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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Culture of Spanish Schools

The Spanish culture definitely has an influence in the classroom designs and the structure of schools.

Time in Spain works very differently than time in the US. Breakfast is light, lunch is a big meal around 2:00/2:30, and dinner is multiple courses around 9:00pm. The day is extended by these late times, and it affects every part of your day. When I first got to Madrid, the sun did not set until fairly late at night, so your whole day feels longer because the sun is out, and you are out doing things until much later, only settling down for the night and eating dinner at 9:00. Because of these drastic differences from the US, it should not be too surprising that the Spanish school day is very different as well.

For students at La Salle in Madrid, school starts at 8:30. On Wednesdays and Fridays school ends at 2:30. However every other day of the week, the students get out at 1:30 with an hour and a half to go home and eat lunch (because this meal is so important), then the students return to school for classes from 3:00-5:00. This difference in schedule is possible because of the different structure of the typical Spanish day. Morning classes are normally 55 minutes, and afternoon classes are 1 and a half hours. This day lasts longer, and students are physically in school for longer than many schools in the US. For the months of September and June, students get out of school at 2:30 every day, but throughout the rest of the year they are in school until fairly late in the afternoon and early evening.

Also the Spanish in general are very open, direct, and expressive people. All of the teachers are called by their first name, which creates a slightly more personal relationship, but it can also make it slightly more difficult to be authoritative. When the students are working, they may begin to speak in Spanish because it is simply easier, and the teachers will remind them to get to work. Some of the students may make a comment back to the teacher, not necessarily a bad one. In general, the students are allowed to speak up and talk to teachers openly in a non-strict environment, with the teachers reminding students when it is time to get back to work (like many other situations I have observed in the US). This constant expressiveness and conversation that is typical of the Spanish is also highlighted in school where students are encouraged to work in cooperative groups together as much as they possibly can.

In terms of the classes they take, I feel like many of my Spanish students who may be middle-school aged are taking classes I would have been taking in high school, such as economics and physics. I suppose this also depends on where you went to school in the US, but in general, the Spanish classes seem more advanced than what we would be teaching children in the US. This is evident also by the fact that almost all students in Spain are exposed to English as early as when they are infants in school, so that by the time they are in 6th grade, students are learning many of the basic English verb tenses and already have a breath of vocabulary that they can understand the teacher when they only speak in English (this is compared to me only beginning to learn Spanish in 7th grade, starting with numbers, letters, and basic greetings).

Overall it has been very interesting to see how the culture I observe day-to-day is reflected in my classrooms, and I look forward to observing this relationship more closely.


  1. Hi Keanna! It was great to read your two posts about the experience you're having at Colegio La Salle and working in a Spanish school! Do the students know much about the US system of schools and how the timing is so different from their own? It would be interesting to see which schedule they would prefer!

    1. Hi Colleen! That is actually a really interesting question, and I do not think they know that much about the US system of schooling. We have briefly discussed before how even the meals are different and how it affects the day, however I do not know if they realize how drastically this affects the US school day. Tomorrow I was actually going to talk to some of the students about some of the things I was most surprised about coming to Spain, and I will have to make a point to explain to them the differences and see if they would prefer one schedule over the other. Thanks so much for the idea!

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  3. Hi Keanna! I think it's so interesting that you mentioned the more casual environment in the classroom... During senior year of high school I stayed with a host family in Spain for a week and was really surprised when the students in my host sister's class (11th grade) were so open and direct to the teacher. At first I thought it was disrespectful, but soon realized how this is simply due to the culture of the country, as you've mentioned. I'm wondering if you noticed any pros and/or cons to the more open and casual relationship between the teacher and students. I'm curious as to whether this makes learning more accessible to students or if the informal environment leads students to take the learning less seriously. What are your thoughts from what you have observed at La Salle?


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