Before the pandemic struck, numerous cross-border in-person events such as Madrid Calling (in Spain) and Sprout To Be Teach (in Belgium) were held across the Teach For All network’s Europe region. Did the COVID crisis sound the death knell for offline cultural exchanges? Non ! Car un village peuplé d'irréductibles Gaulois résiste encore et toujours à l'envahisseur (“No! Because a village populated by indomitable Gauls always resists the invader”) as we like to say in Belgium. We strongly believe that a return to international exchanges is necessary in the education sector, especially in the profession of teaching which can sometimes be a lonely job. So we made it happen! This project was a self-organized learning opportunity jointly created by three Network Connectors from Teach For Belgium and Empieza por Educar (Spain). The project was also recognized and funded by the European Commission through its Erasmus+ Programme.
Thanks to our Network Connectors Maria Roman, Fiona Buidin, and Vincent Delval, we—five Teach For Belgium teachers—were able to participate in an exchange with Empieza por Educar in Madrid, Spain, where we visited two Spanish schools during the spring break to exchange teaching practices.
In addition to the delicious food we ate, the vibrant city we experienced, and the interesting people we met, here are four takeaways from our visit:
- We visited Padre Piquer, an Ashoka Changemaker school and learnt about Cooperative Classroom Multitasking. These are flexible classrooms of around 60 students working in groups with the simultaneous presence of three facilitating teachers from different subjects! This approach seemed to stimulate learning and above all improve motivation.
- We experienced how the San Gabriel High School involves native language teaching assistants into its classrooms. This creates more interactive and motivating language classes, in addition to the main teacher’s lessons. It was exciting to see how engaged students were, and we believe it would be a great opportunity for language teachers in Belgium as well.
- In the same school, we were interviewed by students from their own (yes, you read that right) radio station, where we described our experience learning different teaching methodologies and reflected on the similarities between Spain and Belgium. Listen to the full interview in Spanish here.
- Last but not least, we were struck by the many similarities we share across Belgian and Spanish schools and student populations. We recognised our own students in those we met on our school visits, and many similar difficulties the teachers faced. Sharing so much common ground within the educational systems in the EU should push us to share more across the whole EU, so we can exchange more ideas across borders and implement them in our own countries.
Muchos saludos de Vincent Delval, Fiona Buidin, Jessica Moens, Minne Moens and Alice de Viron.