Lessons From Afar

Reading time: 3

Gerard Greally

Gerard is an Irish primary school & technology teacher based in Madrid, Spain. After training in London, he sought brighter skies and moved to an International school where he is ICT teacher to year 4, 5 and 6 students in an iPad one-to-one environment. Gerard...
Read more about Gerard Greally

How does teaching differ outside of the U.K.?

Four years ago I began working in a private school in Spain. After completing my PGCE and QTS I left London, not for any reason in particular, other than looking for a new adventure (London for me was always a means to an end). I saw a job advertised, applied and interviewed over Easter holidays. I was sold.

The change was rather seamless and my professional development has never ended. Jumping into an international curriculum, with one-to-one iPads, I was a fish out of water, and I’m still loving every minute. After two years the initial phase was over. I had learnt Spanish to a good enough level to be able to communicate with parents and colleagues.


There are many things different here. The teacher still appears to have a certain amount of trust. By this I mean, there’s nobody leaning over your shoulder checking on you. You are trusted in your professional status as a teacher and ability to impart learning. Learning objectives and outcomes are handed to you, and people trust you to teach them. The needlessness of much paperwork has evaporated from conscience. The joy of teaching and the reason I chose this profession became apparent again.

How did this happen? Well, there are many reasons, one of which is the Department of Innovation.

Our school has dedicated teachers working full-time creating content and working on interdisciplinary differentiated resources. Yes, really! Weekly meetings ensure these people receive full feedback and we discuss upcoming projects and resources. The main outcome being that I get to focus on my students learning. I don’t have the pressure of paperwork burdening me. When I leave work, more times than not, I leave the stress there (and before 5pm)!

This is where I need to state that I am not trying to brag.


I wish to create discussion amongst teachers about how different learning systems can learn from one another. We have different ideologies from Britain and Europe, to the Middle-East and the Americas. Another major difference here, is how child protection differs here. It takes everybody by surprise. Of course we still undergo police background checks, however, it is not unusual to see teachers hugging and kissing children who are hurt, lonely or sad.

At first, this is rather disconcerting and often evokes an “if I did that at home I’d lose my job”. However as a parent I now understand. When I drop my daughter off, I get my hug and kiss and she goes to her teacher and repeats – ‘a temporary transfer of power as such ’. I know she’s in safe hands.

We trust the vetting that has occurred and trust the teacher to know what’s best, even if that includes physical contact. Sometimes a child needs a hug!

The final difference is that there is more often than not, an educational psychologist on site here (in the larger schools).

Usually, when these professionals are needed, it’s for a quick intervention or to ‘nip something in the bud’, however from my experience in London, these professionals are stretched between schools and not readily available. The result? I have only seen ‘punches thrown’ once in four years (at primary level). If there is an issue it is discussed. If children have a problem, they know there’s someone who can help.

In hindsight, as a teacher in the U.K., I lacked this part of ‘helping’ children develop emotionally. I was neither trained nor did I have the time. Those are the big differences!

Gerard Greally writes for Teacher Toolkit

4 thoughts on “Lessons From Afar

  1. Great article! The idea of having a department that focuses solely on curriculum planning is a huge plus in my opinion. The greatest advantage being the reduction in workload for teachers leading to less stress and allowing more time to focus on the actual delivery of lessons.

    Can a centralised planning department not be implemented in Ireland/UK also?

  2. Hi Ryan,
    The answer to your question is yes, however I would foresee difficulties around this in a public education structure. With so many schools, it would require a huge deployment or reassigning of staff and in the current economic environment, I don’t see that coming any time soon!
    Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Was it really that easy moving to Spain to teach. It’s what I want to do but worried about job security. I’m a secondary physics teacher.

    1. Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for your comment. It really was that easy, I was lucky and the school Im with helped will all paperwork and legal necessities (which most schools do). With regard to job security, as a native english speaker you will find a lot of demand here, but do not expect your salary to stay the same.. it will more than likely drop, but dont worry.. the cost of living is much cheaper here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.