Irene Sáez: “Education and Humanities are transformative tools in society”
1. Why did you decide to study education?
The first memory I have related to my desire to work in education is from when I was 4-5 years old and I was playing with my dolls. At that time I used to pretend that I was a teacher and they were my pupils. Afterwards I wanted to be a lawyer or an engineer. But at the age of 16, due to working as an instructor in a summer camp, I realised that my vocation was to work with children. Therefore I had no doubts when I decided to study Primary Education with a specialisation in English.
2. What motivated you to complement these studies with a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities at UIC Barcelona?
While taking my teaching degree I became a basketball coach for teenagers and they became my true passion. Therefore, when I finished my degree, I made a decision: I not only wanted to be a primary school teacher, but also a secondary and baccalaureate teacher. However the question was: what do I want to teach? At that moment I could clearly see that I loved literature and philosophy, and the perfect idea was to study Humanities so I could be more polyvalent and teach languages, literature, philosophy, art and history in a more cross-disciplinary way.
3. How do you remember your time at UIC Barcelona?
Due to the fact some of my previous credits were recognised, I was able to create a highly ambitious curriculum. Without a doubt, I not only gained humanistic and cultural knowledge, but also added great people to my life (teachers and friends) who I can still turn to today.
4. What was your first experience at work like?
After my time at UIC Barcelona, I studied a master’s degree online so I could be a secondary and baccalaureate teacher and I worked at Nestlé so I could see what the world of business was like. I worked in the Social Corporate Responsibility department and it was my first job. When I obtained my master’s degree in 2017 I searched for work as a teacher and the truth is it was easy to find what I was looking for: an innovative school where I could learn every day.
5. And how do you currently apply your knowledge in the classroom?
Since last year I’ve been a Catalan and Spanish Language and Literature teacher in Montserrat School. It is a pioneering school in terms of educational innovation. Having a background in humanities allows me to explain literature by relating it mainly to history, art and philosophy. In this way I try to ensure that my pupils can receive more cross-disciplinary and critical knowledge about all the different expressions of humanity throughout history.
6. How would you define the methodology you use when teaching?
Montserrat School uses a methodology that has become a benchmark for many other schools in Spain. Some of its characteristics include: placing the pupil at the centre of the learning process by ensuring they are participants and protagonists of it through project-based learning; the teacher no longer simply transmits knowledge and content and instead acts as a guide to help pupils find the answers to their questions. Also, classrooms contain 60 pupils and are open spaces with no walls so that pupils can share their learning and move around without difficulties.
7. What is your goal as a teacher?
I think it is fundamental to be an example to follow for them, demanding, responsible and rigorous at work while also being friendly, positive and empathetic. In relation to the pupils, my aim is for them to be good and critical of society and the times we live in, while also curious to learn new things and with a desire to leave a footprint on our planet.
8. And how did complementing your Education degree with Humanities help you to acquire this vision?
Humanities studies have always allowed me to reflect and move beyond the everyday; in other words, people with a humanities background not only see the tree that is hiding the forest, but also search for the forest and think about it. Receiving an education that is as cross-disciplinary in nature as humanities and complementing it with Primary Education has allowed me to become a polyvalent professional and a fan of the internal world of children and teenagers. I think that Education and Humanities are transformative tools in society since an educated and cultured population is much less easily manipulated.
9. What do you think about the fact that in the academic field more importance is placed on science and technology than on social and humanities disciplines?
It is nothing new to say that in the 21st century, knowledge flows and is shared like never before due to vertiginous technological development. But, as we know, in the knowledge society, many governments support science and technology, thinking that they will become richer states in the future. What they don’t realise is that this support not only involves accepting cultural impoverishment, but also teaching people to have a lack of an idea about what really provides meaning to many of the problems that must be faced in science and in life. Therefore, in relation to how specific, exact and empirical science is, it should however not be used as a comparison but instead complement the more global, cultural, cross-disciplinary and relative vision provided by humanities.
10. What would you say to lower secondary school pupils to encourage them to take the humanities pathway for their baccalaureate?
I would tell them that the cultural baggage they gain in the humanities field will be useful for their whole life and in all areas, both personal and professional. Humanities help you to become a person who is committed to society and responsible, and who has the ability to always think of an efficient, analytical and creative solution when faced with any problem or challenge. Reflection and empathy are developed above all thanks to humanities since we take on an assertive attitude in the defence of ideas and opinions and in our relationship with others.
11. What do humanities studies and a humanities perspective offer to society?
I think that education should not only teach individuals to be productive in society, but also prepare individuals to be observant, critical, and able to relate ideas and concepts. Individuals with the ability to see a problem and set out objectives and methods to deal with it, with the ability to understand and learn from other realities and arguments. The values that govern our society can be found in humanities, in other words, they are formed through history, art, philosophy, language and literature.