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My Spanish Daily Life as a Language Assistant

Every day is different but I try to set a rhythm and plan my days to organize myself and get used to the routine. Having a routine allows me to enjoy my Spanish daily life. I collaborate in a school in Madrid and, in  general, the school starts at 9 am and finishes at 5 pm. On Fridays, my day changes a little bit, since I finish up at 4 pm.

I collaborate with the complementary English classes for Infantil (nursery) and the Cambridge classes for ESO (Secondary). The former is geared towards basic language acquisition and the latter is exam-focused. In Primaria (Primary), I help the students to work grammar and their curriculum. As a result of working with all the levels, the only real typical aspect of my days is that they are varied.

Morning

In the morning, I start practising 30 minutes of Spanish either reading or listening to warm up. I live in a small community and very few people speak English, so learning the language is important to get immersed in the Spanish culture and to be part of the community and to engage with my neighbours.

I mostly follow a vegetarian diet. My breakfast is usually muesli, yoghurt and fruit or oats, with coffee. I don’t eat eggs or pork, and only eat bread on occasion, so I have to eat as much as I can before I go to school. If you are vegan or strictly vegetarian in Spain, there are options available though you need to be mindful that meat and meat fat is included in most meals.

When I finish eating breakfast, I get ready and take the bus to school. The majority of the mornings I have students on the bus with me as it is nice to talk to the children outside of school. It makes teaching them easier and there is less pressure to speak “perfect” English.

 

Views from the school bus where I get the chance to chat with my students in a more informal setting

 

Teaching Spanish children during my days is very different from what I expected. They can be challenging and the cultural differences of the Spanish culture are marked. When we arrive at the school, I gear up every morning by standing at the door where the parents drop the Infantil and Primaria children. This is my time to get a lot of my energy and resolve for the day. The parents and children greet me, and it is heart-warming when the children whisper to their parents that I’m the English Language Assistant or when they simply come over to hug me.

When the bell rings it is a whirlwind because I cooperate teaching classes from Infantil to ESO and I usually have classes back-to-back. This requires major shifts in energy and lesson presentation. In ESO, I help to prepare the students for the Cambridge Exams as well as lead split classes teaching grammar and doing grammar activities with my tutor. The Cambridge Exam classes are intense because they have to master the four skills before sitting the exam: speaking, reading, listening and writing.  This is in-between their usual classes and evaluations.

The split groups are a bit more relaxed but get more intense the closer we get to evaluation. In Infantil, I am helping to teach the basics such as numbers, colours, shapes, seasons, and body parts. We use songs and learn through play.

It is different from ESO because I have to constantly gauge the classes energy and oftentimes, planned lessons are not possible and I have to do other activities. Nevertheless, teaching Primaria is much more consistent as I work within the curriculum.

Mid-morning, there is a break to have coffee with the other teachers. Fridays are churro days and depending on whether it is a teacher’s birthday, there will be additional snacks and cakes on offer. After the break, I collaborate with the complimentary classes in Infantil and ESO. The switch is quite dramatic and by the time lunch rolls around I am exhausted, but done with the bulk of my teaching for the day.

Afternoon

Lunch with the rest of the staff is like a reset session or the ultimate decompress! Even with the children eating a few metres away, it is a space to relax. Lunch is an hour-long and I usually take 30 minutes to eat. Then I make myself a coffee and head to a quiet spot to read. The fact that I am in the dining hall for 30 minutes means I have ample time to engage with the other teachers, and my reading time isn’t seen as being anti-social or rude.

After lunch, I have my favourite classes: Infantil classes. They have a snack and then read a book. This happens after their afternoon nap, so it is a gentle awakening and a very relaxed time. I get to hand out a snack and a beverage. It is a light way to use basic vocabulary in as well as names for the food they eat every day. They are also more engaged when I read them a story. By the time, the last bell rings, I stay a while to chat with the other teachers before leaving the school premises.

Evening

After school, I spend nearly an hour waiting for my bus. As I live in a small town the buses do not provide frequent service. In this time, I often get small items at the local grocer. I usually meet with parents and students doing the same! It’s funny because it reminds them that I am also a person who eats. I think the parents get a kick out of the fact that I buy a lot of vegetables and I use that as a way to encourage better eating on the part of their children.

 

Go mountain hiking is one of my favourites activities to do after school

 

Once home, I prepare for the next day. I know it seems crazy, but I repack my bag immediately and do any necessary administration. Depending on the day, I head to boxing class or walk the mountain. As I live close to it, I can easily take a walk of 15 minutes, which I really enjoy. When I get home, I prepare dinner and relax. As I am a creature of habit and am in bed by 10 pm.

Rough timetable

  • 6:00 am: Wake up
  • 6:15 am: Spanish (reading or listening)
  • 7:00 am: Breakfast and get ready for school
  • 8:05 am: Get the bus to school
  • 8:20 am: Get to school
  • 9:00 am: Classes start
  • 10:30 am: Mid-morning break
  • 11:00 am: Classes
  • 14:00 pm: Lunch
  • 15:00 pm: Classes
  • 17:00 pm: School ends
  • 17:45 pm: Bus home
  • 18:05 pm: Get home and next day school preparation
  • 19:00 pm: Boxing class or mountain walk
  • 20:30 pm: Prepare dinner and relax // social time
  • 22:00 pm: Bedtime

 

Typical Occurrences of the Spanish Culture

  • If I need something or advice, I always ask my colleagues or other locals. Their answers are more useful than Google and I get to practise Spanish.
  • While waiting for a bus, someone always talks to me. Most often it is an older person and it makes me feel like a part of the community.
  • Children shouting “goodbye” out of cars as I walk to the bus stop.

By Noélle K., 2019/2020

2 April, 2020

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