School’s Out—A Reflection on a Year in a Madrid High School

School’s out for the summer. Weren’t those the sweetest words when you were a kid? Summer meant possibilities, everything open and waiting for you: swimming pools, summer camps, driver’s ed, athletic conditioning (wait, was that just my school?), endless days when all you did was eat popsicles and jump in the sprinkler. Ah, summer. It’s too bad that summer, at least the idea of it as a three-month-long break, had to end—for most.

For teachers, there’s still Summer with a capital s. Teachers may not see summer the way kids do—they’ve got responsibilities and bills to pay. But summer is still there, and the idea of summer motivates us from February to June. School’s finally out here in Madrid. Most of the exams are finished; most final grades are being handed out as I type this. Camps start next week here in Spain. Done! Finished! Terminado! 

This school year was a fun one for me. After having lived through a rather unpleasant experience last year (and that’s putting it rather mildly), I came into this year with low expectations. But my low expectations were met by great teachers. Teachers who cared, teachers who worked with me rather than against me, and teachers who spoke English well. (Weird, isn’t it, seeing as they’re English teachers?) We had a great year together, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have worked in one of  Madrid’s most historic educational centers, where the alumni have names like Lopa de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, and even Juan Carlos I. The classrooms were old, certainly, but for the most part my classes were conversational in nature, and we worked with what we had.

Teenagers are teenagers everywhere, though, so of course my efforts to speak English were met with some resistence. Nonetheless, at the end of the day (year), I can say that I left with them knowing more English, with them having a better perspective on my home country than they started with. A simple goal, yes. But a goal achieved is a goal achieved.

They say that the auxiliares de conversación program is the luck of the draw, and I’ll have to agree. After two years at different schools with not-so-pleasant results, this year it was my turn to finally work with great coworkers, even if I also had to put up with the sometimes surly attitudes of teenagers. I did a lot of fun activities, spoke mostly in English, and felt fulfilled. You can’t really ask for better.

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Teaching in an Instituto (High School) vs. a Colegio (Elementary School)

GIF Version.

Having worked in two institutos and two colegios here in Spain, I feel very qualified to write this post. When you work in a colegio, you are godlike. The kids may draw pictures of you, write you love notes, bring you presents, pick flowers for you out on the playground … you get the picture. When you work in an instituto, not so much. You are most likely seen as a welcome distraction from the day-to-day monotony of regular English class. But it’s also possible they think you’re, like, totally lame. (You got me.)

So what’s the difference, anyway?

When you want to play a game

Colegio (Elementary):

Excited Kids

Instituto (High School):

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Mis Impresiones de una High School

One of the things I was looking forward to doing when my in-laws visited was taking my father-in-law to my old stomping grounds—my former high school. It was inaugurated in 1992, and it has the second-largest swimming pool in the state (!), so—I’ll admit it—I thought he might be impressed. As a former high-school teacher himself, he found everything interesting and remarkable (as in, something upon which to remark).

Afterwards I asked him if he would write up his impressions of the visit. He sent me back a very professional-looking document. If I were a teacher, I’d give him an A+, or in Spain’s system, a matrícula de honor. First I’m going to let you read what he wrote in Spanish (if you can), and then I’ll translate it at the end.

Graduation Crawfordsville High School

Graduating from my high school

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