The life of a (real) teacher in Spain

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve spoken with a couple different teachers at the high school about their situations as teachers in Pobra. Several things surprised me.  The first thing you need to know is that teachers here do not choose where they will teach…the government places them.  From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty common, if not always true, to be placed in the region where you went to university (and often grew up since they do not generally go far for college).

Then at the end of every school year, the government could send you somewhere new just like that! You’ll have to pick up and move your life in a short month. Now, there’s a few things you can do to give yourself a semblance of at least some control in this situation. First, there’s a list and if you’ve been teaching more years, you’re further up on the list. Or if you take extra classes for professional development or in your field, you can bump yourself up on the list. Or if you are bilingual, you have more preference and are higher on the list! I actually do conversation lessons with one of the PE teachers every week because he wants to be able to “check that bilingual box” on his form every year to help himself. He actually is quite good at English already and takes extra classes a couple times a week, but he wanted conversation with a native speaker as well.

So around December each year, the teachers fill out a “request form”. In this, you can say if you want to stay at your current school or if you have another you’d like to go to. The problems? There often isn’t a position for you at the school you want and anyways, the preferences are not taken into account too much unless you are high on “the list”.  After a certain amount of time at a particular school, you will eventually be considered “permanent” and your placement will not be changed unless you request it (and they are able to grant it).

I was a bit shocked by all of this because for us in the USA, I will only teach at a school if I applied to their corporation! That way you can avoid teaching in certain places if you so desire. But going one step further….get this–their administration positions are not highly desired spots that you must be extremely educated and/or qualified for. Rather, if a teacher has been at a school for a long enough period of time (and is considered ‘permanent’), the teachers and government essentially force them to take the position of ‘principal’, for example. They have about 5 main positions within the administration which would be similar to our principals, vice principals, and secretaries, but I always confuse all the names so I won’t even try. But the current headmaster (aka: big boss, principal) is actually a PE teacher that was elected to his position. They are 2 year spots, but he has been in the position for 8 years now because quite frankly, he’s good at it and no one else wants to be the headmaster. But the problem is that he doesn’t want to be either! It’s a lot of extra work and hardly any more pay, many more responsibilities, and he still teaches in the afternoon, but only a few classes. (That’s the other thing, since all the administrators are actually teachers chosen to be in those positions, they still teach classes, too!)  Apparently the end of the year is quite insane at Pobra (and possibly other schools as well), as they fight and argue over who has to become the next headmaster or other positions. Plus, when they find out their new placements (if they have to stay, change, etc), it is complete chaos. I’m interested and a bit nervous to see all this play out in the springtime!

On another note, I’ve had a lovely couple days with some traditional meals with Spanish friends, visiting an old “village” from the Celtic and Roman times out on the open sea, mushroom hunting in the woods, and several other small things that were great! I love finally getting adjusted. 🙂 My spanish clearly still needs improvement and I’m struggling with certain verb tenses and obscure vocabulary, but I can communicate and feel somewhat adequate! However, I just met with a girl that wanted classes with me to help prepare her for some psychology exam. She’s 26, though appeared to be 19, and is a psychologist already, but from what I understood, she’s trying for some particular license where she will work in the prisons with inmates. She has to take a 4-part exam, one of which is to translate some academic text from English into Spanish. After reading through an example, I had to tell her I’m not sure if I can help her sufficiently. There’s no way in hell I could translate these articles into Spanish myself, let alone correct her translations! But we agreed to try it once, so I’ve been going through the article and it’s taking me FOREVER. I think this will be my first main failure…I hate to tell her I am unable to help her, but I know I’m not the right person for it. She needs someone truly fluent. These are terms I’ve only just learned in ENGLISH in college…clearly I don’t know them in Spanish yet! I didn’t even know how to say ‘poisonous’ today when looking for mushrooms, for crying out loud! EEekkk. Anyways, that’s all for now! Pictures will be up on facebook in the next couple days of the beautiful remains of this village out by the sea with rocks, crashing waves, and more. It reminded me of Ireland, especially because it was another rainy, windy day.

Until then.

One thought on “The life of a (real) teacher in Spain

  1. ellen earhart says:

    What a unique and mystical place you are living in. No wonder the gallegos are such independent and stubborn people. It sounds a bit like Oregon or the U.S northwest
    where my son Jon lives. I really believe that people are shaped by their geography. I wonder what the midwest has done to us. Call me when you get back and we’ll get together.


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