auxiliar de conversacion

Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key

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Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo? I did. And do you know what I learned from them? NOTHING. I’ve learned that classes should be really fun and engaging and as a teacher you should always try to make it seem like a different form of entertainment. Any subject can be interesting if you sprinkle some creativity into it. (I once made a dating game to practice physical description words)

2. Teaching is exhausting

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As a student you don’t fully comprehend or even try to understand the effort your teacher is making. Your job as a student is to sit, listen, and learn. Your job as a teacher is to facilitate, present, listen, ask 1 billion questions, get everyone involved, try to be creative, manage the classroom, I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

3. Don’t underestimate your audience

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Just to clue you in, in my classes I talk in English 100% of the time. Even with my super young students (5year olds), and they can still understand what I want them to do. They can follow directions, and even answer a lot of questions. It’s easy to disregard small kids’ intelligence, but I wouldn’t.

4. Things will go wrong, learn to BS

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How many times was the Internet down, my PowerPoint was broken, or an activity I planned didn’t take up the whole class period? More than once. But thinking on your toes is essential in teaching. I learned to BS my way through a class period by playing a random game, thinking of a last minute activity, or resorting to asking tons of questions.

5. Become fluent in body language

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It is SO easy to tell when students (or any audience) is not interested in what you are saying or doing. When you notice people’s eyes starting to glaze over, you have to switch it up and be a bit creative (refer to lesson 1). Don’t just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s obviously super boring.

So I know most of you aren’t ESL teachers, but I think the lessons I’ve learned as a teacher can be applied to any career field. Being creative and adaptable, knowing your audience, and thinking on your feet are invaluable skills for anyone.

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Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

sagrada familia

The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

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On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

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We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…

Adventure Time: Rome, Italy

As profesores de ingles, Shannon and I get a well-deserved spring break away from the children. We decided to take advantage of all this time by making an extended trip to Italy. We figured Italy deserved a little more time because it seems like THE country to go to on a European vacay.  Stop #1 of 3 (and my personal favorite) was Rome, Italy.

We spent just over 2 days in Rome and honestly loved every minute. As usual, we stayed in an Airbnb, and it worked out really well for us. We tried to see as many sites as possible, but I think you could spend an entire week in Rome and still feel like you need more time.

Day 1

1. Vatican

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We got to our airbnb a little early due to a super early flight out of Madrid, so while it was being cleaned we decided to visit the Vatican. The man cleaning the room told us the pope comes out to speak at noon, so we thought it would be perfect timing. There were TONS of people there, but after waiting around for a while, we realized we were too late and he had already finished speaking.

2. Delicious Italian Lunch 

logan lasagna

On our way to the vatican, Shannon and I passed a really great looking local place close to our apartment. It looked authentic and not overly priced, our favorite. The food was by far some of the best we had in Italy.

3. Trevi Fountain  

Our next stop was one Shannon was really excited to see. Unfortunately, we were met with some disappointment because all the water is drained and they have built scaffolding all around it for extensive cleaning. We still managed to beat back the British tourists and get kinda close.

4. Roman Pantheon

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We actually found the Pantheon by accident while following the narrow and winding streets of the Roman center. We didn’t even find out what it was until later in the day. Its a really cool building, and like most ancient buildings in Rome, has been converted to a church of sorts. Every time you get close to buildings like this, you are completely amazed that people were able to build such things with out ANY modern construction equipment.  

5. Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland) 

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This was another site we really didn’t recognize, but we still really liked. Inside it’s essentially a military museum complete with guards that take guarding things super seriously and yell at tourists who step out of line. However, if  you climb to the stairs to the roof of the building, there is a really great view of all of central Rome and the ruins all around.

6. Gelato

This is obviously a necessary part of every Italian vacation. We repeated this step throughout the trip numerous times. Because, necessity.

7. Dinner

After wandering around Rome and getting around 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, Shannon and I were obviously super tired. We went back to the apartment for a quick little nap then headed out for dinner a little later.

We went to a great local pizza place (well one of a billion) that was recommended to us by anther teacher at my school. The pizza was obviously amazing and the 5 Euro liter of red wine wasn’t half bad either.

Day 2

1. Vatican (again)

logan vatican

Our first trip to the Vatican was half hearted at best. Our apartment was only about 15 minutes away on foot, so we thought it deserved a second stop. This time we wanted to see the inside of the basilica, so we waited in a ridiculously long line for about an hour. But it was totally worth it, and we were really impressed by how much detail was in every inch of every surface.

2. Lunch…and more gelato

3. Colosseum 

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This was one of the big ones for both of us. We were really excited to see the Colosseum, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my second favorite site in all of Rome. There’s not much more to say, it’s the Colosseum and a must during a trip to Rome.

4. Roman Forum 

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When you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, entrance into the Roman Forum is included. This site turned out to be my favorite. It’s basically the old Roman marketplace, and it’s huge. You would need several hours to really walk through the whole area. Visitors also get to be a little closer to the ruins than you do in the Colosseum. You are pretty much walking right where ancient Romans bought and traded goods. It’s a really cool place.

5. Dinner and Dessert.  

cannoli rome

Much to Shannon’s dismay, up until this point, we had not tried ANY cannoli. After what I can only imagine was very thorough research, she located one of the best cannoli places in town.  We got one to go and decided to eat it after our dinner.

For our actual meal we went to a great little place that used homemade noodles in all their dishes and again was excellent. Rome did not disappoint on the food front.

Oh…and the cannoli were delish too.

Adventure Time: Lisbon, Portugal

sunnySelfie Lisbon, Portugal: aka the hillier version of Spain. On a whim, Logan and I decided to hit up Spain’s neighbor to the East for our last couple of days of winter break. Logan and I have realized we are actually pretty laid back travelers, so we didn’t go to Portugal with any to-do items. As always, our main objectives were trying the local food and touring the city by foot.

Day 1: DomeChurchX

We were in Portugal for 2 full days, and in that time we saw a lot of the city. With our tourist map in hand, we set off to see some of the mega old buildings that litter the streets of Lisbon. Above is a picture of the Church of Santa Engracia, they were doing construction inside so we weren’t able to go in. Across the street was a super beautiful park, full of wild geese, swans, and ducks.

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Lisbon still uses ancient street cars, so Logan and I used it to see the other side of the city because we didn’t want to walk up and down the city mountains (seriously, walking around Lisbon feels like continuously walking up a giant ass mountain). P.S. the street cars are actually pretty expensive, 1 ride costs 3 euros.

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We ended up walking up and down the hills of Lisbon because we got off our street car too early, and saw the old convent, the Santa Justa Lift (an excellent view of the city), and the main plaza. We eventually made our way to the Rua Augusta Arch which happens to be right by the water. Look! Sand!

Day 2:  SLbalcony monestaryX CourtyardX

We started our second day in Lisbon bright and early! Our first stop was one of the most famous sights in Lisbon: Jeronimos Monastery. The courtyard was BEAUTIFUL, it was definitely worth the 5 euro entrance fee.

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After the courtyard, we walked the short distance to the water. This monument was built to honor and celebrate the achievements of all the Portuguese explorers. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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Our last tourist stop was the Belem Tower. It originally served as a watchtower in the early 1500s. We decided not to go in it because we were really hungry and wanted food (priorities, am I right?).

FOOOOOOD! foodX

One of my favorite things about traveling is that it gives you an excuse to eat whatever you want (just trying to experience the culture….). Portugal’s food was on point. The typical Portuguese meal consists of meat, rice, and fries with a bottle of wine *yum.* We also tried the typical pastry: Pasteis de Belem (second picture) *also yummy*. Overall, Portuguese food was delicious and inexpensive – my favorite combination.

Another country down, many more to go!

Adventure Time: Cologne, Germany

SKriverfront

Hello friends & happy holidays! I was lucky enough to spend these special days with my two most favorite people, Kayla and Logan. As teachers, Logan and I get a nice long winter break *yay* so what better time to travel the world? It was easy for us to decide on Germany and Amsterdam (next post) because Cologne is known for their amazing Christmas markets and Amsterdam is easy to get to from Cologne (if you count a 4 hour bus ride as easy….). Prepare yourself for Christmas Markets, really tasty German food, and some old buildings.

1. Christmas Markets

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Cologne had not 1, not 2, but 3 Christmas markets!!! They were all within 15 minutes of each other, so we didn’t have to worry about public transportation. I’ve been a bit obsessed with going to a German Christmas market ever since I researched them my sophomore year of college, so this was like a dream come true. You can easily spend hours walking around looking at all the different booths (which we did). Each market had roughly 75-100 booths *not exaggerating* offering a ton of different goods: food, candy, gifts, toys, everything your little heart could possibly desire.

2. Super delicious & wonderfully tasty German food

Food

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Germans know food. As far as I’m concerned, this is now an undeniable, indisputable fact. We definitely ate our way through Germany, and I’m so glad we did. Brats, pretzels, tasty drinks – you name it, one of us most likely consumed it. It was delicious and also super affordable (my favorite combo). I already miss it.

3. Old buildings & such

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Cathedral

Cologne’s cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany (over 20,000 visitors A DAY). It took 600 years to build, and allegedly holds the remains of the 3 kings in a very impressive solid gold tomb. It’s in the very heart of the city, and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. Really, pictures don’t do it justice. It’s so massive you have to set your camera to panoramic setting just to get the entire building in it (or stand really, really far away).

landmarksSadly, a lot of Cologne was destroyed during WWII, so there aren’t many historical landmarks remaining. But there are a few scattered throughout the city. The site on the left is where nuns used to pee; that’s right it was originally a bathroom attached to an old convent (history is riveting, right?).

Here are a few more random photos, just in case you didn’t quite get your fill.

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Besos y abrazos,

Shannon

A Day in the Life: Logan

Hi Guys!  As Shannon already explained, there is a lot more to our Spanish life than traveling and generously priced food.  We unfortunately do have to work.  Now that I have my weekly routine all figured out, I think its time I share what I do.

My official job title is Auxiliar de Conversación, and that basically means I pretend that I totally know what I’m doing in front of a highly critical audience made up of 11-18 year olds.  I have exactly zero teaching experience and was pretty much thrown into it.  Essentially, they pay me for speaking English with my “perfect American accent” (their words, I swear).

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7:30 AM: Wake up and get ready to educate the future of the Spanish people.  Schools here tend to be pretty relaxed, and like Shannon, I don’t have much of a dress code to adhere to.  I can wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.  I try and keep it moderately profesor-y with a minimum of jeans and a collared shirt.

8:40 AM: I (ideally) leave my house for my commute.  Its a grueling 15ish minutes…foot and on the metro (aka its super close).  I really lucked out with the location of my school, and the fact that I can walk there is almost unheard of in Madrid.  Unlike Shannon, however, I work Monday through Friday.

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9:00 AM: Start working.  Everyone at my school is amazing and the teachers have made me feel like a part of the team.  Everyone values the work I do, and it is really nice to feel like I belong.

I am mainly responsible for conversing with the students.  This can range from just asking them questions about their lives to creating vocabulary worksheets.  I do some lesson planning, but it is all based around conversation stuff and never anything like grammar.

11:00 AM: Break time.  I just go to the teachers lounge and hang out and practice Spanish.  I normally have between 1-3 classes between this break and when I start at 9.

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11:25AM-End of day.  My end time varies a lot more than my start time.  Monday-Wednesday I finish around 2, and Thursday-Friday I finish around 5.  I have anywhere between 3 and 6 classes each day, and I am anywhere between 50% and 100% worn out when I’m done.  Its not that the job is hard, but I spend most of the day on my feet using my “teacher voice.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays I also have private lessons that I do on the side.  I don’t really love doing them, but the money is good and I enjoy teaching the students.  Overall, its not too demanding, and I am enjoying things here in Spain.  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about my life here.

Besos y abrazos,

logan

A Day in the Life: Shannon

Hello all! So I guess it’s about time to let you all know what my life is like on a daily basis. For those of you who think I moved to Spain just to eat a ton of tapas, and travel around Europe – you are only half right. I came to Spain to be an Auxiliar de Conversacion through a program called BEDA. Now that I’ve finally got a routine down, I can let all of you lovely people in on what the heck I’m doing over here.

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7:30 AM: wake up and get ready for work. My school doesn’t have a dress code for their teachers, or profes, which is awesome because after working in advertising, I couldn’t bear to wear business casual on the daily. Look at me channeling my inner teacher with this classic cardi + dress combo

8:15 AM: Start my 45 minute commute to work. Yeah, it kinda sucks, but I only work monday-Thursday and this was the tradeoff for living in the heart of Madrid.

schoool

9:00 AM: Arrive at my school! My start time changes everyday, but the earliest I have to be at school is 9AM. My school is in a smaller neighborhood in Madrid, and is a semi-private Catholic school. Everyone there is the absolute best (teachers, students, other faculty errybody). All of the teachers I work with are super nice, and have welcomed me with open arms and lots of chorizo.

classroom

9:00AM-11:15: I usually have two 45 minute classes during this time period. I teach everyone in the school (3yo-16yo). And I’m actually creating the lesson plan, teaching it, and creating activities for every class I have. I was honestly a bit worried I wouldn’t like the teaching gig, but I love the kids and teaching has been a surprisingly good time.

outside

11:15-11:35 : Mandatory snack break. Spanish people usually eat five small meals a day, and this is one of them. During this time all of the teachers (myself included) go to the cafeteria to share a loaf of french bread and some spicy chorizo. This is where I practice my Spanish listening skills because the teachers talk SO quickly it’s hard to understand much of anything (pero, no pasa nada).

11:35-12:30 : My last class before siesta!

12:30- 2:30: All the kids go home and have a long lunch with their families (talk about adorable). Sadly, I have to stay at the school during this time because my aforementioned commute is too long to go home and have lunch. But I make the most of the mega break and plan my lessons for the following week.

Hallway

2:30-4:00: I have two more classes to teach before the day ends. These classes range from elementary science, high school (ESO) English, and art.

After school I usually have one private lesson (so I can make some extra cash moneyz), and then I go home! My life here is really laid-back, fun, and different from what I’m used to. Hopefully this post gave you a little glimpse into what my life is actually like.

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon