Describe two differences and two similarities between teaching abroad and teaching in America. Consider teaching styles, classroom layout, schedules, collaboration between teachers, student requirements, etc.
Before arriving in Ecuador, I never took the time to research the school where I would be teaching. I was so worried about connecting with my host family and learning Spanish that I never searched the school on the Internet. While this is unlike me, I am so glad I approached the situation as I did. Upon arriving at Colegio Menor San Franciso de Quito, I was awe struck by the beauty of this school. It is set outside of Quito in a suburban neighborhood, Cumbayá. The school ranges from early childhood to high school and is upper class. The entire school is taught in English except for time dedicated to Spanish.
On our first day we were able to meet with the principle of the primary school and were assigned our cooperating teachers. I was going to work in a 4th grade classroom with a teacher named, Gaby Cocios. We also took a tour of the school and were able to meet different teachers, assistants, and staff around the campus. One of the biggest differences I noticed between teaching in the United States and in a private school in Ecuador is the availability of support. Last semester I taught in the Thomas Edison School in Brighton and their lack of resources was very evident. I always expected the same or worse to happen in the school I was going to teach at in Ecuador but I was wrong. The amount of resources that are available to the teachers at Colegio Menor is outstanding. I suppose a reason is because the students need to pay a hefty tuition to attend the school. During our tour we were brought to the Teacher Resource Room, which is lined with maps, posters, books, colored pencils, movies, and anything else you can think of. Each grade has a section in the Teacher Resource Room and teachers are able to come in at any time to check out any resources they need. From my experience last semester, I learned the importance of having an endless supply of materials because the Thomas Edison did not even have crayons to give the Kindergarteners during Science class. On top of this, Colegio Menor also has a room dedicated to the sciences that is crowded with different experiments. I really believe students are able to learn more when there is more space, supplies, and support from the school.
My classroom in Colegio Menor with Gaby also shows the importance of space and availability of materials. Gaby has a separate location in the room that is completely dedicated to reading. Depending on what she is teaching each week she changes the books that are on display in the classroom. Each teacher is also given a website that they are required to keep up-to-date. Because of this the students are never able to say they did not receive assignments because they were not in school. It is the job of the teacher to upload every worksheet, workbook page, and homework assignment to the web. I know some teachers choose to do this in the United States but I have never heard of it being a requirement. I feel that it is beneficial for the students because they are able to go online if they have any doubts. It is helpful because it becomes the responsibility of the student instead of the teacher.
Another major difference between Colegio Menor and the schools I have taught at in the United States is they do not use a letter grade system. After a certain time period the teachers have individual meetings with the student’s parents and let them know about their son or daughter’s progress. Each teacher keeps a number grade in his or her grade book but never lets the student see this. The student is either doing good, normal, or poor work. This type of grading seems fair at first glance but it is important that students who are doing extremely well are rewarded for their efforts and I think this goes unnoticed with a grading system like this. On top of this a student who is doing poorly may feel that they are doing normal work. While a letter and number grade encourage competitiveness, it is valuable for the students to see how they are truly doing in school.
My first day at Colegio Menor was better than I imagined. The faculty and staff are so welcoming and the availability of resources makes me truly excited for my semester here! I cannot wait to get up and teach my first lesson with my students but I do hope they do not ask me to speak in Spanish because it is still terrible!