Madrid Still Has My Heart as an Auxiliar

Looking back to almost one year ago, I never could have imagined that Justin Hughes-Coleman and I would one day be collaborating and sharing information about his upcoming second year in Madrid! Each time I meet with Justin, I learn a tiny bit more about who he is and, most importantly, who he wants to become. Check out his Part two interview about finding purpose while teaching abroad to catch up.

I’ll never forget meeting Justin last August. He was sweating (as we all were because it was AUGUST in Madrid), and I sat next to him and just felt happy. I share this moment once again because it was the very beginning of what I like to think of as this cool ride that we are on and that we don’t want to end.

Justin has been on the Dreams Abroad team since it’s inception and has successfully wowed readers with his first two blog posts. His soul shines when he writes and readers understand both him and his message.

Meet Justin, the soul searcher and auxiliar: 

I am following up on our previous interview and your last blog post on expressing yourself in Spain.

I think we all want to know…

Are you still the “teachers pet” at your school?

“Hehe, that is so funny that I thought that at one point. No, I no longer believe I’m the teacher’s pet. The last two months have been very eye-opening because of my school’s dysfunctional leadership.”

How are things at school since we last spoke? Anything changed?

auxiliar school madrid

“A lot has changed at my school since then. Most importantly I realized that my school is one of the worst in the town that I work in. I figured this out because the schools are ranked every year based on the pass/fail rates of the English exams and my school has been routinely at the bottom under my current top two senior staff members (director and jefatura de estudios.) This has caused the school to have increasingly lower numbers of students since parents choose to put their children at other schools. This has an effect on the staff as well; most staff members only stay one year at my school and request to leave once the year is over.”

Do you think that is why the Comunidad de Madrid is investing in so many auxiliars?

“I do believe the job has a high turnover rate. However, I wouldn’t say it is entirely the fault of the Comunidad de Madrid. All the schools are totally different in the way they are run so no two schools are alike. An auxiliar would have a totally different experience if they were at a different school. I tell people that if I worked at truly badly run school, I would not renew for a second year because so much of one’s experience in Spain is based on their school.”

Even before our second interview you knew you were staying in Madrid, what made you decide to stay?

“Despite my school, Madrid still has my heart. They recently held World Pride that was two weeks long and it showcased what is best about Madrid, the people. Everyone in Madrid is so open-minded and interested in really getting to know people of all backgrounds. That is something I haven’t found back in America.”

world pride madrid

Have you talked to your school about your role next year? Will you be teaching 8 classes and a homeroom?

“I haven’t spoken to my teachers about next year or any other auxiliar. It will probably be the same process as my first year where I just show up and the administrators scramble to come up with a plan.”

What are your plans for this summer?

“This summer I’m going on a different type of adventure. I am living in Greece for two months. For the first month, I am working on an endangered horse farm on the Greek island of Skyros. The second month I am helping build a yoga studio on the island of Rhodes. It will be such a new experience for me and I don’t know what to expect but I am looking forward to it!”

How did you find these places to work abroad?

I found out about this website called workaway.info where people who are looking for volunteer work can post an ad and in exchange for the help they usually provide room and board for the volunteers. I knew for the summer I wanted to be by a beach (seeing as how Madrid is quite literally landlocked and I didn’t want a repeat of last summer) so I searched for situations that were near beaches and I stumbled upon the endangered horse farm and yoga retreat in Greece.

workaway info

 

What was the best experience you had this school year? And the most memorable?

“The best and most memorable experience is when two other auxiliars and I performed a dance routine for the entire school and all the kids ran up and mobbed us after the performance. It was absolutely crazy!”

Tell us more about Justin Time for Life your blog. What are your plans for the blog?

“My plan for this blog is to reach out to those who don’t feel like they really belong in America. I was to give them a perspective of what it is like to live abroad as an auxiliar. I know that all my posts are only my experience and they won’t be the same for everyone that goes abroad but I want to give people a “running head start” in their journey abroad. Moving abroad was the best decision I have ever made in my life and I want people to know that despite whatever challenges they face, it is worth it.”

Auxiliar Abroad and What is to Come

Justin has not only walked the walk from the USA over to Madrid, but he is going to be talking to and assisting others through his blog about how to do the same abroad. The person that I met that scorching August afternoon was and is one very courageous man. Dreams Abroad is ecstatic to be working with him and together we are a team ready to better equip our readers on open-mindedness.

I can’t wait to hear all about Justin’s summer in GREECE! If you are an auxiliar abroad we want to hear from you! Join our LinkedIn group to stay on top of all the amazing Dreams Abroad developments.

by Leesa Truesdell

Student Success While Teaching Abroad

by Leesa Truesdell

morgan-yearoutMiracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do your fears.” – Richard Wilkins

Sitting down with Morgan Yearout two months after our initial interview, I observed an even more confident and relaxed person. She is clear about her role as a teacher and happy with the work she is doing. Furthermore, she cares about student success more than others.

In our first talk, Morgan was candid about how highly she valued the leadership role she last held at a corporation. I wanted to find out more about her thoughts with regard to her previous position and her new auxiliar position in one of Madrid’s secondary schools. I decided to ask her a follow-up question about her role at Hilton after our initial conversation.

You mentioned in your first interview that you were a Senior Manager for Revenue Management at Hilton Worldwide. Your job was to train and develop new team members to be most effective for their careers with Hilton.

Do you think working with adults in a corporate environment was more difficult than working with high school students? Why or why not?

“I think there’s a lot of overlap whenever you are in a leadership capacity, whether it is in an office or at a school. At the end of the day, you have to gain people’s trust in order to better understand what each person’s motivations and strengths are and successfully challenge them to be better. It’s all about creating a safe environment by exercising emotional intelligence. For example, practice understanding and not judging, use active listening skills, positive reinforcement, and have difficult conversations when needed.  These things have enabled me to develop strong working relationships no matter what the environment is. Therefore, neither scenario is more or less difficult, it’s all about perspective and doing the best you can with the interactions that you do have.”

What is a typical day at your school like?

“Most of my classes are English, Science, or Art. In English classes, I prepare the full lesson plan but collaborate with the teacher in case there’s a certain topic that they wish for me to focus on. During art class, I simply help with classroom management and speak to students informally as I move throughout the class. In science classes, I usually read part of a chapter, supplement the lesson with a discussion, or facilitate a test-prep discussion.

Several examples of lessons that I prepared and facilitated include: types of American food; Bob Dylan, nobel prize winner; USA national parks; USA national monuments; Myers-Briggs personality testing; presentation skills; homework/education comparison across various nations; diet comparison of the USA versus Spain; culture comparisons between the USA and Spain; how to craft a personal statement; environmental discussions regarding the “Plastic Age”; the obesity epidemic across the world; comparison of Obama and Trump’s inauguration speeches; how to read nutrition labels; and how to establish S.M.A.R.T. goals.”

How many people do you work with (auxiliars included) and how many classes do you teach?

“I work with six other auxiliars and I teach 18 classes (including the one-on-one conversation class with the secretary).”

student success while teaching abroad

Communication in the school and outside of school:

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

“Yes, I have been so blessed to have teachers and auxiliars that love their job and are passionate about ensuring student success. The auxiliars have a monthly luncheon but also meet up sporadically throughout the month, which is great! I did Tapapies with one of the teachers I work most closely with and plan to have dinner together again before the year ends. There is definitely a mutual appreciation and respect amongst the auxiliars and teachers.”

Are you forming bonds with students?

“Yes! It was really reiterated around the Christmas season when two classes gave me handwritten notes thanking me for my assistance in the classroom and letting me know they have appreciated getting to know me! Other students have offered their food, made art projects for me, or simply say hello to me in the halls and ask me about my life.”

Does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships inside and outside of the classroom?

“The school doesn’t really have extra-curricular activities like the USA. Students join sports clubs and language schools off-campus so I don’t see the students outside of class unless I randomly run into them at the gym or in the metro. Within the classroom, I choose to engaged thoroughly with the students because I genuinely care for them and student success. I get students to tell me about their day, weekend plans, vacations, and life in general.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

“I always talk to the teacher about the class content for the week to see if I can supplement it with my presentations. Student success is very important. I have an immense amount of autonomy in choosing my topics. Also, how I want to conduct a class. For my Bachillerato classes, I solicit the student’s input so that I can ensure those classroom discussions are relevant and engaging for them.”

Do you work at a bilingual school? What does that mean to you? What does that mean according to the Comunidad of Madrid?

“I work at a bilingual school. Essentially all classes aside from French, German, Math, and P.E. are taught in English as far as I know. The classes that I assist with are conducted in all English by the teacher and myself. The only time English teachers don’t speak English occurs when clarification is required for the lower-level English speakers. I believe that my school is in line with the requirements of a bilingual school based on the Comunidad de Madrid.”

What standards are the classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?

“I am unsure since I am not directly involved with the students’ preparation for the English proficiency tests this year. It is my understanding that those students taking the exams need to do well in order to maintain the reputation of the school and the teacher.”

students learning abroad

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help their students succeed?

“Not that I am aware of. I presume so, however, these haven’t been communicated to me. “

What have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“I haven’t really learned much about myself per se. I have become more comfortable with myself in a public speaking capacity. Before, I used to feel ridiculously anxious for presentations, so much so that I would avoid them like the plague. In college, I’d sign up for the introduction and conclusion slides…

Otherwise, I continue to be impressed with my ability to embrace ambiguity. In terms of expectations from me in the classroom and developing ideas for presentation topics so that’s lovely.”

What are your new goals and/or modifications to previous goals in the new year?

“New goals?! Hmm… mainly just experience more of the local culture i.e. I did a walking tour, doing the caves under Plaza Mayor, museum dwelling, rooftop bar adventures, and café exploring. Time is flying so fast so I really hope to make the most of my time here by continuing to foster important friendships and host family relationships.”

I am also scheming more grand adventures! As of right now, I have Venice for Carnaval, Bordeaux, Belgium, Spain day trips, a Croatia solo trip and some other potential master plans that I´m keeping in mind. My ability to speak Spanish is not where I would like but I will continue to try. My biggest goal for the year is to break even with the money I make versus the money I spent making this dream a reality.”

Student Success and Willful Personality

Knowing her willful personality and seeing student success, I know Morgan will always do an amazing job in whatever she puts her mind to. In future interviews, I look forward to looping back with her. I cannot wait to see what she has taken with her from this experience, and especially to see where she is headed next.