So I have had the opportunity to share some of the amazing things that I have been doing in my classroom this year. DENapalooza is an event sponsored by Discovery Education and it brings together teachers wanting to learn and share what’s going on in their schools and classrooms. I volunteered to come in and share all the different ways I have been connecting throughout this year. I had done some really fantastic things connecting my class with others this year and thought it would be great to share it. At the time, it did not seem like that big a deal, I talk about it all the time on twitter with my PLN friends, I talk about what I am doing with my friends and colleagues here, so it seemed like the logical next step.
Then I took a look at who is presenting and they are people I greatly admire and respect. They are people who do have amazing stories to share and tell. Then to make matters worse, I saw some of the people who were going to be coming and potentially coming to hear me speak. Again these are people I follow and am in awe of the wonderful things they do in their classrooms. And while I am not belittling what I have to share in any way, I will admit I was and am a little intimidated. Part of me (a BIG part) almost emailed to give an excuse why I would not be able to present after all. I had never done something like that before, gotten up in front of a group of people and spoke about things I am passionate about. I had spoken many times on a smaller scale to friends and colleagues, had multiple conversations on twitter but this step I was about to take, I wondered if I was actually ready for it.
So what made me change my mind and not send that email? A few things actually…. my wonderfully supportive PLN (Kelli, Dana and Zoe you know who you are 🙂 But the other was my kids, my students, my little class of explorers I had taken this journey of connecting with. I had made a video of some of the things we had done this year to give people that come to my presentation a glimpse of the journey my students and I took this year. I explained to them all what was going on and showed the video that I had made. The looks on their faces, the smiles they had as they pointed out things “Remember this….” “Hey I remember that….” really made me stop and ask myself why wouldn’t I be proud to share that. I was not alone on this journey of connections I made this year, I had a mighty contingent of fellow explorers that came with me by my side.
Am I taking a step out of my comfort zone, yes I am. But am I willing to do it anyway, again yes I am. At the end of the day I am very proud of the ways my students have grown this year and some of it is due to the experiences they have had with these connections we have made. I am going to take a deep breath, take that step so that perhaps maybe someone will see what I have done and try taking a step outside their comfort zone.
I’ve officially been in Spain for one week and have had the opportunity to be in a variety of classes. It’s been an interesting experience thus far and while I’ve definitely noticed the differences, I’ve also noticed some similarities.
The differences would include the schedule but be aware I’ve been in what is considered a private school here in Spain. The students go from 10 am to 5:30 pm, but there is a 1/2 break for recess and a 2 hour break for lunch. In Spain right from kindergarten, you have one main teacher who teaches the math and language arts but then there are a variety of “tutors” who come in and teach science, social, art, music, gym. So it’s not unheard of for students to have 5-6 different teachers.
The other major challenge I’ve noticed here is that teachers are on their own in the classrooms, educational assistants are not something that teachers will have to help them out, even in kindergarten. So a teacher may have 22 students with a variety of issues, including behaviours, and they just have to deal with it. I ask if it’s hard and they just shrug “That’s the way it is in Spain.”
As well teachers in Spain, at least in the school I am in, do not have the access to technology like we do in Canada. They have one teacher computer, classes that are lucky will have a smartboard, but for most it is a projector and a screen. iPads do not exist in classrooms here, in fact I would say this is a market that Apple has yet to hit because I have not seen any iPhones or iPads here. There is one computer lab, but the teachers say good luck getting in there with their students.
But while I mention the differences I do have to share the similarities. Their care and concern for the students is evident. They have concerns about government changes and wonder how that will affect their students. They worry about whether there will be the funds to do the things they need for their students. They have the challenges of budgets, administrations, staff meetings and trying to get curriculum completed. It’s funny how some things are universal.
It is funny to see similar content and teaching strategies, I’ve seen concepts from science and math that I’m teaching my students back home. In the upper grades they do novel studies, I even saw “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in Spanish which was kind of funny. I’ve seen KWL charts, T charts, Venn diagrams and even some aspects of UDL too. It’s funny how some things are universal.
When I decided to do my teacher exchange I had two goals in mind: the first to see a little more of the world and the second to see what similarities (if any) and differences there were between our way of schooling here in Alberta and in Spain.
My two week exchange began the end of March when I started the long journey to Spain via plane. Let me tell you the Canadian airport experience beat the experience in London hands down. While I realize there is a big difference between Vancouver airport and Heathrow, the factor with me was the ease I was able to find my way, get help when I was unsure where I was going. Vancouver couldn’t help enough and Heathrow was a nightmare. Trying to find someone willing to help (attitude galore) and then trying to make sense of what I was reading (yes I DO speak English) was very challenging. I ended up losing it with a British Airways gate attendant trying to explain through my tears (after a 20 min fight through security with my dangerous Canadian maple syrup – which was a present for my host family which never did make it through) I was worried about missing my flight. She was very helpful at least and got me where I needed to go.
The end result was worth it though. I made it to Segovia, Spain a small city of 55, 000 people. (With one of my suitcases, the other arrived at a later date lol) The history and culture here is unbelievable and hard to put into words. Hopefully the pictures below give you an idea.
I have spent almost a week here now and so far it has been amazing. I have seen some fascinating things – an ancient Roman aqueduct, a cathedral centuries old, a summer palace made for the King and Queen of Spain in an attempt to compete with Versailles, and even a bull fighting ring. I can’t begin to talk of the food. The paella here is mouth-watering, I had hot chocolate so thick it was like someone melted a rich dark chocolate bar in a cup, and the pastries are to die for. I will admit I find the love of fish here hard. You go in the supermarkets and it is like being at a wharf – big long smelly fish laying on ice ready to purchase. No thanks!! (My husband would have loved it though) It is funny to see glimpses of home here though I saw a Burger King here and was told Mcdonalds is coming in the summer. Sigh hard to believe in a city with such a rich history progress of this type ventures in.
Anyway enough for now, I will speak of my schooling experience another day.