I spend 7 hours a week at the school, which serves as both a primary and secondary school divided between two buildings that are connected by the patio outside. My 4 hours at the school on Tuesdays was initially split between two teachers, though now I am with 3 teachers in order to have an experience in an English class as well. The system in Spain is different, as the levels in the "middle/high school" is split up into 1-4 ESO and 1-2 Bachillerato. As I am in two 3 ESO classes with Juan, the students are between 14-15 years old, our equivalent of ninth grade. On Tuesdays, I spend one period with Miguel in a 1 ESO English class, so the students are about 11-12 years old- our equivalent of sixth/seventh grade. For the final period, I am in a 2 Bachillerato Lengua y Literatura (language and literature) class with Paco. The wide range of classes that I observe gives me a variety of opportunities to see different teaching techniques in addition to interacting with many students.
For the students, it is an interesting experience to have me within their school. From the moment I walked in, I observed that their are no lockers as I have been accustomed to seeing in the typical high school in addition to the fact that there were no students in the hall. As it turns out, the teachers move classrooms instead of the students. The students are grouped together and spend the entire day together rather than having different classes with different groups. Upon entering the classroom for the first time, I was greeted with smiles and an abundance of "Hellos" which I responded to with "Hola" in order to acclimate to the Spanish classroom. After briefly introducing myself in Spanish, I was directed to sit at the teacher's desk to observe for the period. It was strange to be doing observations from the front of the class for once rather than the back as I am used to when I am not moving around the classroom.
I was told that a large part of practicums here, especially with the higher levels, consists of observation, since it is largely instruction from the teacher and individual work on the part of the student. Juan, however, has taken advantage of having me within his classroom and asked if I could present to the students about the US school system in order for the students to get to know me better and to interact with the class. After three weeks of observations, I stood in front of the 3 ESO class to deliver an hour-long interactive presentation in Spanish. I asked for the students to feel free to interject with any comments and questions to make it more of a conversation rather than a lecture, which I also began by asking the students what they thought of when they hear United States. Responses varied from Obama to skyscrapers (rascacielos in Spanish) to hamburgers (hamburgesas in Spanish...that one's easier), all of which they said they have gathered from the portrayal in movies and television shows. My presentation allowed for the students to get to know me better and see that I can communicate with them in Spanish, and allowed for them to get a more realistic image of that which is shown in the movies. Since my first presentation last Thursday (February 24), I had another this past Thursday (March 3) with the 1 Bachillerato students.
While I delivered the presentation in the same manner with the guidance of the same PowerPoint that had different points and pictures to go with them, I had more confidence to present in Spanish. Though there is not a vast age difference between the two levels, the 1 Bachillerato students were less participative, though there are more of them- about 40 students compared to 28 in ESO. After finishing two presentations, I look forward to interacting with other classes by delivering the presentation three more times between other ESO and Bachillerato classes.
This practicum experience has allowed for me to observe difference classroom environments in addition to see how English is taught as a foreign language. While I have only been in the English class once, I look forward to seeing more methods for teaching language in order to contrast it with what I have implemented in my past practicum experiences. I look to be more involved in that classroom since it is more feasible, compared to the Spanish language and literature classes, though I have the ultimate goal of teaching a lesson with the aid of my cooperating teacher. The American cultural experience that I have offered the students thus far has made this practicum a valuable experience for both me and the students since we have a cultural exchange though I interact with them in their language. This is a further opportunity to build upon both my teaching and my Spanish skills.