Sunday, September 28, 2014

Public School in Spain

Our kids are in Colegio Fernandez Moratin public school in Madrid, Spain.  Silas is in Infantil 5-year-old class, and Maeve is in 3rd grade of primary school.  They're in the same school, different buildings.  We're happy with the school, other parents in the school definitely feel like it's a good school, and the kids seem happy to go in the morning and are totally exhausted when they come home in the afternoon.  So all's well.  But, there are just a few differences that we're discovering...

  1. Parents are not invited in the school.  There is a secure fence around the school property and it stays locked and parents must be buzzed in.  Before and after school, there's a huge mass of parents waiting for the janitor to open the gate to come in to drop off or pick up their kids.  In addition, on the primary school gate, the school recently put up the following sign:
    This sign says, "Once the first week of school is finished, the students are prepared to get in the line themselves.  The parents can look at them from outside the fence.  Thanks.  The director."
  2. September and June are half-days (9-1).  The rest of the school year is full days, 9-12:30, 2:20-4pm.  Given the 2-hour lunch break, full days are actually only 1 more hour of instruction a day.
  3. The lunchroom is full of meat.  The school secretary told me the kids are not able to eat lunch in school because there are no provisions for vegetarians.  I have also talked to the head of the cafeteria, who said it was okay with her if the school office okayed it, but that the kids have to bring their food warm in Thermoses.  Lunch is the big meal of the day, and there is an assumption that the kids would need a complete, warm meal. I now need to go talk to the school director to see if she'll allow the kids to stay.  This is an issue because we're moving to full days and (1) I want the kids to be able to play with others after lunch and (2) it takes 15 minutes home and then 15 minutes back to school so we won't really have time to eat and then even rest.  If we could get a rest, it would be worth it to go back home.  We'll see what happens...
  4. There is almost no communication with the families.  We know Maeve's schedule because she wrote it down.  We know her content because she brings home her books to copy down her homework and we see what she's working on.  We would have no idea for Silas (no schedule, no information about his specialists (English, art etc), no information about content), except that we looked at his textbooks before he took them in.  He met his English teacher for the first time last week.  He has recess every day.  The teacher did tell me that they have one period each day when the kids do work at their desks (copying, coloring etc).  Silas apparently doesn't think this is much fun. Silas likes that the teacher ends each day with a story about Aris, a rainbow-colored hair character that is the central character of their integrated skills curriculum.
  5. The curriculum depends on the textbooks, which teachers follow directly, and correlates to the national standards.  It is incredibly rote in Primary school.  The teachers seem to do more interaction in Infantil.
  6. Handwriting is a big deal.  Silas is learning cursive.  Maeve should start every page with the date in red ink and a header in blue ink before starting to copy/answer, either in ink or pencil.  This was discussed, I kid you not, for over 5 minutes out of a 1 hour meeting with the teacher and the parents the 3rd week of school.  The discussion of having started to use pens at the beginning of 3rd grade, a radical idea, took up another 5 minutes of the meeting.
  7. Parents and teachers here really care that their kids do well in school and learn - exactly what we're used to!

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