than a teacher with some of the classes.  Constantly I have to direct a razor-beam of light with my eyes directly into the eyes of a student.  This signals: “Stop, now.”  If that doesn’t work, I may have to walk over to the student so they sense my physical presence.  If that doesn’t work, I may ask them directly what’s going on, even if the class is in the middle of doing something else.  I’m testing out different tactics, taking advantage of my role as an assistant (we don't call parents, but we can talk to the teachers who do).  Classroom management is clearly a skill.

Back to the disruptive student:  one particular moment from the week was during the geography/history class.  His group didn’t seem to be doing any work relevant to their project.  This student, A, had written down two bullet-points on a piece of paper about his climate, but was kneeling on his chair facing a classmate behind him.  I asked A to “sit like a normal person.”  I regret this phrasing, but he understood I meant I wanted him to sit down on his chair.  Then we lightly joked about his inability to behave properly.  He joked that he is “homosapien-sapien-sapien.”  When I moved slightly away from their group, he immediately perched back up on his knees on the chair.  I signaled this was not okay, but he was laughing.  At the end of the class, I managed to indicate to all the boys in that group that I was writing all of their names down.  T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

I talked to the teacher about this group and she told me that she gave them the hardest climate to present because they like to think they know everything.  And to address their behavior she walked around telling them all she was marking down how they were acting in class.  This spooked the group out a bit, thankfully.  I don’t blame this teacher for not wanting to get too involved in all of the hullabaloo surrounding disciplinary procedures, though.  I was happy that she told them she was grading them for this class period.  I told her how they had been playfully fighting, how one boy had tried to pull down the pants of another one, how one boy had taken another boy’s papers and put them under his chair.  Needless to say, this was a MESS.    

During another class, I was talking in the hall with a student about his Science Fair project.  The door to the class next door, the struggle-bus, opened and a group of students walked out with another assistant teacher.  That student, A, suddenly put his hands on the student I was speaking with and yelled in his face in a weird and joking way.  I said, “excuse me, are you in this class right now?” or something like that.  He looked a bit startled, but didn’t seem to really register what had happened and walked away with his group.  I spoke to this class’ tutor about both events because she really appreciates when I give her updates on their behavior without her.  And because I needed to vent to someone who knows the situation firsthand.  She told me she was going to call parents.

A day or so later when I arrived at school, A was next to the English Department.  He came over to me and apologized.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was you in the hallway,” he said.  He seemed upset and I thought for sure his parent had laced into him.  I also, though, had my guard up, because a teacher once told me he is a bit of a suck-up.  So, I reminded him of how I also told him to sit down in his chair and he didn’t listen.  He nodded and understood.  I said, “thank you for your apology, but now I want to see you behave better.”  We shall see…

As for the older students:  in my bachillerato classes, the teacher and I worked out a lesson plan dedicated to MLK Day.  The older class knew a bit about him, but the younger class didn’t know much.  In the first class, we went over some of the “I Have a Dream” speech.  I had prepared an essay prompt for them based on one a professor I worked with in the past had assigned.  They have to respond to the question “Has Dr. King’s dream come true?  Why or why not?”  I am SO looking forward to their essays.  It has been really interesting to hear the perspectives of students here on topics in American culture and history.  Funny side-note:  on my assignment sheet, I got so carried away with the writing process I forgot to include a note about how they had to read and internalize the text before writing.  I was able to add “YOU MUST SPEND TIME WITH THE TEXT FIRST” at the bottom of the paper before copies were made.  To be continued…

In the younger class, I gave each student a personalized assignment for the blog.  The topics are as follows:  a motorbike culture two students are obsessed with, thoughts on royal families, Beyoncé, the negative effects of Netflix, avocados, and some series of videos a student is into right now.  To be continued...

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