On the first day at Puig Castellar I was timetabled into three classes along with our Halesowen College students. Our aim was to introduce the SWITCH project and also to encourage the Castellar students to write posts for the Learner Blog. In each of the classes I demonstrated the blog on a projected screen and described the tasks that had taken place so far. Whenever the Castellar students had trouble understanding what I was saying the Halesowen students would translate for me which they enjoyed and I was proud to see their confidence grow as they addressed the class.
We encouraged the Castellar students to practice their language skills by writing their posts in English and the Halesowen students wrote prompts on the board as a guide. We then walked around the classroom providing support and finding out more about the students, some of whom had participated in Erasmus programmes previously. I encouraged these students to write about their experiences as it is great for readers of the blog to see how beneficial these international opportunities can be. There was much enthusiasm for the task and over 40 blog posts were submitted of which around 15 have been published on the blog so far. I gave all the teachers we met on the trip details about how students can submit posts if they are interested so hopefully we will continue to work together.
On the second day we were invited to observe classes. In an English class the students were working on a task around the word ‘skill’ and its different meanings. This then developed into a discussion on how English and Spanish language pronunciation differs, including words and sounds that are difficult for native Spanish speakers to say in English. This caused much amusement for both the students and teacher who asked me to say certain words, for example the word ‘wood’ is pronounced very short and sharp in English but the Spanish love their vowels and extend the middle of the word. We were then invited to showcase the blog. I encouraged the Halesowen students take the lead this time. They did a similar demonstration to the previous day and answered questions about what it was like to study in the UK as well as their involvement in the SWITCH project to date.
The students at Puig Castellar were both similar and different to our students at Halesowen College. The older students have the same pressures of trying to balance work and families around their study and the younger students are obsessed with video games, TV shows and music. The main thing that makes the Spanish students so different to students in the UK is their enthusiasm for languages. Most of the students I spoke to could speak 3 or 4 languages, and then there were the students who have emigrated from other countries who have had to learn both Spanish and Catalan and adapt to an entirely new culture. I find it hard to believe many of our students could do that, I certainly don’t think I could have.
Overall, I loved my experience in Barcelona and feel very fortunate to be a part of this project. Seeing the differences in the schools there and also in Trento, Italy has been very enlightening.