How does Spain differ from the U.S.?

During my second week of teaching at St Pauls in Barcelona, I have noticed several aspects within the school that differ from schools within the United States.

The first, most obvious difference that I noticed is the amount of breaks throughout the day. Instead of having 20 minutes for lunch, 20 minutes for planning, and a half hour for recess as we do in the US, each of these breaks are at least twice this length at St Paul´s school. The students and teachers get an hour and a half break for lunch in the middle of the day and another 45 minute break for recess in the morning. The teachers also have several  planning periods throughout the day. It seems that this school and the community in general puts emphasis on breaks from work. It will be a rude awakening when I return to the United States and have very little time to eat and plan while at school.

Another difference that I find interesting is that they have a class 3 times a week that is called ¨Turtoria¨ in which they have the opportunity to discuss and solve problems within their school and community. Each month, they focus on a different value in this class as well. April´s value of the month is love and May´s value is patience. This week, I had the opportunity to watch the teacher orchestrate an activity called ¨Thank You for Being You¨ during this class. This activity consisted of choosing one student to leave the room for five minutes while the rest of the students dicsused qualites about this student that they enjoy. Then, the student returns to the room and students go up one by one to discuss why they enjoy having them as a classmate. This activity left everyone in the room smiling and seemed to add to the positive climate of the classroom community. I hope to implement something like this into my future classroom to help build community and friendships among my students.

My teacher also stresses the importance of having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset when it comes to learning. This was stressed by my professors as Western, but I have never seen this implemented into a classroom in the United States. I hope to stress this concept in my classroom in the future.

One aspect of education that St. Paul’s implements that is similar to schools I have seen in the United States is the use of math manipulatives. Manipulatives are used within all grades for most math concepts. They use base ten blocks, counters, fraction strips, and Cuisiner rods. Through a math professional development opportunity, we were also introduced to manipulatives that I had never seen before. These manipulatives included decimal chips, Numicons, and Rekenrek beads. I have found all of these items on amazon, and hope to use them in my future classroom!

Although St Paul’s has different break times, classes, and math teaching methods, the students are very similar to the students in the United States. Although they grew up in a completely different culture, they are still kids. Just like students in U.S, they value their friendships, they enjoy laughter, and they love to ask questions. I have learned so many interesting things about my students in the short time I have been here and hope to learn more.

When it comes to traveling, there are also several differences between the United States and Spain. To get anywhere, the majority of people use public transit such as busses, metros, or trains. Although the maps and timetables for these forms of transportation can be confusing, my peers and I have gotten pretty good about successfully getting around the city (Aside from getting on the wrong train on the way back from the beaches at Sitges, missing our stop on the bus on our way to our residence, and getting on the wrong metro on our way back from Costa Brava). We have also learned that when a Barcelona resident tells us how long it will take to get somewhere, we must double or triple the time for it to be accurate……

“Oh, Park Guell is just a 5 minute walk from the metro station!” our coordinator said. (It was a 30 minute walk straight up hill.)

Last weekend, we traveled to Monserrat, Park Guell, and the beaches of Sitges. This weekend, we traveled to a town called Lloret n the Costa Brava region of northern Spain. Below are some photos of our journeys:

Park Guell





The beaches of Sitges


Costa Brava



2 thoughts on “How does Spain differ from the U.S.?

  1. Sounds wonderful and the pictures are so beautiful! It’s like “Peace,” is written all over the place. What an experiece, what a blessing.


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