Raquel Pallé, one of the English teachers at the Episcopal College, tells us about her experience during these 15 years working at the center, and makes us reflect on how Covid-19 has affected her teaching.
By EPIS REPORT
She decided to combine her two passions, English and being a teacher.
- How many years have you been working as an English teacher at the Episcopal College?
I have been working at Episcopal school for 15 years. Before that, I had owned a language centre where I used to teach English and other subjects. However, it was when my younger son was born, that I realised that I had to change my life if I wanted to see him grow up together with the rest of the family. It took me some time to make that hard decision as I was leaving an important part of my life. However, after this long period at this school, I can firmly state that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
- Why did you decide to become an English teacher? Was it vocational?
Well, in fact this reminds me to one of the typical questions made when you are a child. Indeed, I remember, I usually tended to say that I would like to be a teacher. It was some years later, when I was about 15, that I started thinking of being an English teacher. I had always been keen on languages, mostly on English, so I decided to combine my two passions. This is why I decided to study the degree on English language.
Personally, I consider being vocational is something you learn with time, when you have spent years working, being in direct contact with the people involved in any job, in this case making others learn what you know, children, young people, adults, whoever. It is really grateful to see the way one can improve if you encourage him or her, if you listen to him or to her. It is like a combination of knowledge and heart together. As the English expression says, ‘if you put your heart on something’, the results will be good, for sure.
- How did you organize your classes during the years you worked there? Have there been any changes?
Teaching is not what it seems. We could say that knowledges are always the same, so every year is always the same. Personally, I do not think so. I would say that knowledges are never the same; they evolve with time, so every year is always different. In terms of methodologies a lot has changed, too. We do not teach a foreign language the same way it was taught 20 years ago. It is evident the world is changing and so the way to teach. It is not difficult to see that. However, in spite of all the technological devices and new teaching methods, I consider that the teacher’s role is still crucial in a class. It is more a question of being there, listening, encouraging and working together with students.
- Do you think the classes are high enough to get English certificates?
One of the main objectives of the school and the Foreign Language Department is to provide students with a high level of English. We work hard so as to prepare students from the kindergarden to be able to obtain a high level of English. It is evident that not all the students acquire a language in the same way and at the same time but if one wants to obtain certificates, it is certain they can.
However, we prepare our students to be able to communicate and write using a foreign language by trying to make them learn all the skills that surround it – grammar, vocabulary, listening, speaking and writing -. It is evident classes are sometimes very crowded to go deeper into each of these abilities and it makes it more difficult. Nevertheless, the one who make a great effort, can get the certificates they need.
- Do you think the students at the school have a high level of English?
It depends on the classes as it basically depends on the students. It is difficult to assess that because there are many factors that influence on the results. However, if we compare our data with the ones of the rest of Catalonia, we can affirm we are in a good position. When the students arrive in Batxillerat, there is a mixture of students from different schools, so in terms of English, it is really difficult to find the balance between the different levels. Some of them have a really high level of English; some medium and others have a low level. But this is something normal that happens in English or in any other subject.
- How has Covid-19 affected you when organizing classes as they cannot be divided into levels?
Yes, the Covid-19 has changed the way to teach English considerably. We are used to teaching students according to their English level fostering a better learning for everybody. However, the teachers have adapted to the situation and so the students. It is evident that some students are suffering quite a lot to reach the level, but I would like to think this could possibly be positive for them. I would say that the pandemic has forced us to change but, who knows? Perhaps it has brought something positive. I hope I can give you a better answer in one-year time.
- Do you find it difficult to lead such a large class group?
I do not consider it to be difficult. I would say, sometimes it is a little tiring as you want to reach everybody’s brains and would like them to be always connected to the class and sometimes it is not that easy. I try to be strict with the students, but I like to help them at the same time. It is the way it works or simply it is the way I like doing. I have always done it like that. I recognise you are a really talkative class, lively … and sometimes it can be difficult. However, I really enjoy doing my job and this is the main thing. You are nice!
- What do you like most about being an English teacher? And what less?
I think that everything I have just told you, summarises the way I feel about being an English teacher. Also, I consider myself to be a very lucky person working here as it has not only allowed me to make people learn bit it has also opened my mind to the world. A school offers more than one can imagine. Unluckily this year we cannot offer much more than classes as we have had to resign to projects, trips and others, which is another rich part of being a teacher. It allows getting to know your students from other perspectives.
If I was asked the same question now again, after 25 years teaching, I would answer the same: ‘I would like to be an English teacher’.
Raquel will continue to improve her profession so that she can pass on to new students the same passion she has had and teach them good English.
Judit Gatnau, Clàudia Cuñat. Xavi Casado i Marta Bernat