Life as a Language Assistant has been both a fun and learning experience. From the moment I walked through the doors, the other teachers and staff immediately made me feel welcome and after just one lesson in each of my classes, I was already getting students coming up to me to learn more about me and where I’m from.
Going into the program, I wanted to be the kind of teacher that was fun and welcoming. I wanted the students to feel comfortable coming to me for advice. But I quickly discovered that just being fun and welcoming wasn’t going to cut it. I also needed to be a little strict with them and not be afraid to call a student out if he or she was misbehaving. That was the hardest thing I had to deal with. Finding that thin line, that perfect balance between disciplined and fun was challenging and everyday is a new experience. But while I had been worried that being tough on the kids would lead to them hating me, overtime I’ve realized that it did the exact opposite. They love me even more for it and respect me as their teacher because I pushed them to do better and believed in them even when they didn’t believe in themselves.
In addition to assisting the teachers in the classroom, there were opportunities I was given to work with students one-on-one outside of the classroom to give each of them personalized help with their English. Doing this allowed me a chance to get even closer to my students and earn their love and trust in me.
One student in particular has been an incredibly rewarding experience. From my first day, I was told of a girl in my 5th grade class who is autistic. After learning that she works from different books than the rest of the class and that for English classes I would have to work with her one-on-one, I was nervous. I had always considered myself to be patient, but I knew that I would need to develop that patience on a whole other level in order for this to succeed.
When I started working her, she was shy and nervous. She’d get disappointed and upset really easily, so I quickly learned that I needed to give a lot of positive feedback and praise everything she did well. She’d get distracted easily and not want to do the planned coursework, so I learned how to get her attention again by relating the material to her own life. I got to know her and through conversations, she got to know me. She slowly came out of her shell and now she’ll wave hello at me from across the room and is excited whenever she gets to go out and work with me one-on-one.
I knew that I had gained her trust when she started coming to me with problems or when she was feeling sad or upset. I knew I was establishing a healthy teacher/student relationship with her, but I had no idea how she really felt about me until we were releasing for the Holiday break in December. Which is when she proceeded to hug me goodbye five separate times and was genuinely upset and on the verge of tears because she didn’t want to go two weeks without seeing me.
That moment warmed my heart to no end that I was on the verge of tears myself. But out of pure joy rather than sadness. And as she got more comfortable with me, I’ve had the pleasure of noticing her comfort with the other students has improved greatly, so much so that she’s found some wonderful friends with the other girls in her class.
But she isn’t the only one who has found themselves connected to me as their teacher. I recently told my classes that I was hoping to renew for another year and they cheered, because they are excited to have me again next year. And that moment made all of the struggles I had gone through so incredibly worth it, warming my heart and making me feel like I actually made a difference in their lives.
When I moved to Spain and started my position as a Language Assistant, I didn’t know what to expect from the program. But the one thing I did expect was that this experience would change me. And I'm proud to say that it indeed has. My patience has increased... My confidence has raised... My tolerance towards stress has grown... And my attitude towards life shines brighter than ever before.