Your first days as an auxiliar are bound to be nerve-racking as the weeks leading up to it are full of uncertainty. What grades will I teach? What’s my school like? What do kids that age even like? Those are great questions, and ones that honestly, may not be answered until day one at your new school.
Whether or not you have teaching experience, have lived in Spain, or have even left your home country, there’s always going to be a feeling that you should be doing something. Especially for those of you who like to walk into a new situation with as much preparation as possible. Or, as much as you can be in Spain.
While there are certain variables that you will not know until you start, there are definitely a few things you can do before you leave home (or while you’re in Spain hanging out until your big day).
Just like you would do for any job, researching your new school is no different. Every school has a website, some have Facebook pages, and a few have blogs. Take a few minutes to see what a good Google search turns up.
I’m not saying these websites have a ton of valuable information, or even that they’re updated on a regular basis. But, you will most likely get an idea of your new work environment and you will definitely find contact information, which is the key to my next suggestion.
- CONTACT YOUR BILINGUAL COORDINATOR
You may or may not receive an email from your bilingual coordinator during the summer. If you haven’t, that’s OK. Take the initiative and use the email address you found while researching your school. It’s perfectly acceptable to write it in English.
Introduce yourself. Explain your teaching experience if you’ve got it. Tell them where you’re from. Make note of grades that you would prefer to teach (though make it clear you are flexible and will be happy with what you get). Ask what time you should show up on your first day -and confirm that the first day you were given is, in fact, the first day the school is expecting you. Nine times out of ten, it is. Sometimes the school needs a little, teeny reminder.
Included in that beautifully, well-written email, you are well within your right to ask if you can visit before your first day. They may say yes or they may not respond to your email at all.
If it’s the former, than you’ll get a chance to see your school inside and out. Meet teachers whose names you will most likely forget and ask your bilingual coordinator any nagging questions you might have.
If it’s the latter, and you have the time, take a test run of your commute. Whatever your preferred mode of transportation, physically go there and walk around the outside of your school. Figure out where the main entrance is and the best way to get there. This will be a great way to determine how much time you’ll need in the morning. It also takes some of the nerves off your first day. If you already know how to get there, then that’s one less thing to worry about.
If your school is too far away, you don’t have the time, or you prefer not take an unnecessary trip, then at the very least, Google Map it. Use satellite and street view to get the next best thing. You’ll have to do it at some point anyway.
- CLEAN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Students will find you. Decide whether that’s acceptable (or appropriate) and act accordingly. Place your settings on private or delete any questionable pictures.
- THEN, USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Use Facebook to find past and current auxiliars at your school. Ask past auxiliares about their experiences. Find current auxiliars and befriend them (you will be spending a lot of time together). Keep in mind that you could be the only aux at your school. That’s an experience on it’s own, but one that gives you ample opportunities to socialize with other teachers and work on your Spanish.
Any auxiliar in the community of Madrid should join the Auxiliares de Conversacion en Madrid (The Original) group on Facebook, immediately, if you haven’t already. Stay on the admins good side and use the search feature first.
- SET ASIDE SOME ITEMS OF SIGNIFICANCE
Things like photos, ticket stubs, sports medals, posters -think of any small item that is of value to you and can show your students a glimpse into your life. Place them in a bag and bring them out when you introduce yourself to your students. Keep the items small, because none of us have enough space in our luggage.Think of it as show and tell, which you can use in conjunction with my next tip.
- START A ‘GET TO KNOW ME’ POWERPOINT
I say start, since you won’t know what grade you will teach. And there’s a huge difference between introducing yourself to a three-year-old versus a seventeen-year-old.
What you can do now, is use those photos you set aside in my last tip and prep the beginnings of an introductory powerpoint. Once you start at your new school, you can flesh out the details.
- LASTLY, RESEARCH A FEW RESOURCES
Just a couple! Find a good website or two that you can turn to during the year for lesson plans and games. Again, since you don’t know the grade, don’t go crazy, but it’ll be useful to have a few to fall back on once you get started. Some great ones are Dream English (for infantil and early primary) and iSL Collective (for secondary).
Being an auxiliar is a fun job -it’s the best parts of teaching with minimal responsibility. Going into your first days, you decide how much prep work you want to do. But don’t feel like you’re going in blind. Yes, it’s different than what you’re used to back home. But you have the power to prepare yourself (to an extent) and set yourself up for a great year.
Jennifer Ruggiero Webb is a Franklin Alumni , Master in Learning and Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language 2017-2018