I have now been here in Plasencia for exactly one month. It has flown. Up until yesterday I was accidentally telling the kids at school I have been here for only two weeks. It still feels that way, but it also feels like it has been much longer.
For all you tuned in at home, and for any potential auxiliares de conversación in the future, here is a glimpse into the Greatest Irony of my Life: going back to high school. This time I am in a position of relative authority and I am in Spain, which makes it slightly better.
Wake up before the sun. Seven in the morning is killing me. I haven’t done early wake-ups this consistently since my own high school days and now I am amazed I ever did (without a culturally-mandated siesta time, no less!) My routine: snooze 35 minutes longer than I should, turn on the light, make this face, and then get up to eat and get dressed as hurriedly as possible.
To the right, my balcony is a very important part of my day. I thought Michigan weather was difficult to predict, but Spain has us beat by a lot. When I finally reach coherence in the mornings, I stand on this balcony, freezing, and ponder for a while exactly how much hotter I think it will get during the day. I always underestimate and end up freezing at school and sweating once I leave.
I work in two different schools. One, IES Valle del Jerte is actually in Plasencia (a 30 minute walk from my flat), and one is in a neighboring tiny village called Galisteo. Some days, I walk to school in Plasencia, but typically I hitch a ride with a fellow teacher, Matilde. Galisteo is a 20 minute drive away, and several other teachers there commute from Plasencia. Beatriz, who teaches bilingual at Galisteo is kind enough to drive me every day. It’s a pretty cool arrangement.
As far as my schools, both are pretty cool. At Valle del Jerte, I only work in English classes and mostly with the specially-selected bilingual students. Their intelligence and willingness to learn amazes me. Being a teacher is also a very interesting phenomenon. I always used to wonder why my high school teachers used to be so pissy all the time. Now I know it’s because it is hella frustrating to ask a bunch of tired 14-year olds whether or not they understand something and receive nothing but blank looks in return. Yo kids, I had to get up at 7am too! Be grateful you just get to sit there and watch me squirm instead of being up in front of the class trying to bullshit your way through an hour lesson. That part sucks. But on the other hand, teaching can be insanely rewarding. It is THE biggest ego boost when the kids laugh at my jokes or actually respond when I ask if there are any questions. Sigh, it truly is the little things in life.
Some days, the kids are broken up into small groups and I get to work with them in my very own classroom! I can tell the kids enjoy that. I usually do too, as they always distract me from whatever bullshit “lesson” I have planned. Last week, I literally just had them introduce themselves and the things they like to me and the small group and then we sang “Cheerleader” by OMI to practice pronunciation and then translated it.
As I am only supposed to work 12 hours per week, I have six at each school. Ideally, it would have been three hours each day, but mine are broken up into four hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and two hours on Mondays and Thursdays. People laugh when I tell them I work 12 hours per week but an early wake-up call and having to actually think and deal with children all day is quite exhausting. Mercifully, the day ends at 2:30pm.
At 2:30 begins the rush home and the mad dash to the fridge. (Spaniards don’t eat lunch until 2-3pm, which is difficult for me.) When I get home at three I have to make and eat lunch as quickly as possible before I start walking to my private lessons.
I usually have two hours of private lessons per day, which takes up about 3.5-4 hours including time for commuting and pleasantries. The kids range from age 12-16 and I even work with a teacher at Valle del Jerte who is prepping for a big English proficiency exam. In Plasencia, people think 15€ per hour is expensive, so I usually charge around 12€. Even though my salary from the Ministry of Education is more than enough to cover alllllll my living expenses, the private lessons are a nice way to meet people, keep myself busy, and make a little extra money to save for traveling.
After these lessons, if I am feeling motivated, I go for a run. I typically run in a park called La Isla, which winds its way along the Río Jerte.
But as I often feel like quite the zombie after a full day of teaching, I typically spend some quality time with my computer. I chat up my frandz, search the interwebz for ways not to bore the hell out of the kids, and troll Skyscanner for cheap flights to anywhere.
Or I sit in my hammock in La Isla and watch all the other motivated people run.
BUT on non-school nights, I am slightly more animated. Typically me and a few other English teachers (both American and otherwise) meet at our favorite neighborhood bar in the city center, called Bar Agora. People always say this is an “old person bar” (whatever that means), but we love it because it is cheap and has the best huevos rotos in town. I get a glass of Primavera and a pincho for 2€ = score.