Sometimes I think a meme like this really does represent a lot of my life as an English teacher in Madrid. However, in my mind teaching is a mixture of “what my friends think I do” and “what I think I do”. The TRUTH is, sometimes life as a teacher assistant in Madrid can be challenging, but it is after a “stressful” week that I take the time to realize how lucky I am and that most of my problems are first world! For me, having a bad day here and there reminds me WHY I STILL LOVE BEING AN ENGLISH ASSISTANT IN MADRID.
1.The 1. Hours– I am a language assistant for 16 hours a week. Nothing more and nothing less – and for the amount of hours I work, I get paid really well! I also have Mondays off. It’s glorious. There are days when I work with a teacher that doesn’t speak English very well and communication can be challenging. I have to take initiative and work harder in that class. It can be draining, but I find myself very content as an Auxiliar if the students are hearing my native English opposed to someone that doesn’t have a strong command of the language. That’s why I’m there. There are other times when the head teacher asks me to lead the class, without warning or time for preparation. (Do they think I’m Google with stored up videos, songs or worksheets?) It always causes a bit of anxiety/surprise but really gives me the opportunity to use my imagination and especially make an impact with the kids. I know whatever they take out of that lesson is a mark I’ve imprinted on them and something I can be proud of.
2.No Scripted Speech– I LOVE the dynamic aspect of being a teacher. Sometimes I have to teach the same lesson to two different groups of students in the same level, but my job is ALWAYS changing. There is always a touch of excitement for the unknown and the diversity I experience between different age groups and lesson topics. Any time I consider complaining about my job or the work put into it I think about what I was doing before this. I was a teller at a bank. I had a scripted speech in which I was required to use a customer’s name a certain amount of times. This was intended to make the conversation more personable. It felt robotic. I even had customers tell me it sounded unfamiliar and generic! Because of teaching in Madrid, there is no way I will ever work in an environment with a scripted speech again. I have learned a lot about what makes me happy, albeit a tiring day here or there. It’s NEVER boring-that’s for sure!
3.Private classes– I have this shopping and traveling addiction so I also work an additional 7 hours a week as a private tutor to supplement my income (and support an addiction). Private tutoring can be very rewarding. Teaching private English classes has helped me develop so much as an educator. Imagine how gratifying it is to break through to a child or adult and watch as their faces and minds light up with comprehension before your eyes! Watching their development is invaluable. This is when I feel like I can part a sea like Moses did in “what I think I do”. Some teachers even prefer private tutoring because of this. Between tutoring, working at the school, and the commuting the hours can make a workday seem so long! Sometimes, I must remind myself that private classes are an option! I CHOOSE to do this. And as mentioned, they are a way for me to support a long-term habit that I have no desire of kicking anytime soon.
4.Traveling- I have a theory that any form of stress can be relieved with a corkscrew and a bottle of wine. But man oh man there is nothing like taking a (long) weekend trip to get away from it all; working, commuting, personal life-whatever. When planned ahead, traveling in Europe is extremely inexpensive. Flights can be as low as 40 euro (about $52). Some of my upcoming getaways include Berlin, Paris, and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Portugal is also a stone’s throw from Madrid and Germany and Italy are only a two or three hour flight away. On top of that trains from city to city in Italy are super cheap! See? What “my friends think I do” is partially true, they just don’t realize I work hard to get there, and cheap airlines make it easy for me. I work 13-hour days three days a week! So having access to these types of trips is like having a loaded benefits package.
5.Living in Madrid/Commuting– I imagine that many people, living in a new city where their native tongue is not the primary language spoken can be very intimidating. Even more so when they don’t speak the language that IS spoken! I speak Spanish and it is still nerve racking for me from time to time. Sometimes I want to boycott Spanish until I realize that having learned it makes living in this city even more wonderful. I live in the center of busy Madrid in a great neighborhood. The neighborhood, full of vintage clothing stores, art galleries, unique book stores and venues that host live music have made my hour commute in the morning and afternoons seem like the least of my worries. I would not choose to live anywhere else, and use my commute to read, plan classes, study, write for this blog, and gossip with my co-workers. Learning and speaking Spanish has also made my time here more enjoyable. I have made lasting friendships with people from all over Europe and other parts of the world. Those friendships really come in handy when I’m missing home or family.
If I’m ever having a rough day I try to remember all of these things. Being fed up with day-to-day life is normal and natural, significantly more when work is involved. But regardless of how I ever feel I know that I have choices. And how I feel at the end of a day is ultimately about my attitude and perspective. And judging by this article, I have nothing to complain about. -Jamie James