A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar: What Teaching is Like for a Language and Culture Assistant

typical day for a language assistant

When you’ve applied and been accepted to a teaching program in Spain, the waiting game begins. Where will you be placed? Will you be with kids, teens, or adults?

We’re vets of the Ministry of Education and CIEE programs, respectively, and Cat was thrilled to work in a high school, away from the little ones and their runny noses!

She shares what her typical days were like, amidst commuting to a village outside of Sevilla, teaching her students English, art and music, and giving private lessons in peoples’s homes:

COMO_Teaching high school

8:00: Time to wake up! I spend most nights at my boyfriend’s across town. It’s far less noisy and he has no roommates to deal with, so I sleep better (and get fed!). He’s already left for work, so I use my set of keys to lock the door.

I ride the rentable Sevici bike through the center of town and over the river.  I’d normally hate commuting like this, amidst morning traffic and commuters on foot, but the ride energizes me before a long day of work, private lessons and French class.

8:30: We have a bombona and not enough hot water to shower one right after another, so my assigned time this year is first thing in the morning. I shower, make some toast and coffee and grab my books for my lessons that day. I have four – English, Bilingual Art, Two-on-One conversation and bilingual music.

9:30: Felisabel gives me a ride to school every morning. She has been like a second mother to me, and offers to give me a lift for free in exchange for helping her with her English during the ride. She’s the art teacher and preparing for her B2 exam, so we do a lot of chatting about her family, her job and weekend plans.

Secondary schools in most areas of Spain begin at 8:30 am, but my schedule has me working the majority of my classes in the latter half of the morning and early afternoon. My bilingual coordinator took into account my commute after I looked sleepy in my first year’s early classes!

Spanish students

I really lucked out with my school: I get along well with my coworkers, am treated like another staff member, and my bilingual coordinator trusts me to lead classes. I wouldn’t have done three years as an assistant if I couldn’t have actually helped prepare curriculum – I would have been restless!

10:30: We arrive to the high school and Felisabel signs in. I grab a coffee at the machine and my photocopies for class. Our first lesson, art, is really technical drawing, and the concepts I’ve been covering are bordering on geometry. I team-teach this class twice a week with Felisabel to our crop of bilingual babies. They’re in 2ESO, which is equivalent to 8th grade. My bilingual coordinator hand-picked these students to be the guinea pigs in the school’s bilingual program.

While Felisabel checks their work, I teach my students how to use protractors to bisect angles. Not at all what I had imagined doing as an auxiliar, but my skill set is definitely getting larger.

11:30: Rather than a bell, we have music at passing periods. It’s recreo, or second breakfast time, so I join some of my coworkers in a bar down the road for my second toast and third coffee of the day. The other assistant, Yasmine from Turkey, joins us as well. There’s usually a fight over who picks up our breakfast tab.

cafe con leche

photo by Jessica Wray

12:00: My class at noon is a plain and simple English class with the school’s youngest students, 1ESO. Like the 2ESO students, this class is full of eager kids who have signed a class contract to only speak in English. Their teacher, Miguel, is creative and caring.

They’re studying for their final speaking exam, which is a simulation of a trip to a small town in England. At the end of the term, I help organize the so-called Helichville, where students are to pass through customs and perform a series of tasks in English to get stamped on their passport. We have sets, props and a dozen other native speakers take part.

13:00: I have a break from the students but am still on the clock, giving conversation classes to two teachers interested in joining the bilingual program the following year.

old compis

Teachers at the high school level must have a certificate proving they can speak English and therefore lead classes in a second language, so we review classroom language and topics specific to their areas of expertise: technology/shop and history. We meet in an unused office, or sometimes on the patio of the school if the weather is nice.

14:00: The last class of the day is a treat: I teach music with Emilio, an accomplished singer and passionate educator. Having studied music myself, he and I fit together nicely. Twice a month, I give recorder classes, and then we learn theory of music and sound on the other days. Emilio is creative and finds ways to allow students to come up with the topics they want to study.

15:00: My coworker in the English department, Valle, takes me home this time, dropping me off about three blocks from my house. Olivares is only 10 miles from Seville, but it takes us nearly 40 minutes to get back to the city via country roads. I only take the bus home on Monday afternoons, in lieu of sticking around an hour for a ride.

15:30: I drop my things, make a quick sandwich and grab a bag of chips from a convenience store on the way to the metro. Despite my best efforts to organize my tutoring, I don’t have time to sit down and have a meal between work and classes.

private lessons

16:00: Luis is a new student of mine, passed along to me by a friend who left Seville. He’s in high school and we share a lot of interests, so it’s easy to plan classes for him. I take the metro from Triana to Gran Plaza, and upon leaving, grab a Sevici and head to Bami.

17:30: Manu is one of my favorite people. At eight years old, he’s full of imagination and class goes by surprisingly quickly (even though he’s jacked up on Cola Cao Turbo). He’s the youngest student I’ve ever taught, but is so easily entertained by games and reading stories in his textbook in funny voices that class flies by.

20:00: I’m taking French class with a friend at her home. After a full day of teaching it’s strange to become the student, and I’m pretty sure my teacher dislikes me because I never study and can’t be bothered making an effort in class.

Spanish Christmas dinners

As if on schedule, Enrique calls right at 9pm to tell me he’s headed towards my neighborhood for a beer. My three-day schedule allows me to fill up my day off with private classes and errands, while leaving a long weekend for travel. I would have continued a fourth year if they had let me!

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Moving to Spain COVER 2015 English

What is Moving to Spain? Your one-stop source on moving to and working as an English teacher in Spain. We’ve compiled 16 years of experience into an easy-to-read, sometimes funny but ultimately helpful eBook that details everything from packing, paperwork, to teaching private classes and more!

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Cat worked as an assistant at a high school in Olivares (Sevilla) from 2007 – 2010. She worked four days a week her first year and three days a week thereafter. She regularly sees her former coworkers. You can read more about her three years as a language and culture assistant here.

Author: Cat Gaa

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