Mis Impresiones de una High School

One of the things I was looking forward to doing when my in-laws visited was taking my father-in-law to my old stomping grounds—my former high school. It was inaugurated in 1992, and it has the second-largest swimming pool in the state (!), so—I’ll admit it—I thought he might be impressed. As a former high-school teacher himself, he found everything interesting and remarkable (as in, something upon which to remark).

Afterwards I asked him if he would write up his impressions of the visit. He sent me back a very professional-looking document. If I were a teacher, I’d give him an A+, or in Spain’s system, a matrícula de honor. First I’m going to let you read what he wrote in Spanish (if you can), and then I’ll translate it at the end.

Graduation Crawfordsville High School

Graduating from my high school

Tenía interés por conocer un centro educativo cuyos alumnos corresponden en edad a los cuatro últimos cursos de un Instituto de Enseñanza Secundaria en España. Debido al poco tiempo disponible, pues había clases, y a mi desconocimiento del inglés no pude preguntar todo lo que hubiera deseado, lo mismo a profesores que a alumnos, a personal administrativo o equipo directivo, así es que me limito a los aspectos externos.

Ciertamente no sé el grado de absentismo escolar o de fracaso escolar; tampoco pude conocer si hay o no problemas de conducta y de convivencia.

Pero puedo decir que me sorprendió gratamente y sentí sana envidia a la vista de lo que contemplaba y voy a reseñar aquello que más me llamó la atención:

1 Los espacios: amplios y luminosos en el interior, muy extensos y adecuados en el exterior. Las oficinas, el vestíbulo de entrada, las zonas de distribución… y la zona deportiva, zona de aparcamiento, zona de recogida de residuos para reciclar…

2 Las aulas: mobiliario suficiente (al menos, a primera vista) y bien distribuido, con equipamiento informático suficiente en todas.

Es acertado tener en la parte exterior de algunas aulas una vitrina donde se expone algo relacionado con la asignatura y hecho en clase.

Me llamó la atención ver la bandera del país en todas ellas y me agradó ver que al comienzo de la segunda clase todos los alumnos prestaban con devoción un “juramento” (1) a la bandera de su país, a su bandera. Me parece básico el respeto común a la bandera de todos.

Pero lo mejor, para mí, es el concepto de aula de asignatura: me encanta que el aula no sea de un grupo concreto, sino de una asignatura, pues tienes la posibilidad de tener todo el material didáctico que necesites a mano, e incluso dejar preparado para otras clases.

3 Las instalaciones deportivas: con campos diversificados para distintos deportes y vestuarios en el exterior, y la piscina y la cancha de baloncesto, además de la cancha antigua y el gimnasio, en el interior. Por cierto, me pareció una estupenda idea la posibilidad de replegar las gradas, pues se conseguían otros dos espacios para practicar el baloncesto. Magníficas, sería el calificativo.

4 Espacios especiales: Una sala para ensayar la banda y otra para el coro de la escuela, además de un amplio y funcional salón de actos.

Por otra parte, el espacio de las taquillas y el del comedor.

5 Puntos, lugares o detalles significativos:

  • El tablón de anuncios principal con los 5 pilares que consideran básicos en la educación y el espacio para el alumno del mes.
  • El lema que aparece por encima de la puerta del salón de actos: ‘Enter to learn go forth to serve’.
  • Los tablones donde aparecen los alumnos que han destacado globalmente en ciertos cursos o niveles (no sé cómo expresarlo) o conseguido becas.
  • El Hall of Fame de la zona deportiva.
  • El expositor con los certificados de calidad o la medalla del astronauta, antiguo alumno de la escuela, que viajó a la luna y se acuerda de su escuela.
  • La bandera en cada aula y el acto al comienzo de la 2ª clase.
  • La calle reservada a los bomberos.

Saco esta conclusión:

Además del currículo general (u oficial, con las distintas vías o itinerarios), se ofrecen muchas opciones deportivas y otras artístico-culturales (coro, banda) o benéficas (no sé cómo se llama aquélla a la que pertenecías tú, que vimos en el vestíbulo unas referencias).

Me imagino que esto es con miras a que cada alumno elija teniendo en cuenta sus aficiones y cualidades, con lo que la enseñanza le resultará más agradable y cercana.

Y después se valoran los resultados, pues lo reconocen públicamente y para muchos años en los pasillos de mi escuela, donde muestran mi nombre o la foto de mi equipo con la fecha y el logro alcanzado o el premio conseguido.

Por otra parte se fomenta el espíritu de equipo, de grupo, en definitiva, de escuela. Y esto ayuda a sentirse “alumno de esa escuela”. Siempre será mi escuela y me acordaré siempre y lo diré orgulloso.

—-

And now in English …:

I was interested in seeing a school with students whose ages correspond to the last four years at a Spanish high school. Because there wasn’t a lot of time, and there were classes going on, and due to my lack of English-speaking abilities, I wasn’t able to ask everything I would have liked (to teachers, students, and administration), so I’ll limit myself to external aspects. Obviously, I cannot know the extent of truancy or the failure rate, nor do I know anything about behavioral problems among the students. But I can say I was pleasantly surprised by what I did see, so I’ll review what caught my attention.

1) Spaces: Spacious and with a lot of light, very extensive and appropriate on the outside. The offices, the entrance hall, the distribution areas … and the sports area, parking lot, the recycling area. [We have a recycling zone set up for people to bring by recycling]

2) Classrooms: There was enough desks/chairs (at least at first sight), and they were well distributed, with enough computers in all of them. It is nice to see that, outside some of the classrooms, there are exhibits which show something about the subject or a project the students are doing in class.

I was surprised to see the flag in all of the classrooms, and I was pleased to see that at the beginning of second period all the students said an “oath” [the pledge] to the country’s flag, to their flag.

But the best part, for me, was the idea of each classroom being for a certain subject: I love that the classroom is not for a particular group of students, but for the course itself. This way, the teacher can have all his/her teaching material on hand, and he/she can even leave it ready for other classes during the day.

3) Sports facilities: There were fields for various sports and locker rooms outside. There was the pool and the basketball courts inside. By the way, I loved that you could move the stands in and out, so that way there was more space for practices. Magnificent would be the adjective.

4) Special spaces: A band room, a choir room, as well as a big and functional auditorium. Moreover, there was a box office and cafeteria.

5) Miscellaneous:

  • The main bulletin board with the pillars of character and a space for a student of the month
  • The slogan that appears above the entrance-hall door: “Enter to learn. Go forth to serve.”
  • The boards that highlight the achievements of certain students in exams or courses.
  • The sports Hall of Fame
  • The display cabinet with the achievement of former students, like the astronaut who traveled to the moon and remembers his school
  • The flag in every classroom and the pledge of allegiance
  • The fire lane

My Conclusion

In addition to the general curriculum, there are many other sports, artistic, or cultural offerings, as well as clubs (like the one you belonged to [Sunshine Society]). I suppose this is so each student can choose, keeping in mind his/her personality and hobbies, so that his/her education will be more personalized.

And also, results are important, because success is recognized publicly and for many years in the school’s halls—your name is displayed or your photo is shown with the date and the achievement or prize money. This promotes team, school, and group spirit. This helps one to feel like a student at the school. ‘It will always be my school, and I will always remember this and say so with pride.’”

I know many of you who read this have or are or will work in a Spanish school. How does your experience there compare to your high-school experience in your home country?

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13 comments

  1. One of the things that struck me the most about teaching in a Spanish high school was the way the teachers moved around instead of the kids. I would much rather have the American way of doing this; it feels that the teacher is the one invading the KIDS space in the Spanish school system, which then seems to create problems with authority.

    I thought it was interesting how your suegro said that our secondary ed is much more “personalized” than the Spanish one–I have to agree! I went to a medium-sized school but even so, there were plenty of extra-curricular activities to get involved in, different classes to choose between, etc. Astute observations!

  2. This is really cool! I love that he used to be a teacher so we was very familiar with a Spanish high school and could think about it from an educator’s perspective. I’ve only worked in a colegio here so I cant speak about spanish high schools, but colegios here are very different than in the US as well, for many of the same reasons your suegro listed. Most students will leave their school with some school pride and it is largely a community atmosphere with lots of spaces for different activities, where I don’t feel that as much in my spanish colegio. the classrooms here do not lend themselves to other styles of learning; whereas in a first grade classroom in the US you’re bound to find cubbys and a carpet area for reading, i’ve never seen that here in spain.

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  3. First off, I can’t help but draw a parallel between your suegro and Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter books. I feel like we are the Muggles and I love his fascination with us and his enthusiasm to learn more about America!

    He seems to have hit upon the main differences I saw in Spanish high schools, and I wonder what he would have thought of student behavior. I was always surprised by how casual Spanish teens were with their teachers–I certainly wouldn’t have called any of my teachers by their first names or by the ever so obnoxious “Teacher!” I also suspect that the sense of community in American high schools is strengthened by eating together, but I guess Spanish teens eating at home leads to stronger family ties.

    1. Hahaha Arthur Weasley—I totally agree. 100%.

      I hate the casualness of Spanish teacher-student interactions. Mario says that when he was in school it wasn’t like that, at least not in colegio. They called the teachers “Don Jesús” or “Doña María.” Some of his friends that his dad taught when he was still at the colegio still refer to him that way!

  4. What an interesting observation, I really enjoyed reading. I couldn’t help but think all the things he saw at your school do not reflect the mass majority of the inner city schools here in the states and it should.

  5. I loved the title of this! It’s true that school spirit, student of the month, and famous alumni are very specific to the USA. There is a memorial in the high school I graduated from (I went to two) to a man who graduated from there and died in the 9/11 attacks (I believe he was a passenger on one of the planes that crashed into the towers). There is now a scholarship set up in his memory–all the things we do in the USA to create that feeling of community that is really lacking from Spanish schools.

    Your suegro’s impressions were really interesting to read since I never really thought what a Spaniard (especially a former teacher!) would think of our education system.

    1. Yes, and in Spain, no one can “destacar,” meaning they can’t be better than anyone else. That means no honors classes or awards for academic achievement or special degrees or exams with “winners.”

  6. Another awesome post! I didn’t know that in Spain, the teachers move around. I am thankful students here get to get up and move around every 50 minutes – helps with their attention level and aides sleepiness. I liked how he thought education was so personalized here with the availability of clubs, etc. Never thought of it that way. It would have been interesting if he had commented on instructional styles as well – I had always taught that in the U.S. the push is for hands-on, non-lecture style, experiential learning, with lots of technology, and that it was my impression in Spain it was a bit more traditional – lecture/take notes, practice. Do you think that’s changing over there, too?

    1. Well, we only got to sit in for one class and they were preparing for an exam, so he didn’t really get to see that. I do notice that, though, and I am totally for the more hands-on style.

      I don’t know if it’s changing, really. I see a lot of copying and rote memorization.

  7. I am a huge proponent of my high school because of the quality of education I received, the amount of clubs and activities and the opportunities to have a leadership role in them, and just how much pride I felt as a member of their sports teams. In fact, Wheaton Warrenville South High School was one of the first places I took the Novio when he came to visit me in Chicago! He loved the artificial grass in the football stadium, all of the sports facilities (we’re highly ranked in football, boys and girls volleyball and gymnastics yearly in my state). Coming to Spain to teach in a high school, I was shocked at the lack of after-school activities and the treatment of teachers from students. The private schools were the exact opposite, and I felt that they didn’t give too much to students to allow them to grow as individuals. Kike and I have actually discussed moving to America for high school so that our children can be a bit more prepared for university (he says Harvard, I clearly say Big Ten).

    1. My high school was great too, that’s why I was so proud to show it off to Mario’s dad!

      We definitely feel the same; actually, I want to have my kids in American schools from the beginning, because I want them to play sports or be in clubs or just be involved, and I loved high school, so I know it’s possible. I don’t want the after-school activities to include botellon or shopping instead of basketball games or what have you.

  8. In my case, I went to a private-nonstate school in Madrid and I can assure you the education system was gradually changing to be more open-minded each year. For instance, we had several clubs(chess, poetry…), awards to win, different extracurricular activities, plenty of sports to practice … I don’t know but it was quite different from the experience I could see regarding my friends education at their schools. So I wish our education system would change but I find it really hard as it will break many people habits…

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