miércoles, 16 de octubre de 2013

My first few weeks as a Language Assistant

I came to Spain to learn Spanish, to travel, and to try out this teaching thing to see if it is something that I might want to do as a career. I have had no prior experience with kids, nor with teaching, and only a little with the Spanish language. This program as a language assistant seemed the perfect way to ease myself into the teaching environment, and also to have enough time for all the other things I came to do. The few meetings we had in Melbourne about the program sufficiently prepared me for the trip, and gave reasonably accurate expectations. Basically, I work 12 hours a week, assisting the classroom teacher and helping to plan activities for learning. I hope to become a valuable member of the teaching staff, to become a positive presence in the school, and to make friends here with whom I can practise my Spanish.

I was lucky to have met Gracia, the bilingual co-ordinator of C.P Salvador Allende, before my first day of teaching as a language assistant, so I knew a little about what to expect of the school. Gracia explained all that is expected of me during my time here, and helped me with any administration issues. I feel supported the whole way through my experience so far, and that has been a huge part of my happiness levels! Nevertheless, my lack of Spanish meant that as I was introduced to the staff I realised I would need to get my skills up to scratch as soon as possible if I truly wanted to feel like part of the teaching team. But despite that, all the teachers were friendly, and I could see myself becoming comfortable and at home here very soon. Gracia showed me around the school, which rooms I would be teaching in, and where the kids play. Immediately I noticed that this was an environment I have not experienced since I was a primary school student myself, and that it would take a little getting used to!
My first week consisted of sitting passively in the classrooms, watching and learning about my new students and my fellow teachers. Occasionally, I would walk around the class to help students with their work, or get up to read something out loud in English. My first week, said Gracia, was to introduce me slowly to my new life, to make sure I felt comfortable in everything that I needed to do here. During this first week, I also had a meeting with the 167 other language assistants in the Malaga provence. This was basically a few speeches from a few important people in the Department of Education, and some additional and very helpful information about the administration side of things, like how to open a bank account, how to get your NIE, when we get paid etc. The down side was that the whole thing was in Spanish, with no translation, so I had to constantly ask my neighbour to translate for me. The other assistants also had helpful information for me, as I found out the different types of schools some of them were at (many seeming to be a lot less organised), and also could ask them about their experiences settling in to Malaga, and about their experiences the previous year if they were a second time language assistant.

My second week began with the weekly Monday morning bilingual teachers meeting. There are 5 teachers that I work with, each in their science class, from grade 1 to grade 5. In this meeting we spoke about how are going to work together in the classes and what activities we could do in the upcoming weeks. It is really nice to start the week with a rundown of the activities covered in each class for the week, so that I can organise myself and know what each teacher expects of me. For this week, I made a power point presentation about myself; where I am from, what I like, why I am at the school, and a bit about Melbourne and Australia. I also made some worksheets which asked the kids questions about the information they saw in the presentation. They loved my pictures of Australian animals, the beach at the Gold Coast, and of my cat, Molly. So overall, a success, and now the kids know a little about me! And now, its off to plan my next weeks activities...