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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Equity and Social Justice

By studying in Spain and taking a Spanish Cultures course, living with a host family with an 8-year-old son, and taking part in this practicum, I have come to learn about "Proyecto Bilingue" or the Bilingual Project taking place in all of Spain. The government is making an effort to transition the entire nation, through the education program, to a bilingual society. Watching the news and interacting with various types of people, there is no doubt that Spain is going through a major economic crisis right now. The unemployment rate is at 22% and rising and jobs are limited. It is essential that Spaniards know how to speak an additional language in order to seek work abroad. However, they significantly lack in foreign language skills because of the Franco regime when he made Spain a strictly monolingual nation. In the classroom and my conversations with the teachers, students, and parents of the program, I have come to realize that the recent Bilingual Project has great goals for Spain and a good foundation set but it requires time and a lot of improvements. Spaniards have high, idealistic expectations for the program but are frustrated with its current form and are anxious to see results. 
  Teachers working in schools with bilingual programs are now required a certificate of proficiency in English, which can be obtained through a teacher training course called the CAP (Certificate of pedagogical expertise). This is simply a course with 40 hours of theory training and 30 hours of tutored practice. This is clearly not enough to learn a new language, let alone teach with the language. Many of the schools do not have proper English trainers or bring in native English speakers  (like me) who only come in once or twice a week. 
  The content taught at both the Primary and Secondary levels, as well as in English, is another aspect of the Bilingual Project that is causing some issues with the program. With the new English aspect added to education, a lot of "content", and teaching practices are lost. Content (science, environment, arts, etc.) is being taught in English and thus there is a fear that students might learn some English, but not enough to understand the content, and therefore they are actually not learning even what they would normally learn in a Spanish-language environment. Marcos, my 8-year-old host-brother, is currently learning science still in Spanish in his school but Sol (my host mom) complains that he does not know enough English and gets frustrated with the teacher. She wants Marcos to be learning everything he has to in science but she believes that he should be learning it in English. She often wants to switch schools. However, I know from my own observations and attempts at helping him with his homework that If he was to be learning what he was learning in Science in English, then none of the content would get through.
 On top of all this, the confusion with the UK and American English is added. The resources of this project seem to be coming from both countries and can be very confusing to the children. These kinds of lack of organization and need for improvements in this much needed system make me think about where Spain as a nation is headed. 
It is now officially the educational system's job to  teach Spain's children how to speak another language so that they can be brought out of the economic crisis and be a more international and global "player". But, with all these problems and need for improvements with the current system in place, it is hard to just sit back and see a struggling system continue to struggle. My teaching abroad experience has made me realize just how important a bilingual education can be to a nation and the need for soon-to-be teachers like us to take the responsibility to make it function properly.

San Rafael Infantil Group: Classroom Management

I have the privilege of being placed in two different classrooms during my international practicum- the 4-year-old classroom and the 5-year-old-classroom. It doesn't seem like a big difference, but it really is. When I walk into the 4-year-old classroom, there is order. I can feel like Ruth, the CT, and I have some control. The students are polite and their smocks are clean. The room itself is very organized and the students respect its contents. However, on days when I am with the 5-year-olds, all hell breaks loose. Students are running, pushing, shoving, shouting, and dancing all around the classroom. They grab the class monkey puppet and stretch its poor body when fighting over who gets to hold it. They have never been taught what the classroom rules were or what was expected of them by the teacher so they don't understand me when I say, "Yous shouldn't be doing that". Speaking to my CT, Ruth, she says that the atmosphere of her class during English is largely dependent on how the regular classroom teacher runs the class and how much control they have. Because the students are so young, they don't have a background or foundation of how school should be so they look to the teachers. The students need very clear expectations and instructions of classroom behavior and in this case, the 4-year-old classroom teacher delivered hers effectively, and the 5-year-old classroom teacher failed to gain control of his classroom from the beginning. Ruth says no matter how hard she tries, it is impossible to have the same kind of control in both classrooms if the regular classroom teachers don't partake in it.
However, Ruth has some classroom management strategies that I noticed that she brings to both classrooms, whether or not they react or not. I noticed that she is constantly keeping them busy and intrigued so that the students don't have time to misbehave. She has every minute occupied with something whether it is planned or not. I have also noticed that with such young students, she does a lot of physical activities with the kids. It excites them and also releases a lot of their pent up energy that could be going towards misbehaving behavior. She also uses the abilities and "personality" of the class to manage. The 4-year-olds love positive encouragement and praises so she has the students line up with their completed work so that she can individually look at each one and say "Good work!" She doesn't usually use any punishment or discipline in this classroom because they are so effective with the positive reinforcements. The 5-year-olds get very excited by 'performing' in front of their other peers so Ruth will reward good behavior with allowing the students to help with the lesson or come to the front and be with the class puppet. Those who misbehave are not allowed to participate and are separated from the group and forced to sit alone at their desks.
These varying forms of classroom management in the two different classrooms have been so interesting to observe. When Ruth tells me her frustrations or praises at how the regular classroom teacher manages the classroom, I see how important it is to be in control, and how it can effect other teachers as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maria Luigia

I find it strange how my cooperating teacher sits at her desk and waits for me when I am a little late to class. The students are up and running around, screaming on the top of their lungs, but she doesn't mind. She just waits for me to get there and to start my lesson. It seems as if the Italian education system doesn't have a strict curriculum the teachers have to abide by. I teach every time I go to class and was never able to observe a lesson by my CTs and every time I arrive, my CTs make up something on the spot for me to teach. One time she even wanted me to talk about the transportation system in America. I found my self struggling. Do I talk about the Subways? The T? Buses? And another time it was about policemen, firefighters and the 911 system. I was always baffled as to why she would pick these random topics. It is also especially hard to think of lesson plans on the spot.
I follow 4 English CTs and found a few of them are not proficient in English, which is odd because how are you to teach a language when you don't know it yourself? Today was my last day to see a class so I told them that I would miss them. Then my CT told the class to repeat after her, "You will miss us too!" At first I was confused, but soon realized she was trying to say "We will miss you too!" My host mom told me when she was 17 she was already licensed as a primary school teacher and it was very easy to obtain. Hopefully the school system changed and only qualified people can be teachers now.