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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Planning and Delivering Instruction

In many classrooms across the United States there is a push for student focused education. That is, student’s work in groups, in partners, individually, on projects, by playing games and other educational activities. Based on my experience at Colegio Maristas, classrooms in Spain (or at least in my CT’s classroom) use the more traditional approach of teacher lead education. I observed this through Math, Grammar, Reading, English and Social Studies lessons. Most lessons are out of the students textbooks; for example the typical math lesson involves the students working individually to solve a page of word problems and then reviewing the three or four problems as a class, with my CT at the chalkboard recording the students’ solutions and different strategies. In Reading or Social Studies the class usually reads through the text book as a whole, taking turns reading as the teacher calls out different students names. Students then complete workbook pages individually and the teacher and class correct them aloud. All these lessons and the lessons in other subject areas are heavily based on the curriculum used by Maristas.

Like most schools, Maristas uses a curriculum across the different subject areas. In her planning and delivering of instruction, my CT seems to draw heavily and primarily from the curriculum, as is evidenced by the students’ constant use of workbooks and textbooks. This type of classroom compares differently to each of the classrooms I have taught at in previous pre-pracs. I have had a CT who used the curriculum but also a large mix of her own ideas and planning, and CT who frequently used the curriculum and only used some additional resources. And I have also had a CT who, like my current CT, taught primarily and almost exclusively from the curriculum and textbooks. That is not to say my CT refuses to waiver from the curriculum if it is not in the best interest of her students. For example, my CT told me how this year’s class has excelled in Reading, so much in fact that the curriculum books no longer provided her students with enough challenge. So along with the other two teachers of Segundo, my CT arranged to order more chapter books for the students and designed a unit around that book. I felt that this was the sign of a good teacher; although her method of teaching is usually to work from the curriculum, she was able to adapt her lessons to better meet the needs of her students.

All in all, I have been reminded in Granada that there are many different ways a student can be educated, and no one is necessarily better. The students in my CT’s classroom experience less interaction in their lessons than many US students, they work primarily out of text books and workbooks, and they don’t play educational “games” or activities. Nonetheless, the students do their work and they all seem to enjoy school in one way or another.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Typical Day at Riverview

Every time Kelly and I went to Riverview she and I would first check in with the headmaster of the school who would tell us our plan for the day. We would then sit in on one or two classes before morning tea. In these classes we would either sit in the back of the classroom and observe, or work with small groups of students as they completed a task assigned by the teacher. My favorite classes to sit in on were drama and music, where the students had the opportunity to display their talent and creativity – both of which they loved Kelly and I to pay special attention to. During morning tea Kelly and I would head to the teacher’s room where we had a bite to eat with the staff. This was a great opportunity for us to ask questions about anything that came to mind, allowing us to expand our knowledge about Riverview, the students, and teaching and learning in general. After morning tea we would sit in on another class before lunch and recess. We would again return to the teacher’s lounge for lunch before going outside to play with the boys. The boys were always active at recess, playing all different games – both Australian and American. This was a great time for Kelly and I to talk individually with the students, a time generally consumed by boys coming up to us and sharing every thing they knew about America or asking of us if we knew certain people from America. I always loved recess because I felt like it was one of the only times I could make personal relationships with students and learn from both talking with them and watching them play.

After recess, we moved to the auditorium for Friday assembly. Assembly was a time during which the entire fifth and sixth grade students and teachers got together to discuss pertinent things to the Riverview community. These could range from an issue of littering on the playground to a current natural disaster to an upcoming sporting event. It was also a time to pray and to recognize student accomplishments in either academics or athletics. After assembly we would attend one more class and then be dismissed for the day and head home after saying goodbye to the students and staff.

Comparing my typical day at Riverview to my previous practicum experiences, I notice very few similarities and quite a few differences. Unlike my American practicum experiences, at Riverview I did not have one single class and was always rotating around to different classrooms with different students. Although I love having my own classroom and getting to know the students in that class very well, I think that rotating through the Riverview classes was perfect for an abroad practicum. This way I got to see countless different teaching techniques, lessons and management skills and was able to learn a lot about the Australian curriculum. I also observed a lot more than I taught or worked with small groups, mainly because I did not have a set classroom but also because the boys are older than the students I usually work with and therefore did not require quite as much attention and guidance at every step in the day. Finally, I feel as though I got to spend a lot more time with the staff at Riverview than I have in previous placements which allowed me to make valuable and lasting relationships that will help me further develop my teaching skills. Although very different, I truly loved my time at Riverview and will never forget the lessons I learned or the students and staff I worked with in such a unique and welcoming community.

Promoting Equity & Social Justice at Riverview

One of the last times Kelly and I student taught at Riverview was on Reconciliation Day. Reconciliation Day is a day dedicated to recognizing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. It is a day that is meant to teach about their struggles in hopes of promoting equity and deepening understanding of their history and how their past affects their present day lives.

On this day, we were lucky enough to see an Aboriginal ceremony put on by the Riverview community. During this ceremony we first watched a slideshow outlining Aboriginal history leading up to Reconciliation day. After this, we heard from an elderly Aboriginal who told his family’s story of strife and struggle. During these parts of the ceremony, all of the Aboriginal students who board at Riverview’s high school sat in the front of the assembly wearing traditional Aboriginal clothing. They then each stood up to share their own personal stories, and then carried out a religious ritual followed by a series of Aboriginal dances. I thought that this was an incredible way for the Aboriginal student population to share their story with the rest of the Riverview community who responded to their performance with awe and respect.

Having the students talk about their culture and showcase it in this way reflected St. Ignatius Riverview’s mission to promote inclusion and openness. I think that the values Riverview instills upon its community promote equity and social justice and that celebrating Reconciliation Day by having their own community members perform helped to further emphasize these values. By working in such an environment, I learned the value of promoting equity and also picked up on a few ways to push for social justice in my own classroom. I think that one of the most essential ways to reach equity and social justice in a classroom setting is by ensuring the inclusion of everyone. I thereby aspire to teach all sides to every story, and to recognize all of the cultures represented not only by the students in my classroom but also by the school community in its entirety. Teaching at Riverview on Reconciliation Day was an especially valuable experience for me because I was able to learn a lot about the inequities present in Australian culture that I was previously unaware of. I thereby feel that I will be better able to teach about Australia or to Australians in a way that recognizes inequities and encourages pushing for social justice to replace them.