Educate Yoself

This page will be mainly dedicated to what I’ve learned about education in Andorra and education via the Fulbright. I am no professional or expert, but I’ll try to keep my observations here. Please contact me if there are any errors. I will be frequently updating this as I collect more information and have free time….


1. Andorran Education Background & Some Basic Info

The Andorran government started its own education system quite recently, in 1983. Before that, there were French teachers who came from the French government circa 1910, followed by Spanish teachers from the Spanish government in 1920 (1).

All three systems co-exist and are public. Citizens can choose which system they would like for their children. The major exception is Escola de Pirineus, which is a Spanish religious school that follows that Catalan system (and I hear is quite expensive)

The Andorran public system includes maternal (ages 3-6), primary (ages 6~12), secondary (ages 12-16), and batxillerat (ages 16 and up). School is free and mandatory from ages 6-16.  Batxillerat is kind of like high school, but is more meant for two years of college prep. In batxillerat, students get to choose what could be comparable to a major–from crimonology to nursing, there’s a wide range of choices. There is also Aixovall (Formació Professional), which is meant as a vocational school for those who may not be as academically or test-taking-ly inclined.

All schools teach mainly in Catalan, though some art classes are taught in French. Students are required to take Catalan, Castilian (Spanish), French, and finally, English.

There also seems to be a dire contrast in teaching methodology and attitude based on a) if you’re from Andorra and b) if you have a plaça fixa  (kind of like tenure) or if you are an eventual (temporary worker). The Andorran system has made it increasingly difficult for people to obtain a more fixed position, limiting the number of people who can have them and requiring rigorous tests. Those with fixed positions are free to take a year of unpaid leave every five years and have job security. Those without fixed positions (the majority) can be let go at any moment, really. They must also undergo frequent evaluations.


2. A Little About the Andorra Fulbright

  • As an Andorran ETA Fulbright, your new official name is lector/a. If they don’t know your name, that is what they will call you (ex: “Who are you talking about?// “MELANIE!”// “WHO?”// “LA LECTORA!”//”OHHHHH, HER!”). No one has been able to explain to me why we’re called what literally translates to “readers,” but that’s the way it is, I guess.
  • There are only five of us, distributed throughout different parishes in the country. We each teach at different schools. Three of us teach at secondary schools (Ordino, Santa Coloma & Encamp) and the other two teach 16+ students (much easier) (Batxillerat-La Margineda & Aixovall FP).
  • taken from my mid-year seminar presentation
    taken from my mid-year seminar presentation

    While the car ride from the capital (Andorra la Vella) to my school (in Encamp) is only 15 minutes, sometimes it takes me an hour to get to school because of the unreliable bus schedule.

  • We are joined by a few Oxford University students who have the same position we do, except in primary schools.
  • Unlike the Spain ETA Fulbright, Andorra ETA Fulbrights HAVE THEIR OWN CLASSROOMS. This means we manage, plan for, and discipline all our classes. We do not have another teacher in the room and we do not have to participate in Global Classrooms. This is nice in the sense that we do not have to depend on another teacher (especially if that teacher decides to dislike us), and that the kids must follow the rules we make (although this is usually a challenge).
  • Taken from the 2014-15 pre-departure orientation packet
  • Another difference between the Andorra and Spain ETA is that we have quite different schedules. The Spain ETAs usually have a day off within the 5-day work week. They also have school from 9-3:30pm. In Andorra, only one of us has a day off per week, and some of us have schooldays as long as 8-5pm. There are many days that I leave work realizing I had only gotten 15 minutes of sunlight. On Thursdays, for example, I do not get any direct sunlight since I usually arrive at school before the sun is fully up (the mountains block out quite a lot), and by the time I leave it is dark.
  • We have our own autonomy on the material we present. In our preliminary meeting, our Fulbright advisor told us our class was meant for improving oral skills and exposure to American culture. There are no guidelines, goals, requirements, or observations. While this overwhelming freedom is quite nice, sometimes it can feel a bit pointless in that we have little direction to follow. Most of us do not get to collaborate with our co-teachers in our English departments.
  • While our contract says our grades count for a third of the student’s final English class, this is usually not the case. Most schools only count our grades for about 20% of the final grade.
  • DO NOT BUY A MULTI-TRIP PASS FROM DIRECTBUS! If you talk to your school secretary and give her your information, you should get bus tickets for HALF PRICE! AH! I wish I had known this earlier on in the year instead of wasting my money on the expensive trips!

3) Grading & Discipline in Andorra

  • All students receive three grades per class:

Procedements (Procedures): Their day-to-day work and how well it is completed.

Actitud (Attitude): Their classroom behavior and participation

Conceptes (Concepts): These are more exam-based, I believe. As ETAs, we do not give a grade for this.

  • Their grading system is also kind of intricate in that it’s on a scale from 0-10. Passing is anything above a 5. Most students do not receive 9s or 10s.

AE 8.9 – 10

AB+ 7.6 – 8.8

AB 6.3 – 7.5

AJ 5 – 6.2

NA+ 3.1 – 4.9

NA 0-3

  • Tier 1 discipline: L’agenda
  • As for discipline, the agenda is the most used yet useless tool. It is meant to serve as a means of communication between the schools and the students’ parents. For example, the students always joke “nota a l’agenda!” when someone does something stupid or that could be considered impolite or wrong. It’s essentially a note sent home that tells the parents that the student misbehaved, didn’t bring their homework, etc. I’ve written in six agendas in one day. Most teachers write in agendas after the third warning. I give them one, take it on the second, and write in it on the third. All messages home are in Catalan.
  • Tier 2 discipline: Full d’Incident
  • This means that the student did something more serious than a minor offense. I’ve written several for a student refusing to give me their agenda, some for continuously ignoring warnings or blatant disrespect for me or for their peers. Sometimes the punishment for receiving one is a phone call home, a Wednesday afternoon (equivalent would be detention), or an essay.
  • Tier 3 discipline: Full d’expulsió de l’aula
  • I’ve only done three of these, and with the same student at that. This means a student was misbehaving badly enough to be kicked out of class. By the third time, the student was permanently expelled from my class. He still does stupid things like throw things into my classroom while I’m teaching (full d’incident) or glare at me in the hallway, but I’m just happy that I don’t have to endure his offensive and racist comments every Friday morning. Weee.
  • Overall,the disciplinary system can be quite confusing and subjective. Teachers use these tools differently(some pre-fill certain forms out and use them as a threat against students before they get a chance to mess up). The system may also not work well since the parents of the students who often misbehave rarely check or sign the agenda, and therefore do not care. Many students also don’t find any of the punishments meaningful.

4) Escola Andorrana de Segona Ensenyança d’Encamp (EASE d’Encamp)

This is my school. To get here, you take the L2 bus and get off right after the tunnel/roundabout. The school kind of looks like a jail, as the students say.

My school, with the mountains in the background.
My school, with the mountains in the background.

It is the biggest secondary school in Andorra and has about 500 students. I luckily only had to work with fourth years, so I had about 100 students total that I got to see once a week for an hour.

One of my classrooms
One of my classrooms

Mariona is the director–she is absolutely wonderful. Enthusiastic, responsive, and caring. She is one of the most involved principal’s I’ve ever met. I really appreciated her support and kindness through everything.


5) Ski Week

For the past two years, ski week has been conveniently scheduled right before Carnival break. Before, there was school in between the two weeks, wah wah wah.

Ski week has been way more exhausting than I expected. Here is a typical day:

8:15 am Arrive at school. Chug coffee if time allows.

8:30 am Collect the students from the pati and escort them to a classroom. Take attendance. Make sure students know how they are getting home and who has to come back to school. Make sure they have their skiing materials (helmets are mandatory for both students AND teachers). Count the number of students who need forfets (passes).

9 am Collect free sandwiches. Yay.

9:15 am Collect children and wait to be called on to the bus

9:30 am Bus should leave

10:00 am Arrive, eat a sandwich, get ready

10:15 am Go to the slopes and accompany the students until 12 pm. I have them wait for me at the top and the bottom of each slope since I’m with a beginner group and they all go at different paces.

12 pm lunch

1 pm Drop them off with their monitor (ski/snowboard instructor). FREEDOM! ALL THE SLOPES.

3 pm pick up the children and get them all packed up. Make sure they don’t leave a mess in the dining hall.

3:30 pm busses leave

As a lectora, I do not have the full responsibilities of the other teachers at school. Everybody else has to sign up for a day to “watch over” (babysit) the students until they can leave the school at 5pm. My secretary kindly let me out of this obligation. Thank heavens!

I usually get home at around 4:15, giving me some extra time to plan for private lessons…


Useful Resources

http://www.teach-this.com – Really good for adult group activities. I used a lot of these for my private lessons. They’re interactive and funny.

http://busyteacher.org/ – awesome resource.https://en.islcollective.com/ – the website design is super shotty, but once you register the resources are pretty awesome. Good for worksheets for review, private lessons for kids…

http://edition.tefl.net/category/talking-point/page/2/ – good resource for private lessons, teens.

https://www.off2class.com/teacher/ – i didn’t use this much, but could be useful for private lessons.

http://www.fluentu.com/english/blog/learn-english-american-sitcoms/
http://film-english.com/  – this resrouce is AWESOME for using videos.. I used two of them for my classes and they loved them. Try to add activities to them as they may not take up the whole hour.


Sources:

In-forma’t// Guia d’ensenyaments a Andorra 2014-15 //

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6 thoughts on “Educate Yoself

  1. I just submitted my Fulbright application to Andorra for the 2016-2017 school year. Thank you for your blog, this has been very insightful. To be honest, my teaching skills are not THAT practiced, and I would much rather prefer to be placed in a 16+ program as opposed to teaching younger kids. Do you know if this placement is random or are there any helpful tips you could tell me?

    1. Hey Jack,
      Good luck with your application! 🙂
      And let me know if you have any questions about Andorra. I was hoping this would be a useful resource for future Fulbrighters and those thinking about long-term stays or visits.
      Teaching skills will improve as you go along, and it’s more about behavior since the kids can be kind of wild sometimes. The Fulbright in Spain and Andorra are both catered to upper-level ESO, which means you would be working with 12+ students and there really isn’t any way around it. That’s what the contract’s for, and it is much more challenging.
      The placement is not entirely random–depending on your application they will try to place you where they think you would fit best.
      Best of luck,

      Marie

  2. Hi Marie – Your blog is so helpful. I’m applying for the Andorra ETA for 2017-2018, but I am seriously struggling with what to put down as my community engagement. The internet is only so helpful because it is such a small country. I want to knock this application out, but I’m stressing! What did you do? What did others your year do? What are some places to get involved? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Hi! I’m applying for the 2016-2017 ETA in Andorra, & I was just wondering how easy/hard it was to get by with the language. I am decent when it comes to speaking French, but I have never really had to use it outside of a classroom. As for Spanish & Catalan, well, I really don’t know much beyond the basics. Were you highly skilled in the native languages before you left for the trip? I know once you arrive there are language courses offered, but I just worry about communicating with the students. Any comments would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  4. Hi Marie,

    I’m applying to the Fulbright ETA program for the 2018-2019 school year, and I think Andorra is my top choice. I am a rising senior undergrad and was wondering if you could speak to how important teaching experience or having a TESL/TEFL/TESOL certification is.

    Thanks!

    Caitlin

    1. Hi Caitlin,

      Thank you for reading and reaching out! When I had applied, I happened to have taught ESL to adult immigrants for less than a semester (very little training). I think if you have any experiences that could be applicable to teaching or ESL (summer camp counselor, TAing, traveling, etc.) then you should be fine! Nobody in my year had any ESL training, so I’m not sure how important that is.

      Hope this helps. Good luck!

      Marie

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