In 2017, I was teaching as a language assistant in a Madrid secondary school. I was sharing classes with English, Science, History and P.E. teachers and having a great time doing it. Along with academy classes on the side, life was good. I was enjoying the dynamics of classrooms as well as the more intimate academy setting. However, Easter was around the corner, and a trip was to be had.
I visited my friend in Lisbon who had been working as a tour guide for the past couple of months. She seemed to enjoy it, and I needed work for the summer so I asked her what it took to be a tour guide. She said you need to be loud, patient, have a huge interest in history and be able to make really bad jokes for three hours at a time. Only three hours?
I started running tours around Madrid’s historic neighbourhoods in June that year. What started off as a summer gig to cover a couple of months’ rent ended up paying the rent for nearly three years.
A bad tour guide will show you things. A good tour guide will explain things to you. An amazing tour guide will teach.
I didn’t see tour guiding as a change of job, I saw it as a change of venue. And while the classrooms had been replaced with quiet streets my students had been replaced with tourists that came to this amazing city with the same curiosity we see in the classroom. Whether in front of a blackboard or in front of a tour group I would have to explain complex concepts to individuals with ranging levels of English in a clear, engaging and fun manner.
So the venue has shifted again, and I’m looking forward to what is to come. Mainly because I know I can’t be asked any more silly questions such as, “Who lives there?” while pointing at La Catedral de la Almudena. Or be given any more silly answers such as, “Spaghetti” while answering the question “What meat do you think of when you think of Spain?” (No joke, both that question and answer were from the same person)
Bring on the classes and don’t forget to tip your teacher!