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 old 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 (Recess/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 so, so much 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.

Are you interested in becoming an auxiliar de conversación in Spain? Check out this comprehensive post from Alternative Travelers, which answers common questions such as how to apply, whether you need a TEFL certificate and more.

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

The post Auxiliar de Conversación: A Day in the Life appeared first on ALLISON DOOLEY.

Anne Frank House

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank

Walking through the Anne Frank house, I felt closer to her story than I ever did before in the books I’d read or movies I’d watched about her. She fled persecution, went into hiding, then died in a concentration camp– having lived only 15 years. She was a courageous soul that despite horrific atrocities decided to believe in the good of people. In her diary, she was true to herself and gave a voice, a human story, to the millions that were slaughtered in the Holocaust. And the life that she was given? She lived it to the fullest.

Then, I discovered we share the same birthday. Sharing this day with Anne reminded me of the brevity of our lives– and the subsequent urgency to live and love and learn and fight for what we believe in. She did so much in her short time on Earth amidst tribulations– that we are warranted no excuse.

Chacun voit midi à sa porte.

This French proverb means “Everyone sees noon at his doorstep.” It illustrates that people will always (first and foremost) see their subjective opinions as objective truths. In a world where everyone thinks they are right and argue accordingly, it is more meaningful if we listen to understand and not to reply.

One Year Later: Estonia

One year ago I had about a month and a half left in the country I studied abroad in: Estonia. This was a bitter-sweet time for me. I had just finished my final exams at the university there and was getting ready to travel the countryside of Estonia in rented cars with my friends. I […]

Liberalism is Such a Drag

I have been deeply disappointed in this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. For those who are straight or a far edgier kind of gay than I, RuPaul’s Drag Race is the iconic drag competition show (formatted much like America’s Next Top Model) that, over the past decade, has become a cornerstone of the LGBTQ+ community, […]

Useless Majors

We always see and hear about useless majors. The ones that we shouldn’t even bother to study, especially not in college. They won’t earn you money. They won’t teach you real skills. Besides, isn’t college supposed to be about getting a decent paying job? These inquiries are becoming monotonous. Why study that?

How about this:

“The most dangerous risk of all– the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” -Randy Komisar

So, pursue what you love unapologetically. And by the way, those seemingly minor comments on how some can’t see the practicality of an area of study…?

Noise.

If we’re going to talk about practicality and reality, how about the reality that we’re going to die. How about the practicality that even if we pursue a high paying major and job, we can still fail?

Let me hand it over to Will:

Reality is a human construct. So, don’t be held back by constructs created by humans no smarter than you. This sentiment goes beyond majors. It extends to and beyond all the goals in your life.

Still not convinced? That’s okay. You don’t have to be. 

Thank You, Langton Hughes

Over the winter break, I picked up a dusty book from my bookshelf that contained poems from American poets. I was a try hard when it came to trying to like poetry.

But, I just couldn’t find poetry that made my heart leap, and my soul weep.

Then, Langston Hughes with his jazz poetry came along. Call me a fish, but I was hooked. *ba-dum-tshh*

I used to regard poems as confusing and downright alien. But, I couldn’t be more wrong. Poems are open to interpretation, and some are full of riddles. But, the most unique poems possess an unspoken communication that strikes the mind.

I highly recommend reading some of Hughes poetry because of both the vibrancy of his style and the truth in his words. I enjoyed how his poems have a light rhythm, but heavy undertones to address rather impassioned subject matters. Here are a few lines from some of my favorite poems of his:

“So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.”

“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

“My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black?”

“I wonder what makes
A funeral so high?
A poor man ain’t got
No business to die.”

On Closure

When I was in ninth grade a teacher posed this question to our first year rhetoric class: “If you could live forever, being eternally reincarnated and always remembering your previous incarnations, would you?” I was extremely surprised to discover how many of my classmates would turn down this opportunity, saying that all of eternity would […]