RACHEL ALLEN- With my course schedule, I do not have many opportunities to leave the program center. All four of my classes are at the Tufts-Skidmore Spain program center. Knowing this, I really wanted to avoid living in a bubble. I knew I would need to find an extracurricular activity completely outside of the school in order to find a more authentic experience. Before I even came on this program in January, I knew I wanted an internship. Not only that, I wanted an internship that I knew didn´t exist in the United States. After reading all the internship opportunities, I immediately knew I wanted to work with kids. I have four younger brothers (all between 8 and 10 years younger than me) and I knew I would miss them abroad. Working with kids would be a fun way to explore the city while also filling the void in my heart of missing my family (cue sadness).
I chose to apply for a teaching assistant position at a private school. I did not know that much going into the school, but I learned rather quickly. First, in order to teach at any school in Madrid I (along with four other program students) had to become certified to teach, but really all that happened was we went to the Spanish equivalent of the DMV and they printed out a document for us. The next thing I learned was that the colegio was right next to the Reina Sofía. That was a bonus for me – each day when I walk to school I get to pass by one of the prettiest buildings in the city.
I work at the colegio twice a week and I help five different classes all between second and fourth grade. The primary school is actually pretty interesting and almost everyone on this program has heard me talk about it, but I´ll let you in on the information. At the primary school, English, Science and Physical Education are all taught in English. In the high school, English is taught almost the same way Spanish is taught in American high school, with only one subject. The primary school kids have half of their classes in English and I find that so awesome. So, when I help out with the second graders, we can talk to each other in English, but sometimes they need help and we switch to Spanish real quick. But with the fourth graders, I can have full conversations with them in English and we can all understand each other.
My favorite part of this internship is the kids. They are very curious to learn and never get frustrated with themselves. I swear the happiest I´ve been here happened during my time at the school. I walked into my third grade English class, and all the kids started singing ¨Sweet Dreams¨ by The Eurythmics at me. So obviously I helped them finish out the chorus. I should have also prefaced that each class is learning a classic English song to sing for their English showcase, but it´s cuter when it seems spontaneous. My teachers are also great. They all try to include me in the lecture even if that day the kids have an exam. A few times I have even led the class in learning grammar or vocabulary. Those moments are the scariest as they happen without warning, but I love the opportunity to challenge myself.
Working at a Spanish school is different than I would presume working at an American school would be. For example, the teachers are much more honest and emotional with their students. One my first day, I walked into class and one student told me, ¨Hello! Our teacher will be coming soon. She tells us we are the worst class she’s ever had.¨ But this girl said it with a smile and was genuinely happy. When a student answers a question incorrectly, it is not unheard of for the teacher to say ¨no, are you crazy?¨ Whereas in the United States the teachers probably wouldn´t be as blunt. However, the kids think nothing of it. Their feelings never get hurt when their teachers are honest with them – it´s just the way things are done. Also, teachers are more open with their emotions. For example, if a student brings in a piece of art they have done, the teacher will say it’s gorgeous and the most beautiful thing in the world. I have seen teachers hug, kiss, and play with children here almost on a daily basis. In the States, this level of intimacy probably would not be allowed.
I love my time at the colegio because I love being a part of these students´ lives. I want to impact their learning in a positive way, and I think I do.