Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key


Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo?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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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,