Name of Volunteer Speaker
Name of town/city where school is located
Experience in school including tasks, classes, relationship with students/teachers
This has been an amazing experience. Working with children is something else, there is never a dull moment! I haven’t laughed this much in a very long time. Children can be very entertaining.
One thing I appreciate is that I am not in charge of the classroom because it can get overwhelming when the children get rowdy at times.
I have been assigned to year 1 all the way up to year 6. My tutor has kept my tasks fairly simple for the older students (year 6), most of the time I take the students out in pairs or small groups and either do a short activity with them or ask them simple questions about themselves and different topics to get them comfortable with having conversations in English. Each grade is different because the need is different, and I enjoy that it’s not the same thing across the board. I especially enjoy assisting the learners as they attempt their workbook activities.
The students have been so wonderful to me, every other day I receive a thoughtful note expressing their gratitude and love for me. The little ones love to accost me with hugs – it’s so special!
I have a decent relationship with the teachers as they have made an effort to make me comfortable, although with some teachers it takes a while to break the ice. I have learned that’s due to the language barrier so some choose not to engage at all as a result of their lack of understanding or ability to speak English. Fortunately, there are translation apps that have helped me to overcome that.
Experience living with your Host Family. Have they made you feel welcome, relationship, activities, etc…
My host family has very quickly turned into my real family. They have been wonderful in every way. I haven’t lacked anything. They include me in most of their activities and daily life so it has been easy to develop a strong bond with them and the children. I appreciate that they give me my space whenever I am not feeling up to being social.
My favourite part about my host family is that they live on a farm so it’s great to be able to enjoy some nature and animals while here.
Your general experience whilst on the program from prior expectations to your current experience
When I was told to expect to spend 20 hours in the classroom a week, I thought that would mean spending 20 hours a week in the school literally. However, in my experience, I have full days from 9am to 5pm with breaks in-between. While my Friday afternoons are fairly free, I had expected that to be the case every day. I’m not complaining but I didn’t expect to spend the whole day in the school since my lessons are scattered throughout the day.
Changes/Improvements in both personal and professional development
Personally, I’d say I’m more open to new experiences. Professionally, I’m outside of my comfort zone so that means I’m being stretched because sometimes I have to think creatively in order to adjust my approach to meet a learner at their level of proficiency.
Advice for the any new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your town/city (best places to visit, things to do, activities with host family, favorite restaurant, bar, etc.…)
In my opinion, there’s not much to do here or see in Manlleu. Most times, we drive out to the surrounding towns with my host family such as Vic, Girona Rupit etc. So, be prepared for lots of mini road trips and to acquaint yourself with the public transport system if you want to go out and do things and to see different places.
Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your school?
The reality in my current school is that there are many different levels of learner proficiencies in every class across the board, even kids with special needs so be prepared for that as it can be challenging. You have to always change gears depending on the learner’s ability. In my experience, my personal tutor always prepares a simpler and more complex exercise to give to the different learners so it’s not something you will have to prepare yourself, but you’ll need to be mindful of that fact. Practice patience with some of the learners because some of them really struggle.
Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers in relation to living with your host family or Spanish families in general
Always keep the lines of communication open. Express yourself, what you like what you don’t like. Ask questions. Honest and open communication makes the experience better.
Share some of the best moments in your school, host family and in general whilst participating on the program
My best and most memorable moment whilst participating on the program is how the school made such a fuss about making my birthday special. In my first week at the school, I celebrated my 30th birthday. On my birthday, which was a Thursday, there were notes on doors wishing me a happy birthday, I received countless notes from the younger learners and a massive group of learners came to sing me a happy birthday in one of my classes. I didn’t expect that! Also, the next day, my tutor and 2 other teachers sacrificed their Friday evening to take me out for dinner. That was so heartwarming.
Any regrets joining? Would you recommend the program to others? and what would you say to someone thinking about teaching English abroad for the first time and thinking about joining this program?
No regrets joining whatsoever! I would certainly recommend this experience to others. Just beware, you will likely catch a bad cold within the first two weeks. Also, time flies!! I just wish that the experience lasted longer than 3 months. Now that I’m here I wish I could stay for the entire 9-month school year duration.