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The CIEE Diaries: Two Weeks as a Language Assistant

Updated: Oct 21, 2018

One month before starting work. Such carefree innocence. [read: unemployed and flipping out a little]

When I quit teaching fourth grade in 2015, I was fairly certain I would never go back. Yet here I am, teaching in Spain, remembering why I loved it- the kids. All of the hugs, shy waves in the hallway, "So help me, Miguel, if you don't stop talking this instant...," excitement, and beaming smiles are the most joyful addiction. I get to impact these little humans on a daily basis. These are a few little nuggets of wisdom that I've picked up so far.

Learning their names may be the hardest thing ever.

Spanish names are extremely difficult to hear and process for a native English speaker. E's sound like a's, and it's nearly impossible to distinguish between the b and v sounds. As the students told me their names, I tried to repeat them back exactly as I heard them. It worked well until I pronounced Ramón as Jamón, which means ham in Spanish. Precious little Ham was extremely gracious about the whole thing. I am now have them write their names for me, because I don't want to end up saying Mierda instead of Miriam.

There is no such thing as a personal question.

The kids were eager to show off their English skills, so the questions came pouring in: How old are you? Are you married? Do you want to get married? Do you have children? Do you want to have children? How much money do you have in your back account? (Deadpanned, "One billion dollars.") Do you have friends? ("No.") What cuss words do they use in the United States? ("Gosh darn."). If you consider yourself a closed book, don't become a language assistant in Spain.

Take the long way to work.

Initially, I solely relied on Google Maps to get to my school. It was a boring journey of checking my phone, turning right, turning left, checking my phone again... Instead, I decided to add about 5 minutes to my commute by walking beside the Iglesia de San Antonio. This beautiful building reminds me to be present- to never take a single moment of this experience for granted. Taking the long way makes me a better person, and it is completely worth it.

Iglesia de San Antonio, Aranjuez

Lean into a challenge.

Before receiving my schedule, I observed in several classes between 2nd and 6th grade. One class was extremely rowdy, and I hoped I wouldn't get placed with them. It would be difficult to teach them, and I didn't want my life to be hard. That evening, I felt guilty. This class would push me to grow as a person and as a teacher. And, who knows? Maybe they need me too. When I received my schedule, I found that I would be working with that class for 4 hours a week. The most worthwhile things are often the most difficult, so grit your teeth and lean in.

Lastly, field trips are full of telling kids to: sit down, find their buddy, not touch that Picasso painting, and stop talking. Then counting 20 heads a million times throughout the day. Feels like home.


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