Surviving My First Week of Teaching English in Spain
Tossing and turning all night, no position I tried could help me fall into my nightly slumber. Maybe it’s just too hot. This bed is just too uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m just not tired enough. None of these were actually what kept me up, at least not in their entirety. The culprit that was robbing me of my precious shuteye was anxiety. I hadn’t “worked” in the traditional sense in 1 year, 6 months, and 18 days if you want to be exact. Arranging travel plans and working on TwoBadTourists can have its moments of work-type stress, but working in this manner over the past year and a half has always been of my own doing. It’s not like the typical expectation of having to show up to work at a certain time, stay a certain number of hours, and accomplish a certain set of goals.
Still, my time had come and our money had left. So although I felt more competent at this point in my life to be working for a travel company rather than teaching English, a language I often butcher myself, there I was the next morning on my way to work where my new colleagues were expecting me. I wasn’t just concerned about my lack of teaching experience, but also my trembling fear of speaking in front of people. Young kids I would not have had a problem with because they still have that innocent and silly character to them. Teenagers, however, are a different story. I was surprised, however, when I stepped in front of my first group of students to find that they were not as I thought: hideous, hormone-enraged, authority-challenging, dramatic little monsters ready to attack the new teaching assistant as the nearest vulnerable prey.
(My idea of teenagers)
They were just kids. That’s it. Just silly, energetic kids. Then it dawned on me…
Holy crap! I’m an adult. I’m an adult and I have authority. I am not in high school any more. So I held back a tear for my long forgotten youth and accepted my newly discovered role with delight. I began speaking with confidence and couldn’t wait to get the conversation going. I introduced myself and then asked if they had any questions for me or about where I am from, hoping this would occupy the thirty minutes I had to kill.
“You back there. You have a question? No? Oh, just scratching your face? Ok.”
Ok, so maybe I’m not immediately adept at my “newly discovered role”. All things in time, right?
I continued to introduce myself to each class of the day, had them ask me questions about myself (they eventually did), and in turn asked them questions as well. It was quite evident that they were all too shy to say much, just as my Spanish friends said they would be. But I’m sure in too short of time they’ll be more talkative than I’d prefer. So I dodged questions like “do you prefer Spanish food or Spanish girls more?” and a thousand “do you have a girlfriend?” questions with tactical evading and general distraction to steer the topic back to anything other than my love life!
This week was fairly simple as it was just a “get to know each other” week. My role throughout the year though is really to just be the assistant to their English teacher. I will occasionally do presentations, work with them on activities from their books, general discussions, etc. The teachers at both my schools (I am teaching 2 days at one school and 2 days at another) are incredibly helpful. They all have offered continual support and advice throughout the week and I have so appreciated their generosity. They’ve made this transition a breeze. In addition, there is another language assistant at one of my schools who is on her second year and has been a great resource for general advice on what I can expect.
Now that I’m feeling more reassured and have met everyone at my schools I believe I will be sleeping much easier tonight. If not, I’ll just have a glass of wine this time.
For those of you who have taught before or continue to do so, feel free to shoot some advice and/or resources my way. I’m always open to suggestions. I am just assisting, but a little creativity on my part would be appreciated I’m sure.