Image Credit: M. Peinado (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing a typical Thursday in the life of an auxiliar de conversación. Today, I thought I’d give you the rundown of my typical Wednesday. Like I’ve said before, though, each and every day is different. These posts are intended to give you an idea of what a day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación is actually like.
“Typical” days (do teachers really even have typical days?!) vary from region to region, city to city and, even, school to school. For reference, I’m an auxiliar in Madrid, and I split my time between two primary schools.
If you like what you read and decide to apply to the North American Language and Culture Assistants program, bear in mind there is no guarantee your experience will be anything like mine. If there was, though, what kind of adventure would that be? Applications open in January, people!
A(nother) day in the life of an auxiliar de conversación
You know you’re getting older when setting your alarm for 8:30 a.m. means sleeping in. Wednesday mornings are definitely the most tranquil mornings of my work week. By the time I get out of bed and amble into the kitchen, Taylor already has breakfast ready. Since he starts work at 9 a.m., he’s usually dressed and packing his things to go. I pour myself a cup of coffee before starting in on breakfast. This morning, he made oatmeal, which I scooped into a bowl and topped with honey.
After saying goodbye to Taylor, I drink my coffee and eat my oatmeal while I scroll through Twitter and Instagram. It’s so nice not to have to rush. I take my time getting ready before going downstairs to catch the bus. The stop is right outside my apartment building. Unlike my Tuesday and Thursday school which requires an hour and 15-minute commute, it only takes me 25 minutes to get to my Monday and Wednesday school. I take the bus a few stops then switch to the metro. The school is located in the southeast part of Madrid.
I’m supposed to begin working at 10 a.m., but it’s more of a soft start time. Many days, the first-hour class runs over, and we don’t get going until at least five or 10 minutes after the hour. No pasa nada, though. I start the day with one of two second grade classes. We only meet once per week, but I’m proud to say they’re improving. As an assistant, I don’t normally lead classes, but with the second graders, I do. It’s a nice change of pace and good practice since next year I hope to have a class of my own. I start the hour with a slew of Youtube videos. We sing our way through the days of the week, the months of the year and the seasons. Later, I introduce or review the current lesson. Right now, they’re learning about pets.
I say goodbye to the second graders (generally, this involves lots of hugs) and make my way to the first-grade classroom. At this school, first grade is the only level that is bilingual, which means half the curriculum is in English. I work with Alicia, who is the school’s bilingual coordinator. She is Spanish, but when I first met her, I thought she was British. That’s how good her English is.
Today, the first graders took their first test of the year. It was kind of a mess with students working at different paces and not listening to directions. The material wasn’t all that challenging (we’ve been studying school supplies, toys and parts of the body for months now), but they didn’t understand the concept of a test. The students kept looking at each other’s papers or asking us for the answers. The task was made even more difficult because a handful of students can’t read in Spanish, let alone English. A few are still learning how to write. On days like today, I can understand why people criticize the bilingual program.
It’s finally time for the break, and I’m in desperate need of some coffee. Today, I kind of had a headache after the chaos of the test, but normally, I take advantage of the opportunity to practice Spanish. The teachers at my new school have been really welcoming to me. I feel like part of the team.
After the break, it’s back with the first graders. They’re usually a bit wound up after running around on the playground, so Alicia plays some relaxing music to chill everybody out. Today, we practiced our song for next week’s Christmas festival. Do you know “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree”? I sure do. We’ve practiced it approximately one billion times. Next Tuesday, the class is going to perform it in front of the whole school. Each student has a Christmas tree costume made from poster board, which we decorated in class today.
The students leave to go home or eat lunch in the dining hall. Normally, I have an English conversation group with the teachers, but this week, the teachers were busy preparing final grades, so instead of meeting, I stayed with Alicia to work on our Christmas tree costumes. That’s right. We’ll be performing alongside the first graders at next week’s all-school festival.
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The school day is officially over, and I’m starving. I eat lunch in the dining hall with some of the other teachers. Unlike my other school, this school doesn’t have a kitchen, so the food for both the students and teachers is catered. Sounds fancy, right? Not so much. The teachers always make jokes about how bland the food is, but I’m too hungry to care.
I eat quickly, say goodbye and head home. Taylor finished school at 4 p.m., so sometimes, we catch each other on the walk back to the apartment. We hang out for an hour or so before he leaves for his private English classes.
This year, I’m working really hard to improve my Spanish. As part of my efforts, I do three to four language exchanges over Skype every week. All my language partners are native Spanish speakers. I’ve met some through italki, an amazing website/network for language learners, and others at language exchange meetups in Madrid. Today, I talked with Estephanny, whom I met back in October at a language exchange meetup. First, we talked in Spanish for 30 minutes. Then, we switched and talked in English for 30 minutes.
Since I don’t have any private English classes on Wednesday, I use the time to write. In addition to my blog, I also write content for Devour Spain Food Tours. This week, I’m working on a post for the Devour Malaga blog about where to eat in Malaga.
The internet makes learning a new language so incredibly convenient. Every week, I have a one-on-one Spanish class over Skype. My teacher’s name is Rocío, and we’ve been working together for a few years now. Seriously, if you’re interested in learning a language, check out italki! I can’t say enough good things about it!
After my class, I write and work on blog stuff for another hour. Last year, I was super busy with private classes and hardly had a moment to myself during the week. This year, I’m making writing a priority. I advise all auxiliares to make sure they have a hobby before coming to Spain. When you only work 20 hours per week, you have a lot of free time, and you can’t spend all of it eating tapas. I also don’t recommend running yourself ragged giving private English classes. Take advantage of the open schedule to do something you “don’t have time” for in the U.S.
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Taylor usually does the cooking, but on Wednesday nights, I try to get dinner started before he gets home from his private classes. Tonight, I’m planning on making chicken with broccoli and sweet potato. We don’t have a table in our apartment, so we either eat dinner sitting at the breakfast bar or on the couch. After dinner, I’m hoping to watch an episode or two of Bates Motel before I have to get ready for bed.
I drag myself away from Netflix and get ready for bed. I read a few pages (maybe a whole chapter if I’m not too tired) of Harry Potter. I’m rereading the books in Spanish, and my goal is to finish the series before June. I’m currently on El Prisonero de Azkaban.
Time for bed! My alarm is set for 6:45 a.m. I need a good night’s rest before tackling Thursday, which is my longest days of the week. Buenas noches.
If you’re an auxiliar or language assistant, what’s your typical day like? If you’re not, what do you think of my typical day? Let me know in the comments!
I am about to head to Madrid to be an aux at an infantil/primaria school.
I was wondering if you could give me a rundown of your experience working with young children. What was the schedule like? How did you prevent yourself from getting sick, etc? I’m also curious what school you were at.
Alex | Backpacking Brunette says
Hi Maya, so exciting that you’re headed to Madrid soon! If you haven’t yet, I suggest you check out this post about my experience as a language assistant. I had kind of an odd schedule where I split times between two schools. I never met another auxiliar in the same boat! One of my schools was in San Fernando and the other was in Serracines. Neither was even remotely close to the city center where I lived. As far as preventing sickness, I recommend you get a flu shot before you leave the US. They’re not as common in Spain. I always carried hand sanitizer and washed my hands a billion times in the winter when the kids were at their snottiest. Even so, I got pink eye my first year! Unfortunately, getting sick is just a part of working with kids. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any other questions or DM me on Instagram (@alexnotemily).