Sunday, November 28, 2010


Something I feel extremely blessed (and glad!) about, is Australian education. Being placed in a different school, in a different country for a year gives you a lot of perspective on how distinct school cultures are in various countries.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to go to an American school, experience the life of lockers, cafeteria food, no uniform, cheerleaders, drama clubs. Watching movies about kids in those schools made me want to go to a school like that, instead of a school that had no canteen and a uniform policy of 'no hat no play'. I loved Australian school, but the idea of a foreign school, a school so completely unlike the school I attended was my ultimate dream. I never got to attend an American school, but I have been able to attend a Spanish school whilst I've been here on exchange.

What a difference.

After spending this year in the Spanish schooling system, I feel so incredibly blessed and lucky that I have been able to be educated in an Australian school, with no canteen and uniforms. Spanish school is so unlike Australian school, so different from the school that I had imagined I would attend.

Growing up, I loved school. I always loved the end of the summer holidays, where we would go to Officeworks and buy our new stationary and cover our books in contact. I loved the feel and smell of new backpacks, new pencil cases, eagerly walking to class to see who your classmates would be. Entering highschool, I loved the changes in timetables, the feeling of being a grownup, of studying 'adult' subjects. As I reached year 11 and year 12, my school grade became smaller, we all grew a lot closer to each other, and everyone was friends with everyone. Year 11 and 12 brought a sense of independence, of maturity, respect and a sense of friendship and equality with the teachers. I loved that I was studying subjects that I loved, that I could leave at 10 am on a Tuesday morning. I loved playing netball at school, being on the leadership team, being school captain, doing tutoring for year 10 and 11. I loved being an active part of school and knowing students and teachers and being their friends. Some of my fondest memories are of watching Scrubs every morning in year 11 before school started, with the whole of our grade cramped around the computer screen; making forts and eating yummy food in Extension English classes; drama with our assortment of teachers; toga days in Ancient History; the funness of Spanish; being able to express myself in art. I have so many memories of school, and I learnt more than just the subjects I took.

Coming to school in Spain was a shock.

My class in Australia playing soccer with two of the teachers.

My school in Australia ran onto the bush, so we had a lot of land, with lots of grass and trees. As I entered my new Spanish school, I realised that I had been in an incredible school in Australia. My Spanish school consists of two buildings, and two concrete playgrounds with a fence surrounding it. There are maybe at most 20 trees in the whole of the school, and not one bit of grass. The library consists of about 200 books at most. The fence is huge, and looks like big prison bars, and is locked during the day except at the front gate. It was and still is such a huge contrast of my old school and my school here now in Spain

Oval of my school in Australia.

Courtyard of my school in Spain.

Javier's school. (Notice the fences?)

In Australia, during year 11 and 12, you're able to choose your subjects that you study. In Spain, you're able to choose a stream of subjects, sciences, and humanities. In Australia I studied Spanish, Ancient History, Drama, Art and three classes of English. I absolutely loved them. Here I study Philosophy, English, Spanish, History of Spain, Maths, Geography, Universal Literature and I think something else. I enjoy my subjects in Spain, but I don't understand a lot of the concepts (mainly in Philosophy).

One big difference between Spanish schooling and Australian schooling is the use of substitute teachers. In Australia, if the teacher wasn’t able to come to class, we were given a substitute teacher, and were still expected to do some work, (unless we felt like being naughty and told the teacher we hadn't actually studied the book we were studying - haha sorry Mrs Williams!) whereas here in Spain, if there is no teacher, there is no class. This can become a problem if a teacher is sick for a period of time, because if they are away for a week, the class has no class for a week. Last year (in May or June) my history teacher was sick for about a week and a half, so we had no class during those lessons. This was during a time where they had exams, so it was quite important that they learnt what they needed to learn. It was a week and a half of lost learning time. When I first came, I found it fun, interesting, a novelty, but after being here for 10 months, I can now see how much of a nuisance and disadvantage it is to the kids. Thank you to all substitute teachers that I've ever had! I know that we often don't respect you as much as our normal teachers, but after being here without you guys, I now realise how important you are to education!

Another difference is in exams. In my school in Australia, we had 4 periods a year of exams. These periods normally lasted about two weeks, and the whole of those weeks would be filled with exams, where we would be examined of all we had learnt that year. Here in Spain, they constantly have exams. For example, two weeks ago Ana my host sister had 13 exams. In one week. She's 14. My class had 10 exams last week, two of them being after school. Spanish schooling systems put great emphasis onto the exams, and if you fail as much as three exams for three subjects, you will fail the whole year and be made to repeat. There are about three or four people in my class alone that have failed a year, and are repeating. To me, it's crazy, something that I don't really understand. My class is often so stressed, that all they do after school and on the weekends is study. Then the week is over but they can't relax, because the next week they have exams. By the end of the school year, the class is exhausted and really uses the summer break to relax.

I have found Spanish school extremely difficult to adjust to. I had a very easy schooling life, where I worked, but also had time to relax. I was in a grade that was small, where I was friends with everyone, and we were all close. I have about 180 people in my grade here in Spain, and I can barely remember the names of 30 of them. The differences between my schooling experience in Australia and Spain are startling. Completely different. And it has made me realise how much I really loved school in Australia, how blessed I am to have been brought up in a school where we are treated with respect, and our teachers are our greatest supporters. There is one teacher in my Spanish school that keeps on lowering the grade of my classmates when they are talking to each other or to me about the work they are doing, trying to achieve a better mark and understand the work better. They are extremely well behaved, yet the teacher seems to out to get them (is that how the phrase goes?). I feel extremely saddened for them, as they have to struggle against their teacher to work to the best of their ability, where in Australia, my teachers were there to help me in every way possible. I feel like I had a great relationship with my teachers, knowing I could talk to them about schoolwork but also other troubles I was having. Some of my funnest memories of school are with my teachers that I have had over the years.

In saying all of this, Spanish school is fun. I really enjoy it. But I can now fully appreciate the way Australian schools are run. We may still have a lot to improve on, but coming and living here, and experiencing another education system has made me realise that although flawed, Australian schooling is really good. I think also going to a Christian school; a school based on a faith has been incredibly influential in my life. Being able to express my faith there, being able to pray in class, to discuss matters of Christianity in class, to share something deeper than an interest in Emily Dickinson and Tim Winton, of the Spanish language, the beauty of art with my teachers is something I will always be thankful for.

I suppose this post is to thank my teachers.

So thank you. Thank you to all the teachers I've had, that have taught me not only about Gaudi, Pericles, suffixes and pronouns; but also about the way to live a life for God, to live life honourably and thankfully. Thank you to all of my teachers that have been my supporters, those that have cheered me on and encouraged me in all that I strive for, for going above and beyond in helping me. Thank you to my school for being more than just an institution of education, but for bringing people in that have become my closest friends.

My English class on my last day of school.

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