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“We Teach and Learn Content in the Classroom, but We Also Share our Lives with Each Other”

memories from experience in Spain
By Elizabeth Mason 

My name is Liz. I am originally from East Aurora, New York, but also call Philadelphia home, after living there for almost ten years. Here is the story on how I ended living my teaching experience in Spain.

The Beginning of my Teaching Experience in Spain

I am currently an Auxiliar de Conversación at IES Brianda de Mendoza in Guadalajara, about an hour from Madrid. I work with the bilingual programs at the vocational college level. Ever since I studied for a semester in Seville in 2010, I have had a desire to spend more time in Spain.

Since then I have returned to take more classes, lead trips for my own students, and also walk the Camino de Santiago. Each visit confirmed my interest in the country and my love for the language and culture. Finally last summer I took the step to be an Auxiliar, and the experience has been everything I hoped for!

I have often joked that in moving to Spain this year I didn’t turn my life “upside down,” but rather “inside out.”

From Studying to Teaching Abroad

I studied Spanish and Adolescence Education, and taught Spanish for over 10 years at the high school and university levels in the US. Of course, here in Spain, I’m teaching English, but I have really enjoyed applying the same methods for learning language and teaching students about my own country and culture. I love creating lessons using songs and stories, and finding ways to connect with pop culture and students’ interests.

One of my favorite activities is called a “running dictation,” in which students need to work as a team. They compete in a type of relay race; reading, memorizing, dictating, writing, and drawing a story. It allows students to develop a variety of language skills, while getting caught up in the fun of the competition. Outside the classroom, I had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Madrid with my Protocol students.

We visited Congress, observed some of the debate, and met with one of the representatives from Guadalajara. I am grateful for these experiences when I also get to learn more with and from my students.

Teaching While Learning in Spain

The reason I studied Spanish and am now living and working in Guadalajara shows the impact teachers have had on my life. My high school Spanish teacher often shared about living in Valencia, so when it came time for me to study abroad in college, I knew I wanted to go to Spain. The school staff and professors that taught me during that semester in Seville shaped my life. While they certainly taught me more about the Spanish language and culture, that experience opened my eyes to new ways of living, my mind to new ways of thinking, and my heart to loving a new place, and above all, the people that live there.

It inspired me to keep learning and traveling, which led me to study, volunteer, and work in a number of other Spanish speaking countries before returning to Spain.

My first year teaching, I taught Spanish at an international school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. I relied heavily on my studies from Seville to teach students about Don Quijote de la Mancha, and other works by Hispanic authors. Although I had transitioned to the role of teacher, I learned a great deal from my students, and hoped they learned as much from me.

The Importance of Teaching

I initially chose this path because I loved Spanish and school. However, as I have spent my career in education, I have come to appreciate it even more deeply.

I think teaching is so important because of the relationship between students and teachers, which turns a class and a school into a community. Yes, we teach and learn content in the classroom, but we also share our lives with each other. We learn about where we come from, how to express ourselves, and how to think in different ways. And when we do all of that in another language, the teaching experience is even richer.

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