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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Differences and Similarities

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.

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