As some of you may know, I worked as a high school teaching assistant last year in Granada, Spain. I received my job through the Auxiliaries de Conversacion Program, which is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education. I had such a great experience in Spain that I decided to work in the Auxiliar Program another year, but in a different city. This time around I’ll be in Malaga – a big city on the Mediterranean coast that’s about 1 hour south of Granada.
I made a general post about the program last year, but I wanted to create a more in depth post about my time in Spain. That way, you can learn about my unique experience with the Program, the school I worked with, and living in Granada!
My city placement:
I was placed in a school in a little town just outside of Granada. Granada itself is a beautiful, mid-sized city in Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. It is primarily known for the Alhambra – a giant fortress, built in the 13th century under Muslim rule, that overlooks the city. Granada is an exceptionally beautiful city in Spain that sees tourists from around the world.
About my school:
I worked in an instituto, which is the Spanish version of a high school. However, an instituto goes from Level 1 – 4, ages 12-16. If you decide that you want to attend college afterwards, you continue your education in the instituto for 2 more years. These extra two years are called Bachillerato. In reality, you can finish school at the age of 16, after the completion of Level 4, if you decide that A) you don’t want to attend a university, B) you plan to go to a technical school, or C) you’re done with learning.
My ‘boss’ was the bilingual coordinator at my school. This is the person that reaches out to you once you receive your school placement from the Auxiliar Program. Your coordinator makes your schedule and is the person you should refer to if you have any problems or need to miss days. According to the Program guidelines, you should be always talking in English at your school (knowing Spanish is not a requirement of the program!), so in theory, you should always communicate with your coordinator and teachers in English. However, my school was previously a French-Spanish bilingual school, so my coordinator is fluent in French and not English. However, it wasn’t much of an issue, since we communicated in Spanish. If there were any misunderstandings, english teachers would help.
My day to day:
For the most part, students in institutos remain in the same classroom with the same classmates while the teachers move from room to room. The only classes that students move for are Art and Physical Education.
As an auxiliar, I was given a schedule by my coordinator, showing the classes where I would help various teachers in the bilingual program of the school. The English-Spanish bilingual program is optional, participation in the program is up to the students and parents. The program requires that all subjects be taught in both languages. That means that a history teacher in the bilingual program must teach the subject in both languages, usually dedicating 1 class period a week for teaching the subject in English. Students had books in both English and Spanish (the English book was often a modified copy of the Spanish book). My role was to help teachers during the English days.
Below, you’ll see a copy of my work schedule. There are six classes a day and each class is one hour long. There are no breaks in between classes; class ends by the bell and begins when the new teacher comes in and starts the class. I had Fridays off and worked a total of 12 class hours a week. However, I have several breaks in between my classes, so I had this free time to work on presentations or materials for classes.
I attended many of my classes every other week – the classes highlighted in blue were Week 1 and those in yellow were Week 2. The classes in green are classes I was to attend every week (the coordinator probably couldn’t find another teacher that needed me at that time). More often than not, the teachers in green didn’t need me every week. In those cases, another teacher would borrow me for the class period or I would work on materials in the teachers lounge.
(In case you need help understanding my schedule: ‘3°D’ is equal to ‘the grade level ° the class within that grade’)
In total, I worked with 7 different teachers and 5 different subjects.
What was my expected of me:
I was never overwhelmed with classes preparations. Most teachers would tell me in advance what they wanted me to do for class and it was usually:
A) Preparing presentations. The teachers often me gave more than enough time to prepare any presentations, and most of them dealt with history (for Prof. E), and American holidays (for several of my classes).
B) Preparing nothing. During these classes I helped with the general English material in class. I usually read the english subject book out loud and then picked on students to re-read the sentences and corrected their pronunciation. After, the students would complete exercises – either from the book or from teacher-made worksheets. I would normally help students with understanding and answering the questions.
The renting situation in Granada:
The average rent across Spain varies, but rent in Granada is considerably low. You can generally find a room for 180-300 euros a month (not including electricity, water, and internet bills). Since Granada is a university town, there are many renting options. However, it is difficult to find apartments (especially in the center) that have been renovated. I assume that this is because there’s such a high demand for housing during the academic year, landlords don’t find a need to invest money into renovations.
My living situation:
My room in Granada cost me 300 euros + water, electricity, and internet (which probably to about 40 extra euros a month). While this is on the high end of rent cost in Granada, my apartment had a great central location and was nicely renovated and complete with extra home appliances like a blender and an iron. The apartment had 5 bedrooms (I roomed with 4 other Spanish girls) and 2 full baths. We also had a cleaning lady come to clean once every two weeks (a friend of the landlord), who would collect our rent money when the time came. Our landlord was very friendly and would come by the apartment to help fix any issues we had. For example, our washing machine once broke in October so she came with her husband later that day to repair it.
How I found my room:
My job officially started on Monday, October 2nd, 2017. I decided to arrive to Granada at the end of September to give myself time to go room hunting. I rented out an Airbnb room during these 10 days. Luckily, I found my room within 3 days and it was the 4th apartment I looked at. I came across my room on a Facebook group that was geared at incoming students looking for rooms to rent in Granada.
My commute to work:
Fortunately, my town, Albolote, was connected to Granada via a metro, so I was able to live in the center of Granada. I usually gave myself about 45-50 minutes to get to work. (5 minute walk to train station, anywhere from 1-10 minute wait for the metro, 23 minutes metro ride, 8 minute walk to my school from the metro.) Although the commute was a bit of a hassle, I enjoyed it because it gave me time to listen to podcasts and catch up on the news.
Meeting with other Auxiliars in the Program:
The auxiliars in and around Granada are very active on Facebook (our group is called Auxiliares de Conversacion en Granada) and Whatsapp. The Whatsapp group is always buzzing with people messaging to go and hang out. Most regions/cities have social media groups, which are a great way to make new friends and to have all your questions answered!
Extra money on the side:
While in Granada, I worked an extra 6 hours a week giving private english classes. In Granada, private classes usually go for 12-15 euros an hour, although your rate could depend on your experience, the distance you need to travel, and the type of tutoring that they are looking for (conversational english, studying for a cambridge exam, or homework help). How much you could reasonably charge also depends on where you are in Spain. For example, in Malaga, private classes normally start at 15 euros.
While private classes are great, the downside is that your students might cancel on you. I worked with children and it was common for parents to cancel class if their child is sick or had to attend an event. As a result, it’s important to not rely on the future money that you will earn from private classes.
But how do you get private classes?
Considering that we make 700 euros a month with the Auxiliar Program, I think most incoming auxiliars worry about making extra money. (700 euros is enough to get by, but if you want to travel and spend more money on leisure activities, an additional income is required!). However, as most find out, it’s pretty easy to pick up private classes to the point that you start rejecting them.
- One of the most common ways to get classes is through Facebook posts. Other auxiliars often post available private classes that they themselves cannot pick up.
- Another option is to get classes through students or teachers in your school. For example, two of my students last year were the nieces of an English teacher at my school.
- Some people in the program also find work as a teacher in english academies during the afternoons. English academies provide more working hours (anywhere from 4 to 20 hours a week) for a few euros less per hour than what you would charge for a private class. However, the money offered by academies are stable and consistent, so its ultimately up to you to figure out how much you want to work.
Traveling as an auxiliar:
While the 700 euros is enough for rent, food, and some leisure, you definitely need to save up and make some extra money to travel. Luckily, its affordable to do weekend trips around Spain and you can often buy super cheap plane tickets. For example, I ended up going to Ibiza for 5 days in May because I found roundtrip tickets for 30 euros from Malaga airport. (Granada does have a small airport, but many people use Malaga Airport because it is only 1 hour away and there are several buses a day that go between Granada and Malaga Airport).
Even though I have been studying Spanish for more than 10 years, I still get very nervous when I try to communicate in Spanish. While in Granada, I tried to push through that fear by living with Spanish girls and taking afternoon Spanish classes. I also occasionally attended inter-cambios to practice my Spanish with natives. Overall, my Spanish improved significantly and I am more comfortable speaking in Spanish now. However, considering that most of my brain power went to studying for the LSAT, I did not study as much Spanish as I would have liked. Now that I’ll be in Malaga this upcoming year, I’ll be spending more time and energy to increasing my fluency.
My favorite thing about working as an auxiliar de conversación:
I think I was very lucky with my placement because I had zero problems with my school! I enjoyed working with all my teachers and the students were good (although sometimes they were noisy, it was never with bad intentions). Since I am interested in education and hope to pursue education law, I learned a lot from working at a public school in Spain. I also learned a lot from my teachers and enjoyed working with the students inside the classroom.
My least favorite thing about working as an auxiliar de conversación:
My least favorite thing, if I have to chose, was the fact that my classes were spaced out throughout the day. Even though I only had to work 12 class hours, I ended up staying for most of the schools day. However, I understand the reason for this – the school coordinator tries his/her best to make you a schedule that works for you and the various teachers that you work with in the classroom.
The Auxiliaries de Conversacion Program is a great – many people end up staying in the Auxiliar Program for several years. By working only 12 class hours, you make enough money for your basic needs and have so much extra time that you decide how to spend. Some spend that time working extra classes, having fun, or studying for the LSAT (me!!). However, even with all my studying, I never forgot to take the time to enjoy myself and explore the city!