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7 Worst Things about the Auxiliar de Conversacion Program

1. No Help Getting Settled

All you get from the Ministry of Education is a few documents to help you get your TIE and the promise of a monthly paycheck. The first pay check doesn’t come for at least a month after you start work, which means you have to pay for all your start-up costs.

You’re on your own to:

  • Buy your plane ticket to Spain
  • Find a place to live
  • Open your own bank account
  • Get a mobile phone
  • Find transportation to and from your school (many auxiliars are placed in two schools in two different towns)

Some people get lucky and have helpful teachers at their school and people around to help them out. Others arrive in Spain with no one and have to do everything themselves.

2. Not being able to Legally get a Second Job

700€ /month (1000€ /month in Madrid) is enough to survive on, but it’s not a lot to live on.

This job is technically a grant and auxiliars are issued student visas. Fortunately that means not paying taxes and not paying into social security. But unfortunately, you can’t legally work on a student visa.

Many auxiliars get hired as off-the-books employees at places like language schools or tour guide organizations. And that means no legal rights to things like minimum wage, fair working conditions, and employers who won’t take advantage of you or fire you on the spot for no reason.

Not to mention that if you renew for a second year, you have 4 months without a paycheck and it’s up to you to find a way to pay the bills.

3. Working with English Teachers Who Have Less Than Perfect English

During my first day in my school’s history class, the teacher handed me a list of questions she’d written about the day’s lesson and asked me to read them aloud to the class:

“Had the emperor powers any? Which were?”

I paused for a minute and debated internally whether I should correct the teacher I’d just met in front of her class or simply read the sentence aloud like she’d asked me to.

It’s awkward to be in a classroom when the teacher says things “Explain me the sentence” or confuses “his” and “her” for the fifteenth time in a row despite the fact that you’ve been talking to them about it for weeks. And it’s awkward to ask the teacher to repeat themselves for a seventh time because you simply cannot understand their thick accent:

“Oh, burden! I thought you said ‘Buddha.'”

4. Not Being able to Choose where you Work

You can request your top three regions and type of city you want to work in (rural vs urban), but they end up placing you where ever they need you. It’s completely hit or miss.

Even if you’re placed in the region you wanted, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be placed in the city you want, or that you’ll end up in a good school.

You may get lucky with an amazing school with engaged kids and caring teachers, or you may draw the short straw and end up at a terrible school with problem students in an awful town.

5. Dealing with Spanish Bureaucracy

As much as I hate standing in line at the DMV back home, it doesn’t even come close to the frustration I feel with every single encounter with a Spanish bureaucrat.

Spain is notorious for long, complicated, unnecessary procedures to complete even the simplest of tasks.

To give you an idea of how difficult it is to get anything done in this country, Spain is one of the most difficult countries in the world to open a business in according to the World Bank. Spain ranks 142 on a list of 189 countries. For perspective, nearby France, Portugal, and Morocco ranked 41, 32, and 39, respectively. Spain is just one spot ahead of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

6. Being told Everything at the Last Minute and in Spanish

The application for this program opens in December, or maybe it’ll open up in January, or maybe you’ll have to wait until February to start applying.

And it’s anyone’s guess as to when the assignments will start rolling out, when the first paycheck will come, whether or not you’ll be able to decipher the last minute urgent emails that the government will hopefully remember to send you.

Accepting this job means accepting the Spanish tradition of taking a long time to do everything and waiting around for things with crossed fingers.

7. Teaching English with no training in Teaching or English

Apparently being a native English speaker qualifies you to work with children. I didn’t study English or Education in college, and very few other auxiliars that I’ve met did either. Being an auxiliar means being asked things like:

  • What is the difference between “manage” and “direct”?
  • Can you explain what a “trowl” is?
  • Should I use the second or third conditional tense for this sentence?
  • How come everyone laughs when I say the word “beach”?
  • How do you spell “miscellaneous” and what does it mean?
  • Can you write a list of regular verbs on the board?
  • What does “might as well” mean?

Not planning your lessons means not knowing what’s coming either. Some teachers let you know before class what the lesson will be about or what you’ll be discussing, but others toss you in and open the floor for difficult questions.

I’d estimate that rough 10-15% of my time in the classroom is spent thinking hard about a question and saying “Uhhh. Ummm. Well…”

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3 Responses to 7 Worst Things about the Auxiliar de Conversacion Program

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 15, 2013 at 11:52 PM #

    I sincerely believe that it’s all about being aware of both sides of the coin before coming. As far as the start up costs, not all companies are willing to pay all of the start up costs for you to move either. I think most people take into account the fact that moving to another country takes money, and that they should be prepared. I have worked as a teacher in Spain for six years, and I don’t get paid for July and August, either, unless I find work elsewhere. If you’ve done your research, you can make it work, but I don’t buy it when people moan about not getting paid on time, knowing that that information is divulged and well-documented.

  2. Constance April 8, 2014 at 3:57 PM #

    “Had the emperor powers any? Which were?” Haha love it! There are some teachers I work with that I just cannot stand to hear speak in English as mean as that sounds. Never thought that would be an issue but it kind of gets annoying day after day. Sometimes the teachers also choose to spout off instructions a million miles an hour in Spanish and although I may be able to understand them I don’t know why they expect all assistants to be able to do so. This job definitely requires lots and lots of patience!


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