I have been working in a second grade classroom in Granada, Spain and so far, the way of teaching couldn’t be more different than the teaching approaches that we appreciate in the United States (or at least through BC’s education ideals and what we have experienced in our pre-practicums). Upon entering my classroom, I was shocked to see a teacher’s desk – a tradition slowly growing extinct in the US – sitting right in the front and center of the room. Also, all of the students’ desks were arranged in pairs facing the front of the room, something else that was very different from the clumps of desks that are usually found in the US.
However, the most shocking adjustment for me came on the first day of class when my teacher pulled up a chair next to her desk and told me to come and sit down next to her before she began to teach. Never had I ever sat down while teaching during my pre-practicums – the only exceptions I can think of are kneeling next to a student’s desk or sitting on a carpet or at a small table for small group work. This would definitely be an adjustment and within my first few days in this classroom, I learned that the set up and environment of the class are perfectly reflective of how my teacher teaches.
I observe this classroom twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday in the morning, so although I can only attest to these time periods, I have found that the majority of lessons that I have seen involve very little discussions and student involvement. For example, every social studies lesson consists of the students taking turns reading aloud out of a workbook. The teacher gives me a list of students and they begin reading aloud a section while I call a different child’s name every paragraph or so and check off their name on the list. When they finish the new section, they go back to the beginning of the book and continue reading aloud until every child has read. Needless to say, I have listened to the short history of Los Aborígenes (the first section of the book) far too many times. The teacher doesn’t pose any questions afterwards, all of the students simply close their books and they do the worksheet at the end of each section for homework. The one positive to this time is that it gives the teacher the opportunity to walk around the classroom, organizing certain papers, checking homework, as well as reading individually with a struggling reader in the class.
I am not quite sure whether this is how the education is in every classroom in Granada or in Spain, but it appears very traditional to me in a negative way. I struggle to see how the children learn (and enjoy learning) in this classroom but it appears as though they are used to this type of learning. As I learn about the history of Spain, I often think about how this rigid way of teaching may be a reflection of the consequences Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, which only ended with his death 37 years ago in 1975. Or perhaps Spain has simply yet to undergo educational reform and incorporate more contemporary views of teaching into their education. Despite these big differences though, I am very much enjoying my experience thus far. My teacher is very kind (although sometimes hard to understand with her Spanish accent!) and the children are lively and a pleasure to work with.