Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reign in Spain 2

Well, things have settled down here a little bit now. After the initial excitement, we are mostly tucked up in bed by 11pm. Being outside of Seville, we generally have to get a bus into town and another to our schools. So this means departure by 7.30am for most of us. This is a big deal for a lot, but it is actually a bit easier for me, since I was getting a bus at 7.10 when I was on my first placement. Monday was a university day - well we had a presentation on Seville University and refreshments. We met our compañeros again and mine was recovered from her illness. Lovely girl, but insisted on speaking English to me the whole time. Not sure what I get from the deal, really. But it was a buddy task to accompany us to the school. We were walking along this road in the town to our bus stop when I became aware of a terrible smell. I looked down to my feet to see what I rather suspect was raw sewage running down the pavement. A woman in a shop was brushing what seemed like gallons of the stuff out of her shop door onto the pavement. I felt for her but I felt for myself more. Suffice it to say my trousers were put into soak when I got back in case they had trailed through the stuff. Only in Spain! Thank God it wasn't the height of the Andalucian summer! Anyway, my buddy and I made our initial visits to the school and found out what bus I needed to get in to school. I won't see her again until Monday when she starts her placement at the school - she only does three weeks and then comes to the UK for a month

The lingo is so difficult to understand. The Andaluz accent drops 's' sounds all over the place and also the odd consonant when it feels like. I'd really love to know which bright spark with a warped sense of humour decided to partner up Andalucia with Merseyside in this project. Still, at least the challenge is equally weighted! I find myself nodding and saying "Sí, sí, vale.." all the time when I haven't got a clue what people are on about. It is bound to get me into trouble at some point! Mind you, my tongue is completely tied, too. One rather quaint thing which I remember from my time in Málaga is the tendency to add the diminutive ending 'ito/ita' to everything, so whatever you talk about translates as a 'little something'. So I am nurturing the habit of foregoing a cervecita (a little beer) in favour of a cafelito (a little coffee) and taking my toast golden brown with the butter blandita (a little bit soft - just like me!).

I haven't met my teacher yet as she is off with the flu. My school is a bilingual school. This means that certain lessons are delivered in English. I have yet to see how this works in practice. I saw an English lesson when the exercise was all about saying "I am going to do something". The class had to think up an example. One rather confused lad questioned why he had to do this, "Por qué? Es mas facile en español!" (Why? It's easier in Spanish!) Nice to know the Spanish come out with the same stuff as our, eh? I caught two boys throwing a ball to each other while the teacher's back was turned. Being a bit reticent to do anything and really not sure of what language to use, I looked at one of the boys and shook my head disapprovingly. The cheeky little bugger looked at me and put his finger on his lips, signalling to me to not let on to the teacher as if I was complicit in his little game! When they did it again, I confiscated the ball from the other boy (having rehearsed the Spanish for 'give it to me' in my head!) This has been an amazing culture shock for all of us. Our combined findings are that nobody really does dynamic and interesting lessons here. Everything is done from the book, to the extent that some teachers just read straight from the book. We haven't seen any evidence of stating lesson objectives. We have to fill in a log book during our visit including lesson observations. These ask things like, what sort of transitions do you see from one part of the lesson to another?, how does the teacher start the lesson?, how does the teacher end the lesson? The short answer is dunno. Does standing up and looking authoritative count as a lesson starter? Does the bell going and the children just putting their books away and going out count? It is all very laid back. I'm tempted to say that I don't think that is all bad. See, they don't sweat the small stuff - the kind of stuff that we in the UK can get embroiled in the name of discipline and end up blowing up out of proportion. The children call the teachers by their first name (saves them playing guessing games). They may or may not ask if they can hacer pis when they need the loo. There is always a toilet roll at the front of the class which they randomly just come out and use if they have a snotty nose. I haven't seen anyone told off yet. They certainly don't seem to fuss as much as our children. It is generally agreed that the schools are not as bright and colourful as our schools. There are displays but there is not as much effort put into making the environment look pretty. They're clean but spartan. They are years behind British schools in terms of investment in technology and mostly use good old fashioned blackboards. I think they spend money on books instead - perhaps we can learn from them in this! For all that the lessons are a little lacklustre in comparison to what we are used to, the general consensus was that the children still seem to learn. But unlike our kids they are not expecting to be entertained.

In terms of the teachers, they really do not arrive until dead on 9.00am and they are shooing you out of the door at home time. My school day, like many of the others, is from 9.00am until 2.00pm with a half hour break at midday. Other schools go on until 1.00 and have a 2-hour break, returning at 3.oopm for another couple of hours. The staff room, oddly enough, has the same motley collection of education journals, notices for staff training and union notices as the average UK staffroom. BUT NO KETTLE!!! Sorry, the kettle is the heart of community in a staff room. We haven't seen much marking done and nobody seems to take work home. I find the 3 hour morning a long time to go without a break but at least the work is over early and you can still do something with the day.

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