Edgar Llivisupa is halfway through the Spanish school year in Ontinyent, Spain. Catch up on his first interview learning as a teaching assistant. He is feeling good about his work and language learning in teaching trilingual education. Over the Christmas holiday, he decided to travel around Europe instead of going back to New York. He will complete his second year in less than five months. He is achieving his goal of learning Valenciano and practices very hard. His answers to his classroom instruction and school interview were very authentic because he doesn’t have a background in education. His answers are all the more authentic, especially since he is working at a school that is trilingual. Here is what he has to say.
What is a typical day at your school like? Is this different from last year’s schedule? If so, how?
“The biggest difference from last year is that my work hours are more compact. Last year I had multi-hour gaps between teaching two extracurricular classes throughout the weeks. I finished work on Fridays at noon. This year, my timetable is in line with regular school hours. Also, last year at this time I was still adjusting to teaching and finding my role in the classroom. Currently, I am more comfortable in my daily tasks. My role changes depending on which teacher I am working with. With the art teacher, I take a crate of games and activities that include flashcards, charades, bingo and play games with the students. I sometimes have to be creative with the games I am playing in both the rules and explaining them to the students.“
How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?
“I work with the art teacher and the English teacher, who is also my tutor.
I teach 1st through 6th grade in my school. Each class is composed of ten and eighteen students. Each level only has one section, and I see them twice a week. I also have a conversational class after regular school hours for parents with an English B1 and higher certificate.”
Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?
“Since this is my second year at this school, my tutor and I have a great working relationship. We understand the proficiency of the students so when we have to organize the weekly activities, I give feedback on the effectiveness and difficulty of the activity.
Regarding other teachers, our school is small, so the faculty knows one another fairly well. Therefore, other teachers, I don’t usually work with may ask for my assistance with other mundane tasks.”
What is your favorite part of the day? Why?
“My favorite part of the day is pati, or playground, which is when the students have 30 minutes to play outside. I usually stray away from the classroom and talk to the other teachers. It’s nice to interact with teachers in the school that I don’t usually have the opportunity to talk to.
My favorite class is with the adults, as I am more comfortable teaching them. Unlike with the children, I can express myself more freely. Since the students have an interest in improving their fluency, I don’t have to deal with children that aren’t interested in the subject.“
How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?
“The teaching resources come from Oxford Education which includes a workbook and class book for the students, a smartboard application, and other items like posters and flashcards. In the books, there are songs, quizzes, and stories in line with other textbooks.
I’m not familiar with different teaching methods, but I can comment that the students sit in groups of four to five, which is the same throughout all their classes. In the case of the English class, the groups can vary in their level of English. Some groups have strong students while other groups can have mostly students who struggle. Usually, classes start with a song followed by a lecture. Afterward, the students work on an assignment in the textbook or on a teacher-made worksheet.”
How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?
“It is stipulated in our contract that we aren’t supposed to lesson plan or conduct lessons on our own. I’m lucky that my school has maintained that stipulation.
I don’t have to prepare much for the time I am with the art teacher. The children play competitively with the games I bring. They never tire of playing the same game against one another.
On the other hand, the English teacher and I have a designated hour once a week to prepare for classes. It never takes up the entire hour because of our aforementioned working relationship. We either use the activities in the book or I offer to modify an activity so it relates to the topics being taught in the class.”
Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes? Describe ways in which English is implemented in class.
“My school is trilingual, with the languages being Valenciano, Spanish, and English. However, in the main classroom, students use Valenciano and Spanish interchangeably. For instance, the students may speak to each other in Spanish, but the instruction is in Valenciano. The school teaches English as its own subject with its own teacher and classroom. Students and teachers rarely speak English outside that environment. For this reason, in the English classroom, we explicitly avoid speaking any other language. I go as far as to hide the fact that I am a native Spanish speaker and am studying Valenciano so the students are forced to speak English in interactions with me.”
What goals or standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?
“While I can’t speak on behalf of my teachers, my goals are to improve their vocabulary, develop their speaking ability and spark the student’s interest in learning the language. I find it unreasonable to expect more because the students are also learning two other languages. Also, the majority of students are of immigrant descent so they speak an additional language at home. It must be overwhelming for the children, especially since it’s easy to forget that it’s only primary education.“
Looking back at our first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?
“Growing up, I had a lot of difficulties when it came to language. I started to talk at a very late age. My school enrolled me in speech classes up until middle school to work on my pronunciation of certain phonemes and mitigate my slur. This was on top of dealing with the struggles of being a bilingual learner with parents at home who didn’t speak English. Speaking became an insecurity as people ridiculed the way I spoke both of my native languages.
Now, at an older age, I interact with both English learners and fluent Spanish speakers who continue to point out the peculiar way that I speak. I use that information to improve my speaking abilities in ways that I would have never done otherwise. What used to be an insecurity has become an interest in linguistics and sympathy for other language learners when they stumble on certain parts of a language native learners are oblivious to the difficulty of. In addition, as I’m teaching children, I have to familiarize myself with English grammar that I didn’t have to study previously. I have to consider a different approach to speaking that makes it easier for English learners to understand me. “
Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain
Edgar is not sure about his future plans after classes end for the summer. He has a few ideas in mind. He continues to travel during every Spanish holiday (there are quite a few) and continues to practice Valenciano. We will catch up with him when his classes end to see what he has planned.