Honestly I came into this program not knowing what to expect. When people asked me what I was going to be doing in Spain I didn't know how to answer. I had no idea what it meant to be an "auxiliar de conversación" in Madrid. I wasn’t sure if I would have my own classroom, if I would be an assistant, or what. The only thing I was sure about was that I would be teaching English, someway, somehow. In retrospect, I probably should have done more research about the position. Upon arriving in Madrid I attended orientation, which CIEE managed to flawlessly condense a weeks worth of information into about 24 hours. Although it was extremely helpful and necessary, orientation left me feeling even more overwhelmed, confused, and with a much longer to-do list than before. But hey, it's not called the Basics Program for nothing!
So in addition to the newly added stress of finding housing, setting up a bank account and phone plan and, getting necessary documents ready for my foreign identity card appointment, the nervous feeling of not knowing what to expect on my first day was still lurking around in my mind. Naturally I thought that a visit to my school before the first day would help ease that. Not only would I get to see the school when it wasn't in session and introduce myself to some of the faculty when they weren't busy, I would also be able to map out the necessary route to school to avoid getting lost on the first day.
After about an hour commute to Tres Cantos I got to my school, CEIP Antonio Osuna. Completely expecting to be greeted by a middle-aged man, I was pleasantly surprised when Aarón, the Bilingual Coordinator (aka my "boss"), came out looking not that much older than me. Which oddly enough, made me feel more relaxed. He was extremely welcoming and enthusiastic to introduce his school.
Initially I took notice of how different, structurally, Antonio Osuna is from public schools in North Carolina. AO seems a lot smaller than NC Public schools and more isolated. It's surrounded by a very large, locked gate— almost like it is its own compound. The main classrooms are upstairs while the administrative offices, computer lab, teachers' lounge, and elective classrooms are downstairs. Both the library and gym are much smaller than those of a typical American school. Instead of a large field for outdoor sports, there’s asphalt courts with basketball hoops and soccer goals. It’s also interesting that AO has a preschool, yet the preschool is its own separate entity, consisting of a small, detached building surrounded by its own little gate, like a smaller version of the school as a whole. Overall, it's just different from the schools back home. *Unfortunately I did not take pictures during my visit and will have to do that another time.
It’s also hard not to notice the way AO seems to just radiate positivity. The school’s aesthetic is fantastic. There are paintings of inspiring quotes and small murals of children’s books throughout the school. I would absolutely love that if I were a student. I also noticed how Aarón pointed out the then-empty bulletin boards making a point to explain that the halls were usually much more decorated with the student’s work. It was nice that he made an effort to convey a much more colorful image of the school. He then showed pictures of the halls when they were decorated and the school’s twitter account (a way to communicate to parents and share what the students are doing https://twitter.com/ceipantoniosuna). Overall it was encouraging to see how much the faculty really cared about their jobs and students.
After the tour of the school I met some more faculty members. I was introduced to the principal, Luis, a sweet older man. As well as Carmen, the Director of Studies (kind of like the assistant principal) who seemed to have an endless supply of exciting ideas for the students. Everyone I met during my visit was extremely warm and seemed genuinely excited to have us there. It was definitely comforting to meet some of the faculty and get to know the school a bit before the first day, and it just made me excited to come back.
Monday October 1st
My first day started out as expected, with a meeting to discuss our role as assistants, to sign contracts, and to get our schedules. I was surprised to find out that my day off was Monday, so after the meeting I went home. Super. Easy. First. Day.
Tuesday October 2nd
Since I didn’t actually go into a classroom on Monday I remember being a bit nervous on Tuesday about how it would go and what I would be doing. I still had so many questions. As soon as I went into the first grade classroom the nervousness just seemed to disappear. I realized there really wasn’t anything to be worried about. I wasn’t completely alone in a classroom; I had a teacher who could help me if I needed it. It didn’t matter if I somehow messed up my introduction— the kids honestly didn’t care about that, they were just excited that I was there. And the teachers that I hadn’t met were just as lovely, extremely friendly and welcoming. It was honestly refreshing how warm everyone was. I’d expected this from the students, but coming from the staff it made me feel so much more comfortable at my school. It was a great "first" day.
Overall it was a fantastic week. Although it was mainly introductions the whole week, I am now more excited to go back and keep doing more. It was honestly the best possible beginning to what will hopefully be an even better year.