My Experience as an Auxiliar de Conversación
I am a Filipino Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid. I moved to Madrid last year in September 2017 and I am in my second year as a language assistant. The experience has been great, that’s why I renewed! In this post, I will share with you my experience as an Auxiliar de Conversación in a secondary school in Madrid. This post might be helpful for you because I had no idea what it was like as a language assistant. I entered the program clueless and I wish I had known more about it before applying. I received a lot of inquiries about my experience so I decided to write another post about the program. Keep commenting and sending me e-mails, please! I appreciate every single message and I’m thankful you find my posts useful. :-)
My job as a language assistant
I do not teach grammar like the tenses (past, simple, future) and different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.). I teach vocabulary and pronunciation. We have books and we either listen to the audio from the digital books or I read them to the class. I say the words and they have to repeat after me. The teacher and I translate the words or I define them without translating into Spanish.
We also use their workbooks/activity books and we answer the questions. I sometimes give them time to answer but if not, we answer together.
Reports and Presentations
There are days when I am asked to prepare presentations. We are also considered as cultural ambassadors and since I am from The Philippines, I share my culture with my students. I was once asked to present about the environment and I shared the environmental disasters in my country. On my first week of school, I made a presentation about myself, my family, and country.
I also make presentations about different holidays and celebrations like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the Philippines so I had to research more on the American side of Thanksgiving. I try to make the presentation fun sometimes by adding games and if I’m feeling generous, I give prizes.
Online resources are your best friend! Just google “ESL Worksheets” on Google and you will be given a plethora of materials you can use inside the classroom (I’ll link them at the bottom of this post). If you work with kids, Pinterest will also become your best friend. I also answer English quizzes online with my students. These are useful if you still have time to spare.
There are short films on YouTube (TheCGBro and Disney). I personally enjoy watching them. You can select an animated short film and ask the students questions afterwards. You can also print worksheets of songs and ask the students to fill in the blanks.
Group works and Exams
My school is now incorporating more group projects to the curriculum and so the students have time in the computer room to work with their classmates. I go around the room and my co-teacher and I help the students when they have questions. I also check their work and help them with their grammar.
When my students have exams, some teachers tell me to leave if it’s my last period but I usually offer to stay and watch over the students.
My co-teachers sometimes forget items or need an extra hand so they ask me to get something for them in the faculty room or I make photocopies. I don’t mind doing this at all because the students cannot be left alone so I am the one who does the job for them!
Excursions / Field Trips
I consider myself extremely lucky because I love my students and my co-teachers. I have a great relationship with all of them, maybe that’s why they ask me to join them on their excursions. Also because they need an extra hand. The other teachers have their own classes to worry about, I don’t, so accompanying the students on their trips won’t affect the pace of the lessons. I have been to trips to the Museo del Prado and also a week-long trip to a pueblo in Spain last school year. This year, I went to the Caixa Forum for the Disney exhibit and they also asked me and other teachers to chaperone the students on their trip to Ireland in 2019!
Most of my friends do the same thing as me. The balance of work is just different. For my other friend, however, she is asked to take half of the class to teach on her own. Because of this, she has to lesson often. Each week or day she takes a different set of students so she just repeats the lesson.
The students and their English knowledge
This also varies. It depends on the city and neighbourhood you are assigned in. I have friends who work in “posh” areas so some students are sons and daughters of diplomats, doctors, lawyers, etc. There are also working-class neighbourhoods. The way they act as well as their knowledge of the English language will be different. In my case, I have students who speak great English because they go to an academy after school. I also have students who are hardworking and others who are not. There are students who know nothing in English because they had just moved to the country and had 0 exposure to the language. It can be tough because at their age they should have a substantial amount of knowledge but they sometimes have a hard time speaking the language. That’s where we language assistants come in! If the class is working on a worksheet, you can help a struggling student out.
I was honestly surprised when I started working as an LA last year. The attitude of the students in my school is completely different from how I treated my teachers back in the Philippines. When I get in trouble for being noisy, I get scared and stay quiet the whole time. There were times when my class would buy our teachers something (like a cake) just to cheer them up because we got in trouble for being noisy. I have some sweet students who give us hugs and gifts but when other students are noisy, they don’t listen and go back to talking. Trying to discipline the students can be a challenge and it’s completely different from where I’m from. You just need to have a lot of patience as well as an open mind.
How to be a good language assistant
You must be fluent in the English language. We did not need to show any certification but this doesn’t mean that you get a free pass to work as a language assistant. It also helps to familiarise yourself with the different tenses (simple past, present simple, future, etc.) so that you can follow what the teachers are teaching the students. You should also know the different parts of speech (verbs, adjectives, etc.) and to correctly identify the words you are teaching the students. Social skills are also a must. You can be introverted but as a teacher, you should know how to handle different kinds of people. You should help the students and also socialise with them and your colleagues. Always exert effort and be responsible. You may be choose this program to travel (which was my priority) but this is also a job that must be taken seriously. We only want to hear praises from the teachers about us. ;) It also helps to know Spanish because you can also translate some words for the students (sometimes their teacher does this for them).