Thursday, September 29, 2011
Today was my last day at St. Vincent’s. I was sad to leave them after such a wonderful semester. The kids sang me a song about Robins and I received a wonderful gift from the staff. Everyone at this placement has been outstanding and I will miss their kindness immensely. I’ll even miss the typical day to day procedures, which I will outline below.
I usually walk to the school from Cork City center and arrive at 9am. The students arrive shortly after and I help them get settled before we begin the day’s lessons. My teacher does many small group activities. I manage the groups as we go over spelling, writing, and reading. My CT integrates technology through lessons on a SMARTboard and recordings on her CD player. The students love hearing words first and then shouting them back. Next there is the daily special which is an arts and crafts project, science activity, sing, dance, or gym. I love going with the students to special because you can see a whole different side of their characters. After the special is lunch-time and recess. Following this is a block of language instruction. The senior infant day ends at 2 and I head home at 2:30. It’s a short day but each minute is packed with excitement and learning. During this time I interact with students, teachers, and even some parents.Some challenges of this schedule are the transition moments. Most of the students do not have time to finish their whole lunch before recess begins so they walk outside with half a sandwich. Running around the playground with food in their mouth seems like a choking hazard to me, but its common practice here. As with any class, moving from one period to the next can be distracted and become a management issue. My CT handles this well, but getting up to leave the classroom for the special definitely ruins the last few minutes of class time because the students are so excited for dance or science. But besides these minor challenges, the day runs smoothly thanks to the great administration and staff that operates St. Vincent’s Primary School.
Today at St. Vincent’s all the students asked me where I would be traveling to on my holiday. I told them that THIS was my traveling holiday, in Ireland. They couldn’t believe it, that someone would come all the way to St. Vincent’s for a vacation. It reminded me of my last placement at the William E. Russell School in Dorchester. I told my students I would be studying in Ireland during the spring and they all asked, “What island?” which led to a big discussion on European geography.
There were many other similarities between my last placement and my teaching here, in Cork. In both experiences I worked with ELL students. To my surprise I learned that Cork has a very high immigrant population. My first day at school was spent with a teacher who specialized in ELL education. In Dorchester I was in an ELL classroom. It was comforting to find that both education systems valued the education and presence of other nationalities, races, and cultures through specialized services for these students. Another similarity is the collaboration between teachers. At first I thought the Russell school was unique in the united character of the staff. They checked in with each other and looked in on classrooms when teachers needed to be covered for a moment. In Cork the same mentality is present. Sitting with the teachers over lunch, I hear them offer advice and support to one another, just as I witnessed around the table in Dorchester.However the schools have differences as well. While the teachers have lunch, the oldest children in the school (about age thirteen) look after the youngsters. They become the adults of the classroom and are in charge of a class of twenty five-year olds. I don’t think I would find this situation at any of my previous placements. On a more positive note, the curriculum in Ireland allows for much more time spent on creative arts. The senior infants attend gym, dance, and sing multiple times each week. I think its essential for their comprehending and focusing abilities to allot for time to distress, which running around the gym, screaming (I mean singing) at the top of their lungs, or shaking their booties definitely fulfills.
A few more weeks have passed at St. Vincent’s and I already feel like a Cork local. The staff has been so welcoming and the children are calling me “Teacher!” This also means that I am responsible for helping my CT with classroom management. Because I spend most says with the senior infants, I have become more accustomed to the behavior of five-year olds. However, it is clear that my CT’s classroom is composed of a variety of learning styles and some behavioral issues. One student in particular is the cause of much disruption but my CT’s methods of handling and supporting his needs are very insightful.Unlike a time-out or similar isolation punishment, my CT has setup a thinking desk for this student, which contains manipulatives and books that refocus his energy and boisterous behavior. She has stickers for the student to arrange that plan and organize his activities. During these times I monitor and interact with him. After some time the student is ready to join the rest of the group. My CT is in the process of talking with specialists about the best way to support this student’s needs. Since this process is so sensitive and slow, I think she has done a wonderful job of keeping her class on schedule while simultaneously allowing other students to flourish in their own ways.
My name is Robin Miller. I’m studying in Cork, Ireland for the semester. I teach on Fridays at St. Vincent’s Primary School in Cork. My on my first day I walked to the wrong school, but no worries I figured it out eventually! I guess my first comment would be the surprising number of schools in the tiny neighborhoods of Cork City. It seems like they are everywhere! It’s also very easy to spot the school children because after 3pm the city turns into a mass of dark green, blue, and plaid, the typical school uniform colors.
After that small debacle I just mentioned, the rest of my first day went very well. I toured the school and met some of the teachers I will be working with. Besides the accents, the most striking thing I noticed was the influence of Irish culture within each classroom. I walked in on the senior infant class (five-year olds) singing in Gaelic about Ireland’s favorite flower, the daffodil. Every poster in the classroom had terms in English and Gaelic, the official language of the country.
Over heated conversation in the staff room during lunch, I learned that a major point in the current political debates was this national language. Gaelic education is mandatory in Irish primary schools. However, many feel that the language is outdated and barely used in today’s modern society. But for nationalists, Gaelic language represents the nation’s history and struggle for independence from England.But none of the senior infants were aware of this political debate while they repeated terms for backpack, crayon, and pencil in Gaelic. From my outside perspective, this influence of national character was refreshing but also daunting as I found myself trying to sound out this confusing Gaelic morphology.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Describe a typical day of teaching at your placement. Share some highlights and challenges you witnessed and/or experienced. Consider interactions with students, teachers, and faculty, experiences in and out of the classroom, schedules, cultural differences, etc.
This is my last week at Colegio Menor. I absolutely loved this experience and I truly hope to come back here next year after I graduate from BC. Every day was a new challenge and I learned so much. The amount of resources and support that was available to teachers was incredible and I can only hope that every school I teach at in the future has this.
At the beginning of every day the students are required to be sitting on the rug in the back of the classroom with a book. Gaby, my CT, allows me to conduct the read aloud and go over book reports every morning. I love this time with my students because they want to listen to me and hear what was happening in the book. They also love to share what they are reading. One girl is currently reading the 1st Harry Potter book in English while I am reading it in Spanish. We try to compare the story to make sure nothing was left out in the translations. It’s a great activity for the two of us to share together! While on the rug the students are expected to read silently and try to focus in on their books. I feel like some of the students I have here are reading harder books than kids in their grade in the United States!
After our morning ritual, we then return to our desks and get straight to work. My favorite time of the day is when we teach Mathematics because Gaby allows me to teach the lesson every day that I am in school (Mondays and Tuesdays). I have never had this constant teaching experience while at home so I think my lesson planning is improving, which is great because I am doing my full practicum next semester! Every day in Math we have a multiplication quiz where I give the students a paper with 20 multiplication facts on it and they need to complete it in a minute. Most students are good at this while there are others that have a hard time completing it in the allotted time. I know there are some studies out there that say this is not a very good teaching method but I believe I will use this in my classroom. Multiplication is so useful in all types of Math so it would not be beneficial to ignore it.
Last week I taught a lesson on metric and standard conversions. The metric system is much easier than ours in the United States! The students could not understand why anyone would use the standard system when it was so confusing. It was a funny lesson to teach because the standard system seems like second nature to me so I never took the time to realize how confusing it might be to my students. To start off the lesson, I read a passage about a King who wanted his wife’s bed to be 8 feet long…but literally the size of his foot. The students thought it was funny and it was a great way to bring their attention to the idea that 1 foot = 12 inches, not the size of your foot since everyone’s feet are different sizes! This week I am teaching division and hope to not jumble my words and confuse them even more than they already are!
After Math we teach writing and different strategies they can use while trying to write a paper in English. It is difficult for my students because the mistakes they make are not common ones the students make in the U.S. but they are very common for Spanish speaking individuals. For instance, in Spanish if you want to say a “crazy person” the adjective comes after the noun, “persona loca.” This is difficult for the students to comprehend so they always write “The person crazy came to my house but would not leave.” This is an example of the hardships they face while learning two different languages.
The kids are actually creating a 10 page long magazine. They get to choose any topic they want but they need to include certain types of writing in it. For example, they write a biography, autobiography, advertisement, and nonfiction article. It was great to see them write in all these different genres because it showed me that they were capable of writing a great piece of work. Plus, their illustrations were wonderful. I hope in the future to create a magazine like this with my students.
After writing, it is my time to go home. My walk back to my University is about 20 minutes but the sights are beautiful! I really hope after graduation I will be given the chance to come back to Colegio Menor and work as a full-time teacher. I love this school and all it has to offer its students, teachers, and faculty!
Describe how your classroom is managed (Standard C) at your placement. Consider classroom size, rules, expectations, discipline, etc.
Colegio Menor is not an inclusion school, which is very common in Ecuador. There are no Special Education students in the classroom and no one is on IEPs. This is different than in the United States but is still a valuable education to the students. My classroom has 20 kids. There is only one boy who is new to the school this year and he began in January when I arrived, too. It is great to see him making new friends and establishing a new routine with all new people.
When sitting on the rug, students are expected to be silent and reading individually. While at their desks, they are also supposed to be working individually. One of my least favorite rules here at Colegio Menor is that the students are not allowed to speak in Spanish if it is outside of their Spanish class time. My teacher actually writes “ENGLISH ONLY” on the board and erases a letter anytime she hears someone speaking Spanish. If all letters are gone the students receive extra homework. While I understand that the school is trying to better the students English, I feel that it is taking away from their home language. It is important to stay in touch with who you are and that is hard to do when you cannot even speak your own language. When I am at class in the University here in Quito all I want to do is speak in English. Sometimes I feel that it would be easier if a teacher could explain a topic to me in my language because I would learn it better. Although, I know there is no other way to learn a language other than speaking it all the time, which the teachers here are trying to say. Perhaps they could do it in a way that is not so harsh?
I do not view my teacher as strict but the students know that she means business when she walks into the room. She has an affectionate side to her that all can see but she likes to keep them on task. This is the kind of teacher I hope to be because I feel that this type of attitude accomplishes the most inside a classroom.
One other thing I love about my teacher is she is VERY organized. I have never met any teacher that is so on top of everything that they have to do. She is great about staying up to date with her website, writing her lesson plans for the upcoming weeks, and she is great at helping me. She allows me to work on my classroom management and is very hesitant to step in when I am in charge of the whole class. This week I was teaching a Math lesson when a group of boys would not stop talking. Instead of taking over and asking them to stop, she waited and allowed me to try to get them to stop. I used the wait time method and it was successful! During most of my past pre-practicums the teacher would always step in and never give me the chance to try out a new method I was taught at BC in a methods course.
One management idea that I saw on a school level was getting kids to think about being more environmentally friendly. In Ecuador the people are not allowed to drink from the tap so many students come in with disposable water bottles every day. My teacher took the time to teach a lesson to the entire “escuela primaria” (primary school grades 1-6) about recycling and how it will better the earth. One thing I wish I saw with this lesson was a bigger initiative to make this a rule on campus. The students would have done great with this if we told them that if they studied they would get extra recess time!
As a whole, the classroom management I have experienced in Ecuador is about the same that I have seen in the United States. I feel that my students here take me more seriously since I am a foreigner and they really want to hear what I have to say. I also think the fact that I am with them 2 days a week instead of 1 helps because they are able to see me as a more authoritative figure in the classroom.
How is the culture of the country you are teaching in reflected in the school?
Consider class subjects, discussions, classroom design, schedules, assessment, etc.
Today I walked into my classroom and was taken aback by the topics we were going to cover during our “Health Talk.” Once a month, one teacher in the school travels to every classroom and teaches each grade level about a different health aspect. My students were being taught about the dangers of smoking, drugs, and alcohol. While this seems like a normal lesson from the topics I just mentioned, it was not!
First off, the lesson was in Spanish. By now I am used to everything in Spanish since I speak it in my dreams. But, this day was different because I have never spoken Spanish with my students. They were all amazed that I was able to get anything out of the lesson and did not believe me when I told them I understood everything the visiting teacher had said. Some of them tested me to see if I was really paying attention, while others began to see me as an equal. I think it was nice for them to see that I was a struggling Spanish learner just as they were struggling English learners.
But back to the lesson, the smoking culture here in Ecuador is extremely different than in the United States. Here you are considered “chevere” (or cool in Spanish) if you smoke. If you are out at night and do not smoke you are considered an annoyance. Because of this many of my students parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and relatives all smoke. This is a terrible influence on the students at Colegio Menor because they are unable to see the implications of this action.
During the lesson the children began to get worried because they were being taught that smoking causes lung cancer, a very serious illness. The students asked questions such as, “Will my mom and dad die because they smoke?” It was sad to see because in the United States a lesson like this is innate and we do not even have to be taught this. The visiting teacher told them that their parents will be okay if the students go home and try to be advocates to get them to stop smoking. This solution made the most sense to me because a child is able to convince their parents to do almost anything if it has to do with their health. One girl in my class soon told everyone that she actually had made her mother stop smoking because she told her second hand smoke kills. An interesting thing I learned today was second hand smoke in Spanish is said “fumador passivo,” which a direct translation to English is a passive smoker. I believe this terminology teaches the youth of Ecuador that they are actually already smoking when their parents do it so they might as well take up the habit, too.
Drugs in Ecuador are everywhere and on most street corners. There are people trying to sell you drugs just to buy food for their family. Most of the students in Colegio Menor live a sheltered life in the country because they are wealthy. In this regard they are very lucky. The students were taught about cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and more. Most of the children have never heard of these drugs so they were not very interested in this topic.
When the teacher began to talk about alcohol there was a sudden burst of laughter in the classroom. Each student said that they have seen their parents after some drinks and they thought it was really funny. The lesson was mainly about teaching them the effects of drunk driving. In Ecuador, it is very easy to pay off a police man instead of getting a ticket. Because of this many of the wealthy believe that it is okay to drink and drive because they will not get into serious trouble because of it.
One student told a story of the time that they were at a family party and their father had drank a lot. Her grandmother told him that he was not allowed to drive his family home and they would have to stay the night. She viewed it as a fun sleepover at her grandparents, while the teachers and I viewed it as a teaching moment when we could share with the students how lucky the girl was to have such a thoughtful grandmother.
While this lesson taught me a lot about the Ecuadorian culture, I thought it was interesting how different this is than in the United States. At this age our students already know the negative effects of smoking, drugs, and drinking. My students in Ecuador were surprised by all of this, which was truly shocking to me.