Auxiliar de Conversación: A Day in the Life

Have you ever considered living in Spain for a year to teach English? Maybe you already applied to work as an auxiliar de conversación in Spain but don’t know what to expect? Here you’ll find a detailed summary of my day as an auxiliar de conversación while employed by the Comunidad de Madrid under the Consejería de Educación e Investigación.

Early Morning

I get up at 6:30 AM and proceed to get ready, eat something and have coffee. I walk a few minutes to the metro stop closest to where I live and catch the metro around 7:45. After moving here I was lucky to find an apartment close to my ideal subway line, so it’s a straight shot to get to the public, non-bilingual high school I was assigned to work at.

Morning Work Schedule

I’m on the metro for around 30 minutes and I get to the high school at 8:20. I start assisting in English classes when school starts at 8:30. In my case, I work with four different teachers in the English department, and the students are between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. The education systems in Spain and the United States are somewhat different, so the particular instituto/secondary school that I work at is a middle and high school combined (this can differ depending on the population of the surrounding area, whether it is a public/private/charter school, etc.).

Learn about the Spanish education system from the organization itself through this auxiliar guide; see pages 3-7.

Today there is a students’ strike (the exact goal of the “strike” remains unclear to me, but it seems like it was a good reason for the older kids to skip class). There are only 3 students in my first class, so the teacher and I discuss topics for future presentations that I will give. We also pass the time talking about differences between Spanish and American healthcare systems.

I get my materials from the teachers’ lounge and head to class #2 to find that they have an exam today. The teacher tells me that I’m not needed, so I go back to the teachers’ lounge to read until my next class.

Class #3 is made up of about 40% gamberros (hooligans), 60% decent kids. With this particular professor I tend to teach a lot, so I pretty much spend the whole hour yelling over the few kids who won’t shut up; Discipline is very rarely utilized at my assigned school. The students generally pay no attention and the majority don’t have much prior knowledge of English, so it takes 10-15 minutes to explain instructions for the exercises.

Recreo (Mid-day Break)

There’s a half hour break between 11:00 and 11:30 AM, so the students run out to the courtyard, screaming and pushing each other. The younger kids eat their bocadillos (sandwiches) and the older ones head to the front of the building to smoke a couple of cigarettes. I tend to go for a walk or grab a small sandwich from the school’s cafeteria.

Afternoon Work Schedule

After the break, as the auxiliar I have an hour assigned to practice English conversation with whichever professor is interested. Although they are sometimes busy grading papers or planning lessons, today I chat with a teacher about current events and about differences between Spanish and American cultures. I help her translate some phrases and better understand English phrasal verbs.

My last class is from 12:30 to 1:30 PM, although, depending on the day of the week, this varies by an hour or two. Because I help with different groups of students every hour of each day (I only have one class repeat twice a week in my schedule), some classes are better than others. Certain days I have mostly “good” classes while a few times a week I help “teach” some extremely difficult students, most of whom are gypsies (which unfortunately coincides with negative stereotypes). Their collective misbehavior – screaming, shouting, moving consistently and sometimes becoming violent – makes me anxious to end my “work day”, which wasn’t even that long to begin with

Most auxiliares in Spain work between 16 and 22 hours per week and are paid 700 or 1000 euros per month, depending on the region.

I catch the metro around 1:30 and catch up on a TV episode that I downloaded to watch offline. The metro becomes packed as we get closer to Madrid center, but I’m able to spend half the ride in a seat.

After Work

During the afternoon, one of two things usually happens:

1) I go home to eat something, relax for a bit and head back out to teach private English lessons, or

2) I go home to eat something, relax for a longer “bit”, exercise, etc.:

Considering I only got 6 hours of sleep the night before, I contemplate taking a siesta (nap). According to science, the ideal siesta length is 30 minutes, but considering that socializing in Spain doesn’t tend to start before 8:30 PM, it’s difficult to get a full 8 hours of sleep with my job. Most Spaniards hear what time I get up in the morning and gasp in horror. Oh, the luxury of working a nine-to-five…

After I drag myself out of the house, I head to the gym. Despite my restrictive salary, I continue to justify the cost of a gym membership, which is 25 euros per month. Exercising consistently keeps me happier, and it helps me be able to enjoy the endless supply of tapas and cheap wine that Spain has to offer.

Check out my post about some of Spain’s “can’t-miss” foods here.

When I get back from the gym I make a small-ish second lunch for myself. I shower and then either get in touch with family or do some freelance work. While in this job, I’ve also spent a lot more time than I’m willing to admit watching Friends and How I Met Your Mother. As an auxiliar it can be easy to have a seemingly endless amount of free time, but there isn’t a whole lot of extra money to throw around for activities.

Evening

Towards the end of the day I might get together with friends, go to the park, take a walk or call family if I couldn’t catch them earlier. If I’m lucky I’m able to catch a friend or get ahold of my mom.


So, there you have it! As amazing as it can be to live abroad, most of it is just that: living life, similarly to how you would at home, but among new people, in a new place, speaking a new language, etc. It can be overwhelming, but it is definitely an experience that I wish everyone would have – I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Have you ever lived in a country other than your own? Would you ever consider doing it for a year? Feel free to comment or email me at allisonldooley@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: Every auxiliar’s experience differs depending on their assigned school’s location, social environment and supervisor involvement.

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ESL Portfolio

My name is Allison Dooley and I am from the United States. Although I studied public relations while at university, I looked forward to being an auxiliar de conversación (language assistant) in Spain in order to convey to kids that learning a new language can be extremely valuable. My prior expectations of the program were limited, but I anticipated the opportunity to explore the field of education and to give back to a country and a people that had already taught me so much about myself, about European culture and about the country’s own customs.

Placement: IES Arturo Soria

The school that I was assigned to, IES Arturo Soria, is located in the Hortaleza area of central Madrid. The teachers at the school are very dedicated and tolerant of the occasional student’s unwillingness to learn. The school is not bilingual and does not participate in activities such as Global Classrooms, so I was initially presented with communication issues; Because the students’ confidence in working with English is somewhat low, it was and is necessary to have patience in trying to communicate a command, an idea or an explanation to the students.

Although this job can be a challenge at times, I consider myself lucky to be teaching at this school because of the supportive, encouraging atmosphere.

Teaching Experience

At Arturo Soria, I am assigned to teach 1o ESO through 2o Bachillerato – these classes typically consist of students between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Because the school is not bilingual, I only assist with teaching English language and grammar. As an assistant focused on helping students practice English as a second language, my goal for the students is primarily to raise their level of awareness as to how useful English skills could be for their respective professional futures.

As for myself, my personal goal as an auxiliar de conversación at this school is to offer my knowledge about the United States and about the English language in a way that keeps students engaged. I feel as though I am most successful at working towards this goal when I present my own presentations to the class, helping to attract the focus of a few additional students that would never pay attention if we were to follow a lesson from a textbook. Such presentations have included:

Original Educational Presentations (Ages 12-18):

My Experience

Overall, my experience as an auxiliar de conversación thus far has been rewarding. My contributions to the program have been beneficial to the teachers whom I assist and (I hope) to the students at the institute, but more than anything I have been challenged. Through being a language assistant I have strengthened certain skills such as leadership, cooperation and communication, as well as learned new skills altogether. My new skills include things like how to lesson plan, how to effectively communicate an idea to an ESL audience, and how to build trust with coworkers of different backgrounds and nationalities.

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Auxiliares Project: 2018-2019

Proyecto Final by Allison Dooley

Auxiliares de Conversación 2018-2019

IES Arturo Soria, Comunidad de Madrid

Topic: Rutinas Diarias

Subject Area: Days

Students’ Grade: Primero ESO

My final project represents pedagogical innovation in the way that it employs a combination of interactive and digital activities. Although writing exercises and worksheets are an essential part of learning English as a second language, digital activities are of increasing necessity due to students’ lessening capacity to devote attention to one topic for a considerable length of time. This final project and the resources included in it can be adapted for use at other levels of study by incorporating more advanced vocabulary, additional analytical exercises and/or the utilization of further comprehensive skills. The basic formats of the enclosed resources could also be adapted to address other topics or subjects.

Outline:

What topic are you teaching?

My final project revolves around teaching students of 1o ESO about how to describe daily routines in English.

What are your objectives?  

The objectives are to 1) ensure individual participation from each student, 2) encourage prolonged engagement through the use of both group and digital activities, 3) promote the practice of English speaking skills regarding the relevant topic.

What materials are you going to use?  

The majority of the materials used are digital activities shared with the class by projector. Such digital activities include videos and games in the form of power points or PDF presentations.

What is the timing for your lesson?  

The materials included in the final project can either be combined to fill an entire instruction time or to be used individually by the language assistant as supplemental materials.

What is the teacher’s role?  

Based off of the project that I have designed, the teacher’s role can vary; the materials can be utilized exclusively by the teacher, shared through instruction by both the teacher and the auxiliar, or used through primary direction by the auxiliar (this can vary depending on the teacher’s instructional or pedagogical preferences).

What is your role as a language assistant?  

My role as a language assistant is to foster a more relaxed atmosphere for students in relation to the instruction of English as a second language, as well as to supplement teachers’ instruction.

How are you and the teacher working to complement each other?  

In relevance to the materials included in this final project, the teacher and the language assistant should work together to encourage participation in activities from each individual student.

What activities are the students going to do?  

The students will utilize oral conversation, reading, dictation, videos and games to learn how to talk about daily routines using present simple.

How will you be evaluating the activities?  

The majority of the activities will be evaluated based off of group and/or individual participation.

How will the students know they have achieved the learning objectives?

The students will know they have achieved the learning objectives by being able to speak at length about daily routines and by being able to recall related vocabulary and phrases in simulated conversation.

How will you be responding to diverse learning styles and levels of achievement among your students?

The ideal way to respond to the diverse levels of achievement among students would be to employ the possibility of one-on-one “conversations” with struggling students. Because some students are stressed by the idea of speaking in front of the group, this technique could help them build confidence in their speaking skills and anticipate better participation in future lessons.

Digital tools and resources to be used for instruction:

  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Student presentations (Rubric for oral presentation provided.)
  • Multimedia content
  • Games and activities


Powerpoint Presentations

Student Presentations

Multimedia Content

Daily Activities Present Simple Song

Daily Routines Song

Present Simple Daily Routines Song English

Games and Activities

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