Jay Hirons, Julie Staley and their team tutor at the Kip McGrath Education Centre (now MTA) in Palma, specialising in teaching maths, English, Catalan, Castilian, business studies, and sciences to the bi and trilingual children in Mallorca. They offer classes outside of regular school hours and have established themselves as an important cornerstone of education for many of the island’s children who are studying at state and private schools. Now Kip McGrath has thrown open its doors to other teachers in order to help them to prepare to teach in English as well as Castilian and Catalan.
The Balearic Government created quite a stir in September 2013 when it initiated TIL, the decree which insists that students of the Balearic Islands’ compulsory education are taught in three languages, Catalan, Castilian and English. The intention is that the introduction of English as the third language will help Balearic students to communicate across Europe and will empower them to succeed internationally which although a noble aim is quite a demand to make.
The teachers went on strike in protest to this compulsory introduction asking how a Government could expect teachers to learn to teach in a third language in such a short time and with no support or training. That’s a pretty good question and Jay, Julie and Martyn at Kip McGrath decided that it was time to show solidarity with their colleagues and lend a hand.
At the end of last year Kip McGrath launched a language scholarship programme designed specifically for their fellow school teachers in Mallorca, and the results have been fantastic. “We wanted to give back to our community so we deliberately reached out to the schools to offer our help. We didn’t know how we would be received but we are very pleased to say that we are currently educating a dozen educators” said Julie Staley.
The teachers who come from a mixture of primary and secondary schools are extremely dedicated, coming to lessons after their own school days have finished and settling down with the Kip McGrath teachers for language practice. Catalina Peňafor Valcaperros who teaches Contemporary History and History of Art at San Cayetano in Palma is adamant that it’s worth the work: “Learning to teach in another language is a lot of work, but we do it because we love our job.”
It’s not as simple as just learning a language either as methodologies have to change with the language. Cristina Pons Anglada who teaches history at Arcangel Sant Rafel brings up a very good point: “Is the goal that the student learns the subject or the language? That’s the question that we have been wrestling with”. Whereas Joan Ginard who teaches Technology and Physics at Aula Balear thinks that having to learn how to teach in another language is honing his skills. “I think being made to present my lessons in another language has made me a better teacher”.
All of the teachers who are studying with Kip McGrath are making progress. “We are tutoring them to Cambridge English First Certificate level. Some of them are already ready to take the examination and others will take longer to get there. But they are all improving” said Martyn. And they are full of praise and gratitude for the generosity of the Kip McGrath tutors for committing time and resources to helping them. “It’s important to us that we participate and we know that children who we teach at Kip will also directly benefit from their school teachers have improved levels of English, so everyone wins in the end”, said Jay Hirons.
The process is not a quick or easy one though as Catalina wanted to point out. “Right now I can go to a class with only a piece of chalk. The transition period for me to teach in Spanish to teaching in English is going to be slow and difficult. We don’t even have the text books in the right language yet”.