Europe, Spain

A New School: IES Meaño

Most of the auxiliares in Galicia were placed in two schools. The original plan was to have us split our time at both schools each week. The day before we were supposed to start, they announced that instead, we would be at one school for half the year and then the other to reduce chances of COVID transmisison from one school to another.

As I’ve discussed before, I spent the first half of the year in Campo Lameiro, which is a CEIP (centro de educación infantil y primaria) or colegio. This is what the US would consider pre-school and elementary school. My students were ages 3-12. Infantil is 3-5 and then after, you have “first of primary” “second of primary” “third of primary” and so forth, rather than “first grade” “second grade” “third grade.”

Then, students go to ESO (educación secundaria obligatorio) sometimes called instituto. Students are required to go to ESO from ages 12-16. The grades are called “first (primero) of ESO” “second (segundo) of ESO” “third (tercero) of ESO” and “fourth (cuarto) of ESO.”

After students finish ESO, they can optionally enroll in Bachillerato, which is two more years of high school and are required to go into university. Then, they have a university entrance exam (like the SAT), called Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad (PAU) more commonly called the selectividad. For students who choose not to continue in bachillerato and university, they will go into vocational training programs upon completion of ESO.

Now I’ll back up to ESO. This is where I am teaching now. I am at IES de Meaño, which stands for Instituto de educación secundaria. I was going to start in Meaño but due to my quarantine and then the carnaval holidays the week of February 15th, I started on Monday, February 22nd. Meaño is about 45 minutes from where I live in Pontevedra, so the commute is a little bit longer than Campo Lameiro. The town is also in a different direction than Campo Lameiro and is along the ocean, which is nice.

My schedule is different, and I have some very early mornings but also late mornings. In Campo Lameiro, it was the same schedule everyday (8 AM – 2 PM Monday through Thursday). My pick-up point is a bit farther away, so I have about a 20 minute walk in the morning. My first day, I was grateful to see the river at dawn. The bridge pictured also has a bunch of illuminated blue lights on it which are to guide the pilgrims walking El Camino de Santiago, which goes through Pontevedra.

Meaño is considered a small instituto with about 200 students and 25 teachers. In Campo Lameiro, we had about 60 and 10 respectively, so needless to say, this is a big jump for me. There are the four levels of ESO and most have a section A, B, and C of each. I only do 12-16 classes per week, so this means I will see each class only once per week. I’m also in a class called Secciones Bilingües which is a class that students sign up for and they either do Galician or English, and it’s a non-linguistic subject taught. So, here in Meaño, they teach art for their secciones bilingües.

For first and second of ESO, I am with an English teacher named Tiana. I do a speaking activity with the students the last third of the class. For third and fourth of ESO, I am with Sandra, who is the main English teacher and also my coordinator (point-of-contact) for the program. For the secciones bilingües, I am with Aranza who helps me a lot too with things.

Each day, I have a different carpool schedule. For the first month, I am going with Aranza and the principal César. Later on, I will have someone else for Monday morning and Tuesdays. With Aranza, we are practicing a lot of Spanish during our commute, and with César, I’ve been helping him keep up his English level. I’m finding many more teachers speak English here than did in Campo Lameiro. Although the longer commute is unfortunate, it does give some extra time for language learning, and for that I’m grateful. My Spanish is still quite low, but I am improving with the foundations I have and picking up new things. I’m just finishing my first week here, so in a few more once I’m settled, I’ll do some more reflection on it.

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