My life as an assistant English teacher in Spain

La Laura treballant amb un grup d'alumnesBy Laura van der Meulen

I would have to start by saying that I think this is the best job ever! Honest.

You get to do what you do best, talk in English. Even better you get to do this with students who want you in their classroom. You are like a rock star. Ok, so maybe, a slight exaggeration. But, honestly, I love this job. Every time you walk into the classroom, the students know that they will get to do something fun and interesting with you, even if it is grammar recap.

I started 3 years ago, and I am so glad I did. This will be my fourth year as a native speaker assistant English teacher. I have had the pleasure of working in primary and high schools, and I can’t decide which I like most, as they both have their advantages and rewards. Primary is more playful, lots of word games, arts and crafts and physical education in English, conversations and storytelling, young humans who adore you. High school is more mentally challenging because you can experience very interesting and thought-provoking conversations with the students, debates, maths and science in English, as well as more competitive activities.

At the beginning of the school year, you will walk in obviously a little nervous but excited too. So many names and faces to remember! The buildings will feel like a maze, but you will soon learn your way around, and besides there is always someone willing to practice their English with you and walk you to your classroom. Throughout the year, you will get to know some teachers and students better than others, but if you had a dollar for every students that says hello in the hallway or in the street, you would be a rich man. You will participate in a variety of activities in school and possibly attend excursions. I can guarantee you that it won’t be boring. By the end of the year, you will be sad to leave and tears will spill (no matter how tough you are).

So here are my top 5 tips:

  1. You ONLY speak English.
    Even if you do know how to speak Spanish, you are not there to practice your Spanish, you are there for others to practice their English with you.
  2. Learn the student’s names
    They love it when you know their names, it makes them feel special
  3. Make it fun and challenging
    The more fun it is, the more they will interact. High school students are very competitive, so give them a reason to get involved.
  4. Do NOT treat high school students like children
    Talk to them naturally and they will engage.
  5. Get involved

Too good to be true? Yes and no. I won’t lie to you that it will all be smooth sailing, because while you are having a ball at school, you may find the Spanish paperwork a challenge, opening a bank account is not as simple as back home, getting your ID card will take time, and you will get homesick. But for every down moment, there are tonnes of up moments: you will make friends, you will eat good food, you may experience country town life and you will grow.

So, go ahead and fill in the application. What’s the worse that can happen? You’ll get accepted.


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