PROFILE QUESTIONNAIRE NAME: Lucy Draper DEGREE: Modern Languages (French and Spanish) UNIVERSITY: Durham University TEACHING LOCATION: Soria, Spain Why have you chosen to be a Language Assistant with the British Council? I thought it would be an interesting thing to do for my year abroad, a different experience. What type of school or institution do you teach at? An I.E.S. Who do you teach? 12- 17 yr olds What does your teaching involve on a day-to-day basis? I take the whole class with the teacher. Sometimes they just give me the textbook and get me to take the whole lesson or sometimes they might ask me to prepare an activity, eg. a roleplay, and do that for half the lesson. I never take classes on my own. What is your most enjoyable teaching experience? For one of my Christmas lessons we did ‘The Twelve days of Christmas.’ Once we had filled in the gaps I put the students in pairs and assigned them each a line. The idea was for each pair to stand up and sing their line in time with the song, and it worked! These are students who don’t normally work at all, so it was a really satisfying and fun class. Everyone was laughing and smiling by the end! How have you integrated with the local community and experienced the culture? I have made friends with a lot of Spanish people and I live with two Spaniards as well. I have tried to travel a lot around Spain and I’m going on a 2 week trip in June around the South of Spain with two other assistants. Do you feel that your language skills have improved? If yes, why and what ways would you recommend to others? My language skills have definitely improved, in all areas. Speaking and understanding comes naturally when you’re surrounded by the language. I think my grammar has improved as well as I go to 4 hours of Spanish classes a week at the Language school. It’s definitely worth seeing what the courses are like, especially as they can be quite cheap. I paid 80 euros for a year’s tuition. Do you take part in activities which you wouldn’t normally have done? Recently I went on a week long trip to Paris with the French department as one of the teachers. I think I was only able to do this though as I could speak French! I wanted to sign up for more extra-curricular activities at the beginning of the year but didn’t have the money as we didn’t get paid until December. If you were to recommend the British Council Language Assistants Programme to someone else what would you say? I think it’s a very valuable experience, and it will teach you a lot about yourself as a person. I initially found it very hard as I’m quite shy and standing up in front of a class of 30 students was very daunting! I have gained a lot more confidence and proved to myself that I could live in a foreign country. What advice would you give future assistants? I think it is crucial to go in with a very open mind. My role at the school was nothing like what I though it would be. I thought I would be with small groups of students, but instead was in with the whole class and the teacher. The students in my school are also very unwilling to learn, but it’s important not to let that get to you. Stay positive and try and be creative! What is the most important or most valuable result the experience has given you? As I said, I think one of the most valuable things it’s given me is self-confidence. Being an assistant is so different from anything I’ve done before but I’ve come through it a different person. Any other comments? I actually had an ‘interesting’ start to my year, as due to an administrative error, I was given the name, address, email address etc. for one school but the telephone number for another. I rang the school who had just received a letter saying they would be receiving a language assistant (but not stating for which language…) It was actually a French girl who was supposed to be going there, but the arrival of the letter happened to coincide with my call. Naturally the school I’d been in contact with had started making my timetable and had found me my flat. We realised the mistake when the Head of English took me into school for my first day and the name of the school was wrong! I was shortly taken to my correct school, where the English department didn’t know I was coming and weren’t particularly welcoming at first. This made the whole experience quite challenging at the start as I had already started making friends with the teachers in the other school but didn’t know anyone in my actual school. This was just a simple error but it affected so many people, so I hope that every attempt will be made to avoid this happening to someone else.
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