Western Kentucky Exchange Program
Since the partnership between our school and Western Kentucky University (WKU) has been forged, RMSI has offered placements to numerous American student teachers. In the same innovative spirit, once again this year, we had the opportunity to host a group of young, cheerful, enthusiastic student teachers that shared our day-to-day life and transformed our already busy and active school into an English language workshop.
Having the luck to receive student teachers specialized in a variety subjects, the school appointed each of them to a corresponding member of staff under whose supervision the student teachers performed all duties associated to their subject. Consequently, the students of RMSI had the opportunity to receive classes from native English speakers in English, Math, Social Sciences, Technology and Physics amongst others. When not delivering the class, the American teachers collaborated with the main teacher working in-class with the students.
Improving communication skills
The student teachers also offered one-to-one or small group tuition outside the classroom, helping to improve our students´ communication skills in English. Many of them worked specifically with candidates for the Cambridge exams, revising past papers and practicing for the oral part of the exams. In brief, for the past month, English was the prevailing language in the classrooms, the corridors and the playground. In addition to core curriculum classes and maybe most importantly, the American teachers offered a crash-course on cultural sensitivity. Many discussions took place, especially in ESO and Bachillerato classes, where cultural stereotypes were analysed and rejected; inside information on the differences of the educational system in America were offered to those Bachillerato students who entertain the possibility of studying abroad; and, of course, many customs and traditions were shared - on Thanksgiving, for example, not only did the American teachers give presentations about the meaning of the day in their home country, but also brought in traditional food for our students to get a… taste of the real Thanksgiving! Our students had a chance to return the favour on the field trips, when they acted as proper little guides for the American teachers.
The great benefits of this RMSI initiative to our students are obvious. It´s an opportunity to practice natural English with native speakers in real-life situations, to increase their confidence and self-esteem and to improve their grades. It´s a valuable experience that increases their knowledge and empathy towards other cultures, widens their horizons and their desire to learn more about the world while boosting their appreciation for global affairs. However, the students are not the sole beneficiaries. It is also an opportunity for us, the educators, to enrich our teaching backgrounds by learning about education in other countries, exchanging views, opinions and ideas. Moreover, many members of staff take advantage of the opportunity to practice their English with native speakers.
Enriching local education
Finally, let us not forget that through this programme RMSI sets an example for other local educational institutes to follow, thus contributing to the enrichment of education in Spain. On their last day, the student teachers spoke with gratitude for the opportunity to complete their practice in a prestigious school in such a beautiful city, working under experienced teachers. However, looking back at the whole experience, remembering our students eagerness to talk, work, be with the American teachers, thinking of the strong bonds formed between our visitors and students and staff alike, I can´t help feeling that, as a teaching community, we might have gained more than we have offered!
RMSI, perfect placement for our students
Colegio Reial Monestir de Santa Isabel has proven itself to be the perfect placement for our WKU student teachers. Our student teachers are constantly amazed at the high levels of teaching and learning which are taking place there as well as the friendliness of the teachers and staff and the welcoming atmosphere throughout the school and Barcelona in general. Anyone who has ever visited Barcelona can attest to the beauty of the city. Visiting Colegio RMSI will also attest to the beauty of the people. We at Western Kentucky University are very appreciative of our counterparts at Colegio RMSI. We value your friendship, we value your professionalism, and we value the tremendous opportunities you provide our student teachers daily. Yes, preparing a Thanksgiving meal for a group of somewhat homesick American student teachers is a very nice gesture. However, this only scratches the surface in terms of the many wonderful things which occur daily at Colegio RMSI to help our student teachers become better teachers and, more importantly, better world citizens!
Dr. Carter at WKU