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Outdoor Physical Activity

 

I have spent the past seven weeks wandering around Barcelona and the surrounding area to see what kind of outdoor physical activity the people do here. Of course I expected to see typical activities such as running and biking. However, I have actually come across many people doing things I never expected to see. Barcelona is a lot warmer in the fall than Calgary, so it makes sense that more people would be outside exercising than I would expect at home. However, such a variety of outdoor physical activities is so much easier to find than at home.

Here are some of the activities I have come across without any prior research:

  • Yoga on floating paddle boards in the sea
  • Rollerblading
  • Yoga on the beach
  • Bootcamp workout on the beach
  • Gymnastics in the street (flips, cartwheels, and jumping over people)
  • Swimming in an outdoor pool
  • Swimming in the sea
  • Swing dancing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Frisbee
  • Outdoor football (soccer) on a concrete field
  • “Castellers” - human castle building
  • Lots of running groups
  • Outdoor basketball
  • Outdoor fitness/gym area at the beach
    • This is basically an adult playground where people use their body weight for exercises

 

As I mentioned above, I have seen many running groups. One of my mentor teachers at the school I am at suggested one group to me as they were having a meet up in a park near my apartment (Parc de la Ciutadella). This group has a runtastic ambassador which organized routes around the park with 3 levels of difficulty. We all met up together at a certain time and then split off in whichever level of difficulty that we wanted to. One group ran, one group jogged, and the slowest group walked. Because I just had knee surgery a few months ago I am not yet able to run so I joined in with the other walkers. One lady referred to our group as the “grannies” which I thought was hilarious. It can be quite hot during the day so exercising at night is ideal. However, parks can be unsafe at night (when you are alone and in the dark) so these meetup type of running groups are perfect.

I have noticed that there seems to be a lot more children playing outside than I typically see at home. My favourite thing that I have seen kids doing so far was a relay race type of challenge on roller blades. One kid would do a crazy move and then the others would try to mirror it and they would race to the other side of the park. I really wanted to share this observation because it reminded me of the things I used to do with my friends when I was a kid. I really wonder what makes kids seem to play outside here more than they do at home. Maybe by the time I get home this will become more clear to me.

Hasta pronto!

(Spanish - see you soon)

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Street Art and Performances

I love walking around Barcelona because I can always find interesting art. It seems as though everywhere I go I can find somebody drawing, painting, or singing in the street. Of course there are always people selling completed work, but there are also others who wait for customers to come to them and then they complete a portrait in the moment.

A very interesting type of art that I have never seen before are the sand sculptures that are made in the evening at a popular public beach, Platja de la Barceloneta. These artists arrive around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and spend hours sculpting intricate figures into the sand. These people put out a jar or mat where people walking by can make donations. I observed that it is hard for anybody to stop and enjoy these carvings without dropping some coins. Quite often the artists become upset if somebody tries to stop to take photos without giving them a donation. One day I spoke to an artist and he explained how this is the only way he can make money. In Canada I would never expect to see an artist chasing after a person for not donating to them for a street performance, but in Barcelona this is a reality.

I also enjoy seeing various street performers. There are people that dress up in crazy costumes and come to a busy street called La Rambla everyday. You can find people painted in gold that can sit as still as a statue. For a small donation they will move and take a photo with you.

Almost every time that I ride the underground subway somebody is singing, rapping, or playing an instrument such as trumpet, saxophone, or clarinet. I have heard some very interesting combinations of music and I have never seen the same person/group twice. There are street performers who serenade people as they eat dinner on an outdoor patio. Others show off their gymnastics skills by doing flips in the street. After any of these performances they walk around collecting change. I have observed that it is likely best to give a bunch of small change or a minimum of one euro. An important note is that it is possible that these artists can be more offended over a tiny donation than if you were to give nothing at all. An example of this is when I saw family of foreign tourists. I watched the father figure dig through a pile of change, giving each of his kids one cent to put into the hat for a group of five street performers. I saw how offended the performers were from the expressions on their faces. This reminded me of how my friends react at home when they serve somebody an expensive meal at a restaurant and a person tips a small amount of $0.50.

Overall, I would have to say that my favourite type of street art is the graffiti. I live in Barrio Gótico (Spanish for the Gothic Quarter). Most shops and restaurants are on the ground floor of the buildings and they have these pull-down doors that are covered in painted images and symbols. I sometimes walk around for hours looking at the designs.

 

Graffiti is common throughout the city, and nobody seems to mind its placement in public places. I even noticed that the trains are covered in graffiti. At home I know some people would be outraged if somebody spray painted the side of a C-train, but here it seems so normal. In addition I have seen people out in the daylight spray painting tags and pictures. I have never seen this at home - likely because of a fear of being caught by the authorities.

Adéu amics!

(Catalan for goodbye friends)

 

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October 1st marked the first anniversary of the 2017 (illegal) referendum on the separation of Catalonia from the remainder of Spain. As a result of this anniversary date, many students opted to strike by refusing to attend school. Many classes had very few students attending. For example, of approximately the 60 students in 4th ESO, only four attended school. I should have known something was arise by the newly hung banner and police presence at the train station in the morning. Thankfully, I did not witness any commotion or rioting aside from students not attending school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other school news, builders are still working on the school, but progress is at least being made. More classrooms now have computers and overhead projectors, but there is still no internet or Wi-Fi available. Teachers have been improvising and delivering lessons using alternate methods such as playing videos from personal laptops and mobile phones. Of the classes that I am in, the students primarily work out of workbooks anyways with a small amount of supplemental material from the teacher. The students do not seem to particularly enjoy the workbooks, so when I have the opportunity to do English-based activity games, such as pictionary and role playing, with them they are always eager! The bathrooms now even have toilet paper and soap dispensers, but inconveniently, no products yet; not even in the teacher’s facilities. I never thought I would need to carry my own bathrooms supplies on a regular basis, but it has now become second nature.

 

Siesta - an afternoon rest or nap. Part of Spanish culture is the siesta. While partaking in an afternoon nap sounds like a pleasant idea, it is also somewhat of an inconvenience. Many stores and restaurants close for several hours in the afternoon. I am trying to maintain my “Canadian” time schedule, thus, when I wish to go to a small market or grab dinner at an earlier time, I am finding them closed. In attempts to counter this, I have become more keen at pre-planning my suppers and hitting up the markets earlier in the mornings or later in the evenings.

 

Above all, I am enjoying living and teaching in the relaxed community atmosphere of Sant Cugat. It is much less touristy and busy than Barcelona. There are always people out leisurely walking their dogs and families sitting at a park bench while their children play. I love how there are so many benches and little playgrounds for people in the community to utilize. As my time here is Spain is now just past the halfway point, I plan to take everything in that I possible can as it has been proven that TAB experiences pass by way too quickly!

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Speaking English vs Teaching English

Most TAB student's first language is English so you should be able to tell me about Saxon genitive right? Hint: I just used it in that last sentence.

A weird thing to wrap your mind around is the difference between being a user of the English language and a teacher of it. With the English language commonly breaking every rule it has, it's easy to be too relaxed on how students speak. So it is very important to be clear about what concept or rule you are trying to teach. Often students speak a correct sentence but doesn't follow what the lesson is teaching. It's tricky because you don't want to tell the student they are wrong, or worse, hurt their confidence but instead steer them to the lesson on hand. It also means (re)teaching yourself the rules of English.

Often I am asked the proper way to say something and I have to stop and think, "How do I speak English again?" I am so used to speaking it that I don't pay attention to things like present perfect or question tags (in fact, I'm not sure I ever formally learned) and ultimately that should be the goal for the students too. While the teachers here are not as ready to throw the textbook out the window like they can be in Canada, they do share frustrations on their limitations. Often the textbook encourages technically correct but awkward language which conflicts with the teachers' goal of creating conversational English speakers. Also the textbook is entirely in English so it is designed for students in France just as much as Spain which is a bit surprising when you are used to texts designed specifically for provinces, let alone countries. To throw another element into the mix, some teachers were taught by British teachers so you can find accents and pronounciation that is different than what you are used to in Canada.

It's all part of the fun though. If your ultimate goal is to create English conversationalists then the best way is to have conversations. The question "why" is your best friend for shaking out those memorized stock phrases and getting students to think on their feet. I've seen students surprise themselves on how much they've absorbed and walk away feeling more confident!

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La Merce

Last weekend was La Merce festival and it was a blast. La Merce is a four day festival celebrating Our Lady of Mercy and the town comes alive during the weekend. There is a lot of things to do but the two highlights are the correfocs (or fire-runs) and the parade of gegants.

The correfoc is the most exciting by far consisting of people dressed as devils and monsters lighting fireworks that spray sparks into the crowd. It sounds dangerous but put on an old hoodie or thicker clothing and you should be fine. It doesn’t hurt on bare skin but bites a bit when gets on thinner clothes or unprotected hair where it burns a second longer. I speak from experience. I also recommend wearing your sunglasses to protect your eyes. Lastly you can just stand further away (but where’s the fun in that?).

It consists of two runs: the children’s and the adults’. I assumed because of the scary imagery that the children’s run was a toned down version of the adults. Turns out the people in the correfoc are children! The little devils have so much fun but the real action happens during the adults’. By the time it starts its dark enough to make it all look appropriately hellish. Stick around for the monster “floats” that spray in several directions at once.

On the final day is the gegants parade. Consisting of people wearing giant paper mache heads or dressed as giant kings, queens and other medieval or contemporary Spanish archetypes dancing and marching in a parade along Las Ramblas, it is a much more relaxed affair. In fact it’s a nice way to finish an exciting weekend!

PS If you are going to catch a cold on this trip, don’t do what I did and catch it during La Merce. You can only get medicine at a pharmacia and they are closed on Sundays- many are closed the entire festival weekend. The pharmacist I had spoke good and very specialized English (Como se dice “decongestants”?) and I’m told that’s usually the case. That being said the medicine I got was not as strong as the OTC stuff in Canada but at least you won’t get drowsy or stay awake on it.

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A New School Year Finally Begins

I have just finished my first couple teaching days at IES Leonardo da Vinci. The start of the school year was to begin on September 12, however, the start date was delayed due to construction. The school is in a brand-new building and construction is not even yet fully finished. The school gymnasium, cafeteria, and library remain incomplete as of yet. Further, not all classrooms have whiteboards installed nor overheard projectors to deliver lessons. Despite the unfinished building, students and teachers are in full swing of a new year. 

 

Classes begin at 8 am and each class is one hour in length. Students have three classes in the morning and then a short lunch break from 11:00 am – 11:30 am. The afternoon block also has three classes with the day ending at 2:30 pm.  I was a little concerned my first day at the sound of the bell to switch classes as it resembles more of a fire bell sound as opposed to a school bell. Needless to say, I will get used to it!

 

The school system here is composed of four years of compulsory secondary education referred to as ESO (educacion secundaria obligatoria). After these years, students can choose to no longer pursue any other education, but many students elect to attend technical school. Another option following ESO is to attend two additional years of upper secondary education called bachillerato. The students that follow this path do so as they are preparing to write an exam that will allow them entrance into university. The students that I will be working with are in first, second, and fourth ESO as well as first and second year of bachillerato. So far, the students have been very welcoming of having me in the classroom and are eager to ask the “Canadian teacher” questions about not only myself but Canada as well.

 

Some of the immediate differences that I have observed in the school as compared to schools in Canada is that students call their teachers by their first names. Also, the teachers move from classroom to classroom to teach their respective classes as opposed to having a homeroom and the students moving from one class to another. In the coming weeks, I am looking forward to getting to know the students better and learning how I can assist them with their English language learning.

 

Outside of school and our online courses, I have been exploring Barcelona and have even made a day trip to the quaint little beach-side town of Sitges. There is so much to see and do just in Barcelona. I can walk the same street multiple times and each time I notice something new that I didn’t see the previous times. I am excited to continue exploring this beautiful city!

 

 

Adios for now!

 

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Barcelona: One Week In!

Now that I have been here a week and I've discovered so much: My spanish is only mildly embarrassing but no one seems to mind. BCN does not stand for bacon but the jamon iberica is very tasty. When it rains, it pours and your dinky umbrella won't save you. Also the school I will be at is under contruction so some classrooms will not have internet, projectors or even whiteboards (!) yet.

The teachers are aware that it will a struggle but they are all ready for the challenge. Construction pushed the start of school a week so the teachers are eager to get started. Listening to how some teachers have had to be creative really shows their passion and enthusiasm. I think I will learn much from them. One teacher brought in a plastic tube from the construction scraps and pretended to order food through it because he knew needed some sort of visual aid with their class. It was a hit!

Today I visited the school but tomorrow I will actually be in the classroom. Practicums have always been my favourite part of the Education program so I am very much looking forward to it. In fact it's the whole reason I'm here (being in the Mediterranean is a nice cherry on top). I will have to remember to use appropriate grade level vocabulary, especially with the younger grades whose English is not as strong but I'm excited to see what they know and what I can teach them!

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Primera semana en España

Hola amigos!

The first week in Barcelona has been nothing short of incredible. Although I have travelled to quite a number of countries throughout South East Asia as well as Central and South America before, this is my first trip to Europe. I am truly so grateful for this opportunity which allows me to concurrently travel, teach, and complete university courses online. 

 

The things that that have been most noticeable over the past week are the little differences between living in Canada (or North America) and Europe. Some things are beautiful, others are interesting, and of course some things can be a little annoying. I live only a 10 minute walk to the sea, and 10 minutes beyond that is a 4 km long beach to swim at. I absolutely love the heat and being able to swim everyday and/or night!

The architecture of many buildings (even regular shops and average apartments) are breathtaking. I am living on a quiet street in the Gothic Quarter, and it is truly beautiful. I love that all of the ceilings and doorways are huge! The bathroom and kitchen are quite tiny in my apartment, and I share these spaces with my two roommates. This has been quite an adjustment, as two people cannot be in the kitchen at the same time. The washing machine is also in the kitchen and there is no dryer so we hang our clothes to dry in the communal living room or in our small bedrooms. Sharing such a small space with two strangers has definitely required some accomodating. They are both really friendly and kind so it has been working well. My Airbnb host is a graphic designer and he has hung lots of interesting art around the flat which has made the small space feel big and comfortable.

The thing that I totally overlooked is bringing only one power-outlet converter. I have all of these electronic devices (computer, phone, DSLR, GoPro, etc.) but only one plug. I am going to go out on an adventure to find another one. Many people here speak some English, but not enough to understand my request for this specific device. Alternatively, describing a power-outlet converter is beyond my Spanish conversation capabilities at this point. Now that I have a google translator on my phone I am going to try again.

Hasta luego!

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A Whole New World

My initial thoughts about my experiences with TAB remind me of the lyrics from the song A Whole New World. “A whole new world…A new fantastic point of view…A whole new world…A dazzling place I never knew…Unbelievable sights…Indescribable feeling”.

I arrived in Spain on August 29 after a couple of long travel days. This is my first time in Europe and I am excited to be immersed in a culture in which I have never been exposed to before. I will be living in Sant Cugat for my time here in Spain. I have done a little exploring in these first few days and have located a couple of grocery stores and coffee shops. The locals have been very kind to me even when I cannot understand what they are speaking and it is hit or miss if they can understand and/or speak English. This really is a whole new world to me!

Although I do not meet with the school liaison until next week, I am eager to begin in the classroom. I have taken time to review what I hope to gain from this experience. I hope to gain new insights and perspectives on teaching and what it means to be an educator. Further, teaching abroad will expose me to different teaching pedagogies. I am curious to learn how classrooms function and operate here in Sant Cugat and how they compare to classrooms in Alberta. From the experiences I will have and knowledge I will gain, I hope to be able to learn more about myself both professionally and personally. I hope to expand what my current teaching philosophy is and how to better support the learning needs of diverse students.

 

One of the main attractions in Sant Cugat is the Monastery (Monestir de Sant Cugat). The monastery, founded in the 9th century, was one of the main monastic centers of Catalonia. In 1835, after almost a thousand years of monastic life, the monks left the monastery as a result of the Secularization Decree. This building is like nothing I have ever seen before. Visiting the Monastery is one of my first “unbelievable sights”.

I am so blessed and grateful to be a part of TAB. I look forward to sharing my experiences as I discover a whole new world.

Carrie 

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Adios Barcelona

It is bittersweet to be writing this final blog post because it means that I am back home in Calgary. My time participating in the TAB program has been very unique and I believe I have developed skills that will be invaluable to me as a future teacher. My last day at my TAB placement school, Leonardo da Vinci, was very emotional for me as all of the students and teachers were so kind and appreciative of my time there. A few tears were definitely shed! I one day hope to return to Barcelona and Sant Cugat and see mi familia español once again! I really enjoyed teaching ELL students and I will keep learning techniques that will help me to engage with ELLs effectively. Given the rate of ELL students in our city, the TAB program is excellent in developing these types of skills. I learned to be more multi-modal in my teaching, and also that you can never explain directions too carefully! I am beginning my practicum on Monday in a school with a high ELL population and so I am eager to utilize what I have learned.                                                                               

My home away from home                            

Some things that I will miss about Barcelona:                  

Living by the beach and going swimming all the time

Being able to go to a bunch of amazing restaurants just steps away from my front door

Menu del día! From Monday - Friday you can get a 3 course meal for between 10-18 euros (including a drink)

+20 weather!

Exploring rural towns and other cities just as little as an hour away from Barcelona

Beautiful and unique European architecture

Practicing Spanish every day

Rambunctious students!

That being said, there are many things that I have missed about Calgary and I am happy to be home to see my friends and family. Teaching abroad has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience and I highly recommend it to pre-service teachers. I have learned a lot, and developed relationships, which I wouldn't have been able to do had it not been for this program. 

                 

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Reflecting on Spain...

As my time in Spain comes to an end, I have to admit that I am very sad to be leaving so soon! My reluctance in coming back home stems from the wonderful students, teachers, and experiences that I have been exposed to here in Sant Cugat. This last week has been emotional and heartwarming for a variety of reasons, but I will begin with where I left off last time! 

Luckily, I have been able to do a bit of traveling over the past couple of weeks. It was a privilege to visit the wonderful cities of Paris and Madrid on the weekends. My time in Paris was filled with a completely different yet equally interesting culture; it was so wonderful to see the art and community of an entirely different nation. Going to Madrid was a very interesting experience as well! I have to say that the differences between Barcelona and Madrid are extremely vast, though I cannot say one is better than another. Madrid is a much newer city, yet it holds a distinct history as well. Either way, I was very happy to have been able to visit Spain´s capital while I was here. I think traveling inside Spain was an important and worthwhile experience in order to get a full conceptualization of what this country truly consists of (especially in the wake of various political happenings!). 

 The French Pantheon & Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Plaza Mayor, Chocolate con Churros, and the Royal Palace in Madrid

The last week of teaching has been very touching! I have to say that the kindness of my students has completely surprised me and warmed my heart. Throughout the last few days of classes, my students presented me with a very kind letter "to their favorite teacher" along with a wonderful hat and scarf to help me brave the cold when I return home. Another set of students thanked me and gave me a set of lavender bath bombs and chocolates among other gifts. Another set of students gave me a painted heart that reads "good luck" (on the left is me opening one of these). These thank-you's made me feel so special! Being here has made me realize that above all I truly love working with young adults, and my support for them is completely the inspiration behind my teaching. This experience has helped solidify my goal as a future educator to be ultimately supportive and caring towards each and every student in my class. I have such appreciation for these students and their abilities. I think that they are kind, thoughtful individuals and I believe each of them will find success in the future. Hopefully I will be able to check up on their progress from back home! 

The educators here at my school have also been completely welcoming and kind from the start. I have learned much about teaching because of them, and having their trust to lead and experiment within the classroom has really made me grow as a person. I am extremely excited to return home and begin my field experience, and yet it is extremely bittersweet. I think one of the most difficult parts about being a student teacher (and a permanent teacher too!) is that you must move forwards and leave behind the relationships with students and colleagues you have developed at the end of your term. I get a sad feeling in my gut when I think about not knowing all of the amazing things these students will accomplish after I go! 

Happiness & Silliness! 

 
However, all of these feelings confirm that I am in the right program for the right career. And while I am hesitant to leave, I am excited to start again with a new group of Canadian students next week.  
 
Adios, Spain!  

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Bye Bye Barcelona - Until we meet again...

So, it’s my final week in Barcelona and I cannot believe that it has already been two months since I arrived. This trip met all of my expectations and provided me with an opportunity to grow. It was hard, at times, to realize that the safety net that I have grown accustomed to at home was not available here. Being a Muslim woman means that I have never had the chance to live on my own and so up until this trip, the longest that I had ever been away from home was four weeks. Being here for nine weeks was a struggle and it provided me with an experience that I will never forget. Not only did I get the chance to work on my ELL teaching methods, but I also learned a few things about myself like my ability to persevere through hard situations. In the first eight weeks, I had to deal with an illness that threatened my experience in Spain. While it kept me from exploring the country in the way I had hoped I would, I was able to push through the pain, see most of Barcelona, and gain valuable experience at a rural school.

 

One thing that I will never forget is the sincerity and love that exuded from all of the teachers that I worked with here. Each member of the English department is caring and loving to each other and their students. I was lucky enough to feel some of that care and love. Our welcome was just as warm as our farewell and while I did not get a chance to work with every teacher, I developed a close relationship with all of them.

 

Of all the relationships that I developed, the strongest was with our liaison, Arancha. She worked hard to make sure that we felt welcome and a part of the team. When my illness kept me from work, she personally contacted me to make sure that I was doing okay. Her genuine concern really shocked me, as I have never had a supervisor care so much for the well being of a worker. It warmed my heart. Her care was also shown in the classroom as she supported my professional growth through a mentorship that she took on seamlessly. It was like there was no need for formalities; I became one of her colleagues immediately and she made sure that she supported me in any way that she could. The entire staff exuded the same qualities which leads me to believe that, culturally, colleagues are much more supportive and close with one another than they are in Canada. That’s not to say that our colleagues in Canada are not supportive, but having worked for much of my life, I can firmly say that the work environment in this school was much more warm and welcoming than any place I have ever worked in before.


 

I will definitely miss Barcelona and the lifestyle that comes with it. It is so incredibly different than living in Canada and I am so grateful to have had this experience. In the last week, I decided to explore Barcelona at night in an unorthodox way. In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to embark upon a “Ghost Walk” through the old neighbourhoods of Barcelona. It was probably the most “touristy” activity I had taken part in since being here. A tour guide took a group of tourists around the streets of Barcelona and shared ghost stories about certain locations. Some of the stories included the tale of young lovers, an onion farmer, and a lost traveller who narrowly escaped a brutal death. While the stories were not too scary, it was nice to explore Barcelona at night.

 

 

These last nine weeks have been interesting to say the very least. I lived away from home in a country that I had never been to and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It was stressful many times having to adjust to a new culture, complete course work, and teach through each week but it was worth it. I feel that I have grown in a way that I never would have if I did not take on this experience. Sure, it can be frustrating to be in a place that you know nothing about but I made it through. I contemplated coming home early because of the illness that I endured, but I am so glad that I stayed. That being said, I look forward to coming home and sharing my experiences with my loved ones. I’m not sure when, but I’ll be back in Barcelona at some point in my life. Perhaps when I’m married and have children to share the experience with. But I’ll definitely be back.

 

Xoxo,

 

Hana Kadri

 

P.S. If you’re reading this because you’re interested in taking part in the TAB program, let me tell you right now that you should. Just do it. You won’t regret it. =)

 

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My time here in Spain is quickly coming to an end and I only have a couple more days in the classroom! I couldn’t be more grateful for

my experience here and I think it has ultimately helped me to become a better teacher. For my last week here in Spain, I am trying to soak up as much as I can before I head back home to Calgary. That includes getting as much beach and sun time as possible!

Today, November 1st, is All Saint’s Day (Todos los Santos) and a holiday here in Barcelona. Cemeteries are traditionally open for longer as it is a time for people to visit and remember their lost loved ones. It is also tradition to attend church services on this day. Schools are closed, as well as many other public services and stores.

I will definitely miss the food here, and I’ve been trying as many different restaurants as I can before I leave. There’s almost 10,000 restaurants in Barcelona, so that’s no small feat! Even though I have spent two months here, I feel as if there is so much still left to see and experience. Just the other day I learned that Creme Brulees (called Crema Catalana here, which are slightly different than the French version) most likely originated in Catalonia in the 14th century. The culture and history of Barcelona is very rich and vast, and it’s sometimes overwhelming to take it all in! There are still conflicts here regarding the independence movement, but for the most part, things have settled down (at least for now). There is still much uncertainty in the region, but new elections have been called for in Catalonia next month.


I am looking forward to my last couple days in the school here, although I am sure it will be bittersweet. 

 

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Adéu Spain

My time here in Barcelona has come to an end. This has been such a great experience and I have learned so much both personally and professionally. Prior to coming here I had never travelled outside of North America, so this experience has allowed me to grow so much. Saying goodbye to the teachers and students at Rubí was bittersweet. I’m excited to return to Canada, see my friends and family, and begin my next teaching placement, but I’m sad to leave behind the amazing people I’ve met and the country of Spain. I’m definitely not looking forward to the cold weather in Canada!

While here I’ve had the opportunity to also experience both French and Italian culture. I took a trip to Paris and Rome. Both cities were incredible. It was great to see other parts of Europe and iconic landmarks that I have always dreamed about visiting. It’s interesting to see that so many people in Europe speak multiple languages. 

Over my time in Spain I have further developed my classroom management skills, lesson planning abilities, flexibility and ELL instructional skills. I previously had very little experience with ELL students, so this placement has allowed me to cultivate tactics that I can use in my future classrooms. Also, being put in situations where I don’t understand then language being spoken to me has allowed me to see things from an ELL perspective. I have a better appreciation for how ELL students might feel in a classroom when they don’t understand what people are saying. Even though I will be starting my Calgary placement a week later than most students, I feel prepared to hit the ground running. After my placement in Spain I am even more comfortable in the classroom. The experience I have gained here will be so beneficial to me as I continue to move forward in the BEd program and eventually into my teaching career.

Living in Barcelona for the past 9 weeks has been incredible. I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and discovered how self-sufficient I can be. I have seen so many amazing buildings and landscape, tasted wonderful food, heard delightful music, and met many welcoming people. Spain is a beautiful country with a rich history, and I’m so happy that I was able to experience it.

 

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Week 7 - No signs of slowing down!

I left off my last post speaking about the Independence referendum that took place in in Spain on October 1st. Well, the aftermath of the referendum has been quite messy leading to large protests and strikes across Spain. Those for and against the independence of Catalonia made sure that their voices were heard over the last two weeks. It has been interesting to be a bystander to such a historic event, but it is hard to watch as this issue carries on. Inevitably, there will be people hurt no matter what the course of action is. While an official call for independence hasn’t been made, the President of Catalonia has until tomorrow night to decide his course of action. I am sure that most of Spain will be holding its breath.

 

On a much lighter note, in these last few weeks I have realized just how close countries are to each other in Europe. It has really made me appreciate being here and has made me, in a way, envious of the people who live here. It is quite easy to go from one country to the next or even to experience vastly different cultures within the same territory! Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Nice, France. While I was there, I got to experience French culture AND travel to Monaco and Italy in the same day. Once I traveled from one state to another in the matter of an hour when I was in the U.S. and I thought that was pretty cool. But within a day I was able to travel to three different countries all situated along the French Riviera. I jumped on a train with my passport, but I didn’t need my passport. I went from one country to another without showing my passport to anyone. That is a completely foreign idea to me. Everywhere I have ever gone, someone has asked me for some form of I.D., but not here. It is an experience that I’ll never forget and am so thankful for. On the way back from a small refugee town in Italy, we pulled into the first stop in France. Officers came on board and pulled every African and North African off the train without even asking for their travel papers. This really concerned me, but I was told that this was something that happened on every train ride. Thousands of refugees from Liberia and North African countries attempt to get into France via train after taking a boat ride into Italy. It was shocking to me, but I suppose not everyone has the freedom of movement like I have been afforded. You can’t help but be thankful for your freedom after seeing something like that.

 

While in Barcelona, I had the chance to visit Parc del Laberint d’Horta. Several famous French and Spanish architects created this classical wonder over the course of nearly 200 years. The park is a beautiful estate that once belonged to a family who graciously donated it to the city of Barcelona. It was truly a sight to behold knowing that each element of the estate was carefully crafted. The hedge maze is the main attraction here. While it is the tail end of summer and now moving into fall, the grass was not as green and the bushes and trees have begun to shed their leaves, it was still an incredible sight. There were photographers all over the park taking photos of nature, of newlyweds, and of each other for, what I believe to be, social media purposes. I am glad that I had the opportunity to visit the estate.

 

As for school, I will say that, while I have been ill and have missed a few days of teaching, I am having a difficult time adjusting to the relationship that the students have with their teachers. The students seem eager to learn and to take part in planned activities, but they continuously speak over both myself and other teachers. Initially I believed this to be because I was new and the students weren’t quite comfortable with me. But now, almost five weeks later, the students are speaking over me in class to and even higher degree. In my observations I have noticed that the teachers seem to allow this kind of behaviour, and I am not one to preach at all about how a teacher should manage their classroom and so I won’t. I have accepted that this is how the teacher-student relationship works at this school, however I have been working on my own classroom management skills and the teachers have been kind enough to give me some leeway in this department. Explaining that, culturally, in Canada students do not speak when the teacher is giving instructions or when other students are speaking. They seem to be responding well, and I have noticed that they are much less likely to talk over me when the teacher has left the room. I never wanted to be a “mean” teacher, but I realize now that I have limits to the loudness of a classroom and high expectations for the respect that students have for their teacher and fellow students. If anything, I think that this experience is preparing me to manage a classroom and that’s a skill that I didn’t expect to focus on while in Spain. That being said, the students are so bright and curious. I absolutely love the idea of being a teacher, now more than ever.  

Adios for now mi amigos! Xoxo

Love,

 

Hana K. 

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Week 7 in Spain!

Hola! 

Over the past couple of weeks, I really feel as though Spain has started to become like a second home. At last I am able to navigate the confusing streets of Barcelona without the help of a map or guidance. Other tourists often ask me for directions and I am happy to say that finally I can be of some help to them! I also feel as though I am now sharing fully the customs of Spanish life– the late dinners, the work-on-the-fly attitude, and the enjoyment of everyday life, such as the beach, the cafes, and the relaxing lifestyle. The Spanish way of life can often be fast paced– but relaxing and unwinding are a priority here too. Spain is all about the extremes. 

I have truly come to enjoy my teaching position in Sant Cugat. I have been tested in many aspects that I lacked experience in beforehand, such as behaviour management and thinking on my feet. Throughout most official U of C field experiences, you have a partner teacher with you to help control and calm down an unruly class. Here in Spain, I have the class all to myself. Therefore, I have learned some valuable lessons and techniques relating to behaviour management. I have found that positive reinforcement is an excellent tool, e.g. saying “thank-you” to students that are participating and listening to my instructions. I have also noticed that chatting loudly in class is a huge problem throughout our school. Sometimes I will have to wait more than 30 seconds before everyone in the class settles down to listen to me. Because of this, many times I have had to move “chatty” students away from their friends or have them engage with the lesson by asking them to read the instructions or examples out loud to the rest of the class. Furthermore, Spain has certainly taught me to think on my feet! Because it is the beginning of the year, the teacher schedules and class locations change often, and sometimes within a matter of days; this means that one day we may have access to a computer/projector, and the next day we may not! Because of this, I have had to learn to be well prepared and have a backup plan for my backup plans!

Wine Tasting in the Penedès
(with Montserrat in the background)

The past few weeks have also allowed me to participate in some further cultural exploration. I was lucky to attend a wine tour/tasting in Barcelona’s famous wine region: the Penedès. It is here that wonderful wines and cavas (champanges) are created. We visited 2 vineyards. One of them was an ancient castle from the 11th century, and had over 30 years of generations involved with the running of the winery. Another winery was a family run business, and we were introduced to the family themselves, who told us all about the process of becoming a wine expert. It was a day filled with yummy tapas, wine, and cava! 

I also had the opportunity to visit both Stiges (a costal town south of Barcelona, where many locals own a vacation home) and Terragona, which was the Roman capital of Spain during the 1st century. Here, I spent some time soaking up the sun at the beach (it is still a lovely 24 degrees here) and visiting some Roman ruins, such as an aqueduct and amphitheatre where gladiatorial battles took place. 



Roman aqueduct and Amphitheatre by the Sea 

Beach in Stiges 

Being in Barcelona for this extended period of time also means that I have time to visit the lesser known tourist attractions. Just outside of the main city is a royal monastery called the "Monsetir de Pedralbes" (on the left) dedicated to Santa Maria. It was founded in the early 1300's and still stands today as one of the best known and well preserved examples of Gothic architecture in a monastery anywhere in Europe! I found that it was such a peaceful experience to walk around the ancient monastery. There, the keepers of the monastery (the nuns no longer live there) have made efforts to replant a garden filed with the original herbs from the 14th century. The monastery was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. 

Lastly, the Spain TAB participants all came together to make a wonderful traditional Canadian thanksgiving. Somehow we were able to find most of the ingredients we needed to make mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables… the works! I have to say that I am very grateful to have made such wonderful friends throughout this experience. Overall, I am so thankful to have been selected to participate in this program, as it has truly given me SO much extra teaching experience I simply wouldn’t have had back home in a classroom. I feel like I have improved so much as a teacher over the past couple of months, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!  

Until next time, hasta luego!

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Spain in October

Wow! I can’t believe my time in Spain is almost to an end. These past 7 weeks have flown by. I have such a better understanding of how to work with ELL students. The teachers here in Rubí have given me so many great pointers that I can use in all my future classrooms.

Since last weekend was Thanksgiving, I taught my classes about Thanksgiving. Many of them had never heard about the holiday, so I was able to teach them a lot. For an activity, I put students in small groups and gave them a Thanksgiving scenario to write a script for and act out. I was really impressed with the scripts some students were able to create. Even students who seemed a bit young for the activity surprised me and were able to write and speak English very well. However, the activity was too difficult for some of the younger and lower level students, so I had to quickly think of a plan B. Now I know why teachers always say it’s important to have extra activities in mind in case things don’t work out as planned. It’s nice doing the same activity for each class throughout the week because I am able to see what works and what doesn’t work. From there I can make appropriate changes for the next class so that the activity is even better.

The Spain girls and I did our own Thanksgiving feast here in Barcelona. It was a struggle to find some of the traditional foods we wanted so we had to make a few modifications. Instead of turkey we had chicken, but thankfully I was able to find instant gravy in the grocery store. They don’t eat gravy here so I was very surprised (and relieved) to find it and not have to make it from scratch.

I also visited Mount Tibidabo last week. From the top you get beautiful views of Barcelona and the sea. The mountain has an amusement park and the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. The temple has stairs to the top which I reluctantly climbed. The views were amazing and I wanted the experience, but I’m terrified of heights. I took some pictures and got down quickly. The architecture of the temple is wonderful, as are all the churches and buildings here.

This week my students were given a treat. They were given M&M’s and told to answer the question that corresponds to the colour of M&M (ex. If you have a red M&M you would answer the question “What are your favourite hobbies?”). I was worried about bringing food into the classroom (because of allergies), so I made sure to ask if it was ok first. However, to my surprise the biggest issue I encountered was that a lot of the students didn’t even like M&M’s! I hadn’t even considered that. I assumed all kids love candy. Following the M&M activity they did a drawing activity. They described how to draw a simple picture (ex. house, cat, tree, etc.) to their partner using English (ex. “Draw a large square in the middle of your page.”).

The weather here in Spain is still so warm. I see that it’s much colder back in Canada, so I’m happy I’m able to wear shorts and go to the beach still. I’m sure my friends and family back home are jealous of the climate I’m in when looking at my pictures. I plan on spending these last two weeks soaking up as much sun and warmth as I can.

Parc del Laberint d'Horta - The maze is harder than it looks 

Vineyard outside of Barcelona

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Hola de España!

Greetings from Spain!

I am settling into life here in Spain and have enjoyed immersing myself in the Spanish culture and their way of life. I feel truly privileged to be here and participating in the TAB program, which has been an invaluable experience for me. I have been lucky enough to volunteer in three different types of classrooms: middle school (ages 12-16), high school (ages 16-18; these classes are non-compulsory), and adult students. The adult classes are for students that have decided not to do the high school route which is geared towards university, or they could also be adults that are returning to school after a number of years. In addition to the English classes the adult students take, they also attend vocational classes such as office administration. I have really enjoyed

working with adult students, and it's an experience I never expected to have back in Calgary.

As previously mentioned, formalities within the education system here are a lot more relaxed than back in Canada. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner by one of my adult students and her family. I have been told that in Spain, it is more common to meet with people outside of the home since people usually live in small flats, and so it is more of a "big deal" if someone invites you to your house! Needless to say, I was extremely honoured to have been invited, and I could not believe how much time and effort went into the dinner that she prepared for me. She cooked many types of traditional Spanish, mainly Andalucian, food such as salmorejo, which is a type of cold soup consisting of tomatoes and garlic, topped with bacon (or ham) and egg. One of my favourite dishes was called tortillitas de bacalao (little tortilla, or omelette, made with cod). She gave me the recipe and I attempted to make the dish the next day!

The hospitality that she and her family extended to me is something that I will never forget. I learned a lot about the Spanish culture and how they are both different and similar to us Canadians. For example, siestas used to be very common within the Spanish culture, but due to many factors such as globalization, they have become increasingly uncommon within the bigger Spanish cities since people generally work through the entire day.

Another thing that I have learned more about over the past couple of weeks is the Catalan independence movement. It has caused a lot of tension here, not only for politicians and pro-independence supporters, but even for the people who wish to remain neutral. Just a few days ago, many people rallied in Barcelona and Madrid urging for both sides to "sit down and talk" about the situation at hand. Yesterday, there was a huge rally of pro-Spain people in Barcelona that do not want Catalonia to separate. The situation is very unpredictable and nobody knows what is going to happen, which has been causing stress for the teachers and students. Regardless of where people stand on the issue, everybody here is hoping for a peaceful solution. 

 

Hasta Luego!

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A Typical Day in Spain

We have been in Spain for nearly a month and as predicted, time is going by quite quickly! 

I am really enjoying my placement in Sant Cugat. If you are a prospective TAB student looking for some real, hands on teaching experience, Spain may just be the place for you! For this blog post, I am going to go through a typical teaching day for us here in Spain. 

School begins at 8 am each day. Instead of living in Sant Cugat for the duration of our placement, we decided we would rather live in the heart of Barcelona. Because of this choice, however, we have about a 45 minute commute each day, and so we typically need to be ready and on the train by 7 am. After arriving to our train stop, we have about a 10 minute walk before reaching the school. 

Each class at our school is one hour in length, and contains anywhere from 25-37 students. As a result of this, my partner teacher secured 2 separate rooms so we can split the class in half. Each day I take one half of the students (about 15 students) into my own “classroom” and she takes the other half. After half an hour of instruction, we switch groups so that each of us has the chance to see every student that day. While the idea of being all by myself was quite daunting at first, I quickly settled into my role. Having the students to myself means that I can plan related activities/games to their current topics with my own creativity. Additionally, I can have my own “class rules” and set my own expectations with students. Typically, my partner teacher will go over the homework and textbook work, and I will plan an entertaining activity related to what they have learned. Thus far I have found success using several sources, such as Kahoot quizzes and Pinterest resources. I have also found success utilizing several activities from a TAB workshop earlier this year, as well as other sources online.I have observed that throughout the day students are often bogged down with so much coursework that they don’t have any opportunities (besides gym class) to be active in the classroom. As a result, I have attempted to include activities which involve moving around as much as possible. In general, I have found great success in transforming many drama games into ELL games based on the topics (such as irregular verbs, job applications, family descriptions, etc) that the students are learning. 


                Above: the streets of Sant Cugat

“Lunch” time is around 11 am. I use the term “lunch” because many students actually eat their breakfast during this time, and lunch after school ends, which is at 2:30 pm. During the lunch break I typically go and sit with the other teachers in the canteen, where they serve coffees and other snacks. If not, I work on some preparations in the humanities lounge. 

One interesting experience I have had so far in relation to this “lunch” period happened this week. It is a tradition at my school that each faculty plans a beautiful lunch for the rest of the staff once a month. This month they served traditional dry-cured Spanish ham sandwiches, cheese and tomato sandwiches, chips, sweets, and beverages. I will be vague to say that I was surprised at some of the beverages the teachers are allowed to have during school hours, but nonetheless it was a lovely experience. I think monthly staff lunches could enhance any school’s faculty back home! 

Monthly faculty lunch tradition 

After the break I usually have another class or two, and then I walk to the train station back to Barcelona. Typically I work 4 days a week from about 8-12:30, but I will get into why this has not always been the case below. 

As some of you i’m sure are aware, at the time of this blog post there has been immense political strife and conflict happening in not only Barcelona but all across the area of Catalonia. Last week, the Catalan population attempted to peacefully vote either for or against independence from Spain. Because the Spanish government declared the vote illegal, there was a great deal of violence and police brutality on the day of the vote. We were shocked to see images of police forcibly throwing people out of polling stations, while confiscating all of their votes. Throughout October 1st, many innocent people were hit with police batons and rubber bullets as the Spanish police cracked down on those trying to vote. While being here, it has been impossible not to notice the tension rising. It is very easy to find oneself turning a corner here in Barcelona and seeing or finding yourself stuck in the middle of a protest. Of course these protests are very peaceful, but the political situation here is extremely prevalent. 

One interesting thing that has occurred as a result of this political strife is related to my students. Twice now the students have actually gotten permission slips from their parents to “strike” away from school. Essentially, the entire school’s student population will not show up occasionally to school to protest the way the Spanish government has conducted their affairs. I find this extremely interesting because back home, it is much more likely and accepted for a teacher to go on strike than a student. 

So not only does this political situation affect life in Barcelona, but life in Sant Cugat too. I have also learned a variety of new phrases because of the protests, such as a “Cacerolazo” which means “a typical protest done by making noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call for attention.” Almost every single night here in Barcelona at 10 pm, people run out to their balconies and bang pots and pans against each other and cause as much noise as possible. This is in response to their calls for independence, and while it can be quite loud I find it extremely interesting. 

           

  A typical protest in Barcelona             

Finally, I will speak a little about something called La Merce festival, and the infamous “Carrefoc” or “fire run.” La Merce is Barcelona’s most popular festival, and while you are here you can see parades, dancers, concerts, and other events happening all weekend. However, by far the most interesting aspect of this festival is the Carrefoc that occurs. Essentially one of the main streets in Barcelona closes down, and all the “devils” are released. Each one of these devils carries a giant sparkler that fizzles and cracks and sprays fire everywhere. For the most part the sparklers are harmless, but if they hit your scalp they can definitely hurt (I know first hand)! Locals and visitors run quickly through the streets and through the sparklers. It was a truly amazing and unique tradition to participate in!

The chaos of the Carrefoc

A fire breathing devil at the Carrefoc

And that is all for now, adios! 

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The excitement never ends...

Hola mi amigos!

The La Mercé festival is unlike anything that I have ever experienced. The festivities were all over the city of Barcelona and people were everywhere. There were concerts, plays, and evening parades for 3 nights. The only other festival that I’ve ever really experienced was the Calgary Stampede and both festivals bring out an innate culture within the city and invite thousands of visitors to take part. The annual festival has taken place since 1687 and is a celebration of the Virgin of Grace otherwise known as Mare de Déu de la Mercè, patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona, and co-patroness—along with Saint Eulàlia—of the city. Some of the most amazing pieces of art that I have ever seen came in the form of paper maché giants. These giants were quite massive and were a part of the opening parade. Thousands of locals and tourists lined the streets to watch the procession of giants make their way through the city.

 

 

The most exciting element of the La Mercé festivities was the Carrefoc also known as the Fire Run. Hundreds of festival volunteers light up giant sparklers and those who dare run under these sparklers. It was exhilarating and beautiful at the same time. Initially I was worried that I would get burned but as I continued down the road and through the different sparklers, all I could think of was how beautiful it looked. People were laughing and dancing and I couldn’t help but catch their contagious attitudes. All the while, drumming squads were keeping the crowds going with amazing beats for hours on end. The skills that these drummers had were absolutely amazing and something that I’ve never heard before. Mind you, with the drumming and the sounds of the sparklers my hearing may have been compromised for a few hours but it was worth it.

 

 

School has been amazing. The students are so incredibly receptive and willing to learn in a way that I’ve never seen before. As the teacher, you are the expert in the room no matter who you’re teaching. When you’re teaching a language, there is a different level of attention that you receive from the students. You have a skill that the students are very interested in learning and so far they haven’t disappointed. I am really surprised with the level of English of each class I teach. Our liaison explained that some students have very low English skills, but even though students exceeded my expectations. By no means would I consider their English skills to be low. Perhaps the standard of expectations here is much higher than our own in Canada.

 

  

I cannot believe that we are almost half way through our time here. In no time, I’ll be done and heading back home for the start of practicum. It’s hard to sometimes break out of the fantasy that is Barcelona and remind myself that I have other duties back home. This last weekend my friends and I had the chance to meet the Associate Dean International at the Werklund School of Education, Dr. Colleen Kawalilak. Learning about the origins of TAB and the desired growth of the program really warms my heart. I can truly say that I have never experienced anything like this before. Being in another part of the world and using my skills to the help students learn English is something I never thought I’d ever have the chance to do. Teaching Across Borders has provided me with a life-changing opportunity, one that I hope that many other students can experience also. If you, the person reading this, happens to be someone looking for a worthy cause to support, Teaching Across Borders is it. Not only are you giving our students a chance to gain invaluable experience, but you are affording students across the globe a chance to learn from Canadian pre-service teachers. And if you are a student looking to make up your mind about applying to the program, DO IT. You will not regret it.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today, October 1st, was a historic day for the people of Catalonia and of Spain. The Referendum for Independence was held today and the Spanish government was not happy about it. I hope that a peaceful solution can be made for the people in this area.

 

That’s all for now! Adios =)

 

Much Love,

 

Hana K.

 

 

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