Living, studying and teaching in Granada, Spain has allowed me to experience the Spanish culture and how it influences different aspects of the Spanish life. A large part of the Spanish culture is known as ocio, or in English leisure. The people in Spain truly enjoy their leisure time, and do so in many ways. They go out for walks, drink coffee, go out for drinks or tapas, go to discotecas, watch and play soccer, and go shopping. This influence of ocio has left the Spanish culture much more relaxed than the American.
This relaxed culture and atmosphere is visible in the classroom through teachers, students and the relationships between teachers and students. Overall, teachers are more flexible and more able to make changes to their schedule, and although they followed a schedule, they did not seem to feel pressured to rush through a curriculum. The general attitude of the teachers was more relaxed also; my CT once told me that school is just part of our lives and there are other experiences just as important. Although they value education, it is also clear that they value life experiences and ocio time as well. My CT for example, felt that it was very important for one of the students to travel to Vietnam with her parents when they were adopting her new baby sister. Although the student missed 2-3 weeks of school, my CT considered it an important life experience and readily prepared work for the student to do while traveling so that she did not fall behind in class.
Influence of the ocio culture can also been seen in the relationships between teachers and between students and teachers. At Maristas, the teachers have very open working relationships and will walk into each other’s classrooms at any point during the day. After a quick knock a teacher will just walk into the classroom to borrow something, ask a question or even just chat with a college. Sometimes my CT would stop in the middle of a lesson to chat with the teacher next door when he entered the room to borrow materials. This interested me a lot because in lots of classroom in the United States it has seemed to me that teachers guard their classroom as their territory and don’t necessarily want other people walking in whenever. I liked the more relaxed feeling between teachers at Maristas and seemed more conducive to collaboration.
The relationship between students and teachers also demonstrated the influence of culture. The teachers who “monitored” recess spent the time talking, hardly watching the students and overall seemed more relaxed and less anxious than the watchful eye of American recess monitors. Additionally, there is a closer physical relationship between teacher and students in Spain. Just as the overall Spanish culture has greater physical closeness than the American—people greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks—the classroom culture does as well. Teachers will hold students’ hands walking down the hall, kiss the tops of students’ heads and exchange kisses on the cheek. Repeatedly, little girls would grab my hand and hold it as we walked down the hall or back from recess together and occasionally when I left for the day a little girl would come up and say, “Adios Marga... un beso”, and give a kiss on both cheeks. At first the physical closeness felt odd to me but as I became accustom to Spanish culture it felt more natural, to the point where my first instinct when greeting someone was to reach out and kiss them, not shake their hand. It was in little acts such as this that I realized how culture affects everything so much, our day to day lives and the schools where we learn and teach.