Before you read this post, I think that there a few things that you should understand.
First - Perhaps you should stop and read "Tranquilo" to have an understanding of what "The Spanish Way" might be like. Understand that I can only speak on my experiences and this post amongst others is merely my interpretation of them. I have come to appreaciate Spanish people and Spanish culture because they are social and very easy going. If you've read some of my other posts, you might have noticed a theme related to "anxiety," not to say that this has been a focus or something that it extremely problematic, but something that it is real, and that is also in complete contrast to my understanding of the Spanish culture. Spanish people understand that there are more important things in life and you should not sweat the small stuff. "No Pasa Nada" as they say... (it's okay, it's alright, don't worry, it's nothing, it's fine...don't stress, not a problem). Si, "No Pasa Nada" is capitalized because in Madrid...it is the truth, it is a religion, it is a way of life.
Second - "The Spanish Way" has a cultural basis, but it is also a take on the school system. I don't think you can really seperate education and culture here (in Madrid). Therefore, do not read this post unless you are prepared to practice cultural humillity. You must take an "interpersonal stance" and be open to what you will learn. This is important because it is very easy to think about what you've experienced in education and take that to be the "correct" way of doing things. Don't do that. I am geared towards the positive, and in education there is not really a "right" or "wrong", every stystem has it benefits and it's drawbacks. Every system is up to improvement, and systems should be evaluated based on their goals, and what works.
Are you ready? :)
Vale, let's talk about what I call....
The Spanish Way
To begin, let me tell you about my first practical teaching experience. I was okay with being called, "Miss Tolu" because how would the students know it wasn't my last name. On a hiking field trip, I made the mistake of wearing a rugby jacket that had my first initial and last name on it. A student took note of it, and he was completely horrified. "But..but... teacher names are their last last names!" He cried. Imagine my surprise, when I realized that in Madrid first names are the norm. I inquired about this and if you want to show some more respect to a "superior" you might add "Don" for a man and "Doña" for a woman. If you want to use it you can, and if you don't...no pasa nada. There isn't an empashis on hierarchy, that's not what things are about. Last names and formality are to establish the teacher as the full authority who has the power within the classroom, and classroom management at times then becomes about maintaing that authority and monitoring behavior for the sake of learning. However, i've come to understand that in Spanish classrooms it's really not about heiarchy, the students call teachers by their first names. There are expectations, but trust is given to the students to adhere to these unspoken expectations. It is, The Spanish Way.
I experienced a beautiful private school in an affulent area of Madrid. It's an international school, where athletics are given the same importance as education, it is The Spanish Way. There is a later start for the school year and you may recieve your schedual some time after classes begin, and it is subject to change. If it changes, no pasa nada. You will adjust and figure it out, you will learn to become adaptable, it is The Spanish Way. Understand that at my school, there are 3 streams: English only, Spanish Only, & Bilungual. If you are an international student who doesn't speak English or Spanish, tranquilo, you are more than welcome. There are some students on residence, some who bus in everyday for 8 hour days, and all students and teachers must eat lunch at some point. Some may also have the priveledge of breakfast & dinner at the cafeteria depending. Lunch is from 1-330pm and somehow all the students from infant to secondary and their teachers get lunch. You should eat, enjoy, and keep your spirits high, don't sweat the small stuff, that's the Spanish Way. Meaning, if it seems chaotic, understand that there's a lot going on, a lot to consider, and... no pasa nada.
Now, I'm sure that being on time is of the upmost importance to you. Claro (ofcourse), that's how you have been conditioned. Not to say that being on time is not valued here, but there is no need to stress about it because what can you do? Particularly if your bus that was meant to arrive in 1 minute all of a sudden will not not arrive until 1 hour later. No pasa nada, the important thing is that you arrived and that you are well, particularly if it is raining. I was told that rain is the equivalent of a heavy snowfall in Canada. It's a stressfull time for transportation.
The best thing about teaching English at the school that I was in was the language ability of the students. Some could switch from English to Spanish so effortlessly that I was a little envious. I worked primarily with language aquisition and this included students learning English at variety of levels. As a language teacher it is always good to know a little bit of the language that the students speak. One of the best feelings is when I would explain a word and the students would respond (in chorus) with the Spanish equivalent and I could verify that their understanding was correct. There was a smile and a nod of agreement like, "WE" did good! Smiles...that is The Spannish Way. I learned that you could just say "buenas" as a greeting because I heard it often. No one and I mean no one, student, parent, teacher, or worker would walk past you without greeting you. Remember, I said that what I know of Spanish culture is easy going and welcoming, "non-hierarchical" and stress free, essentially everthing else is "no pasa nada".
Once, I was in a language classroom where a teacher imposed some classroom managment. She explained that students should be listening while she was talking and because they had chosen not to, they were to write down their responses in lieu of the planned classroom discussion. The students were very enganged in the topic because it was about language. The topic was about if dialects and accents that reveal social status should be banned from languages. The students continued to speak (on topic) about this and then an argument, a debate, a debate between a group of students and the teacher insued. I wasn't quite sure who won because the debate switched to Spanish and carried on for the duration of the class. It was interesting because of the improtu nature, and because I couldn't picture something like that occuring in a North American classroom. The teacher seemed to enjoy the debate as much as the students did although she was explaining the importance of using English in English class, in, primarily Spanish. I really tried to analyze that situation and consider how I would have approached it. Upon further reflection, naturally, I couldn't come up with a clear answer, so I decided on...tranquilo.
Overall, experiencing The Spanish Way has been an invaluable experience and I have learned so much.
1. Adapabtibility - if your student teacher forgets that she was suppose to prepare an activity for the class. No pasa nada, your partner teacher will use the well-structured textbook and conduct an enganging class on the spot and the students won't know the difference. It is the The Spanish Way, learn from it. It's useful!
2. Confidence - if you recieve feedback that's primarily, maybe only positive, and you don't know what to do because you're use to the model of contructive feedback. Breathe, slow your heart rate, tranquilo. Take it as an opportunity to boost your ego.
3. Planning - at times you may feel as there is more value placed on improvisation than there there is on planning. Be patient, it is The Spanish Way.
> Lesson planning was the most stressful part of my teacher education thus far. There were expectations, curricular guidelines, and it was a process. However, if a teacher asks you midday to prepare something for a lesson at the end of the day. Your response should be "no pasa nada" even when the day has gone and you're left to 30 minutes for planning, tranquilo.
I planned an enganging and effective lesson in 18 minutes! And if you are language teacher sometimes the most important thing is just to have the students speaking and using the language.
I will (likely) never stress about planning again.
Which brings me to number 4.
4. Creativity - If you are waiting to be told what to do and how to do it. It likely just won't happen here, "whatever you like" is the norm.
This freedom in teaching has been an invaluable learning experience. I've developed a strong sense creativity, adaptibility, and confidence in my teaching in such a short period of time. I don't really stress about teaching anymore and that's a gift. This mindset will be useful even as a return to a more traditional school setting back home!
Until next time,
eat well, be well, no pasa nada.