Problems with the School Part 1

The Auxilar job works as follows – you (the Auxiliar), go with a Spanish teacher to assist in their class. If the Spanish teacher is scheduled to see a 1st grade class at 3pm then you go with them at 3 pm to the first grade class. Maybe one person explains something or reads the book, then the other person plays a game. Either way, you’re in the same room and you’re working together-ish.

There is no reason at all, on God’s green earth that I should be alone in the classroom. Even “I forgot to make copies! I’ll be right back.” Is basically against the rules. Go send me to make copies.

Got all that in mind?

The Lies Begin

On the first day I met my coteachers they said I would take small groups of high school students to a room right next door and do lessons with them. No one ever said I would do it with primary or preschool kids. I accepted this because it seemed like the entire schedule revolved around this being a feature.

Later (like the next day) they said I would take older primary (4th, 5th, 6th) alone but never 1st or 2nd grade – “they’re too young” were their words.

Then before I knew it, I started working preschool alone (4 and 5 year olds). Which they had never said would happen, but it just happened. One minute I was talking to her and the next it was “so here’s the room you’ll be alone with them in.” She was operating under the assumption someone had already explained it. But how could they when I had been distinctly told I wouldn’t be alone with their older peers because 6 and 7 were too young.

I tried to push back and say I’m not supposed to be alone, I’m not comfortable with this, but my coteacher just rudely stated “that’s how the school has always done it. No one has ever complained before” (other teachers have, indeed, complained before.) She placated me by saying “well you don’t have to take a lot, just 4 and we won’t ever do it with 2 or 3 year-olds, then, okay?” Sure, I agreed. 4 and 5 year-olds are much better than still-shits-in-own-pants-2-to-3-year-olds.

Then I started taking 1st grade groups alone. I don’t know why this surprised me when I was already taking preschool but I had implicitly been told not 1st. Then later they talked about making me take small groups of 2nd grade, not for English, but for art.

Then (ominous voice) the biggest transgression: I would be taking 3, 4, and 5 year-olds alone for 2 solid hours. And the coteacher wouldn’t even be in the same building. She was not even scheduled to be in English class during that time. Remember that thing I said at the top? She would be teaching 2nd grade math while I coordinated taking random kids out of random preschool classes, alone, with only a few overworked preschool teachers to “help.” They absolutely CANNOT schedule me to teach English when my coteacher is scheduled to teach math in another building.

It stopped making any kind of logical sense. They had kept breaking their promises, and the rules, and this is where we finally ended up. This was my last straw.

I talked to her about this and she was, like last time, rude. “You’ve already done it before what’s the problem!?” Well, mostly because I was basically forced into it because I didn’t even know what was happening, and I was never given a chance to say no, just dropped off at classrooms and told to wait. “We can’t teach together, that’s not how it works. We’ve always done it like this and Little-Mrs-Last-Year never complained. * (Little Mrs Last Year quit the day before school started this year, and she wishes she had complained sooner).

Fully, completely, done

I went home and had a good think about what I was willing to do, how much I would fight them; and what I cards I could play (quit the extra hours and hope they shaped up or straight up report them to the government), keeping in mind I shouldn’t be alone in any of my 14 classes… It’s illegal because I’m not a licensed teacher in Spain.

I should have been aiming high and simply said, “I’m not doing this anymore”. Instead I settled on two things

  1. I would absolutely not teach a class that my coteacher wasn’t scheduled for.
  2. I would never teach 3 year old (or 2 year olds) alone like they said I wouldn’t do back at the beginning.

I could have told them to stuff it with every class. But I didn’t. I told them that I didn’t want to do those measly two things. And they still flipped out.

“What’s the problem with her not being in the same room!!! She’s just in the building next door if you have any problems.”

“So I’ll just walk over if I have a problem???”

“No!!!  Because you can’t leave the kids alone.” Uhhh you’re proving my own point, here. “It’s- It’s only 4 steps to the nearest teacher!!! 4! Steps! Is it not 4 steps away?! You’ll be only 4 steps away! What’s your problem with being alone?” 

They aren’t English teachers, I can’t communicate with them if there is an emergency, t.”

“Have you even seen the other teachers in the building? You know we’re not the only teachers in school, right?” Jeeze, rude.  “Do you see them in that building? They’re in charge of infantil (preschool) kids. You can just ask them.” Again, they don’t speak English and they’re not my assigned co-teachers. 

“Yes but I’m not supposed to be alone with any students.”

They insultingly tried to give me an illusion-of-choice (something you usually do with toddlers) “which room would you rather teach the 3 year-olds alone in? The playroom or the art classroom? The playroom or the art room!? Choose! Which one do you choose?!?” Um, neither because I’m an adult and I’m trying to have an adult conversation about the legality of leaving 3 year-olds alone with an unlicensed teacher???

Eventually they got bitchy and started, well, bitching about me in Catalan about how unreasonable I was being. Right in front of me. First of all, it’s rude to talk about someone in another language. You never know if they understand you. And two, Catalan and Spanish aren’t that different. I can understand like 60% of what you’re saying.

Then they completely forgot I’m not a slave and have a right to work or not work. So the following argument occurred:

  • “Well you work for us and we’re telling you you have to do it.”
    • “I don’t work for you I’m paid in a student grant by the government. I don’t even really work for anyone, I get a study grant.”
  • “No, because you’re taking our extra hours and we’re paying you for the extra hours.”
    • “It doesn’t matter, the government doesn’t want me alone with any students.”
  • “Well it doesn’t matter what they want because it’s our money and we’re paying you and we’re telling you you will work with them. That’s why you signed the contract- you work for us.”
    • “I didn’t sign a contract.” They were speechless. At the last minute the principal said I didn’t need to sign a contract and they would just pay me the way they usually did.
  • “Yes you did sign a contract!” she screeched at me.
    • “I absolutely didn’t sign a contract. Not for this job or the new hours.”
  • “Yes you did!!!!” I was actually worried my name had maybe been forged at this point.
    •  “Again, no, I didn’t sign a contract and even if I did the government says I can’t be alone with students.”
  • ” Well It’s the way we’ve always done it! Mrs-Last-Year never had a problem with it!! No one* has ever had a problem with it!”
    • I posed the important question “what if there was a fire? If a student got hurt. What if I got hurt?”
  • “Well if it’s a legal insurance thing we’ll make you sign something for that!” She snapped.

It got very heated what with them forgetting that I don’t belong to them and all. If they say jump, I don’t have to ask how high, I can just refuse. Our only obligations are to the board of education, and they have specific rules for what we CAN’T be asked to do. The school was convinced I had to do what they said, even if it’s illegal and totally immoral. Would you want your preschooler alone in a room with some random foreign lady?

Did I mention this argument happened while the students were in art class? Yeah another of my coteachers left her 2nd graders alone to come shout at me and team up with the art teacher against me during our 1st class.

  • “But none of it matters. The only thing that matters is what the principal says.”
    • “Again I don’t work for this school. I’m going to contact the people I work for (the government – the consellería).”
  • “No you won’t! It won’t matter what they say, the only thing that matters is what the principal says.”
    • “Well I’m still going to contact the government.”
  • “It doesn’t matter. You don’t really need to do that. ”
    • “I’m. Going. To. Talk. To. Them. First.”
  • That’s not necessary. What the principal says is what we will do, you work for us with the extra hours.” My actually decent coteacher arrived and placated everyone.

Those red words above are three big red flags. “Don’t contact the government”. Do I detect a subtle we-know-we-shouldn’t-be-doing-this?

I got my decent coteacher alone for half a second and laid down all my chips “If I talk to the government I’m going to have to tell them that I’m working alone in all the classes. You know that, right?” Last chance.

“Yes, but the principal will ultimately be the one to make the decision.” Hahaha!

I was on the phone with the government faster than you can say consellería. And (amazing fireworks hooray!) I spoke Catalan for the first time!!! I’ve been studying it everyday since we got here and I got to use it with the government.  But I mostly just used it to ask for someone who could speakEnglish.

“My school is forcing me to teach classes alone with 3,4, and 5 year olds.” Dead silence on the line. “And I was told that wasn’t … uh, good.”

He harrumphed “absolutely not! What’s your school’s name?” I read the name of the school off the sign on the front door. I walked further away in case anyone was listening in.

“Okay well send us an email detailing what’s going on.” I did that afternoon.

The next day no one mentioned any call. But this is how the super mature adults I work with handled it: “Since you don’t want to work then we just won’t pay you. And it’s your choice to just get paid less.”

Then an hour later “We’ve decided to change the other infantil hours, since you’re not comfortable, we’ll be together in the same room from now on with infantil.”

As for the other 200 students I’m alone with? Who knows? Did the government even call them or did my coteachers finally stop and think about it after they shouted at me for nearly 20 minutes?

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