Monday, 15 August 2011

My Year as an “Auxiliar de Conversación”

Baeza is world heritage listed
When I received the letter informing me that I had been accepted into the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Spain, I was, of course, over the moon. However, my mood changed rapidly when I read that I would be teaching in a place called Baeza, in the province of Jaén. I started to get a bit panicky. Where on earth is Jaén? I confess, my knowledge of the geography of Spain was far from comprehensive back in August 2010.
All that changed when I arrived in Baeza in October, 2010. Naturally, I was nervous about moving to this little town. Canberra, whilst not a big city, is still certainly much bigger than Baeza, which have a population of only 16500, and I had my doubts about being able to assimilate into small town country life. I arrived at my school, the “Centro de Educación Infantil y Primaria Ángel López Salazar”, full of nerves but also thrilled and full of enthusiasm.
Just clowning around with some of my students
I had read reports written by other Auxiliares about the work they did at their schools. However, I was still unsure as to what exactly my role would be. This however, was not a problem, as the happy carefree Andalusian temperament of the teachers and the kids at my school meant that I was eased into my day to day work without too much difficulty. My main job was what many say I do best: talking. The psychology behind the Auxiliar program is simple: bring in native speakers of English to do as much speaking as possible with the students in order to familiarise them with native accents, tones and vocabulary and the history and culture of the Auxiliar's country of origin.  Slowly but surely, I built up a rapport with the students, particularly the older children in Years 5 and 6. Through regular conversation practice, the children became more comfortable around me. They were full of curiosity about the far away, seemingly exotic country that I came from, Australia.  Are there really kangaroos everywhere? Do you swim with sharks? Do you live in the desert? Have you ever been bitten by a snake? A number of discussions and PowerPoint presentations later, I was able to dispel a lot of myths about Australia, and funnily enough, confirm a few rumours, (yes, there really are kangaroos EVERYWHERE.)
Mum visited and shared a class with me!
And of course, after a few months of getting to terms with the laid back lifestyle in Baeza, I became a convert. I fully embraced the long standing and much loved traditions of siesta, tapas, paseos and a general ‘no pasa nada’ attitude- so much so that I applied to do a second year on the Auxiliar program. The difference being that this time, when I got my letter, I happily read the words Baeza, Jaen at the top of the page. Where on earth is Baeza? Why, it’s my home again for the next year!
Marissa Rodriguez
Baeza, Spain

(If you want to know more about this beautiful place, click on the links below)   (all about Baeza)  (The Cathedral)

And for those of you wanting to apply for a place as Auxiliar de Conversacion click here

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