I had some trouble with the blog so I'm really behind! Sorry guys, here is my reflection from my first day in the classroom!
September 10, 2014
Today, I had my first day at Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos, a bilingual private catholic school in the suburbs of Madrid. In Spain, schooling is mandatory beginning at age 3. This is different from the United States, where although we have acknowledged the importance of preschool education, it is not compulsory nor is it accessible for everyone. The school teaches students up through grade 7. Despite being a secondary ed/English major, I’ve been placed in third grade and fifth grade boys’ English & Science bocks, but the whole staff has been incredibly welcoming and the students are wonderful. I’m sure I’m going to be learning lots this semester!
One of the things I was immediately made aware of was that beginning in second grade the students are separated into boys and girls classes and then they merge together again in secondary school. For example, on one day the boys will be with the English teacher and have English, Science, and the next day be taught Spanish and History by the Spanish teacher. It creates an interesting dynamic. The class sizes are not always consistent for one. In some classes there are significantly more boys than girls or visa versa. I’ve been told that separating boys and girls isn’t all that typical in Spain, and especially not in public schools. It seems to be a strategy more specific to Colegio Highlands, than to Spanish schools. Having one group that is smaller than another possesses challenges for the teacher in delivering enough individual attention to students. In one of the classes I am in, where the boys out number the girls by almost twice as much, the teacher is constantly trying to catch the boys up to the girls. The girls move at a much faster pace one because there are less of them, and two because with this group of students the boys are much less focused and more rowdy. A lot of time is devoted to quieting the boys down, focusing them, and reiterating directions. One of the teachers I spoke with lamented that some of her brightest students were girls and she wished she had them at the same time as some of her lower-achieving boys so that could be both good examples and help her other students. On the flip side, this separation allows teachers to cater to the learning styles and interests of the boys and girls.
Another surprising difference is how students address their teachers. Teachers are called by their first names always. At Los Fresnos the students add the title Miss or Mr., but this is considered formal and is a catholic school tradition. The students refer to me as Miss Amanda, but at most schools I would be just Amanda.
Content wise however, from what I’ve seen the students learn similar topics at a similar pace to students in America. The teachers use textbooks and workbooks, the students keep notebooks and worksheets, and have to write their assignments down in their homework diaries. All things I remember doing as an elementary school student. The teaching style too seems to be very similar. The teachers combine lectures and note-taking, with hands on projects, and visual and audio materials. One new development in terms of resources is that the school just had projectors installed in every classroom.
I’m excited to get to know the students and staff and am planning some opening review activities for Monday!