A day in the life of an English language assistant.

As I’m now officially half way through my time in Spain (how did that happen?!?) as an auxiliar de conversación, or English language assistant for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, I thought I’d give you a run-down of how a typical day generally goes. I can obviously only speak from my own experience and being in two schools this year means this will no doubt differ from the norm. I’ve chosen Tuesday because it’s my longest and busiest day by far.

7:30: Reluctantly get and of bed and try to find the willpower to switch off both of my alarms.

7:35-8:25: Get ready for the day. First, a bowl of porridge with a banana and a cup of tea (you can take the girl out of Scotland…), then I get dressed, make sure I have everything I’ll need for the day in my bag and try to time going to the bathroom so I don’t get in my flatmates’ way and they don’t get in mine.

8:25-8:45: Walk to school! Late last year when the weather was horrible and the days were short, this was fairly grim, but now it’s actually quite pleasant. I always enjoy a walk in the morning to try and fit in my 10,000 steps a day wake myself up.

8:45-9:00: Wait for one of the other teachers to arrive and let me in because I don’t have keys to the school and mentally prepare myself to say ‘buenos días’ about a million times over as everyone arrives.

9:00-9:45: First class of the day with primary one! It usually takes them about 10-15 minutes to settle down enough to actually start the class proper. I teach social and natural science in all my classes and with the youngest ones the classes are generally quite simple. Last week they had to work in teams to put pictures of animals into their correct groups (mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, fish). This week I’m going to read them ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’.

9:45-10:30: Second class of the day with primary three. These are more advanced than my classes with primary one and the kids’ level of English is higher which is great because I can prepare more interesting activities and have time to get through them in class as they don’t need instructions repeated as often as the youngest ones. Last week we wrapped up the unit on animals with a game of ‘Who am I?’ where they had to ask questions in order to guess the animal on their head. This week they’re starting the new topic on the Earth, so I’ve prepared an activity where they have to write a letter to an alien and describe the continents, oceans, and seas.

10:30-11:15: Third class of the day with primary two. These are always the hardest classes for me to prep for because while their level of English is higher than that in primary one, they really struggle to pay attention for long periods of time, so I have to organise multiple shorter activities. Last week we did an introduction to plants; and this week I’m teaching them about photosynthesis using the perpetually catchy Photosynthesis Song. Shout out to my Higher Biology teacher for ensuring that I still know all the words. Six. Years. Later.

11:15-12:00: Fourth class of the day and final class before break time with primary one. This is always a repeat of the first class of the day.

12:00-12:30: RECREO!!! Aka break time. Half an hour to eat breakfast and try to follow the other teachers’ conversations in the staff room. My Spanish isn’t quite good enough yet to be able to interject and join in, but I definitely understand more now than I did in October.

12:30-13:15: Fifth class of the day with primary three. Again, this is always a repeat of the class I give earlier in the day.

13:15-14:00: Finally done with classes for the day!!! This is my free period to prepare materials or lesson plan. Generally I help translate materials where needed and draw any posters they may need (highlights include: a poster I drew of the inner ear which I am stupidly proud of).

Clearly an artistic genius…

14:00-14:15: School is finished for the day and the kids get to go home, but because I give private classes on Tuesday afternoons in another part of town, I need to wait until the head-teacher leaves so I can go and eat lunch with her family.

14:15-15:00: Drive to my head-teacher’s home and have lunch with her family (which is consistently delicious and always gives me a good opportunity to practice my Spanish). I cannot express how grateful I am for them feeding me every single week and expecting nothing in return.

15:00-15:30: Walk from my head-teacher’s home to the home of the children I give private classes to.

15:30-17:30: Two hours back to back of private classes with two siblings: an older boy (primary four) and his young sister (primary two). These differ from week to week, but I generally help with homework, revise the content they learn in class, and play games with them(either to revise vocab or just to practice speaking in English).

17:30-18:15: Walk home from my private classes.

18:15-18:30: Time to hit the shower before my flatmates return from work and need to use it.

18:30-20:00: Finally time to relax!! While I could go into the town centre and get some shopping, I’m usually too tired and in need of a rest after a long day of working and giving classes. Normally I use this time to read a book or get some creative writing done (or nap on the sofa if it’s been an especially tiring or hot day).

20:00-20:30: Get ready for my intercambio, or language exchange, and walk to whichever bar we’ve decided to meet in this week.

20:30-23:30: Intercambio with a Spanish guy who works in the same town I live in. This is the only time I specifically set aside each week for speaking in Spanish and we generally speak half the time in English and half in Spanish, but aren’t super strict about it.

23:30-24:00: Walk home from intercambio and at long last get to bed after a loooooong day.

Before I came to Spain in September I read a bunch of blogs to try and get an idea of the kind of work I’d be doing while here, so I hope this is somewhat helpful for you if you’re thinking of applying for the programme through the British Council. If you’ve been a language assistant before or are currently working as one, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!


3 thoughts on “A day in the life of an English language assistant.

  1. Sounds like an intense but fun day – love the sound of your alien letter activity! When I was an ELA with the British Council my hours were fairly evenly spread across the week, but tended to consist of some groups I’d take by myself, some one-to-one conversation sessions and one class where I usually did a presentation (on topics like the UK, Gandhi and medicine through the ages!) and the teacher joined in with me. Although I work at a university at the moment, I’ve found there’s still room for some fun activities – which is always good as it keeps me sane on Mondays which are ridiculously hectic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds like a good mix of classes! In one of my schools I prepare and teach the entire class (the main teacher is always there though) and in the other I mainly assist with pronunciation and reading.
      I imagine teaching at a university would be a different ball game altogether!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was nice to have variety, especially as I knew assistants who only ever spoke one-on-one to final year students or corrected pronunciation in class. It really is – generally rewarding, but frustrating dealing with the disorganisation of continental universities!

        Liked by 1 person

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