This year, I was a participant in one of the Auxiliar programs in Spain. As with most of these programs, I am a language assistant to a main teacher. Overall, it’s been a great situation for me. I don’t have as much responsibility as a main teacher and I live in Europe – a longtime goal. Going into my second year, I have a little bit of a different perspective about how to handle introducing myself to the school.
I remember at the Orientation for our program, there was a longtime language assistant. She was ademant about asking a bunch of questions on day 1. She was absolutely right. I don’t think it looks pushy – I think it looks proactive. I think I was nervous about the whole experience so I didn’t get nearly enough information. Here are the things I wish I had gotten more information or communicated better about at the beginning of my school year:
Things that might help you professionally
- Let your school know right off the bat if you want to be a bigger part of the community. For example, most schools have events, celebrations, and assemblies. Let your school know if you want to do more than just attend. Maybe you want to help teachers work a station. Maybe you could help with the music. If you want to help with a club – let them know.
- Ask to use various things on campus – e.g. copier, printer, laminator, wifi, faculty computers. Get passwords whenever possible. Also ask if you will be reimbursed for materials. I personally never did so I could take some of them with me when I leave.
- With each and every teacher – let them know what your expectations are. One of my favorite teachers in the classroom isn’t helpful at all when it comes to planning. Sometimes, he asks me to explain something that I haven’t even heard of. I am not a magician. When it comes to specific grammar points – I need preparation. In my next school, I want to make that completely clear to all the teachers I work with.
- Similarly, give a timeline for preparation to teachers – if a teacher wants me to create a lesson from scratch – I want at least 2 days notice. I would rather a week but I can be flexible.
- Ask the what if questions – you should never be left alone with students. So ask them what you should do if they need to leave the room. Ask what if the kids won’t stay quiet. What if there is some sort of incident?
- Remind teachers how many other levels you work with. As an Auxiliar, you can only prep for so many classes (let alone stay abreast of what classes are actually learning). Sometimes I walk into a class and the teacher goes “well obviously we are still doing chapter 9” and I have no idea what they are talking about. Privately, and not in front of other teachers, just let them know that it can be really hard to keep up with 13 levels and 26 separate classes – just as an example.
Things to help you Personally
- If you are in more than one level of school and your coordinator works only in one level – try to find someone that will keep you in the know about school events, field trips and assemblies so that you aren’t caught completely off guard. Obviously I’m a planner – I absolutely hate when there are random interruptions (like the events above) that I haven’t been told about at all. My coordinator was very good about communicating what events were happening in his level of the school but not always the school as a whole. Plus – I would have been happy to be a more active participant in some of these events. Your value isn’t just in the classroom. If there’s something that interests you – let your school know that you would like to be a part of.
- On top of school events, get a calendar for all holidays so you can plan any trips you want to take.
- Ask questions about what to do in specific emergencies – illnesses, family crises or deaths. My school had expectations that I would not have known until they happened. Unfortunately, this year, I lost my friend Will. It was really traumatic for me. My school expected that I would just play through the pain.
- Finally, use teachers to find out more about the city, region and events around town. I kept a really large social distance from me and the other teachers. That is something I wish I can take back. I’m not that hard on myself – my spanish isn’t that great. But the other teachers at my school have amazing English. I could have easily asked about private lessons (that’s a huge regret I have), good restaurants, events around town etc.
I hope this helps some future auxiliars (or maybe even some current ones) looking at a new school year.