In the beginning there was fear
Before coming to Spain, I had barely even babysat a child. A few times I had filled in at my synagogue’s daycare during services. I remember one girl flew off a swing hit her head and wept. I thought I broke her.
I was a little terrified of children like I was going to break them, they’d attempt to eat my flesh or something. So when I came to Spain with the intention of teaching English, I thought I could avoid children and teach adults or perhaps teenagers. Last year, I was with TTMadrid, they mostly offered positions teaching in academies or with corporations. In fact, many people I talked to chose them because they wanted to avoid children.
In a predicament
Well, as I’ve described before, it was very difficult getting a job with TTMadrid. As I was applying I had to lessen and lessen my standards for a job. First I had a job teaching adults and 10-year-olds. I had issues with my boss lying to me.
Then I interviewed and interviewed then finally a private preschool was interested. They were so quick to hire me because the teacher that had been with them for five years quit one week into the school year. Needless to say, this didn’t inspired much confidence for me but I was in a difficult position. And I was a terrified to accept this job. I had zero experience, my Spanish was terrible and I was going to be alone in a room of twenty-five 3-6 year-olds. Why did I take the job? I was a little desperate and they were offering me a lot of money. But one of my fellow teachers, kindly, sat me down and told me it was going to be fine, just be confident and take the job. She basically said, you can always quit but you should at least try. And that was very good advice, I’m going to live my life by.
Meeting the monsters
When I got into the classroom, it was a little overwhelming. I was the only teacher in the room. But I had volunteered with dogs at the pound. I used the same concepts I learned there in the classroom: only show dominance when necessary, be clear why the behavior is wrong, reinforce good behavior, make your cues consistent, always follow through, do not put up with begging, positive reinforcement is better than negative and giving someone a little attention will go a long way.
The children were out of hand, most of the time. I had two children who I believe are autistic. I had to watch them carefully because they’d try to assault the other children. The children had no respect because I was new and I had no help. Then one of the teachers even yelled at me because I hadn’t memorized all the children’s names. I had three-hundred toddlers and I was working 8:30-18:30 Monday-Friday.
I got let go because they found someone with more experience and a better visa. But for the three months, I was a fulltime pre-school teacher I learned: small children are disgusting but they are very loving; invest in wet wipes, hand sanitizer and some gloves; classes with little ones are easy to plan; you do some dances, songs, point at stuff then read a story. It’s really not that bad. You will get covered in tears, snot and coughed on BUT the snuggles and the little smiles are usually worth it (but sometimes not). And while this experience was pretty terrible, I was glad I did it because I learned a lot, I got to live in Spain and I saved quite a bit of money.
New School Year, Less Problems
This year I teach students from 3-16 years-old, with BEDA. It’s a lot easier as an assistant! I usually have a teacher in the room with me and the teacher gives me a lesson plan I follow. Sometimes they teach and sometimes they just grade papers. The classes are also smaller so that helps me get control.
Cute things that have happened teaching preschool:
- All the children assuming the other English teacher and I are a couple.
- The girls always making a spot for me so I can be on their side.
- Holding a child, that was just transferred into a foster home, until he stopped crying and he wanted to play.
- Having children try to see how many tiny bodies can fit on your lap while you are doing story time.
- Getting told I’m pretty and I’m their favorite teacher.
- And of course, I get so many doodles.
- Having children give me flowers they picked from the playground.
- Rescuing caterpillars because the children keep throwing them in the trash.
It can also be really terrible like:
- Having to retrieve a child from the bathroom because he can’t figure how to pull up his pants.
- Or having a child poop their pants.
- Having a child resent you for telling they can’t sleep during English class.
After teaching a few different ages, I think children aren’t as scary as I thought. Actually now, I prefer primaria (elementary) and I dislike teaching ESO (middle school). Try getting any of them to participate in anything! They don’t think much of me singing “Good morning” to them.
The Moral of My Blog Post Is…
Don’t let something you dislike or fear, keep you from teaching abroad. It’s a great way to get abroad and travel and if it’s something you are seriously considering, just do it. You may surprise yourself. And if you aren’t challenging yourself, you are not living.