On this page, I’m going to tell you a bit about myself, and my experiences as a Language Assistant in Madrid.
My name is Helen Stasa, and I’m originally from Sydney, Australia.
At university, I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in psychology and philosophy. I completed my PhD in philosophy, before beginning a career in health research and policy (click here for more information on my previous career).
I decided to become an auxiliar de conversación in Spain because, after completing my CELTA qualification, I wanted to try something new and different. My intention was to stay for 9 months, then return to my life in Sydney.
However, in the week before I was due to fly home, I met a man I liked very much, and I decided to stay for a bit longer. That man is now my husband, and I’m still here!
My teaching philosophy
These are the key principles which underlie my language teaching:
- The purpose of learning a language is, first and foremost, to COMMUNICATE.
- Learning a language is DIFFICULT, and it can be VERY frustrating at times. But that’s part of why it’s such an achievement to be able to speak a second language.
- Grammar is a useful tool, but it’s not everything. Being able to outline the structural differences between the past perfect and the past continuous isn’t going to help you if you’re lost in outback Australia and need to know where the nearest petrol station is.
- NEVER apologise for speaking with an accent- accents are charming, and make you interesting!
- You know that you are really making progress when you’re able to use the language CREATIVELY to express your own ideas and thoughts.
My placements as a Language Assistant
I have worked as a Language Assistant in three different schools. In all my schools, I have assisted in grading speaking exams, helped the students prepare for PET/KET, and aided the teacher by reading materials aloud in English. Here’s a bit of information about my schools.
- School 1- CEIP Valdebernardo
- Location– South east of Madrid.
- Type of school– Public. Bilingual. Infants and primary. Medium size (3 classes per grade).
- Grades I worked with– All. From 3 years to Grade 6.
- Subjects I assisted with-English, Natural Science, and Art
- Duration of placement-two years.
- School 2- Colegio San Agustín Los Negrales
- Location– North west of Madrid.
- Type of school– Concertado. Bilingual. Infants, primary and secondary. Medium size (3 classes per grade).
- Grades I worked with– Grades 4, 5, 6 of primary and 2 ESO.
- Subjects I assisted with-English, Natural Science, and History
- Duration of placement-two years.
- School 3- CEIP Josep Tarradellas
- Location– North of Madrid.
- Type of school– Public. Trilingual. Infants and primary. Very large size (6-7 classes per grade)
- Grades I work with– Grades 4 and 5
- Subjects I assist with-English and Natural Science
- Duration of placement– current placement
My expectations (and the reality) of being a LA
When I started my adventure in Spain, I didn’t have a lot of expectations about my role as a LA. I hoped that I would have an enjoyable experience, meet some new people, improve my Spanish (which never really happened!), and hopefully have some small, positive influence on my students’ lives.
I realise now that I was very naïve…
Being a LA has been both better and more challenging than I expected. Why?
It’s been better because…
- Having worked in the same schools for two years, I have been able to form strong bonds and friendships with my students and colleagues, some of which continue to this day.
- I’ve learnt a lot about language teaching, and the pitfalls that learners experience. I’ve been able to use this new knowledge to become a better instructor.
- I’ve been able to observe some excellent teachers, and learn what strategies work well, and which should be avoided.
- I’ve realised that I am VERY interested in the psycho-social aspects of education, and I am now considering seeking formal qualifications in psychopedagogy.
It’s been challenging because…
- In some classes, I have felt that my skills could be better utilised, and that’s been frustrating.
- I’ve come to realise that rather than assisting, I prefer to take a leading role in presenting material. I was incredibly fortunate at my second school to have a more active role in the classroom, and I’d love for that to have continued.
- Sometimes, the social and family circumstances of the students are very complex, and I want to help, but I can’t, as that’s not my role.
- The Spanish education system doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for independent, creative thought in primary school. I would love for the students to be able to do more activities where they have to THINK for themselves.
Here’s a slideshow of some of the highlights of my time as a LA, from snow and carnaval at my first school to the living nativity scene at my second, to COVID Christmas at my third. Enjoy!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All photos, if not otherwise marked, are my own.