We have officially been in Madrid for 2 weeks now and I have just finished my first week of work!
I am back in the employment saddle and legally so!
I have returned to my chalky roots and re-engaged with teenage angst.
I am back in front of a classroom as an Auxiliary English Teacher in a public bilingual secondary high school.
And I am loving it! (Yes, I know it’s only been a week and I have plenty of time to un-love it).
While I detailed in a previous post the difficulty for non-European nationals to obtain work in Spain, there is one pathway you can take via the Spanish Ministry of Education. The program seeks native English speakers with university degrees to be Auxiliares de Conversación and cultural ambassadors for their respective countries. You are primarily required to assist the Spanish students to improve their English skills. I have already taken on my cultural representative responsibilities by delivering lessons on basic Australian facts – geography, weather, language, food and Aussie cultural ‘norms’.
The gist is: you work 16 hours per week (4 days) for about 1000 Euro per month.Which for me means: doing something I enjoy, I can improve my Spanish, every weekend is a long weekend and cover the cost of travel in Europe.
I am working in a good school, with good students – to my fellow teachers in the public education in NSW, Australia – you will probably understand that description. The school loves the fact that I am a bit older (almost 30), I have (some) teaching experience and that I have a teaching qualification.
To be fair, the program has received some terrible reviews. Young Adventuress details her (and by the look of it many others) negative experience with pay delays and general disorganisation of the Ministry. My personal experience has been excellent; the Ministry has been organised and willing to take me on at very short notice, my previous secondary teaching experience has been considered and I have been placed in an appropriate position, in a good school with a reasonable travel time from my home and my fellow teachers are interesting, kind and appear really happy to have me on board.
And so as I eat my queso y jamón in the staff room at lunch time – usually on my own as the Spanish wait until they return home after 3pm to have a long hot meal – the main meal of the day – I compare the differences between Spanish and Australian schools.
- The students in Spain do not wear school uniforms. Apparently they do in some private schools but this is not the norm. We discussed this with the students who were horrified at having to look the same as their peers.Teacher, teacher – but you have to wash your clothes! How do you wear the same clothes everyday if they must be washed?
Teacher, teacher – we have our own style! We do not want to look like everyone else!
- Spanish students are noisy! Yes, they are much more talkative and generally louder than Aussie students. Yes I’m generalising but my fellow teachers assure me that it is simply ‘the Spanish way’.
- Class clowns are class clowns – I’m confident this is universal. One difference – in Spain they are obsessed with fútbol and they enjoy mimicking the rowdy crowds.
- The students only have two 20 minute breaks in the day. The time is used for snacking and catching up with friends. Everyone goes home for a hot lunch.
- Some classes (and exams) are taken in the evening. The teachers will either teach in the day or evening or will go home and return later.
- Most Spanish students seem to know very little about Australia and do not understand how I am alive when there are sharks, snakes, spiders and crocodiles. Teacher – everything can eat you there!
My fellow teachers tell me that to Spaniards, Australia is exotic!
Overall – the students and general school structure are very similar to Australia and I would encourage my fellow Aussies to sign up.
To get out to my school I have to catch a train from Madrid city out to the suburbs. It is only about 20 minutes on the train and about 10-15 minute walk on either side.
My first day – I left with plenty of time – found my way to the train station – no problem, negotiated with the station lady about my faulty ticket – mi billete de tren no está funcionando – fixed no problem, train heading in the wrong direction….. – jumped off a few stops later, ran to the other platform, caught the train heading in the right direction – no problem….
I arrived in plenty of time and stopped in at a lovely cafe near the station to order a tea with milk. I received the usual raised eyebrows as tea is usually only requested by people who have a sore stomach and certainly not with milk! The cafe is run by a lovely mother (no English) and her handsome son (lived in London for a year has good English). The son made me a perfect Earl Grey (it must have been perfect as I don’t usually like Earl Grey) and we began to discuss my impending first day as la professora de Inglés. They were delighted! They ensured I had the right directions and sent me on my way with the best of luck!
A few days later, following the same routine (but now I always get the train in the right direction) and I was caught in the rain! Not a sprinkle – but a Darwin downpour minus the warm weather. I raced dripping into the cafe and begged the mother in broken Spanish if I could please borrow an umbrella as I would be late for school. Between my poor Spanish and equally poor sign language she ran out the back and brought me her umbrella!
I immediately adopted her as my Spanish mother – mi madre española!
I assured her I would return the umbrella that afternoon – she assured me that tomorrow would be fine.
I returned the umbrella today and they were delighted to see me. The son said it was no problem and asked how my week was.
Instant friends – lifetime customer.
It was great! I responded – I’ll see you on Monday.