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The Final Push of a Language Assistant in Spain

2014/2015. Posted by Dennis H.

The last few weeks in Humanitas, the school where I’m a Language Assistant in Spain, have been hectic to say the least. Along with the normal end of term bureaucracy to get through, we’ve had St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and the school’s sports festival (the aptly named Olympianitas) to celebrate. While it’s been a stimulating and invigorating period, I’m more than ready for the arrival of the Easter holidays.

Language Assistant in Spain
The Infants English Department, or the Irish Department as I demanded we be called for the day

As I teach infants, you may be wondering what sort of bureaucracy this could involve. Before I began at school, I would have shared this sentiment. Regardless of the fact that some of the two-year-olds I teach don’t yet speak Spanish particularly fluidly, I’m supporting the teacher with the evaluation of their English speaking skills. (Luckily, failing the English “exam” is not an option for these tiny beings, with ‘pass’ and ‘in process’ being the only two available results.) Once I had done this, I had to attend a meeting with the Head of the Infants department and the school’s Principal (a very charming, yet utterly terrifying man on account of his breakneck speaking pace and karate-esque gesticulation) in which we discussed how I felt the children were finding their early introduction to the English language. I did a lot of serious nodding and pulled many pensive expressions but in my head I was highly entertained by the earnestness of a conversation concerning a group of two-year-olds’ academic careers.

Language Assistant in Spain
My Irish colleague, Frank, and I doing our bit for our country on its special day

One I had got through the rest of my evaluations and meetings (these ones concerning the 3-5 year-olds’ progress in music), St. Patrick’s Day rolled around. First, we spent a week decorating the school, teaching the children the most important vocabulary for the event, and warning the more worry-prone kids that a friendly leprechaun would be coming to visit the school the following week. Then came the real fun. On Tuesday, March 17th, I spent eight hours dressed from head to toe in a bright green leprechaun suit, as you can see in the pictures. With my portable speaker in hand and blaring out ‘The Irish Rover’ by The Pogues, I scurried from class to class doing Irish-style dancing (I don’t want to insult those who can do Irish dancing by claiming the bodily contortions I made qualified as actual Irish dance) and distributing gold coins to the startled, scared, and sometimes-smiling children. It was another absurd yet thoroughly enjoyable day at school, one which I won’t forget in a hurry.

The final push came this week: Olympianitas. Excitement/ stress levels have been building among students/ staff for the past while. Today I found out why. I began the day by setting up two parallel football pitches in the playground. Then I fetched four classes of five-year-olds and began two simultaneous matches. As the two groups of thirty five-year-olds ran around like maniacs, sometimes kicking the ball, but mostly kicking each other, I frantically attempted to keep an eye on both matches. At the same time, I was attempting to monitor the scores in both games and keep multiple tear-stained cheeks dry. After this madness, I spent the rest of the day helping two, three, and four-year-olds through various circuits and obstacle courses. Again, I struggled to keep an eye on the uber-excited crowds of red-faced and panting infants, but was still deeply entertained by their enthusiasm and joy.

While at this stage I’m exhausted and just about hobbling towards the end of term, which comes at the end of this week, I’m also cherishing life at Humanitas. I’ve never experienced such variety in a work experience before. One day you’re revising the colours of the rainbow with a class of two-year-olds, the next you’re jumping around to Irish folk music dressed as a leprechaun in a class of five-year-olds. Being a Language Assistant in Spain is many things: stimulating, challenging, energising, to name a few. One thing it certainly is not, is boring.

17 September, 2018

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