Monthly Archives: October 2011

What is my job here?


My job title here is an assistant teacher of English at Andel. Andel is a bilingual school located in Alcorcon, about 20 minutes outside of the city of Madrid. Andel has a primary, secondary, and vocational school. I work with the coordinator of the English Department and together we develop activities to enhance and liven up the process of language acquisition at the school. We must communicate extensively with the staff in order to understand their current lesson units. This information aids us in creating appropriate material for the students.  My current focus is with the primary students, years 1-3. They are terrific! They learn quickly and they are very eager and enthusiastic about the language.

The other day the coordinator and I put together several powerpoints for 63 1st year students. The idea was to use the material to reinforce a unit that had been recently completed by the teachers and to determine the students´ability to identify new vocabulary. For me, this was quite an undertaking! The management of  63 6 years old is no easy feat, but I am blessed to work beside somebody with many years of classroom experience. His ability to maintain the students focus while still allowing for a fun time amazed me. The students enjoyed themselves and I am happy that English can be presented in such a dynamic, multifacted manner. I think English is becoming associated with ¨awesome¨ in the minds of the kids. 🙂

I also work with struggling students, typically in pairs, and design smaller games to help them with topics. This requires creativity, energy, and patience. Education is a carefully crafted and deliberate process. It seems to be about building small steps for the students to climb. Progress is not linear, and the results don´t come instantly. However, small activities accumulate, days turn into weeks, and a month of learning adds up. The satisfaction of watching a student improve and become more confident in their abilities is amazing.

I also am an additional resource for teachers to use inside the classroom. This can consist of anything from helping to monitor the students or work as an aid during the execution of a lesson. My role in that capacity is only limited by the imagination of the teachers and I think that this aspect of the job is going to grow more interesting as I spend more time in the school. So far I have been used to observe Grade 6 english presentations on the solar system and to provide my own constructive feedback to the instructor and students. I have also been asked to deliver cultural presentations about life in the United States. What a great responsibility! The conversation consisted of my own experiences and observations of the NorthEast corridor of the country. I will be cooking some taylor ham, egg, and cheese with students and parents in the near future. New Jersey is getting it´s proper representation.

The opportunities here as an English educator appear to be good. I simply have to put myself out there. I have advertised my availability in the local neighborhoods and feedback is starting to slowly make its way to my mobile. I have begun to tutor privately outside of the school and this has become my second source of income. I am still early in my year here and am curious about what future opportunities lie ahead.

Hope all is well stateside!


Fall is descending upon España…


Well, after an exceptionally long summer, Fall has descended upon España. I experienced temperatures in the upper 70s/lower 80s throughout my first two and a half weeks here, but now the weather can sink into the lower 50s. For me this comes as a mostly welcome change as excessive periods of hot weather can become slightly uncomfortable to me. I am excited to learn what an Autumn experience is like in España and hope that I will have opportunity to report on it. It´s one of the most exciting times of the year in the NorthEast of the United States: the foliage shouts out God´s glory in every corner of your eye, there are a thousand and one different teas and ciders to try, pumpkin picking and carving brings you into contact with the Halloweens of generations past, and the smells of cinnamon in a kitchen are all to die for. I wonder if España will present its own set of Autumn traditions. At the very least, the scenery should be gorgeous.

I feel that I have more or less successfully navigated through the preliminary phase of living in the country. I have settled comfortably into the apartment, I am gaining a greater orientation toward the local spots (bars, grocery stores, beautiful sites and parks) as well as city spots (Madrid is incredible), I have a greater sense of comfort and understanding toward the duties of my job, my paperwork is in order (I´m completely and totally registered and legal!), and being a foreigner is no longer uncomfortable but quite thrilling. Similar to my last post, it´s amazing to watch yourself start over and get your feet off the ground in a new landscape where the rules are just slightly different. American university provided me with a solid grounding in being a competent individual and it has been so much fun to tweek those lessons to be successful and happy here. My next phase is to continue to improve my language ability (I am sufficient now with sympathetic listeners) so that I can really absorb the culture. With my ´survival´assured I can now begin to develop a larger social life and expand my horizons here. I have picked up a couple of private tutoring opportunities and that will go a long way in helping me get out and about. It´s time to get outside of Madrid a little bit!

It´s my hope to blog regularly on Sundays and provide some more information about my daily life (friends, family, stories), as well as to include more photos! The first ones up at the moment give some basic idea of my situation here and I would like to expand upon that. Visuals go such a long way!

Hasta luego.

First Impressions


So I have successfully completed week number 1 in Spain! Hey, doing better than I thought already. I think that one of the largest blessings that I have received as a result of travelling over here has been receiving a new found appreciation for virtually everything. So many details of life become heightened as a result of encountering them in a different language in a different land. For example…food shopping! There is nothing particularly exciting about a grocery store, but it´s a completely different scenario when you are surrounded by a set-up that is *almost* identical to what you experience in the United States. So much of the event is typical: you´ve got all the basic commodities that we survive and thrive on in the United States, but how about that alcohol section that you would never find in New Jersey? Or the generic brands not being at all the generic brands you´ve grown to expect? Or even a good chunk of name brands for that matter? American culture has inevitably infiltrated a lot of Spain; I can get Starbucks, McDonald´s, Burger King, etc here with no problem (is culture the right word for these things?), and I have probably heard more American pop music than I had in the States. But there is SO, SO much that distinguishes the two countries, and it´s exciting to pick up on it. I´m enjoying observing the political scene here (the national election is in November), listening to intensive fùtbol conversations at lunch time between teachers, using public transportation, striking up random conversations with others, orienting myself with a different keyboard,  and I´m now an established resident of Arroyomolinos, the town where I live, and this grants me the ability to vote in local elections. How´s that for a random fun fact? There is a lot that I will have to report on as the year moves by!!

The exhaustion of the first week has definitely hit me. Working with young students is a LOT of fun, but it takes a LOT of energy. I made a point to take full advantage of siestas these past two days, and it is my plan to export this concept to the United States. It does WONDERS for the body, mind, and soul. Really not quite sure how I was living before without it! I am also loving my coffee here and some nice wines. I love the small towns that you can discover, and I love sitting out on a terraza with a cup of coffee just reading the newspaper (part of my Spanish language education!). Moving forward I hope to continue to put as much into my job as possible, continue to meet many new people, and start to get out and really see this country (and continent)! This is a good life.


UPDATE: I have added some interesting links to my school, apartment, and Spanish newspapers. I will continue to update this over time, and photos will be coming very, very shortly!

Toto, I don´t think we´re in Kansas anymore…


I have had some excellent experiences since the last post. Spanish nightlife is terrific. My flatmate took me to hangout with his friends this past Saturday in Madrid as his parents have an apartment in the city. We met up for coffee with his crew at around 6 pm and the night for us did not end until about 3 or 4 am I believe. The clubs typically remain open until 6 am! Such a contrast to the prompt American “last call” at 2 am. I also appreciated that the emphasis, at least with this group, was not on getting wild and crazy, but having a genuinely excellent time enjoying one another´s company. We toured some highlights of the city including the King´s Palace, the Senate building, a monument delivered by the Egyptians during the time of Franco, and more. It was also so pleasant (and European I suppose) to stop at cafes every so often for coffees or a cold beer! The emersion is forcing me to communicate in Spanish and it is starting to become slightly more natural to me.

Today was my first time on the job! So far so good. My boss is a very energetic, passionate man from Chile and he has many, many creative ideas about engaging the students and encouraging them to speak in English. I think that he is going to be a really great guide for me. The staff seems to be really friendly and supportive and my impression is that the teachers there all possess a shared vision for the success of the students. What more could you ask for? They are all fairly young – late 20s\early 30s and I think that this also contributes to an energetic, vibrant atmosphere. The students are going to be a lot of fun. I have not begun working with them, but they seem like a load of laughs. Now, strangest of all…my colleague, my partner in this English mission, is TCNJ alumni, class of ’97!!! I am still very beside myself on that. We had a full out conversation about the reign of Eickhoff, the days of Decker as the cafeteria, and all the changes that have occurred since his time. Unbelievable. I miss my alma mater so, so much, but here it is chasing me half way around the world!

I like having a professional life. It´s very exciting. I will try to start posting photos soon!

Well, that was easy.


No, I wouldn´t say easy, but I was surprised at how smooth the travels went. TSA security procedure was minimal. I did not have my crotch touched, I did not go through a body scanner…I WAS fingerprinted for reasons that were never explained to me, kind of strange, but otherwise I found the whole experience to be as comfortable as was possible. I felt very blessed to fly with the Irish. I would travel all day on Aer Lingus if I could. They served beef and potatoes, we had fine Irish tea, and a kindness that is unmatched in the world….in my humble opinion. Most important, I was able to have a Guinness in Dublin Airport as I chatted with an Irish couple about President Obama and his visit to Ireland! Airports can be a drag, but I got a real kick out of just sitting and watching the world´s people pass me by. 100´s of individuals and families from all over the globe travelling to different destinations…incredible.

My flatmate dropped me off to the middle of my new town yesterday alone! It definitely woke me up to the reality of being in a different country. My mission: obtain a mobile device and try to open a bank account. Safe to say that I failed both objectives. My language ability is just not there! However, I did manage to get back to the apartment without a kidnapping or robbery (these were the flood of thoughts rushing through my head). Living independently here obviously IS doable, and as I educate myself in the language through American sitcoms dubbed in Spanish, things can only get better. Reality sinks in Monday when my job begins.

For the weekend: tour the city of Madrid. 🙂 Adios for now!