This week at San Rafael I observed three of my cooperating teacher’s classes, and realized even more so just how different a classroom in my Spanish school is different than the classrooms of previous classrooms I have observed in the United States. To begin, the students in the three different classes were 12, 13, and 14-years old respectively and all three classes were English language classes. One of the first differences I noticed was the way my cooperating teacher began class. Instead of a more formal introduction to class with a greeting and laid out objectives, my CT just told the students to quiet down and open their workbooks and then started going over some of the homework exercises. The classes were pretty well behaved and thus, followed directions pretty well with minimal side conversation. The whole class was spent going over homework exercises, doing other workbook exercises in class, and then going over those. Each of the three classes worked out of their workbook the whole time. Thus, the way my CT plans and delivers instruction is different from the more structured and varied activities I have seen in my previous classrooms. In addition, the materials in the classroom are different since the main material is a workbook and a chalkboard. In my opinion, the lack of materials is a challenge that my CT teacher faces. I am not quite sure about the financial grounds the school stands on, but it does not seem like money is plentiful, especially since Spain is in an economic crisis currently. Thus, the access to materials such as computers, different resources for lessons, materials available to students, etc., seems limited.
Moreover, the idea of discipline is definitely different from that in the United States. In most of my previous classrooms, my cooperating teachers used different techniques to maintain a disciplined classroom and to keep students on task such as moving around the classroom, calling on students to keep them focused, etc. The way of keeping students on task is a little different here in Spain is a little different. If a student is talking out of turn, the teacher will make a comment about how he/she could not possibly be doing the activity if he/she is using her mouth to talk like that. The student does not take this comment as a mean one, rather goes back to working because he/she knows the purpose of the comment is to keep him/her on task. However, to the outsider observing the classroom it can come off as a little cold. The teacher explained to me that because the students sit in groups as a result of the cooperative learning technique the school follows, the students can more easily get out of hand and thus it is necessary to make sure students stay on task and do not talk in class by calling them out for it.
Another difference that I have mentioned in previous posts is the different attitude about grades and testing. Since there is not as an emphasized value placed on tests, the lessons are not as finely tuned or geared toward achieving a purpose. This attitude also affects the environment of the classroom. To me it seems less stressed about learning for a test and more about learning to learn. Participation in the class is very good and students are eager to answer questions if they know the answer. All in all, observing a class at San Rafael is definitely an eye-opening experience and very different from an American classroom.