Wendy is a Conversation Assistant based in Col·legi Claver in Lleida. She’s really enthusiastic about her work and everyone in the school is delighted to have her around. Her tutor, Blanca, has sent a photo along with Wendy’s text. Thank you both!
I came to work at Claver as a Conversation Assistant through a company called Home-to-Home. I knew that I wanted to teach English and I had a basic level of Spanish after studying the language at school for five years – followed by five years of not having had an opportunity to use my new-found skill – so I thought that by coming to Spain I would have the chance to improve my Spanish. I knew that I would be placed in a school, and with a family, in Catalonia, however I wasn’t aware, before coming here, that Catalan was the main spoken language and that I would be learning yet another new language (I wasn’t asked to learn Catalan but I felt that, being in Catalonia, it was important for me to at least try to learn their official language and, being half-Welsh, I understand the importance of the language to its people and, besides all this, I enjoy learning new languages ).
Home-to-Home is a very well-organised company and I had received the details of Claver and of my new family prior to leaving the UK (which was so important to me, having worked in Egypt last year with a company which basically left me alone!) I had the opportunity to look at the school’s website, to exchange e-mails with the mother of the family and to virtually explore the area where I would be spending the next nine months of my life.
On the 1st October, 2011, my new family came to Barcelona to meet me for the first time and I was so excited and nervous and scared but mostly…very, very happy! This was the day that it all became very real and my journey really began. In the car, on our way to Alpicat, we went through our lists of questions for each other and I realised that the parents didn’t really speak English and it was only the children who I would be able to have a conversation with. Now, however, after living with them for just over one month, I forget that English isn’t the children’s first language, the mother is actively learning English and speaks with me all the time and the father tries hard to speak to me, although he still relies on the children’s translation skills and makes very funny mistakes, such as “When I was a chicken”, rather than “When I was a child…” but at least he’s trying!!! It makes me feel very happy and proud and encourages me to learn their language even more so!
My first week at Claver I was told to take it easy: having only to observe the lessons, to meet new people; to make an attempt at learning everybody’s name (which I still haven’t managed to do) and to try to find my way around the school, which is very big! Being the person that I am, however, I wanted to get involved straight away. Each week, I work with Primary school children in subjects including Sport (with sixth year); Games & Songs (third year); Bits & Pieces (fifth year) and, of course, English (with both sixth and first year students). I also assist in Parvulari classes, working/playing with four and five-year-olds. If you were to ask me which my favourite subject, or year, is I really would not be able to give you an answer because they are all so different. Working with the really young children is completely different to working with the older students and the subjects, themselves, are very different so I really could not choose one over another. With the younger students I assist the teachers in the classroom but with fifth and sixth year, I take a group and we talk, or play games, which I really like because it gives me an opportunity to know more about them as people.
I also have conversation classes with the teachers of Claver four times a week – twice with Primary teachers and twice with Secondary teachers – which I enjoy very much because speaking with adults is a lot different to speaking with children, although I must not forget that they’re learning English, too, so I still have to speak slowly and choose my words carefully.
After being here for just over one month I have become a part of my family, rather than a guest in their house; I have made friends at Claver who I hope will always be in my life; my Spanish has improved and I am continuing to learn Catalan and, most importantly from a personal point of view, I have finally decided what I want to be when I grow up and I have decided that I will stay in Lleida for one more year once my job at Claver finishes in June, 2012