Spain

Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key

imagination

Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo?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

Exhausting

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

audience

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

BS

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

body language

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.

5 Reasons Spain is the Best European Country

So what’s the deal with everyone referencing, almost exclusively, Paris and Rome when they talk about taking a European vacation? I don’t get it. Where’s the love for my beloved country of Spain?! By this time I’ve been to my fair share of European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and literally none of them hold a candle to Spain. So I’m going to declare it, loud and proud: Spain is undoubtedly the best European country, and here’s why:

1.The Food PicMonkey Collage

THE FOOOD! Where do I even begin?! Paella, tortilla, tapas, cured meats and cheese; the list is a long one. Spanish food is amazingly delicious and wonderfully cheap. There’s no other european country where you are basically guaranteed a free snack with every drink you order.

2. The People peopleeee

Working as an Auxiliar and living with Spanish students means I get the best of both worlds. I’ve witnessed the kindness, warmness, and overall welcoming disposition of pretty much everyone I’ve met here, both at work and at home. The warmth and kindness of the Spanish personality is deeply ingrained in their culture: e.g. double cheek kissing STRANGERS when you first meet! If that doesn’t tell you about what kind of people they are, then I don’t know what will.

3. The Architecture architecturee I live in the center of Madrid which means I have the pleasure of being surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Whether it’s the colored apartments, the never-ending sea of terraces, or the ornate details on the older structures – pretty much every building here is a work of art.

4. The History aqueducts viewSHANNY

Spain is old. This has made me realize that, in comparison to Europe, nothing is very old in the U.S. There’s stuff here from the Roman Empire! Isn’t that crazy? It seems like every Spanish city is rich with history: Granda with the Alhambra, Segovia with the Aqueducts, not to mention all the castles and walls and other miscellaneous historical things scattered throughout the country.

5. It’s Affordable clarasss

Hotels, food, transportation, attractions: everything is so affordable here. To give you a hint: Logan and I usually spend 20 euros on two nights out (lots of eating and drinking), and a weekend lunch. Beers are rarely more than 1.50, and menu items are hardly ever priced over 10 euros. Needless to say we’ve been living a bit of an indulgent life here.

So have I convinced you that Spain is the greatest country in Europe? I hope so.

3 Spanish Habits I Envy

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.12.15 PM

1. The double cheek kiss

 This is the most common greeting in Spain. Not only do you do it when you first meet someone, other acceptable times to give besitos are: if you haven’t seen each other for a few days, holidays, birthdays, or simply just because. Something about the intimacy and kindness of this greeting is really touching to me, and I desperately wish this was common in the states *hmph.*

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.13.35 PM
2. R&R
  Taking things slow, resting, and relaxing are pillars of the Spanish lifestyle. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, I’m saying that they are better at mastering a good work/life balance (at least what I’ve seen from my colleagues and roommates). So let’s all take a chill pill and understand most seemingly stressful situations are actually nbd.
Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.12.38 PM
3. Not drinking to get drunk
  Fellow youths take note. If you set foot in any bar here you’ll immediately notice the striking differences between these bars and the ones in the states. Whether it’s the florescent lighting (but hey, at least I can see your face), lack of club music (I can actually hear you *gasp*), or the tapa that comes with every drink – Spaniards know what’s up. The bar scene is geared more towards catching up with your friends, eating some good food, and ultimately relaxing (refer back to habit #2). P.S. it is still very easy to get drunk solely from red wine and beer.

Selfies in Spain

Buenas mis amigos! When I was packing my life away for a year in Spain I had to decide which of my favorite clothes would make the final cut into my 50lbs of allotted baggage. While I’ve been here I feel like I have truly become the master of layering, accessorizing, and putting together solid outfits with my minimal wardrobe. So I wanted to share my daily style with all of you wonderful people.

P.S. I think I have a bit of a selfie problem… s3lfie4 s3lfie3 s3lfie2 s3lfie1

Adventure Time: Toledo

CollageToledo

random

*click to enlarge photos*

KAYLA IS HERE!!! No, you aren’t seeing double, that’s my twin sister, Kayla, who is hanging out with us in Madrid for a few weeks. We wanted Kayla to see an older part of Spain, so off to Toledo we went. Toledo: the land of Marzipan, old ass buildings, and lots of hills.

collageMarzipan

Our first objective was hunting down the typical tasty treat Toledo is known for, marzipan. It’s a cookie-like dessert made from sugar and almonds and other things I’m not sure of. If I had to describe the taste I would describe marzipan as edible cookie dough, so obviously it’s delicious.

CollageAlcazar

Next stop was seeing the Alcazar, which initially I was really pumped about because of the alcazar in Segovia was super awesome. But Toledo’s was a bit of a disappointment. The inside of the building has been transformed into an epic maze-like museum of Spanish history. It’s cool if that’s what you’re in to, but I just wanted to see the view of the city from the top patio. It took us like 35 minutes to actually find the patio, and when we did the view wasn’t that good *womp*. It’s a good place to go if you want to look at a bunch of old armor, but other than that I’d say skip it.

shannykaylaCATHEDRAL

shannylogiCATHEDRAL

After a Menu del Dia lunch, we made our way through the winding, hilly streets of Toledo to the Cathedral. If you are going to Toledo please keep in mind that it is very much a walking city, although the different sights are relatively close to each other, the winding streets make it a bit of a journey. This cathedral is super old and super beautiful, but you have to pay 11 euros to go inside, so we decided to just marvel at the outside of the building and the take in the intricacies of the architecture.

logikaylaMONISTARY

Next sight on the list was the monastery, Toledo has a mosque, a cathedral, and a monastery! So we wanted to get a look at each one. I regret not paying the 3 euros to tour the inside, so if you have the chance you totally should.

CollageBridge

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

IMG_3253

On our trek back to the train station we took the beautiful Bridge of San Martin. This bridge was built during the 14th century and it’s the best way to get to the city center. Sadly, the day turned quite gloomy near the end and we were rained on a bit, but don’t worry it didn’t ruin our trip.

I’m happy the three of us were able to explore another niche of Spain!

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).

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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.

IMG_20141124_115843729

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.

IMG_20141118_135349096

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

Adventure Time: Granada

usVIEW

 

Last weekend Logan and I made the short journey to the southern city of Granada. Granada is most well known for their copious (and delicious) tapas, the Alhambra, and their white washed houses. It’s only about a 4 hour drive, and we found a cheap BlaBla car for Friday morning. We stayed in a wonderful AirBNB with a balcony and a central location (it was also mega cheap). We decided 2 days was enough time, so we got down to business right when we arrived.

logiSTREET

Our first stop was finding a couple bars to drink and eat lunch. The tapas in Granada were pretty good, but Logan and I thought they were pretty similar to the tapas we’ve had in Madrid. After filling up our bellies with vino tinto and our fair share of free food, we trecked up a huge a** hill to _____. This is the best place to see La Alhambra, and it’s one of the most popular destinations in Granada.

viewww

sunset

logiHEAD

We spent the night bar hopping between the many bars that litter Granada’s streets. And we were not disappointed. The alcohol is cheap, and the food is delicious. My favorite bar was one where they gave us a seafood tapa (a whole plate of fried shrimp *nomz*).

storeLights

The next day we were up bright and early to trek to our main destination, La Alhambra. La Alhambra is one of the most visited spots in Spain, and is a Moorish citadel and palace. Since it’s so popular you have to buy your tickets in advance.

hike

If you could tell from my previous pictures, La Alhambra is situated at the top of a giant f*cking hill, that we had to climb at 9:30am with a bit of a tapa hangover. It was long, and a bit tiring, but TOTALLY worth it. La Alhambra is MASSIVE, and we spent a good 3 hours walking around the beautiful grounds. We decided to get tickets that included everything other than the Nasrid baths, and I have zero regrets.

LogiFountain

gardensSHANNY

LogiSTEPS

hedgesSHANNY

This part of Alhambra is called Generalife and it’s filled with beautiful gardens, fountains, and ponds. It was so so so beautiful, and because La Alhambra is so massive, there were never too many crowds anywhere we went. Also, the weather was PERFECT, look at me guys, I’m wearing shorts on the first day of November!

viewSHANNY

The other main part of La Alhambra is the Alcazaba, this is where you get the best views of the beautiful city. The clusters of white houses make my heart swoon, so beautiful!

After we left La Alhambra, we ended our trip exactly how we started: with a few more rounds of tapas.

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon