Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Welcome to Madrid

The family and I ventured to Madrid on Saturday.  It was a journey right out of planes trains and automobiles.  We took a 1.5hr bus ride to the subway and then caught the train to Plaza Mayor.  We spent the day taking in the sights, food and street vendors; two of the three were incredible.  ;-)

Here are some picture from our trip.
 This was a fountain just outside of our subway stop.  I have no idea now what it was called but the kids liked it!



 This is a statue of Don Quixote, I was proud of myself for being able to answer that question for a nearby tourist and reassured when a nearby local confirmed it for me!
 I don't think I will make it to Egypt while I am here is Spain so they moved part of Egypt here for me!  Okay, well that's not really true but... turns out there is an Egyptian temple that was moved here to save it from being lost under the water from the Aswan Dam.  Luck us!


 It was crazy to see actual Egyptian carvings/hieroglyphs.
 There's the city behind us.
 I'll have to edit this later because I can't remember what this was, but I think it was an old church of that is next to the presidential palace.
 My girls!
 The whole cathedral was beautiful but the other pictures didn't turn out well.  I liked the images on the doors though and so did Violet.  She's pretending to punch the head of one of the men.  She's pretty hilarious.

 This is Amanda's favorite Pope... actually we have no idea who this was.  Just a good picture op.
 the Streets of Madrid!

 Plaza Mayor!  Major place for visitors!  Really cool


 the streets are so small and beautiful

Young Rivers

So, I don't remember and wasn't much interested in the geology and ecology I took.  Don't get me wrong, some of it was interesting but it just seemed less important to me than the chemistry and biology I was learning.  But a few things stand out and they surprise me when they jump into my head at a timely moment.  Something I remember from one or both of those classes is how to classify the relative age of a river (if I get any of this wrong please correct me).  I'm not sure how this information is relevant to a geologist or ecologist or hydrologist or... (insert your favorite "-ist" here) but I do remember the basic idea.

I was just sending an email to a friend and I was explaining that this experience is so crazy because I find myself stressed about lesson plans for a discipline I've never taught, doing my other supervision duties (which I seem to miss from time to time, much to the frustration of my companeros), or even the simple act of communicating with students or setting up internet when I don't have a Spanish bank account or the ability to talk to either the bank teller to set one up or the person who answers the phones for the internet company to ask if a credit card will do.  Frustration and challenge rule in those moments.  Then an instant later, I find myself experiencing absolute wonder about either the students or teachers with whom I work or the chemistry or biology or Civil War History in the lessons I observe or maybe just the fact that a full sentence in Espanol came to mind at the exact time I needed it!  Amazement and a sense of childlike wonder rule those moments.

The rapid and drastic oscillation of my thoughts and emotions is exhausting and exhilarating.  Points of frustration that emerge are frequent and difficult to navigate and the occurrences of wonder are likewise frequent and welcomed, if somewhat fleeting.  I think I am getting used to the pattern enough to realize that when they come, the simple wonders must be mined and enjoyed thoroughly and when the challenges come I must remind myself to hold on tight and ride it out because soon enough something amazing will be sure to cross my path.  When is that not true though?

Given enough time, we carve out the world around us, we round off the difficult edges, we find efficient paths for ourselves, we learn to navigate our surroundings.  In a similar way, it is easy to spot an old river.  For example the Mississippi, it has few curves, or turns or rapids.  It runs straight, it navigates its surrounding efficiently and there are few high points or low points in its course.  Not that it cares how we call it, but it is an "old" river.

In my spare time, I like to fish and a mountain stream is my favorite place to throw a line.  Those are, relative to the mountains from where they get their waters, "young" rivers.  They have significant changes in both course and altitude, they cascade along their path and are at the mercy of their terrain.  They are unpredictable.

These are my days, significant changes in both altitude and course; they are unpredictable.  They are full of wonder and frustration, amazement and challenge.  They are both interesting and exhausting all at once.  My weeks are full of young rivers and they have reminded me to appreciate more fully the simple beauty of the people and events that surround me, whether in Spain or in the states.

There is a place for the Mississippi and the mountain stream, but right now I am grateful for the young rivers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Would you like to teach in Spain?

One of the most interesting aspects of this exchange (at least professionally) is the comparison between the duties of teachers here in Spain compared with the duties I had back in the states.

In the spring prior to the creation of the "master schedule" for next school year, teachers at my school get a form to fill out, we've dubbed it the "wish list".  Basically it is a list, in order of priority, of some things that we want (or don't want) for our schedule next year.

For me, my wish list generally goes like this:
1.  A planning period in "my" room while it is empty (for purposes of setting up labs)
2.  To have all my classes meet in the same room all day
3.  Planning period at the same time as a teacher with whom I share a common prep (we teach the same class)  
4.  Planning period at the end or start of the day
5.  Planning period adjacent to lunch
6.  Same lunch as all other science teachers
* I would ask for no more than 2 different classes to prepare for but for me this isn't much of an issue.

Sometimes the schedule works out so we can get one of these things and sometimes it doesn't.  In general, I have been pleased with my schedule these past years.  My schedule usually goes something like this:


Monday
(50 min classes)
Tuesday
(50 min classes)
Block-day
(Wed/Thurs 90 min classes)
Friday
(50 min classes)
1st period
Chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry
2nd period
Planning
Planning
Planning
Planning
3rd period
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
4th period
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
5th period
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
AP/IB Chemistry
Lunch 30min
Lunch 30min
Lunch 30min
Lunch 30min
Lunch 30min
6th period
Chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry
7th period
Planning
Planning
Planning
Planning
Tutorial period
Student drop in
Student drop in
Student drop in
Student drop in


I typically have just two different types of classes, either Chemistry or AP/IB Chemistry.  I usually have two sections of Chemistry and three sections of AP/IB Chemistry.  In a week, I generally have eight different lessons to prepare.  Most days, I meet with five different groups of students and I have two periods to plan my lessons, prep labs, correct student work, enter grades, meet with other teachers to plan lessons, meet with councilors and/or administrators etc.  It isn't enough time for all of these to get done, but that's a topic for another blog :-)  I'm also able to have block periods to do labs which often take more than 50 min and sometimes more than 90 min at the AP/IB level.  Some years I have to move to two different rooms, and some years I don't.  Not moving rooms means that I can spend time resetting everything for the next lesson so that I am ready to start class as soon as the bell rings.  I would say that my schedule is a pretty typical teacher schedule for most US schools, although I know that in smaller schools the number of different classes to prepare for can be much larger.  My brothers have worked in schools where one person is half or a third of the science department, in which case you would end up teaching many different subjects.  

Here is a pretty typical schedule of teachers in my building here in Spain for comparison.


Lunes
Martes
Miercoles
Jueves
Viernes
8:30-9:25
Class 1
Supervision duty
Class 2
Class 3
Class 5
9:25:10:20
Class 9
Class 2
Class 1
Class 6
Supervision duty
10:20-11:15
Supervision duty
Class 4
Class 8

Class 6
11:15-11:40 (break)


Supervision duty
Supervision duty

11:40-12:30
Class 2
Class 5

Class 8
Class 2
12:30-13:20
Class 3

Class 3
Class 7

13:20-14:20 (lunch)

Supervision duty
Supervision duty
Supervision duty
Supervision duty
14:20-15:10
Supervision duty
Class 6
Class 5
Class 4
Class 3
15:10-16:00

Class 7

Class 1
Class 7

Here are the highlights if you are not interested in analyzing it.  This teacher has nine different groups of students she sees in a week, from as few times as once a week to as much as four times during the week.  Of these nine groups of students, only two groups are actually the same class (in this case, classes 4 & 8 and 6 & 7) .  This means that she has seven different subjects and in a given week she has 19 different lessons to prepare.

Another interesting aspect of this school is that students don't move, teachers do.  So after every class the teacher leaves and goes to the next room while the students wait for the next instructor to come in.  In the states, my school has 5 minute passing periods for kids to move from one class to the next but here the schedule doesn't account for transition from one place to another.

In comparison to what I have done in the States, this schedule seems challenging.  I consider myself fortunate in that at my home school, I have only two classes to focus on.  I can spend time thoughtfully preparing for those two different subjects; coming up with lessons, objectives, materials, assessments etc. in a way that I can't imagine doing if I had a schedule as demanding as this one.  I am thankful for the system I work in back in the States and amazed by the work that my fellow teachers here in Spain manage to get done week in and week out.

Regardless of which system you work in, there are some things that are universal for a teacher:  teaching is a challenging profession, there is always more to get done than there is time to complete it, we will toil away in a constant state of sleep deprivation, students will challenge us to bring our best lessons to the classroom every day, students will be the most difficult and most rewarding part of our day all at the same time, all of this seems a little more manageable when you love it!



Unrelated to this comparison is my own schedule for this year.  Because my duties are somewhat different from those of a typical teacher here at GSD, my schedule looks a bit more... well, strange.  As I have mentioned before, I am working on speaking Spanish so it is a bit difficult to put me in front of a class of students and hope for much learning to take place.  However, the students and I have one important thing in common, not a common language but rather a desire to speak a second one.  Therefore, my job puts me in many different classes during the week so that I can work with the students on their English speaking abilities and they are kind enough to help me on my Spanish at the same time.


Monday (Lunes)
Tuesday (Martes)
Wednesday (Miercoles)
Thursday (Jueves)
Friday (Viernes)
8:30-9:25
ESO 4o:  Chemistry
ACC Chem lab
12:30-2:10
ESO 1o (A):  Project

ESO 4o:  Biology
9:25-10:20
ESO 3o (B):  Biology
ESO 2o (B): Nat Sci.
ESO  2o (C):  Project
ESO 3o (D):  Biology
10:20-11:15


ESO 3o (E): Biology
ESO  2o (B):  Project
ESO 1o (A):  Project
Break Supervision
Language practice


Language practice

11:40-12:30
ESO 1o (A):  Project
ESO 4o:  Biology
Forestry class
ESO 3o (C):  Biology
ESO 4o:  Chemistry
12:30-13:20 (1:20)
ESO 2o (A): Nat Sci.

ESO  2o (A):  Project
BACH 1o (CCSS):  CMC

COMEDOR


Line up area

Tables 13-16
14:20-15:10 (2:20-3:10)


ESO 4o:  Biology
ESO 3o (A):  Biology

15:10-16:00 (3:10-4:00)
ESO 2o (C): Nat Sci.
BACH 1o (CT):  CMC


ESO  1o (B):  Project 
16:00-17:00 (4:00-5:00)


Dual Graduation pgrm



I see 23 different groups of students, usually just once a week but one class I have three times a week, I expect to be their full time teacher in January!

It's an exciting, crazy and exhausting adventure and I'm lucky to be a passenger!


Friday, October 17, 2014

I just need...

A couple of things that I have noticed I'm missing here in Spain.  On Monday it will have been three weeks since I last drove a car.  I see people drive up to the school while I'm walking up to the front doors and I realize that I miss driving my tiny little manual transmission car as if it were a performance machine fit for Formula 1 racing.  ...speeding around the round-about and beating people off the line at the stop lights, I don't care that it was just a soccer-mom distracted by the kids in the back, it's the simple things.  Or MUSIC!!! I don't get American music easily in Spain.  No Pandora, no music in the basic cable package I have and no radio stations that scratch that itch.  Oh, I have a collection on my phone and more on my other hard drive but nothing NEW and fresh to get addicted to.

Part of my assignment here is to talk, yep just talk to students.  Two days a week during a 30 minute break in the morning I meet with kids to talk about... well, whatever as long as it is in English.  I'm hoping they can introduce me to some good Spanish music.  I've heard a few songs that would stack up well against the music I listen to in the states so maybe that will help.

Good chocolate!  Some 70% cacao with some chili peppers added for a little extra kick.  So far I haven't found anything comparable at the stores here in my little town.

The simple things...