With 2019 looming in front of me, I sit sipping a glass of red at a neighborhood cafe thinking about the past year. It was year of change, challenge, loss, and new beginnings. Despite the devastating passing of my beloved Louie, it wasn’t entirely bad. It was filled with a move back to a country I’ve had an on-and-off love affair with for ten years, wonderful friendships, both new and old, and the continued support from my beautiful family. I have to say, on the whole, I am very blessed.
I’m happy to report that I continue to grow and learn more about myself every year. I’m far from perfect. Some vices are harder to shake than others, but I am actively working on them. I continue to seek educational opportunities and feel out the vocations that make me feel the most fulfilled. I’m 75% done with my online TEFL cert, pending two written assignments and an add-on 40-hour young learners course. I feel confident about moving forward with teaching and pursuing new and different challenges. High school has been an interesting change, but I think despite the jokes and good conversations I have with my older students, I do prefer working with young children. Silliness transcends language and I have no shortage of that. Even when the kids can’t understand me fully, laughter will keep them engaged. Plus I’ve been dying for a reason to play my ukulele at work.
I submitted an application to the program I worked with four years ago, BEDA, and got a response from the coordinator about a week later. She said they would be happy to have me back and that there was no need to re-interview (thinking maybe the eval from my past school was pretty good?). With this program, you take post grad courses at Universidad Pontificia Comillas toward two separate teaching certificates. The first year I participated in the program, I had no real interest to pursue teaching and largely blew off the classes. Needless to say, I didn’t get a certificate of completion after that year. In my follow-up query to Esther, I asked if it were possible to start from scratch as I had not given 100% with the first module. She is going to check with the university after break, but told me it may be possible to essentially wipe that year clean and be given another 4 years to participate (the cap for all assistant teaching programs here) rather than the 3 I’m at with BEDA currently.
The truth is, while I would love to go to China and South Korea (and a load of other Asian countries) for a year’s time each, I would be the main teacher. The master of my domain. While I have faith in my teaching abilities, I don’t have formal education and training and the prospect of that intimidates me. With the auxiliar program, I’m just that: an assistant. Although I am mostly acting as the main teacher now, I have a co-teacher/head teacher to help keep order in the classroom and give me instructions on what to focus on. Next year, I can speak with my teachers beforehand, tell them my goals to eventually become autonomous in my own classroom, and approach my classes with authority. This way, I can work on classroom management skills from the beginning and organize things the way I would do on my own. I’m sure my future co-teachers will be more than happy to have me take on the bulk of the responsibility. Once I’ve built up my confidence and experience, I can start to extend my reach.
My goals for this coming year focus on personal growth and travel. Yesterday, I took a day trip to Ávila, a city about an hour and a half train ride from Madrid. I’m going to share this trip in a separate post (still have to edit the photos), but the overarching message is it was great to get out of my comfort zone and explore someplace new. Spain’s history and culture are incredible and found around every corner. I realized there are so many day trips I haven’t taken but should. I tend to get comfortable in my immediate surroundings and other than big trips, don’t explore much. It’s hard to remember it’s OK to be a tourist in your own city and, on a wider scale, country. Aside from some weekends away and a long Easter break, I want to take more day trips to areas around Madrid. I got to practice my Spanish a lot yesterday and am trying to be fearless about making mistakes. Even though the museum curator got a bit confused about my conjugation of “to capture” he understood it and we were able to talk about the art on a deeper level, forging a meaningful connection. I walked away feeling happy about the interaction.
On that point, I am starting Skype Spanish lessons in early January with a private tutor based in Santiago de Compostela. I had looked into the website italki several years ago when I was living in Baltimore, but it wasn’t until recently that I admitted to myself going to actual lessons during the week was out of the question. With my daily 3 hour round trip commute and general exhaustion of dealing with pre-teens and teens all day, I get home and can’t be bothered to do much else. This seemed like the perfect solution.
The website is also great for setting up language exchanges either online or in your city. I messaged two different Spanish girls in Madrid who looked cool asking if they were interested in meeting up in the new year. One of the two has responded saying she would love to. Hopefully the intercambio is something that can turn into a friendship and thus more opportunities to work toward fluency.
I always see a new year as a chance to start things over or do them differently, and this one is no different. So with all the ups and downs it promises, I raise my (now second) glass to 2019.