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!