Today I woke up early to go to orientation. I ate breakfast and was out the door in just enough time to make it to the orientation on time. However, when I boarded the metro, it took awhile for the doors to close and the conductor came over the speaker and said that the train wasn't running normally. In my head I was thinking, I will be getting off this line soon and transferring to another, I should be okay. However, at the next stop, the same thing happened. I contemplated getting off and getting on the metro going in the opposite direction because that would still take me to my destination, just on a slightly longer route (and I had already wasted time). I thought, it's okay, only two stops until my transfer...guess what? On the second to last stop before my transfer, we were told to exit the train...whoops. Luckily, because of the tour yesterday, I knew where the next stop was, so I quickly walked there. I got on the metro, walked to the orientation, and was only five minutes late. They hadn't started yet either, so it's okay.
At orientation today, we talked about the education system in Spain, our job as language assistants, getting our TIE, and what the U.S. Embassy can offer us. It was actually quite helpful and the time went by really fast. If you don't really care about my orientation, you can skip the next several of paragraphs.
We started with learning about the Spanish education system it is slightly different from that in the U.S. They have three levels:
1. Infantil--2 years
1st year is 3 year olds and under
2nd year is like pre-K (3-5 year olds)
2. Primaria--6 years
5/6 year olds to 11/12 year olds
Like Kindergarten through 5th grade, but they don't call it Kindergarten, it just starts at first.
3. Secundaria--4 years
12-16 years old
Can choose bachillerato (prepping for university) or formación profesional (which is vocational)
I will be teaching in Primaria (6 and 7 year olds). They stressed to us that our role in the classroom is very important. I have heard from some people on the street and today at orientation that Spaniards find it very difficult to learn English. Everything is in Spanish for them in their society so they see no need to learn it. Even the teacher speaks Spanish in English class because sometimes they are not masters of the language. Spain's government is putting a lot of money into having students come here to teach English and sending teachers to the English-speaking countries to better their English. Auxiliares (that's what I am) actually make a bit more money than the regular classroom teachers and we work way less hours. Anyway, because I am in a bilingual school and my number one role in the school is to speak English, I can help to teach a variety of classes. Any of the classes in Primaria can be taught in English, except for Math and Spanish. All other classes can be taught in English, although there are exceptions for a few classes because the classroom teacher must have a certain specialty to teach the subject in English. Anyway, the other classes are Conocimiento del Medio (which is like a Natural Science, Geography, History class), Art, P.E., Religion, Citizenship, English, and they have recess. The students also have three English exams in 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades. If they don't pass the exam in 6th grade, they are not allowed to move on to Secundaria. And that's where we come in, we help to teach the students the language and culture of where we come from so that they can easily pass those exams and speak English fluently. There are around 1500 Auxiliares just in Madrid, which I think is crazy. There are 404 schools total in Madrid that have Auxiliares and the number is going. For example, I am not positive, but I think my school is new to the auxiliar program.
After all of that information was thrown at us, a few representatives came from the U.S. embassy to tell us what they can and cannot help us out with. For example, they cannot bail us out of jail; however, they did say they would come to visit us and they could set us up with a lawyer. Forunately, I do not plan on going to a Spanish jail or any jail for that matter. They also told us safety tips and such and said that five to six people a day come into the Embassy reporting a lost or stolen passport..that's nuts. After their spiel, they talked about how to get into the Foreign Services and let me tell you, that does NOT sound fun at all! Bleh.
After that spiel, we got a talk from an auxiliar who was in the program last year and is in it this year as well. She just talked about expectations and other random things we should know..like bring treats to the teacher's lounge when it's your birthday and greet people when entering and leaving a room. Also things like what to wear, what activities to do with the students, ways to get involved, and reminding us that they are learning British-English so tennis shoes are trainers and color is spelled colour. It was nice hearing from a past auxiliar and I'm excited to get into the school and meet my teacher and students.
Lastly, we talked about getting our TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjera--Foreigner I.D. Card). It pretty much seems like a headache, just like my visa was, but they are helping us out quite a bit. Also, it seems like I need an apartment before I can get my TIE. Which leads me to the rest of my day....
Lots of walking and sitting and very little apartment looking. Karin and I walked all the way back from the orientation place to look at a place for her. We both had a good feeling about today and Karin really liked this first place we looked at. However, many other people (most likely students and auxiliares) are looking for apartments as well so the people renting the apartment want to see everyone and then choose who they live with, so they said they would let Karin know by tomorrow. Good luck to Karin. We then walked all the way to another appointment for me, where I also really liked the appointment and would rent it, but those renters said the same thing. They would let me know tomorrow. As Karin said, apartment hunting before was that we were the interviewers and now it seems that we are the interviewees. Hopefully we both made good enough impressions that the roommates want to live with us. :) Anyway, we then walked all the back to our other appointment, that was where the first appointment was and the guy met us at the door and said it was already taken...thanks a lot..he could have let us know that before all of the extra walking. Anyway, I looked it up. We did a total of 7.8ish miles, Karin did about a mile more because of where she lives from our last stop. This was over span of about 5 1/2 hours..like I said, we sat a lot, too. Also, I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but it's still really warm here...like wearing shorts and tank top warm (although that garb is not too common here, but I have seen it). I'm not sure of the exact temperature on a daily basis, but it's hot being out in it all day.
Anyway, for the night I have been trying to catch up on this blogging and have been doing more piso hunting online. Karin and I are going to look for more apartments tomorrow just in case, the two decide not to choose us. Or maybe we will find a better one that will take us on the spot. Either way, wish us luck and no homelessness. :) Hasta mañana. Now it is 1 p.m. and yet still, in Spain, the night is young.