What Teaching Abroad Is REALLY Like…

Authored By:

Annie L.

In many ways, the first day back at school after a holiday break feels familiar. The glitz and glam of the holiday season has worn off, the winter season continues, and life goes back to seemingly normal. Life’s consistent manner provides us with familiar images; the people you see on the bus, the ring of the school bell, or headphones playing a favorite song. 

Winter break has come and gone, and spring semester in its place means many English language assistants face the daunting task of future plans, renewal in Madrid. The idea of staying in Madrid and teaching English for a second year has permeated my own mind as well. Living abroad is a journey and takes careful planning, yet somehow those first impression feelings feel far away after living here for a bit. Here are the following things I wish I knew before teaching abroad:

Don’t get discouraged right away 

Once you acquire a visa, an apartment, and sort out all other official affairs- it can be easy to lose sight in the classroom. Similarly, sometimes it takes time and patience for students or teachers to warm to a new assistant in the school. 

Every school is different 

This statement is a cliche but remains true. Many friends of mine work with a variety of ages. My flatmate works with 2-3 year olds, meanwhile I attend secondary school with kids who's ages range from 13-16. These are polar opposites. Something acceptable at one school may not be protocol in another. Working with children requires loads of patience. There are going to be days when you are in a bad mood or your students have no desire to participate. There are also days when you have a good conversation with a favorite student, someone excitedly says hello to you in the hallway, or a presentation goes exceptionally well. Treat everyday as a fresh start. 

Have Fun!

The best part about being a language assistant in Madrid is the emphasis on assistant. Teachers should be in the classroom for the most part. Also, they often have their own agendas for you to work on with the students. Being an assistant has all the perks of influencing children without some of the heavier sides of teaching such as parent teacher conferences, discipline, or lesson planning. You will have to plan lessons for your students, but since this component of their English program is considered the “fun part of the day '' there is a lot more flexibility.

I don’t know if I’ll renew again for the second year teaching. Not everything about this opportunity is easy or glamorous. I need to make my decision on my own time and think carefully about the pros and cons of this experience. Regardless, the choice to teach abroad has taught me so much already- when I’m the one who’s supposed to be doing the teaching! Teaching isn’t everyone’s passion, nor the profession for everyone. Still, teaching abroad is a great opportunity to learn about yourself, observe other teaching styles, and help others all while living elsewhere.