Friday, November 25, 2011

Bullet dodged

As I've mentioned before, I have private classes with two boys every day after work (Every day being Monday through Thursday). The family is Spanish, but the kids go to a British school, so I help them with their homework in English.

Yesterday I was helping the older of the two, who is eleven, fill out diagrams labeling the parts of the male and female reproductive systems (always a fun topic, but wait, it gets better). He had his textbook with more or less the same picture, so all he really had to do was copy. There was just one small problem. The worksheet had more organs, glands, etc to label than were in the book. But never fear, the teacher had anticipated this. His suggestion: If you can't find all of them in the book, use the internet.

Yes, my student had instructions to do his own research on the human reproductive system online. We all know that the internet contains nothing inappropriate for eleven year old children. Even he knew he was likely to see things he didn't want to see. Thank goodness super-tutor Amy was there to save the day. I haven't taken a biology class since ninth grade and don't remember which gland is which, but I do know how to choose my search engine criteria carefully, and we arrived safely at our destination without scarring anyone.

Biology teachers around the world, please don't tell your students to google the reproductive system. I can't be there to shield all of their eyes.

Please excuse the lack of pictures in this post, I assume you'll understand.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seven days, a farm, and 50 eleven year olds

If at any point in your life, you should find yourself staying on a farm in rural Madrid for a week with 50 ten and eleven year old Spanish children as a part of an environmental English camp, here are a few things you can expect:
  • You normally see each group of kids for 2 hours per week, meaning it's been difficult to learn any of their names. But this week, you will know all of them by Tuesday.
  • You will know the three Manuel's and two Sara's by last name.
  • You will learn to tell the twins apart by facial features and by personality.
  • You will make friends with four golden retrievers, five horses, two miniature horses, and countless goats, sheep, and pigs.
  • You will teach the kids how to do the electric slide, which most of them will think is the coolest thing ever.
  • Back at school on Monday they will beg, "Teacher, can we dance?"
  • You will help the girls blow dry their hair after shower time. They will love you playing with their hair, and you will now be able to tell them all apart by the backs of their heads.
  • During said girl-bonding time, some of them will drop their pants to show you their days of the week underwear. "Very good, today is Wednesday. Now pull your pants up."
  • You will here the words "Teacher, can I go to the toilet please?" more than you ever thought possible in your life.
  • You will start having dreams about telling them to put their coats on.
  • By Wednesday you won't have to argue with them any more about the necessity of a coat. The coastal kids will learn that not everywhere has weather like Málaga.
  •  You will realize just how "city" your kids are when a) half of them are afraid of the horses, b) most of the girls still insist on being pretty and sparkly and pink to go on a hike, and c) one teacher whipping out nail polish results in an absolute mob.

  •  All of them will speak in English. Even the ones who are normally terrified and getting them to speak is like pulling teeth.
  • Working seven days straight, rather than your normal 12 hours per week, will be worth every minute of it.
  • You will have an absolutely amazing time and grow to love your kids more than you ever thought possible.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Want my life?

I'm well aware that a good portion of this blog is dedicated to bragging about how awesome my life is. No apologies. I just speak the truth. However, I'm not completely heartless. So I'll let you all in on how exactly I got to be here. Want to teach English in Spain? Here's how.

Option 1: My first year here I came with CIEE, a non-profit organization that arranges the teaching job. They charge a program fee, which varies depending on which of a few programs you choose, and in return they act as a middle man throughout the application process, provide visa assistance and an orientation to help you get your life set up in Spain. They provide tips on everything from cell phones to setting up internet to apartment hunting to lesson planning. You also have the option of adding on Spanish classes and staying with a Spanish family before you start the job. CIEE places only in Andalucía. See their website for full details.

Option 2: This year I applied directly through the Ministerio de Educación, as the vast majority of people do because it's free.

To be eligible for either you must have either a US or Canadian passport, be a native English speaker, have a BA or BS, and have at least an intermediate Spanish level (this one can be fudged a little bit with CIEE´s classes).

Both of these options lead to the exact same job: an English teaching assistant, or auxiliar, in a primary school, secondary school, or official language school for the academic school year. You work 12 hours a week and earn 700€/month (Madrid is a bit different, more hours and higher pay. I'm not sure but I'd imagine Barcelona is similar). So what's the difference?

Pros: Andalucía only and ability to request cities, informative orientation if you need the help, streamlined CIEE application
Cons: $$$$

Pros: Free, all of Spain available
Cons: Only can select preferred regions, not cities, complicated Profex application

I chose to do CIEE mostly because of the Spanish classes offered. Looking back, I could have survived without them; my Spanish was better than I gave myself credit for. However, I´m still glad I did it because of the fantastic experience in my homestay, and for the friends I made during that time who were friends all over Andalucía for the year.

Which ever option you choose, get started now. The application for the 2012-13 Ministerio program opens today (November 7). Complete and submit the online portion of the application in Profex as soon as you can. You´ll get a number that indicates the order in which placements are given out. Last year I submitted within two or three days of the application being open and I was number 104. Don´t worry about mailing in the other documents right now (personal statement, letter of rec, etc), just get them in by the deadline, which I believe is in February.

The timeline: apply now, get placed in your region in February/March, find out your specific school as early as May, start the fun visa process, and be in Spain to start work in Septmeber/October. If you apply with CIEE you´ll probably get your placement information a little sooner, but not by much.

If you have any questions check out the websites for more details, or feel free to ask me at and I can share my experience. Just remember, I´m not an employee or spokesperson for either program, just a current/past participant.

Get started on that application and good luck!

Side note: There are loads of auxiliares here from the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, but I don´t know anything about their application process. Sorry!