“I WOULD RATHER DIE OF PASSION THAN OF BOREDOM.” – VINCENT VAN GOGH
In my second interview with Sam, I immediately noticed a change in her. The holidays passed and she was more determined than ever. When we initially spoke, she had objectives but her culture immersion goals in Spain were not clearly outlined. This meeting was different because Sam talked to me about her future. In our initial meeting, I remembered her saying what she thought teaching would be like, “I am taking the approach of not thinking what teaching will be like. I am not setting expectations for myself.” Keeping this approach in mind, Sam is well into her second semester at her school. She told me that she is returning for another year because she is not ready to leave. She loves what she is doing at her school and she adores the culture and her life in Spain!
She is implementing her goals according to a weekly timeline. For example, her primary goal is to learn Spanish. Since January she has enrolled in two Spanish classes with an additional speaking activity per week. Additionally, she will make plans with a group of Spanish friends to have lunch/dinner or attend an intercambio. An intercambio is a group language exchange where native Spanish and native English speakers go to converse in the language they are trying to learn. For example, Sam attends so she can practice her Spanish and in exchange she speaks English half of the time with a native Spanish speaker.
Beyond this, Sam has created the opportunity to teach private lessons to a group of fourth grade students each week. While teaching, she is required to speak Spanish to correct the student that needs assistance with an explanation. Sam’s private lessons are providing her with additional cultural immersion and Spanish practice while teaching English.
Sam’s goals are crystal clear and she is thriving! She mentioned in her first interview that she is most content when she is learning. She has created a lifestyle where she is happy, learning and challenged yet she is also seeing friends and socializing. It appears as if she has found balance.
Meet Sam, the culture seeker:
LT: What is a typical day at your school like?
SL: “It’s really interesting and exciting working at my school because we work with all the different grades and a lot of different teachers! This allows us to have great relationships with everyone throughout the school.”
LT: How many people do you work with (auxiliars included) and how many classes do you teach?
SL: “The first semester I worked with 2 other auxiliars, but our school was looking for another one to join the team. This second semester there are 4 of us. I work with about 9 teachers from all different grade levels. I have worked with almost every class in primaria, however, currently I work with about 12 different classes and teach a total of 21 classes a week (I am mostly with fourth grade and have grades 1-4 currently).”
Communication in the school and outside of school:
LT: Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?
SL: “Yes! I get along great with the other auxiliars and even teach private lessons for one of the teachers at the school.”
LT: Are you forming bonds with students?
SL: “Yes! This is probably my favorite part of the job! I have formed so many great relationships with students of all different ages and English levels. For example, now, I primarily work with 4th graders. I have private classes with three of my fourth graders and it is amazing to get to know their families and be welcomed into their home.”
LT: Does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships inside and outside of the classroom?
SL: “Yes! We were welcomed to many different staff holiday parties and events. We are also included in various meetings to help ensure that our voices are heard within the school as well!”
LT: How is material being taught to students?
SL: “Material is mostly taught in lecture style with a lot of interactive activities. The books that are used are great because they include a lot of review and fun activities to do with the students. We spend a lot of time doing these with the students. We also spend a lot of time taking a few students out one at a time and practicing general conversation skills with them.”
LT: How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you do not plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?
SL: “Lesson prep for classes is different depending on the teacher and the grade level. For 1st grade, I do a lot of prep with flash cards and posters and make things very visual. For older grades, I focus more on grammar prep and creating activities centered around conversation and listening.
LT: Do you work at a bilingual school? What does that mean to you? What does that mean according to the Comunidad of Madrid?
SL: “Yes, I work at a bilingual school. For me and the Comunidad of Madrid, a bilingual school means that the priority to learn English is very high. They are teaching the students all of the subjects in English except for Math and Spanish.”
LT: What standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?
SL: “They use a lot of written exams to measure performance. There is not as much of a focus on homework grades as I remember there being in the United States. It’s much more of a big picture focus to make sure that they really understand the concepts.”
LT: Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help their students succeed?
SL: “I think overall yes. I think that more meetings with the teachers could help us improve that all students and teachers are on the same page. I think they will try to incorporate that into this next semester.”
LT: Looking back at our first Teach Abroad series, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?
SL: “I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that I really enjoy teaching and creating relationships with the students and teachers. I have learned a lot about how to use time wisely. In my old role, I was constantly doing 1,000 things at once, and I rarely had a minute of free time. In this position there is a lot of self-directed down time. You can choose to take a break, or you can choose to create lesson plans, organize student books, and research more information about the exams.
I have learned that I can have more than one passion. I really enjoyed working in HR. This role could not be more different than that one, yet, I still realized that this is something that I am passionate about. Most importantly, I have learned to love a new culture. Every day, and I mean every day, I catch myself smiling on the way to work or on the way home from the Mercado. Don’t get me wrong, things still frustrate me, but it’s even a pleasant feeling to be frustrated here. The Spanish people have welcomed us into their culture with open arms and are constantly offering helping hands, advice and language practice. I truly mean it when I say that I have found a home here, and that every day I am striving to get more and more immersed in this culture that fascinates me so much!”
LT: What are your new goals and/or modifications to previous goals for 2017?
SL: “I am really hoping to improve my Spanish further. I am able to communicate and generally understand everything these days, but know that I am not using the correct grammar. I would really like to improve this.
I would also like to focus on learning more about the exams that the students need to take. By learning more about what these contain, I will be able to better incorporate these objectives into my lesson plans and class-led activities.
Finally, I am hoping to make more connections with locals. I already have a lot of friends, but I feel like I stopped reaching out and trying to meet new people the closer it got to the holidays. This, I would love to change.”
Catching up with Sam made me realize how quickly time passes. She is doing extremely well and certainly not wasting one minute of her time.
Sam plans to immerse herself even deeper into the culture as she completes this year and plans her next. She is taking her time finding a hobby she would like to try in Spanish. Part of Sam’s journey abroad is to find balance in her life; her imbalanced life in Chicago did not allow for her to even think about a hobby let alone participate in one.
“I would rather Die of Passion than of Boredom,” is a quote by Van Gogh chosen by Sam to express her desire to go out and do something she loves rather than something that is comfortable. My favorite part of our interview was when Sam opened up and said, “ I would rather go out and do something risky because I love it and am passionate about it than play it safe to be comfortable.”
We cannot wait to see what the future holds for our enthusiastic culture seeker in Spain. Join us to find out in a couple months!
Ciao for now,
Leesa with two EE’s