We Need to Talk

The school that I work in is pretty awesome and, when I hear about how horrendous other people’s are, I feel so lucky. It’s not rough, it’s not posh and it’s not too big; it’s the ‘baby bear’ of placements. The school is fairly small which allowed me to get to know both staff and students fairly quickly, and by mid-November I had mastered all of my kids’ names much to their avail. I no longer need turn to around when I’m writing on the board to choose a student, and can merely pick a name out of the metaphorical hat in my head. They can no longer fool me with their antics; I know who’s trouble, who’s golden and I know exactly who can understand what and by how much. I think they’re getting used to me too. I’ve begun to phase out the “Queen’s English” in the classroom and move back towards my Lincolnshire vernacular (I am not a country bumpkin, I’m a city girl through and through) and the sounds of ‘EH?’  reverberating through the classroom in response to each word in a dictation are becoming less frequent. They’re also getting better at pronouncing and spelling my name and over the weeks I’ve seen some hilarious and interesting variations of ‘Heather’ including Heder, Hader and the most interesting so far, Geder. To Spanish people this is perfectly sensical so it’s a good job I’ve seen the workings of these kids’ minds. Nevertheless it’s so cool to watch them improve as the weeks and months go on and I’m still often surprised by how much they know and understand.

The other day the teacher and I were feeling pretty chilled, so after their English exam we decided not to proceed to the Science lesson and instead to simply let them read, draw pictures and play with plasticine (learning through play is important too don’t you know). Throughout the duration of this “lesson” I  received no less than nine drawings and three cards, of which two of the latter were Christmas themed – it was still November at this point! Receiving pictures from the kids never gets old and it’s still always surprising and heart-melting, especially when they’re emblazoned with Te quiero mucho. Un beso. or I like Inglish very mach. Gracias. Too cute. 

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If you are considering taking part in the language assistant programme in Spain then you should be properly aware of it, and the fact that Spain is awful with money needs no elaboration. When you arrive in Spain in August/September to commence your sangria-fuelled year of parties and travel the British Council advises that you ensure to have around £2,000 at your disposal to cover initial accommodation and travel expenses, deposits, a first month’s rent, sightseeing, travel and generally socialising with your new friends until the first payday. Before I arrived I believed the figure to be a gross overestimation, however in hindsight I realised it to be necessary and especially so for those assistants employed by el Ministerio. In Spain foreign language assistants are either employed by the Spanish Ministry of Education or by the individual ‘comunidads’, and I happen to be employed by the Comunidad de Madrid. Assistants coming to Spain are advised that the first payment of the monthly allowance may not arrive until mid-November due to the time needed to set up a bank transfer (ahem…bullshitand other insignificancies and that this is why the £2,000 is so vital. Breaking the trend set by some of my previous employers I have actually been paid on time on both occasions since the beginning of the teaching programme, once at the beginning of November and again at the beginning of December, however as previously mentioned I am employed by the Comunidad. Those working for the Ministerio have not been paid for the two months already spent working on the programme and it is now pushing mid-December. Understandably these people are feeling tired, frustrated, cheated and no doubt a little scared about being in a foreign country and running out of cash. The suggestion on the part of the British Council that they should ask friends and family for a bailout isn’t nearly as ludicrous as the suggestion to ask the schools in which they work for a loan. HELLO? This is Spain. I highly doubt that schools have money to be throwing around, and even less so for an unnecessary (but equally valuable) addition to the classroom. Spain is fully aware of its own predicament and if the Ministry of Education cannot afford to pay people then they should not be allowed to bring people over in the first place. Volunteer work is not a part of our contract.

To stand up to the nonsense being peddled by the people who are supposed to be supporting us, please sign this petition.

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