As I am sure most language assistants do, I dreamt up what I thought my first-year teaching English abroad was going to be like, and of course in my dreams it was perfect. I cannot say that the actual experience was perfect, but it was not too far off.
WELL, THAT WAS…FUN
If I had to summarize the year up in one word, it would definitely be fun. Getting accustomed to a new job, meeting new people, working with students every day, doing a different type of work – it was all fun. It made going into work exciting and I even started looking forward to work on Monday, which seems kind of insane to think about. Before moving to Spain, I had a much different life – I was a producer living in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, that job and lifestyle was also very fun but teaching and living abroad are a completely different kind of fun and I welcomed it openly.
TEACHING IS REWARDING
Of all the jobs I have had in my life, teaching is easily one of the most rewarding. It was evident from the first day of work that the general level of English at my school was quite low. Instead of viewing this as a negative I decided to take the mindset that there was a lot of room for improvement. With language, there are clear indicators to measure growth. Although I would have loved more time with each of the students, I felt that by the end of the year there was a noticeable improvement in the ability and confidence level of many of my students. That was rewarding.
BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS EASY
As great as my year teaching abroad was it certainly was not a stroll in the park. Aside from the challenge of the language barrier, there were many other daily obstacles that needed to be climbed – fluctuating schedules, unforeseen exam placements, unruly students, occasional commute issues, and more. None of these were impossible problems, but at the beginning they certainly contributed to some frustration. It all felt like part of the process and after time, I found a way to anticipate and handle the challenges.
ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR!
When I set out to teach abroad, I chose not to give much thought to what would happen after the school year. By the end of my first month, that topic became a daily point of discussion. I eventually decided I wanted to do another year of teaching, but I couldn’t pick where I wanted to go. I had quickly started to adore my school and thought about returning but I was also being pulled in the direction of trying something new. The deadline to reapply came way too fast and after a ton of consideration I decided to renew at my school. By the end of the school year I was happy with my choice and was already looking forward to the new academic year. My students and colleagues were also excited that I was going to be back for one more year.
In the end, I had an excellent first year of teaching abroad. There is no doubt that I got lucky with being placed at an awesome school with fantastic administration, caring teachers and a diverse student body. Without all of them I would not feel the way I do now. However, thanks to them I am excited for a second year.