While my placement in Spain is not exactly your typical pre-practicum experience, I have learned a lot about teaching in a way that I was not expecting. My schedule changes slightly every once in a while but I’ll try to outline a typical day at my placement.
I get to my placement a little before 9 a.m. and meet with my CT, the English teacher at the school. Then, I either go with her to her class to observe a lesson and help or go to another classroom and start taking out small groups of 5 to 8 students to lead discussion-based English lessons. As she is an English teacher, she teaches all ages of students so I work with kids from around 11 to 16 years old. While this is a little bit older than the age that I hope to work with in the future, I have really enjoyed working with this age and since the lessons are in a foreign language, the lessons are not that different from topics that I would be teaching in the future. An example of a lesson that I have done with the students have been describing objects and people. While teaching the same topic to all students, I have had to learn how to make adjustments based on the age and level of the students, and not all students of the same age have the same level. For example, with the younger kids we made a list of adjectives and played a game similar to “I Spy” to describe objects in the room. With the older kids, we looked at a photo of a person, described him, and talked about a broader topic. For example, if your clothes say something about your personality or what clothes you like to wear. The students are also a lot more comfortable asking questions and potentially being wrong than I have seen with American students Some of my favorite questions that I have gotten are: What does swag mean? and Do you know Zac Efron?. I do these small group lessons/discussions for most of the day and while it can be fun, sometimes it can be really hard to get some students to talk either because they cannot understand my accent or because they do not know how to say a lot of in English. So, I have learned to talk slower and clearer, directly encourage the quieter students to participate and take their time and let them know that I can help them with words that they do not know.
Besides teaching lessons in small groups, I also get a thirty-minute break at eleven while the students go outside. During this time, I go to the teacher’s lounge and talk to some of the teachers. It’s been nice to be able to hear other perspectives to understand the Spanish education system. Then, I continue the small group lessons/discussions until I go home at 2:30 p.m.
One large cultural difference that I have noticed at this school, as well as in my classes at the university, is that their sense of time is a lot more flexible. For them, if they’re ten minutes late to a class, it’s not that big of deal. When my CT has to go talk to some volunteers, she will wait for them until they come and then go to class late. It has been the same in my classes at the university. Sometimes class starts twenty minutes late and that is just fine. While this was very hard to get used to, I have found that this less stressful way of living and not worrying is very nice and good for one’s mental health.
So far my experience at my placement has been great and I have not only learned a lot about teaching and the Spanish culture, but have also gained a lot of practice in flexibility and adjusting my teaching methods. I look forward to seeing what else I learn for the remainder of the semester.