Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación

While being an expat in Spain may sometimes seem glamorous from the outside, my day to day life is far from the extraordinary. So what am I actually  doing over here? Drinking sangria and watching bullfights all day? (Not quite.) Much like most of the people I know back home, I also have a job that involves waking up early, commuting, and subsequently battling a serious caffeine addiction. Here's a peek into my daily routine as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid:



It may still be pitch black outside, but it's time to get up and start guzzling coffee!


It takes me an hour to get from my apartment in the city center to my school in Galapagar, which is located in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. Although it's far, it gets me out of Madrid's pollution and into the fresh country air. I also get to watch the sun rise over the city skyline during my bus ride, so I really can't complain.


Time to brace myself for countless hugs and greetings such as, "Good morning, Teacher!", "Teeeacher, you look bery pretty today!", and "Hello, Corni!" (It's seemingly impossible for most Spaniards to pronounce my name. But at this point, it's endearing.) I spend the next five hours teaching English, Science, and Arts & Crafts to my darling third and fourth graders. I'm just a language assistant, so I'm always working alongside another teacher and I (almost) never run the classroom by myself.  

Sometimes it's exhausting, but that doesn't stop me from loving every single minute of it. I would have never thought that I'd want to pursue a career in teaching, but this job has convinced me otherwise. My name is Courtney and I want to be a teacher when I grow up.


And thus commences my lengthy return back to Madrid! At this point my stomach is audibly growling, and I'm more than likely complaining about it. 


By the time I get home, I'm absolutely famished. Quick and easy salads, pasta dishes and leftovers are usually my lunches of choice. The Spanish meal schedule is unique in which meals are eaten much later in the day than we're used to back in the States. Believe it or not, 3:30 is actually a normal time to be eating lunch around here.

Time to relax at home sweet home


Once or twice a week I use this time to actually nap, but most days I take advantage of this designated resting time to catch up on blogging and writing, work on the social media for Madrid Food Tour, organize occasional activities for school, catch up on emails and plan upcoming trips.


By this time, I'm ready to do fun things with my friends and explore the city. I'm always up for discovering new hangouts, but more often than not you can find me close to home in Conde Duque or Malasaña. Late afternoons can be spent enjoying glasses of wine or tinto de verano in sunny plazas, having picnics at Templo de Debod, Tinder practicing my Spanish, or bumming around Federal.


...or any other tasty Spanish treat that I'm craving! I also occasionally try my hand at cooking, which  thus far has been pretty successful considering I've only  started one almost-kitchen fire. I love going out to eat and discovering new restaurants, but my English teacher budget can only support so much of that.

There's nothing quite as satisfying as ending the day with a savory tortilla española


Time to finally catch some zzz's. See ya tomorrow, kiddos!


Have you ever taught English abroad? How did your schedule differ?

29 comments:

  1. Haha, lucky you with no private classes, running around the city by bike, etc.! Sounds great!

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  2. I teach one private class per week, but I try to have as few as possible since planning private lessons really stresses me out! Can't say I've ever ridden my bike in Madrid though... riding in the city would absolutely terrify me!

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  3. I think I would have died if lunch was at 3:30 in China! Is elementary school only from 9-2? I think in Korea it was 8:30-2:30 and I was always so jealous of the kids for getting out just a little earlier than Americans. But then, a lot of Korean kids head to private schools after public school so I guess it's not a win after all.

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  4. I love day in the life kinda posts, especially one from an English teacher perspective! Has it been difficult to adjust to the later meal times? I like everything about Spain besides the schedules... dealing with siesta hours and late meal times. (What do you mean you're closed at 2pm? And why can't I have dinner at 7???)

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  5. My schedule is pretty similar, but with private lessons thrown in most days. Also, I have 1st period through 7th period on Mondays which makes for a loooong day.

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  6. Oy, as if Monday's weren't hard enough!!

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  7. I've heard that about Korea! I've also heard that a lot of students there sleep through their public school classes, because apparently private school matters more. Is that true? Elementary schools in Spain either go from 9-2, or 9-4 with a two hour lunch break in between classes. I really lucked out with a school that ends at 2!!

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  8. At first adjusting to the meal schedule was really hard, but after a year I've finally embraced it. Although sometimes it's still pretty frustrating to not be able to do errands during siesta time, since the afternoon is usually the time of day that I like to get stuff done. Especially when the post offices and banks close at 2 and don't open up again all day!!!

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  9. Yeah, it's pretty much true. Public schools are free and kind of overcrowded, so I guess kids focus more on private schools since the classes are smaller. And they're pretty expensive. Private school is such a snowball thing - students might need the extra tutoring to stay ahead in lecture-based classes, then everyone does it to stay competitive, and tuition fees/schools become status symbols. . .it's such a mess!


    My Korean middle school had an hour and a half lunch break I was also jealous of. It's so sad when you realize that American kids get a half hour of recess.

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  10. Omg give me this schedule back please!!!! *cryingforever*

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  11. Love this post and especially your point about getting up early like the rest of the world, commuting in Madrid is just as lengthy as other big cities! And that tortilla picture is to die for...missing that dish so much!


    www.madeforelise.com

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  12. ...That sounds pretty much like me, except I might be having around 8-students-worth of private classes (thank God a lot of them run together!!)...

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  13. I feel that Cassandra... I have 1st to 7th Monday and Tuesday blehhhhh .. Love this post!! We so hardly give a real insider look :)

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  14. Oh my! That would definitely be too much for me to handle! I get waaaay too stressed out by private classes to ever do that. More power to ya!

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  15. You! Come back to Madrid please!! *cryingeverytimeIpassDeVinos*

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  16. Thanks! It's true, commuting is never glamorous no matter where you are. And there is nothing better than tortilla! I seriously can't live without it now!

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  17. Thanks for sharing! My schedule is similar, except that I'm at an adult language school which means the majority of my classes are at night, 5 to 9pm. It's not terrible, but it's difficult to schedule private classes, especially with kids. Also, living in a smaller city, Logroño, gives me a shorter commute, 20 minutes. There are obvious disadvantages of living in a smaller city though...I'm also really hungry for tortilla now!

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  18. Sounds pretty great with me! All I want is to be able to finally get my visa and be able to start teaching again, I so very miss that morning cheerfulness!

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  19. I always love reading day-in-the-life-of posts by us auxiliares, because while there is always so much we have in common, things are also always so different, too! I had your schedule my first year when I was down south in Jaén—the typical 9am-2pm day, which meant lunch around 3:30pm…rough. In Galicia my school has a split schedule so everyone goes home between 1pm and 3:15pm, so lunchtime comes a lot earlier on schooldays than before ^_^


    Also, I'm right there with ya about the whole teaching-one-private-class thing. Lesson planning gives me a lot of anxiety, too, so I'm currently only giving one conversation class to a married couple this year. Am trying to pick up a few more, because €€€, but still.


    Good luck being the Madrid Food Tour intern this year! I've been enjoying all the Instagrams so far.

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  20. That's crazy! I don't think my Spanish students could EVER survive two school days in one!!

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  21. Kind of a bummer that your classes are at night, but then again, right about now I'd give ANYTHING to sleep past 9 am everyday! How do you like teaching adults? This year I have to teach conversation classes to my colleagues every other week, but teaching grown ups really intimidates me!!

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  22. The morning cheerfulness of students just can't be beat! (*As long as you're sufficiently caffeinated... hahaha.)

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  23. Do you live close to your school in Galicia? As painful as it is to have a late lunch every day, a midday lunch would drive me even more nuts since my school is so far away.


    And thank goodness I'm not the only auxiliar who gets stressed out by planning private classes! I was beginning to think that I was crazy. It's so easy to come up with activities for a classroom full of 25 kids when you have textbooks and materials to work from, but planning a private lesson takes so much more creativity. It can get overwhelming pretty fast!

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  24. Love this! I love those 'day in the life of' and it's fun to hear of how it is to be teaching in Spain - not going to lie, you're almost convincing me to ditch the UK to head down to Spain to teach! It's crazy how long your school day seems to be - hope you get breaks ;) but it's cool that you get to be done at 2 and make your way home for what looks like lots of amazing food, wine and down time :)

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  25. Teaching adults is pretty fun, but I think at the beginning they are more embarrassed to speak English in front of a native speaker.

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  26. Yes, I also remember the dread of hearing the first bus load of children arriving at school at ten to nine!

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  27. I can't lie, it's a pretty good gig! And it's probably a lot warmer than it is in Scotland!!

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  28. I'm teaching English abroad too, right now! And absolutely loving it. I teach high school kids in China.

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  29. Fascinating insight! Your commute sounds SO far, but a beautiful sunrise would help a lot :)

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