|View from the school’s window|
* Unless somebody has to take an extended leave of absence (recovery from surgery, honeymoon, new baby, etc.), there aren’t any substitute teachers. Instead, other teachers fill in for their colleagues as needed during their off-periods. The jefe de estudios is continually scribbling in substitute duties on a dry-erase board in the teachers’ lounge: a sixth-grade teacher might substitute for a preschool one, the secretary might cover a third-grade class, and so on.
* Teachers wear literally whatever because there’s no set dress code. While tracksuits are usually restricted to P.E. teachers, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for people to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Nevertheless, most teachers—being classy Spaniards and all—come to work professional, be it sharp button-down shirts and dark, slim jeans or leggings, a skirt, and a nice blouse.
|My school in Andalucía|
* That is to say…teachers don’t apply to teach directly with one school or another; the regional government places them as positions open up. This can be frustrating, because even as you build up “points,” if you will, over your career, you can still get placed in a school in the middle of nowhere or in a province halfway across the region, forcing you to pack everything up and move.
* I’m not sure how the following process works, but after you serving a certain amount of time in the same school you can become tenured—fijo—until you retire, as is often the case in Spain’s highly-coveted funcionario jobs.
Subjects and schedules
|Me and the third graders at my school in Galicia|
* Religion classes are A Thing here, something that would never fly in the U.S., which was set up on the separation of church and state (the Founders were well aware of their European history and didn’t want to repeat the religious wars of the 1600s). While the Kingdom of Spain no longer has an official state religion, Roman Catholicism has been an integral part of Spanish culture for centuries—everything from history to art to local patron-saint fiestas—and the government still funds a quarter of the Spanish church’s budget.
|Foxgloves outside of my school in Galicia|
* There’s no middle school or junior high in Spain; primary school encompasses infantil (3-5 years old) and primaria (1st through 6th grades) while secondary school covers four years of ESO and an optional two years of bachillerato for university-bound students.
|My school in Galicia|
* There are no bright orange school buses to be found in Spain—if parents can’t bring their kids to school, private charter bus companies with yellow transporte escolar signs in the window will pick up and drop them off.
* Classrooms have large sliding windows that you can open when things get too hot (read: when the kids come in all hot and sweaty after recess and you need some fresh air). And, because this is Spain, the windows have persianas or slatted plastic blinds you can raise and lower with a crank or belt. Even second-floor classrooms often have these huge windows that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen in America.
* Although most families in Spain do own a car or two, sprawling carlines for dropoff and pickup don’t really happen as many kids walk with their parents to school (or on their own) or a bus picks them up.
* Us Americans might associate wide-ruled or college-ruled notebook paper as staple school supplies, but all of the notebooks I’ve ever seen students use here in Spain have had graph paper. You can’t even find traditional lined notebooks in the papelerías (office supplies store)!
* In infantil (preschool), both the little ones and the teachers wear checkered aprons or smocks in primary colors: the mandilón. Things can get messy—from painting to boogers to spilled yogurt—so these aprons keep everyone neat and tidy. They also make the already-cute preschoolers even cuter, all of them walking in a line in purple, blue, pink, and green smocks two sizes too big for them.
If you’ve ever taught at a Spanish elementary/primary school, what differences did you observe between it and your home country’s school? Share your stories in the comments below!