Two Educational Cultures- One Goal

I have now spent eight school days in the classroom at RMSI and the lessons I have learned and observations/comparisons I have made have been so numerous. I have had the privilege of working with two wonderful teachers and helping with seven different classes throughout each school day, some repeating themselves more often throughout the week than others. While both the public school settings I have taught in throughout my undergraduate career and the school setting here at RMSI have a common goal of providing students with an educational experience that is effective, useful, and beneficial for them both in and out of the classroom, the way that both schools achieve this goal is entirely different. Listed below are some of the differences between the school systems I have observed/participated in in the U.S. and the one I am currently teaching in.

  • First, RMSI is not considered a “private school” because it is partially funded by the government, but students’ families pay to send them to this school because of its stellar educational approach and positive school community. It is set in a nice neighborhood and is comprised of students ages 2-18 (beginning much earlier than American students).
  • Students wear uniforms to school everyday, giving them a professional and unified appearance.
  • The school lunches are much more healthy and every student (regardless of age) receives an opportunity to play outside or practice a sport once during the school day as well as an hour to go home if they choose to eat lunch or rest.
  • Until our high school age, students are divided in classes based on gender, which I believe is mostly beneficial because it eliminates distraction, but also encourages immature behavior (especially in my all-boy classes).
  • Students stay in one room and teachers travel to them which is very different than our system in America.
  • There is limited technology in the school (younger students have ipads and there is a projector in every room that, in my experience, is rarely used by the teacher).
  • The educational approach is much more traditional. Students have workbooks to complete, have a heavy focus on grammar, spelling, speaking, and writing, and all grades are recorded in a grade-book by the teacher.
    • An important observation in this category, however, is that although teachers are not integrating much technology or “engagement activities” into their lessons, students here are much more intrinsically motivated to learn. It is so wonderfully refreshing to see students who genuinely care about increasing their education (and, specifically, their grasp of a second language).
  • Along these lines, students’ level of English is quite proficient (some better than others) but all students give their best and are far closer to “bilingual” status than many American students!
  • Finally, the behavior of the students here in Spain is interesting to compare to America. We give our American students much more structure, having written rules and procedures that are constantly enforced. Students here do not have that. It is clear that their natural tendency (often resulting from the nature of the culture they were raised in) is to be loud and energetic. While it takes a while to settle them down, they have all been extremely respectful in my experience and do not need to be threatened with referrals, detention, or suspension. They know what is expected and the behavior that will help them achieve their goals.

I could go on and on about the comparisons I have observed but these are the main ones that come to mind. My primary involvement in the classroom thus far is to work with students one on one with their classwork or speaking skills, circulate the room to see who needs assistance, or help grade and revise papers, going over specific changes that can be made to increase students’ writing abilities. What a wonderful experience it has been so far!

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