Our kids are starting their third week of school here in Spain and it’s been pretty successful so far. The students have all been very welcoming to my kids, except for one third grader who keeps “necking” my son (that’s when someone smacks you hard in the back of the neck). My son just laughs each day because that kid is really small compared to him. We’ve only had a few teary days of feeling overwhelmed and the kids seem to have great teachers and classmates who help them out. The parents have also been very friendly and supportive and some of them who are bilingual have reached out and offered to help me if I ever have questions.
There are some real differences in our school here compared to Los Angeles. First, the class size is much smaller. There are only about 17 kids in a class which helps when my kids are trying to learn the language. In LA we had almost 30 in a class.
Here in Granada, the teachers are called by their first names. This seems to work well here and doesn’t seem to be disrespectful at all. Coming from a military family in the U.S. it is much different than the way I grew up. Even my parent’s very best friends were Captain “this” or Colonel “that”. We would never dream of using their first names. It would be considered disrespectful. In Los Angeles it varies and many kids call adults by their first names. I generally don’t allow my kids to do it unless they’ve known the adult for years or they have been invited to use their first name. Sometimes we may put Miss, Mister or Coach in front of an adult’s first name which seems to work as well.
The students here seem to absolutely adore their teachers and aren’t afraid to hug and kiss them. On the first day of school I was surprised to see one of the male teachers with boys and girls literally hanging all over him and hugging him. It was really sweet and that would never fly in the U.S. Sadly we’ve become such a litigious society that it would be frowned upon and teachers would be at risk of getting in trouble.
The school hours here in Spain are much more my style – a start time of 9 am to 2 pm. The kids have a snack at school but then go home at 2 pm for lunch. Other kids stay at school past 2 p.m. and take part in the comedor, where they have a four course meal served to them. My kids didn’t get a seat in it (we are on the waiting list) but I’m hoping they get to go at some point this year. The kids aren’t so sure because we’ve heard the food is very eclectic and you are made to finish each course before proceeding to the next. My kiddos are plain eaters so I’m not sure if they’d be too excited.
The curriculum here in Granada includes Spanish, English and French. They have the option to learn religion but don’t have to do that. I do think it’s nice that there’s an option. In the states religion would not be included in a public school. Rather, that type of education would be an after school activity (unrelated to school) and most kids seem to abandon it after their sports or dance schedules get too hectic. I’m glad they have an option to keep that in the school here.
One major difference is that the restrooms are devoid of toilet paper and soap. Yes, there is not toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms at school. I know, I was pretty horrified too and went out and bought both right away for each backpack. I learned that you can get toilet paper by asking the teacher, which would seem pretty awkward in the states. Here, it’s normal. Apparently the kids waste it and it’s more ecological to ration it out. In regard to the soap, I’m not very excited about that. The list of materials we were supposed to send our kids with included wipes. I like good, old fashioned, bubbly soap. I’ve been vigilant about my children’s cleanliness and have armed them with the necessary items. The issue of toilet paper and soap is not just at our school. I’ve been to the schools in the surrounding areas for sports and it seems to be the case in each of them.
BUT…my kids are thrilled that the fifth and sixth graders have the opportunity to go on an excursion. The fifth graders will head to the Sierra Nevada Mountains here in Spain for a ski trip for a week. The funny thing is, they aren’t sure when. Maybe March, maybe April, they haven’t decided. That’s much different than how we would do things in LA. The trip would be scheduled very far in advance and parents would have plenty of questions. Here, we are just waiting until it snows. The sixth graders will apparently go to a camp in the mountains for a week in the spring. I’m looking forward to learning more about it and would love to chaperone!
I was happy to see that so many parents are actively involved in the school and in their child’s education. I’m so thankful for the warm teachers and administrators who have welcomed my children into the school and have accommodated their needs. I’m looking forward to the year and watching our kids grow!