A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación

In January 2017, the North American Language and Culture Assistants program will begin accepting applications for the 2017-2018 school year. This time next year, you could be living in Spain and be working as an auxiliar de conversación. 

Here's a typical day in the life of an auxilar de conversación in Madrid, Spain!

Image Credit: M. Peinado (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

Before taking the leap and applying, perhaps you’d first like to know what a day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación is actually like. To be honest, every day is a little different (even more so for me than other assistants because I work at two schools). Also, reminder, I’m an auxiliar in Madrid. Typical days vary from region to region and city to city. I’ve chosen to profile a Thursday, which happens to be my longest and busiest day of the week.

6:45 a.m. – Wake up. My piso is so cold in the morning. It’s always hard getting out of bed. I usually press the snooze button once or twice. 

7:45 a.m. – After getting dressed and eating breakfast, I’m out the door and headed to the bus stop. Every minute counts in the morning. 

7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. – In order to get to my school, which is situated to the east of Madrid, I take two buses and the metro. It’s not a fun commute, but it is what is. I try to make the most of my time by reading or listening to podcasts.

Here's a typical day in the life of an auxilar de conversación in Madrid, Spain!
I know I complain about all the time I spend on buses, but I’m fortunate Madrid has such good public transportation. Image Credit: Sharon Hahn

Time for School

9 a.m. to 10 a.m. – English class with second graders. I was with the same group last year, and it’s been so rewarding watching them grow. It’s amazing how much they’ve learned in just one year. My classroom duties vary from helping individual students to pronouncing vocabulary words to, occasionally, leading the class. Inés, the lead teacher and bilingual coordinator, is a pleasure to work with, and I’m happy to assist her in any way I can. 

10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. – This year, I have a 45-minute break in my Thursday schedule. My school was very apologetic, but unfortunately, there was just no way around it. It hasn’t been bad, though. I use the time to check my email and plan for private classes I have later in the day.

10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – After the break, I rejoin Inés and the second-grade class for science. We alternate between units of social science and natural science. Since the school is bilingual, science and art are also part of the English curriculum. Right now, we’re studying the human body!

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – Time for a break! Students go out to the playground for recess, and I go to the teachers’ lounge for a cup of coffee. In addition to coffee, the cooks set out a snack for the teachers. My favorite snack is tortilla de patata. Yum. 

Here's a typical day in the life of an auxilar de conversación in Madrid, Spain!
Tortilla isn’t very photogenic, but I swear it’s delicious! Image Credit: Jessica Spengler

English, English, English and More English

12:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. – The rest of the afternoon is spent with Inés and the first-grade class. It’s the students first year in the bilingual program, but they’ve been progressing steadily thus far. First, I assist in the English class. Then, science. 

2 p.m. to 3 p.m. – The students leave, either for home or the dining hall, but I still have another hour of work. A small group of teachers meets in Inés’ classroom for our weekly English conversation group. The levels vary greatly, so a fluid conversation can be difficult, but we do what we can.

3 p.m. – Finally time to eat lunch. I eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge with some of my colleagues. In Spain, lunch is the main meal of the day, and the cooks put out quite a spread. There’s always a first course, second course, bread, salad and dessert. Definitely worth the 4 euros. When my mouth isn’t full of delicious food, I converse with my fellow teachers in Spanish. This year, I’m trying to use every opportunity to practice. 

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. – Once I’m finished eating, it’s time for my side hustle aka private classes. I have four private classes every week. All but one of them are on Thursday! My first class is with César. He’s the Dean of Students at my school, and we meet in his office. César is studying English because he enjoys traveling. A few years ago, he visited New York City and, like so many Spanish people, fell in love. 

4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. – After my class with César, I catch the bus then metro back toward Madrid. I’m headed in the direction of home, but it’s far from time to actually go home. 

5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. – I have my second private class of the evening with a 10-year-old girl named Lucía. Lucía doesn’t go to a bilingual school but still has English classes as part of her curriculum. I help her with her homework for the majority of the hour, but the last 15 minutes or so, we play games. 

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – In a café just around the corner from Lucía’s house, I meet with my third and final student of the night: José. José is a new student of mine and has a really high level of English. Our classes are strictly conversational, which I prefer because grammar can be so ugh. He’s nice and easy to talk to. In our first class, we chatted about Game of Thrones for almost the entire hour. 

Here's a typical day in the life of an auxilar de conversación in Madrid, Spain!
Spain loves Game of Thrones. In fact, the scenes in Dorne’s water gardens were filmed in Sevilla! Image Credit: Amanderson02

Home, Sweet, Home

8:15 p.m. – Home at last. Since I don’t work on Friday, I like to pick up a bottle of wine from the grocery store to celebrate the end of my week. I pour myself a glass and wait for Taylor to get home from his private classes. 

9:30 p.m. – Dinner time. I’ve definitely adopted Spanish meal times and, generally, don’t eat until late. Even though I ate a big lunch, I’m starving. There’s no time to snack with my back-to-back-to-back private classes. 

10 p.m. – After dinner, I might watch a movie with Taylor, who works on Friday and has to stay in, or meet up with friends for drinks. At this point, the day is really catching up with me, and it’s almost impossible to get me up off the couch. I tend to reserve going out for Friday and Saturday nights. 

Midnight – If I stayed in, it’s time for bed. If I went out, I’m usually heading home. I like to get a decent night’s sleep and wake up with Taylor on Friday morning in order to have a productive day. 

What do you think of my typical Thursday as an auxiliar de conversación? Do you want to apply to the North American Language and Culture Assistants program?

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