“Teachers exchange – international conversations” – Spain, part 1st


Today we are starting the project “Teachers exchange – international conversations” this time we will get acquainted with the thoughts of a teacher from Spain – the main character of this section is an English teacher, Laura Tobarra.

Laura is an extremely warm and open person, she willingly answered all our questions and offered help in case of further doubts or next projects. She works with six different groups in one of the public primary schools. She also runs a blog, you will find some posts in English and Spanish, games, lessons preparations, and photos:


Meeting these kind of teachers on my path I value the most. In my opinion every system has elements worth imitating and copying. You just have to find them, and to do so, we should try to get to know and analyze as many world systems as possible. So let’s start it!


1. What does the Spanish system look like? Are traditional methods predominant in it?

The Spanish system is very traditional – there has been little change in education in recent years. I do not think anyone is happy with this fact. Teachers and parents would like the students in our times to have more possibilities, but unfortunately the system stands still, responding with minimal effort to their needs.

Main reasons of that:

  • We had 6 different educative laws in the last 30 years – so it is impossible to asses or to improve changing laws due to political views.
  • The economical crisis .

Despite this obstacles teachers are trying to change, fix the system starting in their classrooms, by being innovative and creative.  


2. Do Spanish teachers struggle with excess bureaucracy?

Unfortunately, yes – I think that, as with most traditional systems, we are obliged to do our work on paper and in the Internet system – that means we make work double. In Spain, one of the most difficult periods is evaluation – we develop documents describing progress, problem situations and so on. Each student’s achievements need to be analyzed and compared with  40 different standards, so it takes us about 3-4 hours to describe one class (of course, for teachers who have done it before!).


3. How do teachers help students who can not understand the material? Is there any help provided for them?At the beginning, we organize an additional teacher who is responsible for adjusting the materials and supporting the pupil in the activities undertaken. The next stage is the conversation with the parents, sometimes we advise sending the child for the tutoring, home classes. Additional home lessons are quite often chosen in problematic situations in Spain. If this fails, we organize a meeting with a school psychologist and a team of teachers who are trying to find a solution. The final step is to direct the student to a supporting teacher for the pupils with Special Educational Needs (there is one teacher with this competences in each school) who develops an individual teaching plan.*

* I conclude from the conversation that it is a document reminiscent of Polish Plan of Supporting Actions (PDW).


4. What is the most annoying about the teacher’s work in Spain?

Lack of training, courses, exchanges and workshops for teachers- lack of public respect for the professionI think that these are the 2 most important elements that make this job difficult. And although I love this job, I love my students, I am aware that it could be better.


5. What steps do teachers take to encourage students to learn?

To encourage students to learn is a difficult task if you have to work with 28 students, some of them with handicaps. “Motivation” is an individual task of each teacher in each group of students.  It would be nice to be trained in this field – new theories, approaches, tasks…


6. What would a Spanish teacher change in the system in which he works? What is the weakest point of it?

We do too much homework, I think that students are overloaded with the amount of material to practice and understand by themselves.We also do not cooperate enough- although we could  invite each other for the classes and evaluate the process of teaching asking about others’ opinions, not many of us do that. Sometimes teachers are afraid of trying cooperate with others from the conviction that asking for help we admit to “weakness” or ignorance. That is why I willingly took part in the project “Teachers’ exchange – international conversations”, I believe that through cooperation we can achieve much more in education.


7. What is the strongest point of the system according to the teachers? What do they value the most? (It is both organizational matters and what contributes to the development of the student.)

To be honest, it’s hard for me to find some good parts of our system at the moment. Some time ago I was on a teacher exchange in Poland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Norway – we had the opportunity to observe the work of teachers from several educational institutions – I was very impressed with how different our approach to education is.  Found it very innovative and creative – I thought we could use some of  this ideas in our schools.  


8. In Poland there is a belief that tests and exams “need to be practiced” that is why we are doing so many of them. How and in what way do Spanish teachers “train” for international examinations, such as PISA or in-country examinations?

Well, firstly, unfortunately, the Spain achieve quite low results on PISA exams, so the conclusion is that whatever we do – we do not do it well. Certainly, we do not “train” the tests, we rather try to discuss the issues, do repetitions and finally, we set up tests or exams to determine the extent to which the students learned the knowledge.


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In the next part of the interview we will discuss system approach and work organization – you will find in the article a lot of information about system solutions: how is the help for pupils with SPE organized, how many pupils can attend one class, how many hours children spend each day in schools, how the teacher’s working week looks like and much more.

What do you think about Laura’s reflections over Spanish educational system? Is your system similar to the one we just have described shortly?