Teaching English in Spain as a Meddeas Language Assistant will be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your life. Not only will you move to a new country, but you’ll also be in an environment completely different from your home country.
One of the most important things you can do is foster good relationships with your fellow colleagues. You are going to be seeing these people every day! Here are seven tips that will ensure you form an incredible relationship with your fellow colleagues.
Use your First Day as an Opportunity to Know Your Fellow Colleagues
Let’s start at the beginning. Right now, the idea of your first day at school as a Language Assistant will likely be one of the most nerve-wracking during your time in Spain. There will be a lot to take in at a new school filled with enthusiastic young students and teachers. However, even though you may be extremely nervous, it’s important to remember that first impressions really do matter.
Use your first day as an opportunity to present yourself as eager and excited to meet people. Introduce yourself and chat to as many people as possible. It’s important to remember that Spanish culture is incredibly sociable, so people will find it strange if you don’t make an effort to socialise.
In order to make a good impression, I recommend making an effort to learn your colleague’s names as soon as possible. Try to obtain a list of all the teachers and staff in your school with their names and photographs. People always appreciate it when you remember their names.
Understand the Role of Your Tutor
Your tutor will be someone who you can trust on during your time in Spain. Having a good relationship with your tutor will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. As your primary contact, your tutor will answer all your questions regarding school life and also help you with your role as a Language Assistant.
When you first meet him or her, make sure you set up a direct line of communication so you can reach them quickly or ask for help. My tutor and I exchanged Whatsapp numbers on the first day (Whatsapp is the primary method of communication in Spain). Whenever I had to call in sick or rearrange a day with late notice, he would always respond promptly.
Although the culture within the school can seem a little informal at times, I recommend remaining formal with your tutor just to be professional.
Respect the School’s Culture
The culture of your school will depend greatly on what type of school you collaborate at. Personally, I was placed in an all boy’s catholic school which has his own traditions. For instance, sometimes students enter the chapel before the school day begins or pray in the mornings and afternoons. Respect towards the customs and the beliefs of the school it’s really important for a Language Assistant who should be pretty adaptable in order to fit in the school culture.
By showing respect, you will gain respect from your fellow colleagues. This respect should also apply to the school’s dress code. All the teachers in my school dress smartly and therefore so do I. Yet, culture extends far beyond the way you dress. It also applies to how you interact with other people. Picking up on the small customs that are present in the school will help you embed yourself. For example, it is common to greet people when you see them in the morning.
Also, it is common to wish them the Spanish equivalent of ‘bon apetit’ (buen provecho) when you enter the staff canteen and see someone eating. Participating in small behaviours like these will not only help you feel more immersed within the culture of the school, but also to have a good relationship with your fellow colleagues.
Understand Regional Differences within Spain
Spaniards tend to identify themselves with their particular region and its own variations in culture, habits, and behaviour. It is wise to be alert to regional sensitivities and differences. For instance, some areas in Spain such as Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque Country have their own regional language, as well as regional traditions and cuisine which they’ve maintained after many years of struggle.
Adapting to these cultural differences is an important part of fitting in within your school. For example, in my school in Spain, I use Andalusian Spanish when possible (Gracia, Ta Luego).
Try to Speak as Much Spanish as Possible (for you)
One of the easiest ways to gain some kudos with your fellow colleagues is to speak Spanish whenever it’s possible for you. Please note, I am not saying that fluency is required to get along with the teachers. However, every word of Spanish you learn will be useful.
There will almost certainly be some teachers at your school who do not speak English. While you don’t necessarily have to converse with them about the intricacies of Spanish politics, being able to say hello and ask them how their day is going will really make a large difference.
It is also important to note that speaking English in the presence of teachers may frustrate them. It is likely that not everyone at your school will be fluent in English. As a result, speaking English in front of those who do not understand it may lead to them feeling to feel excluded.
Enthusiasm Goes a Long Way
This tip is probably one of the easiest to implement, but also one of the most powerful. Always be enthusiastic. It’s that simple. Your fellow colleagues can sense if you have a keen interest in your role and are willing to go above and beyond to be a good Language Assistant.
If you are enthusiastic, it’s a certainty that you will have a good relationship with them. Enthusiasm can be demonstrated in many ways. Preparing thorough lesson plans that connect with your students. Volunteering to join when your student’s students go on school trips.
Always responding with a smile on your face when people ask you how your day is going. Enthusiasm is infectious. Displaying it through actions like these is bound to make your fellow teachers enjoy your company.
By Sahan P., 2019-2020