Student teachers expand their craft in Seville, Spain

from left Sadie Harvey, Britney Butler, Carla Villa
from left Sadie Harvey, Britney Butler, Carla Villa

Four College of Education student teachers traveled to Spain this spring semester to expand their craft through a four-week-long exchange program between the University of North Texas and the University of Seville in Spain. A group of five student teachers from Seville came to UNT around the same time with the program.

The experience was meant to help students gain a new perspective on teaching. Lisbeth Dixon-Krauss, the associate dean involved in developing the program, noted that Texas schools tend to follow specific standards, while schools in Spain and the rest of Europe tend to be more flexible and give teachers more autonomy. The thought was reflected by several of the student teachers when asked about their experiences.

"They let [the students] have more opportunities to converse with other students during class time. It took a while to learn that that wasn't a wrong way, it was just a different way," said Britney Butler, a senior from UNT. "That's something that I definitely want to bring back into my classroom. To understand that the teacher can let go a little bit and allow the students to actually be interested in learning."

Which teaching method was preferred varied among the student teachers, regardless of which side of the ocean they originated from. Clara Lopez, a student teacher from Seville, said that she would miss how politely children in her Texas school spoke with her and how they would follow instructions more quickly.

Seeing alternative teaching methods was not the only focus of the exchange. Although the student teachers worked in dual-language schools and fluency in Spanish was not required for the UNT students, Dixon-Krauss said in regards to second language learning:

"[The exchange program] will make a difference, because in our country, we don't always have the best perspective on people who speak another language in the schools. This experience gives them a new perspective on learning language. It may not be the appropriate thing that, when we are in another country, they have to speak English to be able to communicate with us. That maybe we ought to be more fluent in other languages. That's an awakening they have when they're over there."

One of the responses the associate dean has consistently heard from returning student teachers is that the experience helped them gain a greater feeling of independence. She hopes the experience will help them become more willing to try new things after they become teachers.

The program itself has also become a point of focus for Dixon-Krauss's research. With student teacher exchange programs remaining a rarity in universities, she hopes to identify how these experiences may affect students after they start their careers, particularly in their beliefs and practices in language development. She has presented her work at the National Association for Bilingual Education Conference in 2014 and is continuing her research.

Dixon-Krauss is looking to eventually expand the program to include other countries, including Costa Rica, Mexico and Scotland.

You can learn more about the student teacher exchange at the UNT international website.

Manuel Salas Martinez, Ana Poley Sanjuan, Encarnacion Torres Valenzuela, Isabel De Las Aguas Perez
Students from Seville: from left, Manuel Salas Martinez, Ana Poley Sanjuan, Encarnacion Torres Valenzuela, Isabel De Las Aguas Perez

Sadie Harvey, Britney Butler, Carla Villa, Armando Varela
Students from UNT: from left, Sadie Harvey, Britney Butler, Carla Villa, Armando Varela

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By Jessie Laljer, UNT's College of Education Development and External Relations Office
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