The Third Year’s the Charm When Teaching at a Non-Bilingual School
If you’ve just stumbled onto Dreams Abroad and have somehow made it to my page – welcome! If you’re like me, you probably won’t be interested in going back and reading all of my past blogs just to be caught up to date with my latest posts. Therefore, what follows is a short, proportionally inaccurate timeline so that you won’t be confused when I mention something from previous articles.
This visual of my time in Spain doesn’t include all the places I’ve gone or the things that I’ve seen that have kept me, at the very least, sane, and at the most, in love with living in Europe. There have been events that seemed horrible, like getting voted to not return to my first school or being asked to leave my au pair position. However, these events ultimately set me on a path that let me explore some of the ins and outs of Spanish education, both bilingual and non-bilingual schools, and Spanish culture.
A Toe in the Water
My first school was a public bilingual school. The level of apathy towards learning not only English but in learning in general, appalled me. I was shocked at the level of disrespect that I witnessed. I saw students telling professors to shut up. Kids slept through entire trimesters and never faced any backlash or received extra help. There were kids whose only plan for the future was to go viral on YouTube and get rich. That was their sincere justification for doing nothing at all.
There was a stark difference between the kids who, for whatever reason, had intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. They were intelligent and had an adequate command of English. Many of them had been a part of the bilingual program for many years and cared about their education. However, they were few and far between. To make matters even bleaker, some of the teachers didn’t even want the auxiliars to be there. We were seen as a waste of time and money.
Then I taught at a private, international, democratic school. I encountered students who took control of their educational experience. Of course, there was the occasional lazy kid, but the vast majority was interested in learning English. That school employed a number of methods, including one where they let kids with high levels of English skip the lunch line. If they wanted the benefits of knowledge, all they had to do was apply themselves and make an effort. I saw a rate of transition from non-fluency to fluency that was so speedy that I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes.
At the same time, I was moonlighting at a semi-private traditional school. My first teaching experience was somewhat mirrored in this newest school. I began to believe that only non-traditional schools were capable of motivating the greater majority of their students. For one reason or another, I wasn’t able to continue a second year at that non-traditional school and I feared another miserable experience. How could a public, normal, non-bilingual school even compare in a positive way to a bilingual public school? I was worried that I wouldn’t make personal connections with the students or that they wouldn’t have learned enough English to be able to relate to me or me to them.
I’m pleased to say that my worries were unfounded. Maybe it’s because my first school was in the isolated mountains. Perhaps it’s precisely due to my theory that being cost-free and bilingual caused parents to send their troubled kids there as a last ditch effort to teach them English. Maybe it’s all a coincidence.
Dreams in a Non-Bilingual School
All I know is that here, in Leganes, as an auxiliar in Madrid, I am having the kind of experience I dreamed about when I first arrived in Spain. The kids want to talk to me, especially the younger ones. They think I’m funny and entertaining. They listen to my presentations and we have lots of debates, especially with the older ones. Since it’s a non-bilingual school, I’m able to focus almost exclusively on English instead of having to create art theory presentations that will somehow get these complex ideas across without being above everyone’s English levels. I’m encouraged to tell my point of view on things whether it’s the origins of Christmas, the United States’ political system, or the current immigration situation in the States.
I get along with and have almost no issues with any of the staff. I really feel appreciated, more so even than last year. Instead of forcing the puzzle pieces to fit together, they are beginning to fall freely into place. There is an air of positivity here. Maybe it’s because the parents are very involved (before Christmas break, they organized churros and chocolate for ALL of the staff and students). Perhaps it’s my attitude and how I went in determined to be more organized than ever. Maybe it’s just this town.
There are more colegios here than I have ever seen in one place (coincidentally, I’m once again moonlighting at a second colegio through an academy here in Leganes, and it, too, is going exceedingly well). Most importantly, they want me to renew. They want to keep me! I don’t want to jinx it, but it really does seem like the 3rd time’s the charm.
Well, that’s all for now.
Thanks for reading!