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Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Here is another submission from Col·legi Claver in Lleida. It is now Douglas’ time to talk about his experience. He arrived in Lleida in January and soon found himself like at home at Claver! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


(March 2013)

Arts and Crafts in Col·legi Claver with Douglas, the Conversation Assistant!

So, here is my blog for the first 6 weeks of my “Intercambio de Idioma” experience. I can safely say that it has been a baptism of fire in several ways so let’s get right into it!

After nearly missing my connecting flight at Schipol, I eventually landed at Barcelona International, met the lovely Raquel and soon thereafter everyone else. As you may expect there were a variety of willing young individuals who applied for the CAPS experience, some from the States, a Canadian and a majority of English folk too. After all of the activities (which myself and another girl missed because we were late, buaha!) we were sent off with our foster families to begin our Spanish experience!

Now, learning Spanish is one thing, but learning Spanish in a province which has it’s own language and is growing evermore independent from Spain is another! I brought my books for learning the language but the family I live with and everyone else I have met naturally speaks Catalan and regard Spanish as their second language so immersing myself amongst Castilian was and is still trickier than anticipated. A lot of people also want to practise their English!  However, everyone is very happy to change languages for me, whatever the situation.

The school I have been placed is one called Claver in Raimat, just outside Lleida in Catalonia. It is also home to followers of the Jesuit faith with some of the more old-school faithful living on the grounds 24-7. So, a school for most and a home for the few, the combination results in a very friendly and almost family like atmosphere since everyone seems to know everyone else. And when you’re on the CAPS program, everyone knows you before you arrive. For the first month, many encounters followed the script of
“Hey Doug!”
“Hey dudes/man/guy!”
but you learn the important ones quickly, like Greco, the busy canteen lady who serves gallons of coffee everyday, or Jani the nurse, with whom I have had many conversations based on sound effects and flamboyant hand gestures.

Difficulties so far have included language barriers, which provides a whole barrel of fun for an observer, and several pangs of loneliness but these are remedied by socializing! The other CAPS character, Laura Onslow (a very English lady), introduced me to an English Speaking club, which attracts many foreigners in Lleida, from Estonia, Egypt, Russia and elsewhere as well as locals from the city. Also, the staff are sympathetic and friendly, happy to take time to talk if you need it.

As for a general week in the school, I’m involved in Physics and Chemistry classes, Europe and English classes and Art! But I’m not only helping the young students, I’m helping the teachers with their English too. I’m still considered quite a novelty and many times I hear “Doug!” being shouted in the halls. There is also a music club that I help out with, which is great since I would be going quite mad without playing (I’m a session musician when I’m not a conversation assistant). But other than that I have also volunteered for open days and help with other random classes when I’m not busy, such as agricultural studies, religion and ethics.

All and all, the experience has been great so far. My family, with Rosa, Pol Snr, Pol Jnr and the wee man Joan, have been very hospitable. They have taken me skiing twice so far (I have only skied once in my life… when I was about 10… for less than an hour) and I have wined and dined with their friends and family. They’ve taken me to basketball matches (bangin’!) and cooked fantastic meals for me, making me feel very welcomed.  And that was only in the first month. 4 more to go! I’ll be fluent in no time. And if all else fails, my bottle of “Scottish Water” always helps encourage conversation with people.

Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Col·legi Claver has been in the PAC for three years. They are currently hosting two conversation assistants: Laura and Douglas. Today we are sharing Laura’s experience. Don’t miss Douglas’ text (and video!) in a few days! Thanks Laura and Blanca, her tutor, for sharing this with all of us!


Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

It was one of my grandmother’s most frequently said clichés that time goes quicker with each year. Having reached the halfway point of my year as a Conversation Assistant at Claver, I think it is also one of the truest. It seems impossible that I have spent 5 months here already and even more impossible that I have only have 4 left.

Having just changed my host family, now seems an excellent halfway point to reflect on my experiences here thus far. I absolutely adored living with my first family, even though living with children was something entirely new to me! They were nothing short of fantastic and completely included me as part of their family, for which I am very grateful. Having only been with my second host family for two weeks I am happy to report I am finding them, whilst very different as a family, equally warm, hospitable and inclusive. The families have provided me with a vital support network for working and living away from home in a different country and culture.

Working at Claver is different every day. This is inevitable when working with children, but my job here in general guarantees an exciting and often unpredictable experience. I work with P5, 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th of Primary which provides a wide spectrum of pupils and personalities! With the younger students (P5, 1st and 2nd) I am usually in the classroom with the teacher, helping the children with their English vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation. Sometimes I take several students at a time outside of the classroom, either to help them if they are struggling or to give them more challenging tasks in the case of the most able. Given my extremely limited Catalan/Spanish language skills this can be a real challenge, but results in an impressive effort to speak in more fluent English by the students.

With my 5th and 6th level English classes I lead small groups (of around 4-7 pupils) outside of the main classroom. I am endlessly impressed by the effort and enthusiasm that the children display. Their English ability is much more advanced than I expected it would be when I arrived. A result, I’m sure, of Claver’s policy of immersion in language-learning from a young age. I also assist in the delivery of Science and Physical Education, both of which are taught in English. The fact that pupils are able to take their science exams in English astounds me. I barely understood my science lessons at school, I don’t know how I would have coped if it had been taught in another language!  Schools in the UK could definitely benefit from taking a similar approach to foreign languages.

The classes I initially struggled most with were the other subjects taught in English. I had no idea how to use English to teach sports! After a few initial trials and errors, I have settled in and the children are fantastically enthusiastic and responsive. It is in these lessons especially that I’ve noticed how eager the students are to help each other and, despite the inevitable occasional crossed wires, everyone figures out what needs to be done and gets on with it.

I cannot really sum up my feelings on working at Claver and living in Lleida without repeating myself. The school environment is such a welcoming and inclusive one and really serves its students well. This is one of the best opportunities that I have been given and I am so glad I took it. I feel as though I am learning as much as my students are through my experiences here. Though, admittedly, not much Catalan or Spanish!

Board game from Wendy (Col·legi Claver, Lleida)

Happy Easter holidays, everyone!

We leave you with a great idea for a board game that Wendy, Conversation Assistant at Col·legi Claver, has sent us. It’s a great way to get students speaking and it is adaptable to all schools.

Thanks a lot, Wendy!


I have to prepare many different activities for the children of Claver, including songs, games and quizzes, to rouse their interest in the English language and get them to practice their pronunciation (which is the main reason they learn with me!)

Recently, with sixth year, the students have been playing a board game, called

‘A Day at School’, which I adapted from a website, specifically made for learners of English as a foreign language.  The game includes a board which features pictures of different areas of a school, including classrooms, playground, swimming pool and cafeteria and before starting the game I test the students understanding of each area.

Students roll the dice and move their counters around the board.  If they land on a red spot, they have to take an action card and read it aloud to the other players.  The action card tells them that a specific teacher has asked them to go to a specific area of the school so they must move their counter to the corresponding picture.  I adapted the game so that the action cards feature actual teachers of Claver, making the game more personal to the students and when the first student reads an action card aloud, it usually produces a laugh and encourages them to speak further about the instruction.

If a student lands on an area of the school without being asked to go there by a teacher, the student to the right of the current player must ask them why they are in that area, for example, if a student lands on the library, the player to their right would ask, “Why are you in the library?” and the student whose counter is in the library has to reply.  There are no rules as to what the student can, or cannot say, as long as they speak English and their answer makes sense, so they could say, “I am in the library because I want to read a book”, for example.

To win the game, players must have at least three action cards before making their way to ‘Goal’ on the board.

Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Wendy is a Conversation Assistant based in Col·legi Claver in Lleida. She’s really enthusiastic about her work and everyone in the school is delighted to have her around. Her tutor, Blanca, has sent a photo along with Wendy’s text. Thank you both!


I came to work at Claver as a Conversation Assistant through a company called Home-to-Home.  I knew that I wanted to teach English and I had a basic level of Spanish after studying the language at school for five years – followed by five years of not having had an opportunity to use my new-found skill – so I thought that by coming to Spain I would have the chance to improve my Spanish.  I knew that I would be placed in a school, and with a family, in Catalonia, however I wasn’t aware, before coming here, that Catalan was the main spoken language and that I would be learning yet another new language (I wasn’t asked to learn Catalan but I felt that, being in Catalonia, it was important for me to at least try to learn their official language and, being half-Welsh, I understand the importance of the language to its people and, besides all this, I enjoy learning new languages 🙂 ).

Home-to-Home is a very well-organised company and I had received the details of Claver and of my new family prior to leaving the UK (which was so important to me, having worked in Egypt last year with a company which basically left me alone!)  I had the opportunity to look at the school’s website, to exchange e-mails with the mother of the family and to virtually explore the area where I would be spending the next nine months of my life.

On the 1st October, 2011, my new family came to Barcelona to meet me for the first time and I was so excited and nervous and scared but mostly…very, very happy!  This was the day that it all became very real and my journey really began.  In the car, on our way to Alpicat, we went through our lists of questions for each other and I realised that the parents didn’t really speak English and it was only the children who I would be able to have a conversation with.  Now, however, after living with them for just over one month, I forget that English isn’t the children’s first language, the mother is actively learning English and speaks with me all the time and the father tries hard to speak to me, although he still relies on the children’s translation skills and makes very funny mistakes, such as “When I was a chicken”, rather than “When I was a child…” but at least he’s trying!!!  It makes me feel very happy and proud and encourages me to learn their language even more so!

My first week at Claver I was told to take it easy: having only to observe the lessons, to meet new people; to make an attempt at learning everybody’s name (which I still haven’t managed to do) and to try to find my way around the school, which is very big!  Being the person that I am, however, I wanted to get involved straight away.  Each week, I work with Primary school children in subjects including Sport (with sixth year); Games & Songs (third year); Bits & Pieces (fifth year) and, of course, English (with both sixth and first year students).  I also assist in Parvulari classes, working/playing with four and five-year-olds.  If you were to ask me which my favourite subject, or year, is I really would not be able to give you an answer because they are all so different.  Working with the really young children is completely different to working with the older students and the subjects, themselves, are very different so I really could not choose one over another.  With the younger students I assist the teachers in the classroom but with fifth and sixth year, I take a group and we talk, or play games, which I really like because it gives me an opportunity to know more about them as people.


La Wendy amb la classe de Els Picarols

I also have conversation classes with the teachers of Claver four times a week – twice with Primary teachers and twice with Secondary teachers – which I enjoy very much because speaking with adults is a lot different to speaking with children, although I must not forget that they’re learning English, too, so I still have to speak slowly and choose my words carefully.

After being here for just over one month I have become a part of my family, rather than a guest in their house; I have made friends at Claver who I hope will always be in my life; my Spanish has improved and I am continuing to learn Catalan and, most importantly from a personal point of view, I have finally decided what I want to be when I grow up and I have decided that I will stay in Lleida for one more year once my job at Claver finishes in June, 2012 🙂

Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Karina Burrell, Conversational Assistant at Col·legi Claver from Lleida, has written to share her experience  and feelings in Spain and in the school so far. We thank her and her tutor Blanca for the e-mail and the photographs they’ve sent along with it!


My name is Karina Burrell; I work as a Conversation Assistant at a school called Claver. I first arrived in Barcelona on Sunday 26th September, this is where I met my family. I didn’t know what to expect as I all was given were small details about the family. I would say I was I feeling apprehensive and nervous but the family were very welcoming and friendly and probably felt the same as me.

My host family have two small children, which I am not used to, as I am the youngest in my family. The children always keep you on your feet and they have a lot of energy. They are willing to share details of their day or include you in the games they are playing. At some points, we have been hand in hand walking to places, I couldn’t believe how comfortable and trusting they are with someone they have only known for a few months.

My first day at school I didn’t know what to expect as I don’t speak Spanish and I thought this could be a possible barrier. However, when been introduced to the teachers and staff of the school, many of them didn’t speak English or just knew the basics, but they made the effort to speak as much as possible in English as they could. This made me feel more at ease on my first day at school. This has continued throughout the weeks I have been at school, but now I am trying to speak Spanish back to them.

My role in the school is to assist in classes that are using or been taught English. Within the school, I don’t have a precise class I work with, I work in many classes such as library, math’s and sport, within different ages ranging from 3 to 12 years old. I am enjoying this because I never know what to expect from class to class and with the different age groups too. Also, as I want to be a teacher in a few years, this is helping me to decide what age group I want to work with. Another point is I am experiencing different teachers and their teaching styles and how they compare to each other.

I have started Spanish course online and the school has been very accommodating, as they have let me sit in on Spanish classes. I get to sit in on classes listening to the pronunciation of the words and join in activities where it is possible. One thing I am starting to get used to is meal times because here lunch is a big meal and their main meal for the day. While dinner is sometimes just a snack and late at night too, they have snack time at the time I would normally have my dinner in England. In a short space of time I have tried new and different types of food: from fish to bread to soup… some I have liked and some I haven’t, but this is part of the experience.