Here is our third blog submission, coming from La Salle Comtal school in Barcelona. There, Joseph, who comes from the USA, helps pupils from Infant to Secondary school improve their English. Pupils, teachers, and Joseph are all making the most of this experience. We thank Joseph for sharing his thoughts with us!
December 9th, 2014
An American In Barcelona
When I first stepped foot onto a plane in Miami, Florida knowing that it would be the last time I’d be in the United States for a year, a cloud of uncertainty surrounded me. America was all I’ve ever known for my 23 years of life, and leaving home was equivalent to moving to Mars for me. Thankfully the staff, families, and students at La Salle Comtal have eased my concerns and I’m happy to say I feel at home in Barcelona and at La Salle Comtal.
My name is Joseph Jackson, I’m 23 years old from Atlanta, Georgia and I’m serving as the conversation assistant at La Salle Comtal for the 2014-2015 school year. Atlanta is a city located in the peach state, Georgia, and is your stereotypical American metropolitan area. The home of Coca-Cola, the 1996 Olympic Games, the great Ray Charles, and myself, Georgia is a southern state with charm and the well-known hospitality of the southern portion of the United States. I study political science and Spanish at Georgia Southern University and was the vice-president of a political organization on our campus. In my free time I enjoy playing sports, playing the guitar, listening to music, and meeting new people from different walks of life.
My experience at La Salle Comtal has been all that I wanted and more. Jose Luis, my tutor, has been excellent at aiding me with withever I need and creating a schedule to implement me seamlessly into the classes here at school. All of the staff have been very accomodating, friendly, and patient in dealing with my horrendous Spanish accent and American English accent that differs from what they’re used to hearing. The students are full of life and do something new every day that brings a smile to my face. Whether it’s being attacked by a gang of 1st of primary students, or enjoying physical education in English with the 4th of ESO students, everyone has been friendly and happy to accept me as part of the family here at La Salle Comtal. In my apartment back home in Georgia I proudly hang an American flag on my wall. When I return I’ll have the flags of my two homes on my apartment wall, the American flag and the flag of Catalunya. I’d like to thank La Salle Comtal for having me here this year and am looking forward to enjoying 2015 here in Catalunya. Thank you all!
From Col·legi St Ermengol, in Andorra la Vella, we are proud to introduce you to our language assistant, Chris. This is the first time we have joined the” Programa Auxiliar de Conversa” and we are really grateful for his help and assistance. Teachers and students are both enjoying the experience to have a native speaker at school. This is an article written by Chris. Enjoy!!!
I arrived in Andorra with sore feet and a thin wallet. I’d spent a couple years bouncing around the globe, making ends meet with odd jobs and volunteer work, looking for something to catch and hold me, something that could keep my attention for more than the usual few weeks it took to decide to move on. Always just another backpacker. Canada, America, and Mexico flashed before my eyes, filled my brain with snatches of small moments: conversations with strangers on busy street corners; bizarre meetings in quiet places; crisp early mornings that gradually melted into warm handshakes and tearful hugs. An expiry date had been stamped on my work visa in red, and the ominous sequence of numbers and dashes had grown bigger and bigger until it seemed that my passport would explode out of my pocket.
In the end I had nothing but a homeward-bound ticket to fill my empty hands.
But home wasn’t the same any more. Or maybe I was different. I flew to Sweden and killed time working as an assistant to a carpenter. Cold weather comes to Sweden in August; I chose to chase summer instead. I blinked and watched as Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria passed me by. Italy was still warm in late September. I spent a week idling in the mountains near Florence until I was offered a place to teach English in Andorra. I wanted a job for winter, but I was too used to being a loose end. Days were spent agonising over whether to accept, nights haunted by dark visions of draconian uniform codes, nails scraping against chalkboards, chairs crashing against tables, and the staring eyes of children.
Eventually I accepted, and a few weeks later I stood in the doorway of my host family’s house, trying to make good impression in my worn out clothes. “I think you’ll be comfortable here,” the father said as he showed me around the house. He showed me my huge bed, my en-suite bathroom, my balcony that looked over the entire city. A penthouse suite in a mountain palace. A month before I’d shared the same square footage with six people. The family treated me with impeccable hospitality and good manners, and I tried to respond in kind. That first night I gazed through my window at the lights of Andorra far down in the valley, trying to shake the impression that I was in an aeroplane during lift-off, gazing at the winking lights with falling eye-lids, until finally I drifted to sleep.
On my first day at school I realised that there are ways to educate children that differ from the British system. There was no school uniform here, no “Sir” and “Miss”, no standing up when a teacher walked into the room. Young children were allowed to hug and hold the hands of their teachers, and all the students addressed teachers by their first names. At lunchtime, wine and beer was provided for free to the teachers and they spoke noisily across their three course meals. As I toured the classrooms I was surprised by the excitement of the children. Everyone knew my name and it followed me in a cacophony of smiling shouts in the corridors. Almost every moment brought a new friendly greeting to crack an unsuppressed grin across my face. The welcome from the other teachers was equal in enthusiasm. I had never known such heady heights of social validation, and all for nothing more than speaking my mother tongue.
I began my first lessons nervously, standing in front of the pupils with little idea how to gain their attention and obedience – until I realised that they would listen to me simply because I was a novelty. Teaching is a performance of confidence and the only rule given to me was that the pupils should speak English. Actually, they don’t have a choice. It’s the only language I know. I, on the other hand, have a lot of control over the classes I deliver, and I transform them as often as possible into lessons of drama, art, or music. I have a lot of fun and learn new things every day.
I’m a couple months in, now, and for me the novelty still hasn’t worn off. Each morning I wake up excited to return to school – a stark contrast to the sleepy slog of my own school-going days. The support I receive from my host family and English teachers is phenomenal, and I find it difficult to believe I am being paid to live a life of such varied pleasures. Not just another backpacker. No need to move along. Settled for a while, and I hope when I leave, it’ll be with hands full. New skills, good friends, and fine memories.
Here we have the first blog submission for this school year 2014-15, coming straight from Col·legi Doctor Masmitjà in Girona!
This Infant and Primary school in Girona has been in the Conversation Assistants Programme since its beginnings in 2009. This year they are hosting Erin. She comes from the state of New York, USA, and will be staying in Girona for 9 moths.
We thank Erin and her tutor, Enric, for sharing their experience with us!
I could write an entire book about my positive experiences here in Catalunya. To say that I am thankful for being placed here in Girona is an understatement. The culture of Doctor Masmitjà is one that I am so blessed to be a part of: kind students that are eager to learn new things, as well as friendly and optimistic teachers that made me feel immedidately comfortable upon my arrival in September. It is obvious that they are making an effort as many of them choose to speak English with me throughout the day!
My new family members did the exact same. They have welcomed me with open arms and include me in all of their daily activites. We often cook for each other and share new recipes, hike in the mountains, and swim in the sea (when it is warm enough)! When I am at the school Monday-Friday I truly enjoy my hours spent there. I am lucky enough to work with ages three all the way to twelve so each day is an exciting mix! The English teachers that I work directly with every day include me to the fullest in the classroom. Sometimes I even have the opportunity to participate in the school´s excursions including to a dormant volcano! When I am not at the school I enjoy teaching English privately as well as exploring the unique beauty Girona offers with friends.
Divendres, 26 de setembre, 8:00 del matí, Aeroport del Prat. L’equip del Programa Auxiliars de Conversa de la FECC i l’equip de CAPS de Home to Home donem la benvinguda als primers auxiliars de conversa, que arriben de Canadà i Estats Units. A les 9:30 surt des de l’aeroport, amb un grup de 30 auxiliars, el primer autocar cap a la Residència Salesiana Martí Codolar. Hi ha auxiliars que no tornaran a casa fins al juny, així que l’autocar va ple de maletes -gegants!- a vessar.
A Martí Codolar, els auxiliars són rebuts per membres de l’organització, i poden anar a les habitacions a descansar una estona. Mentrestant, a l’Aeroport del Prat, segueixen arribant auxiliars…a totes les terminals alhora! A cada porta de sortida hi ha un membre de l’organització que els dóna la benvinguda i els va acompanyant al punt de trobada i, més tard, a l’autocar que els portarà cap a la residència. Cap al migdia ja han arribat auxiliars d’Anglaterra, Estats Units, Canadà, Irlanda, Nova Zelanda i Singapur.
Tots els auxiliars que han anat arribant al llarg del matí i migdia a Martí Codolar dinen plegats, i després passen la tarda i vespre fent dinàmiques de grup amb l’equip de Home to Home. Fan activitats per conèixer-se entre ells, per conèixer coses de Catalunya i jocs que després podran fer a classe amb els alumnes.
A les 22:00 arriba el darrer autocar des de l’aeroport. Els 156 auxiliars de conversa han arribat en un total de més de 90 vols, i finalment ja són tots a la Residència. Sopen plegats i passen l’estona de després de sopar als jardins de la residència, parlant i coneixent-se, i poc després de la mitjanit ja són tots a dormir, perquè l’endemà s’han de llevar ben d’hora!
Dissabte al matí a les 8:00 els auxiliars esmorzen plegats al menjador. Després, a l’aula magna, cadascun dels auxiliars és obsequiat amb un diccionari de Castellà – Anglès per gentilesa de Cambridge University Press. Juanjo Fernández de la FECC els explica el sistema educatiu català i els parla de les Escoles Cristianes. La professora de Padre Damián Sagrados Corazones, Carme Santiago, els parla de com ser uns bons auxiliars de conversa a les escoles, i Sonia Jalle, professora del Jesús Maria de Sant Andreu, sobre com ser el millor hoste a casa de les famílies acollidores.
Un cop acabada la sessió de formació, comencen a arribar les primeres famílies acollidores a buscar els auxiliars de conversa. En molts casos no cal ni que els anem a buscar, perquè ja es reconeixen uns als altres per haver-se comunicat per correu electrònic. Els auxiliars de conversa i famílies acollidores van marxant cap a casa, a les províncies de Lleida, Girona, Tarragona i Barcelona, i també cap a Andorra!
Esperem que tant per als alumnes d’aquestes més de 120 escoles cristianes, com per a les famílies acollidores, com per als auxiliars de conversa, aquesta sigui una experiència molt profitosa!
Com bé sabeu, ja falten pocs dies perquè arribin els primers auxiliars de conversa a les escoles i a les de les vostres famílies acollidores.
Aquestes famílies que, generosament, acullen els auxiliars de conversa són un pilar fonamental per al programa. Potser les famílies interessades de la vostra escola no van tenir ocasió de venir a la reunió informativa que vam realitzar abans de l’estiu, o encara no s’havien plantejat ser família acollidora. Per això, sabent l’esforç que feu des de l’escola per poder trobar aquestes famílies, des de l’organització del Programa Auxiliars de Conversa hem convocat una altra sessió informativa adreçada a les famílies acollidores, el proper dijous 18 de setembre a les 18:30 a l’Escola Pia Balmes de Barcelona (c. Balmes 208, Barcelona)
En aquesta reunió, tan propera a la data d’arribada dels auxiliars, parlarem de què suposa acollir un auxiliar de conversa a casa, com podem facilitar la seva integració a la família i al nostre país i, és clar, donarem resposta a totes les preguntes que pugueu plantejar-nos. Pot ser molt útil tant per a les famílies de la vostra escola que ja s’han compromès a acollir l’auxiliar i volen resoldre algun dubte que els pugui quedar, com per aquelles que potser volen acollir l’auxiliar durant el segon o tercer trimestre.
Aquelles escoles que encara no hagueu trobat famílies acollidores, podeu animar a les famílies indecises del vostre centre a venir, pot ser una molt bona oportunitat perquè acabin de decidir-se!
Si us plau, us demanem que ens confirmeu l’assistència per correu electrònic a l’adreça email@example.com, indicant quantes persones vindreu.
Even though the students are already on holidays, teachers are still working! Irene, Carme and Sílvia, three English teachers from FEDAC Sant Vicenç, have written to us to share their school’s experience with their Conversation Assistant, Warren.
Thanks a lot!
It’s the 1st year that FEDAC Sant Vicenç is hosting a Conversation Assistant. Warren, from UK, arrived at our school in January.
Warren works with 3-16 years old doing different activities according to the level of students. He teaches the youngest classes with games, learning lots of new words.
With primary students he usually takes small group of students to another room to practice speaking activities: games, role plays, questions and answers, drawing stories,…
As for as Secondary Education is concerned, the conversation assistant has helped the English teachers in many ways. On the first sessions, he remained in class, reading texts out loud so that the students became familiar with his pronunciation and intonation. On the following sessions, groups of 4-5 students were sent away with him, and they practised oral skills, making rhymes with words, learning new vocabulary and singing songs as well as watching films. Sometimes those groups were larger, up to 12 students for about 25-30 minutes.
It’s been a positive experience for both, the school and the students, who have both made effort to speak English with the conversation assistant, not only in class, but also with the school building, when playing sport in the playground as well as eating lunch in the school canteen.
New blog submission from FEDAC Ripollet!
The Conversation Assistants finish their tasks at all their schools today. We hope everyone has made the most of this experience.
Patxi is a nineteen year-old boy who has spent six months with us. In December, he started to work in our school as a conversation assistant, with children who are 3 to 12 years old.
He came to Spain because he wanted to practise Spanish and Catalan so, he was born in Girona and was living there till the age of 10.
Patxi´s work consisted on taking small groups of boys and girls and practising English with them. Sometimes he stayed in the classroom with the teacher and talked about any topic: a unit of science, England or one of his experiences. The result of having a conversation assistant is that our students have improved their speaking and listening skills a lot.
Patxi is loved by eveyone in the school, not only by the children. The teachers are really happy to work with him. He is very enthusiastic, he wants to do his work the best he can and wants to participate in all the celebrations and activities organized at school.
Along these months, we have noticed that he enjoys working with children. Every morning he arrives at work with a huge smile. It is very nice to work with him.
Montse Barros (English Teacher)
I arrived at my placement during the beginning of December.
I was given information about the School and the Governing Body that owns it, as well as more information about other FEDACs around Spain and the World. This allowed me to research a bit more about their curriculum and what kind of work they did, so as to get a better picture of how I could help. Getting to know the school wasn’t hard; a small five floor building/church which was originally inhabited by nuns. The teachers were very friendly and welcoming, and very soon I was settled in and ready to teach.
During my time in the school I have been given support from the English Teacher, be it support with teaching ideas/materials or simple support from all the teachers about my residing town and the possible activities to do.
I was invited to several of the dinners organised by the teachers, and I was also given the opportunity to go with the school on the Colonies (camping) which allowed me to further develop my skills working with children. It was also great fun!
Vedruna Artés has joined the Programa Auxiliars de Conversa for the first time this year. They are hosting Josh, who comes from the UK. He and his tutor Imma have written to us to tell us a little about this new experience for both of them. Thanks a lot!!
We, at Vedruna Artés school, have had the chance of having our first conversation assistant ever. He’s Josh Hall. He joined the school team in January. He is a young, active man with loads of adventures in mind. He came directly from his native land, Cornwall, in the south- west England, to Barcelona; bringing with him his great passion: Running. He used to compete and he plans to go into competitions again in the near future. At the moment, he is planning to keep on travelling the world after his days in Artés. His next stop? Vietnam, the south of Asia, Australia and who knows what next. He feels good here but he is also very enthusiastic about seeing the world and undergoing the most fascinating adventures the world can offer. All the members of the school are enjoying his company and lessons. We can not wait for his postcards from around the world.
And now, Josh:
After I finished college with my qualifications in engineering/operating and an athletics ambition in the pipe works I decided to try something new with teaching, believing that teaching would allow me to travel the world whilst gaining great knowledge from different cultures, I picked up a TEFL qualification and went from there.
Apart from this the experience is allowing me to travel around the world. It also enables me to gain an understanding of the different cultures and see life from a different angle.
In general my time here in Spain has been a varied one full of different experiences which will stand me in good stead for the future.
I started school here worried about living with a host family after being independent outside of family life for so long and as to what to expect from the program and whether I would like it or not.
However, from day one I instantly felt like I should belong here and never felt more welcome. I have had 2 host families during my stay here and despite having the usual time to settle in an environment that you’re not used to I felt at home (even if the family need to make sure I’m safe every 5 minutes).
I have been put out of my comfort zone having never been in an education environment before and this presented many challenges that I didn’t think I would overcome in less than 6 months!!
The most interesting for me is the Spanish culture, food and traditions!! Paella, Calçots, Sangria and the Mediterranean diet to name just a few.
The family I feel like I could go to for any problem no matter what it might be which made me feel more reassured about the stay in Spain.
Before arriving here I was nervous about only knowing a small amount of Spanish and having such a small understanding of the Spanish language questions started to arise …”How are you going to understand what they are saying”, “How are you going to get your point across”,
These are all the questions I used to hear at the start and the questions I used to debate with myself before arrival.
But as soon as I arrived at the school, seen the teachers and seen the students my attitude changed fast…
Having the right attitude and energy (sometimes being crazy silly) made the young learners for the most part easy to work with and easy to teach.
Also the program has opened up options to teach in private academies to supplement income whilst also gaining even more experience in my case 8-50 year olds which I found in the 1st couple of weeks which made the stay a lot easier and a lot more comfortable for me financially especially when you consider the lack of expenses.
One of the highlights from the caps course for me was when I arrived in Barcelona and had a whole team of people from opposite ends of the world all with unique cultures and differences and speaking with them about what lies ahead. I still keep in contact with these people even if it is sometimes more difficult to see them if there further away from where I am or Barcelona.
I have been living in a small town called Artés; the town is only 50 miles from Barcelona and I have been working in the school which is called Vedruna, just a 5 minute walk from my house. I work with pupils aged from 4-16 year old and was like a big family. From the first day, I felt like part of a team!
I have now been here almost 6 months and still can’t walk around the school without students attempting there best English greetings with smiles bigger than dinner plates!!!
The school I work at is small thus enabling you to get a real connection with the students which may not be so easy with a bigger school, so this was a huge bonus and something that made the experience so much more special.
The students here are full of energy at all times and are always willing to make your day!
I have been taking small groups of students from the class to do some conversational classes.
We thank Amy & her tutor, Marta, for writing to us!
The school La Immaculada, in Sant Vicenç dels Horts, is hosting a Conversation Assistant for the first time this year. Her name is Amy and she comes from The United States. She helps pupils from 3 to 12 years old and all of them really enjoy their time with her. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
Here are some thoughts from Amy about her experience in Sant Vicenç dels Horts so far:
Hello! My name is Amy and I am a Conversational Assistant at Col•legi La Immaculada, a primary school in Sant Vincenç dels Horts. I started the program in late January and cannot put into words how truly amazing and beneficial this experience has been for me. As a 22 year-old from Los Angeles California, I had never traveled outside The United States before, much less to a country that spoke a different language. It is safe to say that the last 5 months have been the most challenging and best months of my life.
Having graduated from my university last May, I really wanted to get more experience in the teaching field and have always felt that learning from different cultures is both valuable and important. CAPS is the perfect package because I am able to get more experience in the classroom, as well as the extra bonus of learning about a different culture.
From the very first day, La Immaculada welcomed me with warm “Hellos!” from both the students and teachers. I found it surprisingly easy to communicate with the children, despite speaking a different language. The children take English classes as well as a conversationally based English class called “Talk.” With these classes, I work with small groups of 4-6 children practice pronunciation, grammar and word usage by playing games, singing songs, or just simply having a conversation. I also teach science and art classes in English so that the students can be accustomed to listening to a native English speaker. In the Infantil classes, I primarily teach English through songs, stories and by leading their daily routines.
I have also had the opportunity to do some fun activities that tie language, culture, and learning together. One of these activities was a cooking workshop where I taught the students how to make American rice crispy treats. The children learned about the different ingredients, utensils and instructions in English during class, and then were able to actually make them with their parents at school. It was enjoyable and delicious!
The one thing that I was nervous about was living with host families. My first host family spoke a little English, which made my first month easier to get acclimated. The family I live with now has three small children and do not speak English. Because of this, I have been able to learn so much Spanish in a very short amount of time. At first, it was difficult because not only did I not know much Spanish, but I also had zero confidence speaking it. But now, whether it’s the car ride to school or at the dinner table, I am constantly practicing. Another benefit of living with a host family is that I have had the opportunity to learn about Catalan culture and traditions. 5 months ago, these families were strangers who I could not even understand. Now, I am dreading the day I have to leave them!
This experience has given me more than just an opportunity to improve in teaching; it has given me friends and family who I will always be connected to, even though they live in another part of the world.
FEDAC Sant Andreu has been in the PAC for three years now. This year they are hosting Molly, who comes from the UK. Molly is enjoying her time in FEDAC St. Andreu, with her students and host families, and from what we know, both school and host families also love having Molly with them. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, Molly, and we hope you enjoy the rest of the schoolyear here!
We celebrated ‘Carnaval’ in school by each year group making their own costumes, all with different themes, and doing a ‘Rua de Carnestoltes’ (A walk around the block in our costumes, mainly so the parents can take photos) As you can see I was dressed up as ‘Bob Esponja’ (SpongeBob) – What a great day!
After finishing my studies last year, I was very undecided as to what step I wanted to take next. I only knew that I wanted to travel, enjoyed learning languages and that I had my TEFL qualification in hand. When I came across the CAPS program online, it really was ideal and I applied without hesitation…
I have now been living and working in Barcelona for nearly six months and I am sad to say I only have three left – time really does fly when you’re having fun!
I have been living in a small town, Sant Andreu, only 20 minutes by metro to the centre of Barcelona – I have the best of both worlds. And have been working in a school, FEDAC Sant Andreu, currently just 10 minutes walk from my house. I work with pupils aged 3-16 years old, which at times can be quite the challenge (especially remembering all 700 names!) but we’re like a big family. From the first day, I was welcomed with open arms (and biscuits) and I’m definitely proud to say I’m part of the team! I have now been here almost six months and still can’t walk around the school without students greeting me around every corner. I’m thoroughly relishing my time here and it will definitely be difficult to leave all these smiley faces!
Activities with P5 students
Before arriving to Barcelona, I was extremely nervous about living with a host family, especially because I haven’t lived with my own parents for a couple of years! Obviously, you receive basic information about each one and can contact them via email, but you are still a little apprehensive until you meet them in person. Of course everybody will have their own experience, but personally I have had the best host families I could have asked for! I am currently living with my second host family and soon to move into my third. Though at first it was difficult to adapt to living with a host family, changing your surroundings completely and leaving your loved ones, it’s surprising how quickly you form close relationships with them and how difficult it is to leave them! But you have to remember that these families don’t receive any money to keep you in their home and it’s only a good experience if you make it one! So get involved with family activities/events, interact with the children, help out with chores around the house and you will definitely be a part of the family.
Previously never travelling to Spain, this experience has given me the opportunity to visit various places around this beautiful country and satisfied my wanderlust somewhat… to name a few: Valencia, Vic and even as far north as Andorra! (soon to be on the list, Madrid)
I truly have met the most wonderful people whilst living here… not only families, students and colleagues but fellow CAPS auxiliars (it’s always nice to have people who are in the same situation as you and that you can talk to without having to mime!) and Spanish friends I have made. All making my experience even better!
Working as an ‘auxiliar´ has allowed me to gain vital teaching experience, learn about a different culture and their traditions, improve both Spanish and Catalan languages and all whilst the sun is shining! What more could I ask for?