auxiliar program, spain

Heart (And Schedule) Full To Overflowing

Here in Castro-Urdiales, the school year is in full swing! I’ve been working for nearly two months at my assigned high school. This looks like the following: Eleven hours in the classroom and one hour of coordination/department meeting. I work in the bilingual classes almost exclusively. The students in Bilingual have to pass a special English exam in the beginning of high school to determine if their English is good enough to be in this program. In Bilingual, the students have the normal required English classes but also art, technology, science, and PE may be taught in English. For me, it means sometimes having to prepare (or just read out loud in class) materials about density, the hyperrealism art movement, jumping rope, or sustainability. I find all my classes extremely interesting and the students have a good level of English. My job is to help figure out vocabulary, assign presentation topics, sometimes do presentations, collaborate with teachers on lesson plans, and above all – pronounce words well. I also correct students’ grammar and pronunciation and lead them in speaking activities. I helped one science teacher devise a game that got every student speaking – each student had to come to the front, choose a random picture of an animal, and “taboo-style” it-  talk about the characteristics of the animal without saying its name and the class had to guess the animal. (Except when it came time to teach the word “beak” the teacher wrote it on the board as “bec” and I didn’t want to correct her in front of everyone …. awkward…)

white owl
Oh hai. I live in the forest. I have feathers and a bec.


How does this year’s school compare with last year? Well, first of all, I know what I’m doing this year much more than last year. I spent SO much time and energy last year planning lessons and stressing over them. Now I have all my lessons saved from last year, so there’s a lot less time spent planning. On top of that, some of my classes just require me to show up and help read things rather than actually present a lesson. The school is bigger as well – 800 students, and I work with 10 different teachers (as opposed to 4 last year). I’m part of the English department and I feel very well taken care of by the teachers and staff. Everyone has been extremely friendly and welcoming. I attend weekly department meetings so I’m much more aware of what’s going on at the school. This year I’m also in a different autonomous community altogether, so no one speaks Basque at school and it’s not even part of the curriculum. Parents who want their kids to learn Basque send them 20 minutes away to schools in Bilbao.




On Becoming Somewhat Famous In Town

I have also picked up a large assortment of private classes (clases particulares) on the side. How many, you ask? FOURTEEN. If I stop to think about it, I get a little light headed, actually. They’ve just appeared out of nowhere it seems. It started with the private academy where I was teaching both young children and high schoolers, but I’ve had to drop most of the hours there due to work permit issues and that I just don’t have enough time. I work with a teacher at school one on one during our off hours, give three in-home private tutoring lessons, and now have the task of running after school workshops two days a week. I’ve also been given the role of Language Assistant at the Official Language School (EOI) in the city six hours a week. I have to thank my friend Ashley for passing it on to me after not being able to accept the role as she’s too busy already. Working in an EOI is sort of a dream come true as I had been hoping for a placement there! So for three hours each Tuesday and each Wednesday, I show up to classes of adults who pay to study English. I work with basic, intermediate, and advanced groups. It. Is. Fantastic. They pay attention, laugh at my jokes (yesss), and make me feel completely at ease in front of them. Sometimes making them speak is difficult (basic level) because they’re embarrassed by their “low levels” of English, but I try to make it fun for them and not take ourselves too seriously. Another reason it’s wonderful working there is because I run into at least one adult student in the street every single day. Buying groceries last week, the cashier said “Hi, you’re Dina, right?” “Um, yes….. oh, are you in my class?” These people are everywhere and it’s so nice to be recognized when I’m out and about. It makes the city feel more like home. On top of ALL these classes, a couple of us are also heading up a weekly language exchange meeting at a bar. We posted signs all over town, created a Facebook page and managed to get ourselves a radio interview (Ashley) and an announcement on the station’s Facebook page as well. Anywhere from 20 to 30 people, cada  vez mas, show up every Wednesday and we distribute ourselves among tables according to language interest. It’s the only event like it in town so people are very excited to have it!

All this leaves me feeling exhilarated, tired, content, and just plain busy. Some mornings I think, “How am I going to do this day?” But at the end of every day I feel satisfied about how it went. I feel overwhelmed and marvel at how it has all come together. While the bureaucracy of living and working here can drag me down at times, I am learning to stop, breathe, and relax while appreciating my life here. I’m looking forward to striking a balance between work, recreational activities, and TRAVEL in the near future.

Some mornings my commute to school looks like this.
Some mornings my commute to school looks like this.