Long days, multiple commutes and I’m-fine-thankyous – 7 months in, and the novelty has just about warn off. Here’s a run down of what my day to day life looks like here in Madrid, working as an Auxiliar…
Its 7 am on a Tuesday morning. The first of 3-5 alarms has started going off and its time to start considering waking up. In 45-60 minutes I will crawl out of bed, leaving myself the absolute minimum amount of time needed to throw on some clothes, brush my teeth, and (if its a good day) some moisturiser and foundation. I’ve taken the lack of dress code at my school as sign that it is totally acceptable to wear the same jeans every day. That and my lack of spare cash means I am most certainly less attractive than I used to be.
After an hour commute by foot, metro, and train I’ve arrived at my school in Tres Cantos – the youngest town in Spain. My first day is a Tuesday because I got the short end of the stick and am the only Auxiliar who has to work Fridays. This means I don’t get 4 day weekends on Puentes, and am sick of hearing about those who do (wahwahwah). Apart from that minor grievance, I love everything about my school. I’ve been paired mostly with 6th grade, and overall the behaviour of my critters is not bad at all. Tres Cantos is a wealthy part of town, and although this is your run of the mill public school, I have not been faced with any major behavioural issues, and las sonrisas outnumber los ceños.
Classes are laid back, teacher depending. I spend most of my time marking ‘los Writings’ and practising speaking for PET and KET Cambridge exams. In other classes the most I’ll be left to do is orally mark homework with the class, or sit and help out those who are falling behind. Essentially, I’m just there to help, and that is something that I love.
The Spanish curriculum and teaching method is bizarre. The focus is always on the negative, and when a child scores an 8/10 they’re fixated on the two they got wrong, rather than the 8 that they got right. They study almost the same subject content every year, and the focus is knowing stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. My 3rd graders are about to start a unit on history, where they will be expected to not only grasp the concept of time, but also something about every period there has been, and names and dates alongside. They stare at the board with blank faces and the majority have no idea what is going on. I don’t know why they don’t just teach them the fun stuff, and leave them to grasp the concepts in a later grade when they have the brain capacity to understand… Alas, I have no influence over Education policy, and either way I´m sure they´ll be A OK.
At break time we are treated to a free second-breakfast (I told you TC is wealthy) and as ever the Auxiliars are sat at one end of the table, and the teachers at the other. Relationships between us are fine, but we’ll never be fully integrated, even though we have kinda tried… We’re surrounded by Spanish speakers, but we sit and talk mostly in English. The job has been awesome for my Spanish given that I’m surrounded by native speakers all day, but I’m still speaking more English than I’d liked too… To our amusement, the students are still convinced we barely speak a word of Español. I’m not sure if they’re in denial or what, but it baffles me they haven’t clocked it after all the times they speak to me in Castellano and miraculously I am able to respond… It also baffles me that after 6 years learning English they still haven’t fully grasped the present perfect… I suppose that immersion learning isn’t magic after all.
Class time goes by very quickly. My school took a vote some years ago to change their timetable from 9-2, to 9:30-4:30 with a two hour lunch break in between. Each lesson is 45 minutes and English, Natural Science, Social Science, and Art are all taught in English. Classes are traditional and straight out of the book, and onto the Smartboard. Creativity (or plastica) is allowed once a week, and as a result my students are always taken aback by my bubble writing and occasional doodles on the board. Often I’m asked questions about the inner workings of the English language that I can’t answer, and I have been caught out for bad spelling or pronunciation on more than one occasion… In my defence, we weren’t expected to know the word gymnosperm at 11 years old!
2 hours for lunch is just far too long, so I’ve taken up private classes to fill in the long break (even though I’m technically not allowed). I also teach a theatre class (voluntarily) on Wednesdays, which has become a highlight of my [working] week. Drama is totally absent from the curriculum, and it feels great to give them the opportunity to explore a new art form!
Afternoon classes wizz by, and I’m out the door ASAP to catch my bus back to the city centre. Every day I have a private class to run too. My current age range is anywhere between 8-37 years old. They have often been a pain in the arse and I resent the fact I have to rely on them so much just to get by. They often cancel on short notice, and never really feel worth the journey needed to get to them… Nowadays I’ve managed to cut out all the baddies, and have been left with goodens who are either really cute, interesting, or pay me a decent hourly wage, so its not all bad. I’ll usually get home at about 8pm, unless I hit up Lidl or Dealz on the way. I’d much rather be going to Spanish classes than teaching English, but that seems to be the story of my life these days!
I cook my dinner and head off to the gym, or watch TV. Recently I’ve been really into Antena3 Alli Abajo on Tuesdays, and Buscando El Norte on Wednesdays. I’m a member of the BasicFit Gym chain, because its darn cheap and I have the choice of many locations around the city. I’m usually home between 10-10:30, and am in bed by midnight with dry shampoo in my hair, because there is no way I’m crawling out of bed early to wash my mane in the morning. It is unlikely I’ll get to hang out with friends on weekdays, but I spend the majority of my weekend strolling through the city centre with a companion or two.
I live in Spain, and my life is average…