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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Australian Culture at St.Ignatius

My first experience at my international practicum was unlike any teaching experience I have ever had before. St.Ignatius College is located on the northern side of Sydney and is unbelievably beautiful. As I walked up with Heather Kozin, the other BC student teacher with me, I could not believe that this was a school for boys from fifth to twelfth grade because it seemed even more beautiful than most colleges I have seen. Our supervisor came to meet us and he extremely nice and supportive. He came to Boston College to get his masters and said that he absolutely fell in love with Boson. After talking about BC and catching up on our experiences in Sydney thus far, he took us on a tour around the campus. The school sits on a peninsula and is surrounded by beautiful views of the water. He told us that some of the boys live on the other side of the water and ride their boats across the water for school everyday- definitely something I have never heard of! He also explained to us the difference between public and private schools in Australia. He said unlike the US where there are many great public schools, most of the public schools in Australia are not so good. He said that the public schools are mostly just for academics and there is no way to get involved or participate in anything outside of the classroom. He also said the resources in public schools are very limited, similar to what we see in urban schools in the US. Out of the four main private schools in Sydney, St.Ignatius is the lowest with a tuition of $20,000 a year. He said some of the other schools can go up to $40,000 which was amazing to me. Because tuition is so high, there are very high expectations from the parents. It was very interesting to hear that although there are many parents who have very high expectations for academics, there are even more who want their sons to excel in sports. I always felt like sports was very important in the US, but it is nothing compared to the importance of sports in Australia. People love there sports more than anything here and by sending the boys to schools such as St.Ignatius, they are increasing their chances of playing professional sport. At St.Ignatius however, they are the most well-rounded school with equal emphasis on academic and sports. Adam explained to us that their main goal is to make these boys good men by the time they leave.

This focus on being “good men” was very evident as the day continued. Adam brought us over to the junior school which is grades five and six and we went into the faculty room where many of the teachers were on break. All of the teachers were unbelievably friendly and everyone was telling us that we were always welcome to come into their classrooms. It was nice to see such a strong community amongst the teachers feel so welcomed by the faculty. We then went off with a fifth grade class to their library class. The librarian apologized to us in advanced because she was not feeling well and did not have an exciting lesson planned but it was not a problem at all because I still found it interesting! She was using a smart board to go over referencing skills with the boys. She had a bunch of different information such as the publisher, author, year of publication, etc., on the board mixed up and had the boys come up and try to put them in the correct order for a bibliography. It was really cool to see how excited the boys were to go up and move the words around simply by just touching them on the board to try and come up with the correct way. After the lesson, the boys had free time to read. I ended up sitting in a corner with a bunch of boys who were doing a trivia quiz game. They were so funny with their questions about America for me. They knew way more about the US than I expected them to know and I was also surprised with how many of them have been to the US. They were all so friendly and so excited to talk to us.

After library we went back up to the faculty lounge for lunch. They got lunch delivered and insisted that we ate with them. It was a treat to have fish and chips for free! Through lunch we got to talk to a lot of the different teachers about how they like teaching at the school and they all seemed to love it. They spoke very highly about the boys and all had such pride in the school. Through all my experiences in Australia the people have been very friendly, but at this school the friendly culture of Australians was extremely obvious. They even told us that they would ask around to see if any teachers were coming from our area to give us a ride to school in the morning! After we finished eating, Heather and I decided to go outside to hang out with the boys for their recess. As soon as we walked out, boys started coming up to us and shaking our hands to introduce themselves. Never have I seen boys this young be so outspoken and friendly, it was wonderful! They were playing all different kinds of sports including rugby, cricket, and American basketball. It was interesting to see how even though they were playing rough and being competitive, they were also very kind to each other and there was no fighting occurring.

After lunch the whole fifth and sixth grade had an assembly. The head of the junior school lead the assembly by asking the boys to raise their hands and share their intentions of anything they want to pray for. I was surprised to see how eager the boys were to participate but it was very nice to see. After this, the head of sports for the school came to the front and ran through the weeks accomplishments in sports. The boys stood up when he mentioned individuals and everyone clapped for them and their accomplishments. The head of the school then stood up again and went through merits that the boys received through the week and each of the boys got to stand up for acknowledgement. It was interesting that the boys received so much praise for their various accomplishments but I think it was wonderful. Not only were the faculty applauding for the boys but even their peers were giving them praise.

After the assembly we attended a sixth grade class on religion. It was very interesting to observe this class because I have never been in a Catholic school setting. The lesson was on lent and the objective was to get the boys thinking of ways they could “fast” without just giving up a certain food or a toy. The teacher had the boys think of behaviors or habits that it would be beneficial to do without. The boys came up with ideas such as swearing, being rude, being selfish, complaining, etc. The boys then had to come up with their own statement which they wrote on a scroll to hang up in the classroom. With the scrolls hanging around the room, it was supposed to be a reminder to the boys about their statement so that they can try to keep their commitment. While observing this lesson, I noticed many of the same teaching strategies that I have seen in the US. When the boys were doing things at their desks that they were not supposed to the teacher had them stand up for a few minutes. I also noticed when a boy was talking the teacher asked him to leave for a few minutes and come back when he was ready to get on task. The classroom was set up similar to many classrooms I have seen where the boys were sitting in rows in pairs. It seemed to be effective because the boys could collaborate with the person next to them but they were spread out enough that there was not constant talking. The biggest difference in the school was autonomy that the boys had. They did not have to ask permission to go to the bathroom and were responsible for getting to their classrooms without the teachers guiding them. They did not seem to take advantage of this autonomy and it actually made them seem very mature.

Overall, it was a great first day. I am very excited to get in and observe more lessons. I am also looking forward to teaching lessons while I am at St.Ignatius because it seems like the faculty will be very supportive of me.

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