Cultural Differences: Starting School

By Lucy Peacock

She's been looking forward to it all summer: the first day of "big school". I, on the other hand, have been dreading it – she's only 3, for crying out loud. But thousands of Spanish 3 year olds go to school and survive, as everyone keeps telling me. She'll be fine. She may be in a class of 25 with one teacher, and Spanish teaching methods may be rather old fashioned (so I've heard), but she'll be fine.

We turned up at 9am, only to find out that we didn't have to be there until 10 – a special late start time for the first day. There were a few other parents at the gates, presumably they were all either as disorganised as me or very, very keen. We went for a walk for an hour.

An hour later, we found ourselves in a classroom that, to my worried and possibly very English mind, seemed surprisingly normal. There were lots of toys, lots of space to run around, and lots of pictures on the walls. It was nice.

The teacher gave us a list of all the things we would have to buy:
1 Staedler pencil, HB
1 packet of crayons, brand "Jovi"
1 other packet of crayons, this time Plastidecor ones.
1 pair of scissors
1 set of workbooks
1 plate
1 cup
1 cushion
2 sticks of glue
3 pieces of card
2 packs of A4 paper
1 A4 folder
1 bib (which turns out to mean a hideous Victorian-style gingham overall with the child’s name embroidered onto the front)
1 loo roll (yes, that’s right – she has to take her own loo roll)
1 cushion

They'll be doing lots of drawing and gluing then, I thought. This was much better than the image I had in my head of 25 children lining up and chanting the alphabet in return for not getting a ruler across the knuckles. And now, a month later it seems to be going quite well. My daughter has finally spoken a few words to the teacher, bless her - the teacher was convinced she couldn't speak Spanish at one point. I'll find out more about what goes on soon as I have volunteered to teach English to the class once a week. I'm looking forward to it!

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