My year abroad transformed me in numerous ways I can’t begin to describe. From thoughts on American culture to my idealization of Spain. So what did actually teaching in Spain teach me?
Teaching in Spain taught me…
I’ve never seen myself as a patient person, but damn kids can drive you crazy. From the classroom to private lessons, my students have tested my patience–I’ve dealt with hour long temper tantrums, hitting, making rude backhanded comments. Joder.
Through it all I still loved my kids. I kept my cool (and if you know me, that is not my style). So thank you to my students who taught me how to be patient. You know who you are.
2. The power of listening.
Don’t roll your eyes, like duhhhh Kristina, but it is incredibly important to listen.
My role involved a lot of 1:1 test prep for their English language assessment at the end of the year. I made sure to ask them questions: What part is the hardest? How can I help you better? I felt like many of my students improved as the year went on because I took the time to ask and to listen to what they had to say. Not just with test prep either, but in all aspects. Sometimes they just needed someone to talk to.
3. You can’t help everyone.
The sad truth is there will be students you want to see succeed and they don’t. You want to see them do better because you like them or you see potential. Yet no matter how much you try to help or encourage them, there’s only so much you can do.
4. It’s okay to change your career path.
I never wanted to be a teacher, stumbling on a career in education only because of my mere love for Spain. Teaching English was one of the easiest ways to get a visa and be in the place I loved most. Everything I’ve done until this point was more directed toward PR/marketing/advertising and while I’m still interested in that, teaching abroad has narrowed my thoughts on what I want in a career. It may not be education and it may not even be marketing. It could end up being a combination of both.
5. Be even more open minded than you think you are.
No matter where you teach, what age group you teach, or what subject you teach… Always be more open minded than you think you are.
You’re entering an education system (teachers, structure, students) much different from your own in addition to a new culture. You’ll encounter headstrong opinions, social customs you don’t understand. Sometimes you’ll just have to “go with the flow” and accept it for what it is.
Despite the program’s faults, this experience teaching in Spain taught me more than I could ever imagine. In some ways it will change you and in other ways it will solidify other aspects of yourself you already knew. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity with my students and with my school.
What are some of the most important things your year in Spain taught you? What do you hope to get from this experience?