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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Observing Classes at San Rafael

This week at San Rafael I observed three of my cooperating teacher’s classes, and realized even more so just how different a classroom in my Spanish school is different than the classrooms of previous classrooms I have observed in the United States. To begin, the students in the three different classes were 12, 13, and 14-years old respectively and all three classes were English language classes. One of the first differences I noticed was the way my cooperating teacher began class. Instead of a more formal introduction to class with a greeting and laid out objectives, my CT just told the students to quiet down and open their workbooks and then started going over some of the homework exercises. The classes were pretty well behaved and thus, followed directions pretty well with minimal side conversation. The whole class was spent going over homework exercises, doing other workbook exercises in class, and then going over those. Each of the three classes worked out of their workbook the whole time. Thus, the way my CT plans and delivers instruction is different from the more structured and varied activities I have seen in my previous classrooms. In addition, the materials in the classroom are different since the main material is a workbook and a chalkboard. In my opinion, the lack of materials is a challenge that my CT teacher faces. I am not quite sure about the financial grounds the school stands on, but it does not seem like money is plentiful, especially since Spain is in an economic crisis currently. Thus, the access to materials such as computers, different resources for lessons, materials available to students, etc., seems limited.

Moreover, the idea of discipline is definitely different from that in the United States. In most of my previous classrooms, my cooperating teachers used different techniques to maintain a disciplined classroom and to keep students on task such as moving around the classroom, calling on students to keep them focused, etc. The way of keeping students on task is a little different here in Spain is a little different. If a student is talking out of turn, the teacher will make a comment about how he/she could not possibly be doing the activity if he/she is using her mouth to talk like that. The student does not take this comment as a mean one, rather goes back to working because he/she knows the purpose of the comment is to keep him/her on task. However, to the outsider observing the classroom it can come off as a little cold. The teacher explained to me that because the students sit in groups as a result of the cooperative learning technique the school follows, the students can more easily get out of hand and thus it is necessary to make sure students stay on task and do not talk in class by calling them out for it.

Another difference that I have mentioned in previous posts is the different attitude about grades and testing. Since there is not as an emphasized value placed on tests, the lessons are not as finely tuned or geared toward achieving a purpose. This attitude also affects the environment of the classroom. To me it seems less stressed about learning for a test and more about learning to learn. Participation in the class is very good and students are eager to answer questions if they know the answer. All in all, observing a class at San Rafael is definitely an eye-opening experience and very different from an American classroom.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Greetings from Spain!

Hello! I am placed at San Rafael in Madrid with the "Infantil" group and it has been lovely so far. Studying in Spain, living in Spain, and then being exposed to the education system here, I have been able to notice some cultural differences that exist both in and outside of the school. First difference (may not seem that significant, but it was to me at the time) I noticed was the "bobby's" that all of the young kids were wearing. In the Infantil age group, the students wear their uniforms and another smock-like robe over the regular uniforms. It looks much stranger than it sounds. It is checkered and made with very 'playful'-like (non academic) colors. The teachers are also wearing a larger version of this "bobby" over their normal clothes and I really feel like I am in a different world, let alone a different country. Of course, my first very insightful and thoughtful question to my CT is, "Why do students and teachers wear these smocks?" She replies very matter-of-factly, "So their clothes don't get dirty." Oh, okay. Makes sense.

This led to further conversation about how the Spanish school system works. Because of the growing ex-pat population and Spain's transition into a more global economy and culturally globalized nation, there is an effort to make all of the schools in Madrid bilingual. This is huge for finding adequate teachers who can speak and teach in English, finding native English speakers who can come in to teach and help out in the classroom, parents finding English tutors, and a change in the whole school system. I noticed in my second visit that here in Spain, they use a lot of resources and materials from the UK. Teachers are either from the UK or taught by the UK in English. The CT "read" a story to the students by playing a recording provided by the teachers guide. It was all in an English accent, complete with, "Mummy! Grah-ny!" It was very interesting to see not only the English language differences, but how much the CT went "by the book". The school is still in their very early stages of their change to a bilingual education so motions by the CT, materials, recordings, and lesson plans are all from the book. I guess these books make it more systematic and accessible to the "masses", or to all the schools of Madrid, where some of the teachers still may not be too comfortable with English. This specific school was lucky enough to hire an entirely different English teacher who came in and replaced the regular classroom teacher for an hour a day, but I can see how not every school can provide this. 

Random side note that I want to include: The students raise their hands with their pointer fingers. Very cute.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Lesson about American Thanksgiving

            Today I gave my first lesson in my class at South Coogee School.  Since the students are learning about different types of celebrations, my teacher asked me to teach about American Thanksgiving.  I spent time discussing with my CT what aspects of Thanksgiving she would like me to teach about.  She said she would like to hear about a basic history of the holiday, as well as any symbols and traditions that go along with the holiday.  Since these students have no prior knowledge of Thanksgiving, I had to keep all of my information simple and interesting.
            To begin my lesson, I asked the students to go around and say something they are thankful for.  I felt this was a good way to introduce the first-graders to the main theme of Thanksgiving: giving thanks.  Most of the students said they were thankful for their families and friends.  A few students even said they were thankful for their school!  After this opening activity, I showed a PowerPoint presentation with a few slides discussing the Pilgrims and Native Americans.  I used maps and pictures to illustrate what I was talking about.  I also did a slide that had Thanksgiving symbols, such as a turkey and a pilgrim hat.  I asked a few students to tell me what they thought the meaning of each symbol was.  I was impressed with the knowledge the students had gained during my presentation.  To close my presentation, I showed them a video clip of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.  I thought this was a good way to connect the history of Thanksgiving to the present day celebration.  The students loved the video!  The variety of visuals/activities during my presentation held their attention.
            After the presentation, I showed the students how to make hand turkeys.  They all traced and cut out their handprints.  The students then glued feathers onto their hand turkeys and colored them.  Once everyone finished their hand turkeys, my CT and I glued the turkeys on a poster that said “Happy Thanksgiving.”  The poster is now displayed proudly outside our classroom!  To close a successful lesson, my CT brought in apple pie to share with the class.  I explained to the students that apple pie is a common autumn food (I also explained that the seasons in the U.S. are opposite the seasons in Australia) in the United States and that many people eat apple pie at Thanksgiving.
            Overall, I really enjoyed teaching my lesson.  The students responded wonderfully to a holiday they had never heard of before.  My CT told me that most Australians only know about Thanksgiving from watching American movies so she enjoyed learning about the holiday from me.  The students were interested in hearing about my own Thanksgiving traditions with my family.  This lesson was a great way to share my own culture with my Australian students!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Classroom Management at San Rafael

Classroom management is probably the aspect of Spanish school that is most different from that of schools in the United States. In my previous pre-practicum in Boston, my cooperating teachers definitely emphasized classroom management more so than my two cooperating teachers do here as well as other teachers in general. Since San Rafael is a school for children of infant age to 18-year-old students the classroom management, setup, and structure seems to vary widely.

In terms of one of my cooperating teachers, his classes are relatively large, at around thirty-five students, who all sit at desks in rows and the size of the class seems too big for the size of the classroom. There is a blackboard at the front of the room, which all of the student desks face, and windows along one side of the room. When the teacher enters the room he usually has to ask the students to quiet down a couple of times before they start paying attention, but after that they listen. In this English language class, students usually work from a workbook while the teacher stands up in the front of the room at the blackboard.

In a different cooperating teacher’s class, there are only seventeen students of eighteen years of age, in a classroom that is large enough sized for the class. The eighteen-year-olds in this class are the oldest students at the school and are in their last year of secondary education. According to my cooperating teacher, they are placed in this specific English class because it is the only foreign language class available that works with their schedules. My cooperating teacher has a harder time of getting this particular group to focus and to speak English instead of Spanish in class and among themselves. Students digress more easily into side conversations in their native language, Spanish, and are less willing to try and speak English than some of the younger students at San Rafael. My cooperating teacher will ask each student individually if they are digressing or speaking Spanish to try to speak in English, but the students will usually return to speaking Spanish after a few minutes.

My cooperating teacher never raises her voice at the students, but does become exasperated at times when they do not follow instructions. For example, the other day my cooperating teacher had assigned a vocabulary worksheet for homework and wanted to go over it, but only a few of the students had brought it to class. My cooperating teacher was obviously annoyed at the fact that very few people had brought it to class, but it didn’t seem like there was any expectation for the students to have the homework in class with them. Thus, she changed the lesson to conversation groups instead.

The classroom management at San Rafael is definitely different than the classroom management I have observed in previous pre-practicums, which makes the learning environments different too. Whereas in the United States I have observed the motivation to learn for many students to be a grade, in Spain the students who want to learn do so for the sake of learning. Since there is less of a focus on outcomes and result-based outcomes, students seem to care more about learning because they are interested instead of for receiving a grade. Being able to observe both conceptions of classroom management has definitely been a worthwhile experience in terms of seeing what aspects of each classroom works and which don’t.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

San Rafael: Student Teaching in Madrid, Spain

Hello! My name is Katharine and I am studying secondary education and Hispanic studies at Boston College, with hopes of becoming a high school Spanish teacher. This fall, I am spending my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain and am using this blog to highlight some of my student teaching experiences during my time here! Although I want to teach Spanish, this semester I am student teaching in an English language classroom at Colegio San Rafael in Madrid.

Throughout my first two weeks at San Rafael, I have noticed several similarities and differences between teaching abroad and teaching in the United States in terms of teaching styles, class structure and size, and student/teacher interaction. To begin, the teaching style that I have observed at school is very different than that of the US. This semester I am working with two CT’s in different English classes, and I have noticed that the style of teaching is very laid back and the lesson plans are less structured causing class work or activities to change or be altered during the class. In contrast to the United States, the teaching style I have observed in Spain is one in which the teachers and students are not focused on a final assessment or an end result, rather they are focused on what they are learning that moment in the class and why it is important to them. I think since there is not much emphasis on a final grade or exam, students are more willing to work in the classroom solely because they want to learn, not in order to pass a final or get a good mark at the end of the year. Thus, although the laid back attitude of the teachers and classroom structure is very different from that of many teachers and classrooms in the US, it seems to have a positive influence on the students’ learning.

Additionally, I pay particular attention in observing the students at my placement and how the class size and teacher interaction influence their learning. The average class size of the English classes is about 20 students or less per class. In a language class, I think it is very important to maintain small class sizes so that all the students feel comfortable with each other and are willing to participate without anxiety or fear of making a mistake. From taking 6 years of Spanish, I know that speaking out during class in a different language can be very frightening for fear of pronouncing a word wrong or completely misinterpreting a question, but I observed that my CT’s have worked hard to make the classroom as comfortable as possible for the students. Additionally, in some of the younger grades, the classrooms are organized in groups of 3 or 4 students in a new cooperative learning approach. As a foreign language teacher, it is vital to create a supportive classroom that meets the needs of the mixed class, and I believe having smaller groups of cooperative learning communities is a great way to do that. In my past pre-pracs, I would arrange the classroom in groups or circles when doing language-learning activities because it gives students the chance to learn from and with their peers, while creating a comfortable environment necessary for learning. Thus, it is interesting to see the approach the teachers at San Rafael take in terms of class structure.

Finally, the teacher to student interaction in Spain is very different than in the United States, which affects the way the classroom functions. All of the students call their teachers by their first name, which creates an informal relationship between the teacher and the student. Also, many students do not raise their hand when asking a question, and treat the teacher as a peer. This is not to say that the students are disrespectful of the teachers, however the interaction is much more relaxed and informal than in schools in the United States. This affects how the classroom functions both positively and negatively. First, the informality of the classroom can make classroom management difficult. My CT expressed to me that she has a hard time controlling some of the students in her class because they do not think it is necessary to bring their materials to class, to do their homework, or to participate in classroom discussion. On the other hand, that same idea of a laid-back classroom setting is reflected in the informality between teachers and students, which brings positive results. I have observed that many students level of comfort with their teachers allows them to participate more freely in the classroom (especially important in a language class!) as well as feel comfortable asking the teacher questions or for help.

Overall, there are both similarities and differences between teaching abroad and in the United States in terms of teaching styles, class structure and size, and student/teacher interaction. For me, it is very interesting and educational to observe these similarities and differences and see how different techniques and approaches either positively or negatively influence student learning in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My CT's Techniques

           After a two week school vacation, the students at South Coogee P.S. came back ready to start the fourth quarter of the school year.  The school year is split into four quarters, with this final quarter ending around Christmas.  The students spent the morning of their first day back writing in their journals and drawing pictures describing what they did on their breaks.  Some students stayed around Sydney and had play dates with each other while other students traveled to places such as Fiji, Bali, and Argentina!  I enjoyed listening to all the students tell about their adventures over the break.  I like how my CT transitioned the students back to school from their break with an activity that allowed them to discuss their breaks in an academic way.  One of the qualities that I most admire about my CT is her ability to incorporate academics with other activities (for example: crunch and sip for snack time/news sharing).
            My CT, as well as other teachers I have observed at South Coogee, has wonderful classroom management skills.  My CT never raises her voice in the classroom.  Even when the classroom gets rowdy, she always manages to quiet the students down while keeping her voice calm and at a normal level.  She uses sayings such as “one, two, three, eyes on me” to grab the students’ attention.  The students respond to her with “one, two, eyes on you.”  The students then know to stop what they are doing and give their teacher their undivided attention.  I feel that a teacher should be a calming presence in the classroom and not someone that the students are afraid of.  My CT does a great job of relaxing the students and keeping them on task without raising her own voice.
            I also learned that each quarter at school has a theme.  This quarter, the theme is celebrations around the world.  I was very excited when my CT asked me to prepare a lesson about American Thanksgiving.  She said that most Australians do not know anything about Thanksgiving because there is no equivalent of our Thanksgiving in Australia.  Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I’m very excited to introduce my students to this holiday.  The teacher was asking me activities that I could do with the students as well as providing a basic history of Thanksgiving.  This is a great opportunity for me to explain a unique aspect of my own culture that these students might not otherwise learn about. 
            My class participates in a lot of group work everyday.  The teacher makes the groups so that the students get the chance to work with different kids.  I facilitated a reading group on my first day at the school.  This involved reading through a workbook with four students and helping them to answer questions based on the reading.  A few days later, I was in charge of a math group.  Each table in the classroom had a different math game and the students rotated from table to table.  My game was a math bingo game that tested the students’ addition skills.  The hardest part of group work is keeping the students focused on their tasks.  During the math stations, the movement from table to table sometimes distracted the students.  Whenever I got a new group at my bingo game, I had to remind the students to think about what they were doing and try and improve their addition skills.  The benefit of group work, however, is that I get the chance to work more closely with each student.  I get to know their academic strengths and weaknesses better.

First Impressions of South Coogee Public School

            Hi! My name is Kelly and I am student teaching this semester in a first grade classroom at South Coogee Public School in Sydney, Australia.  Even though South Coogee is a public school, all of the students where uniforms everyday.  I learned from my CT that all schools in Australia, both public and private, require students to wear uniforms.  Wearing uniforms is meant to remind the students that they are in school and that their behavior and work should reflect where they are.  On my first day, my CT asked me to explain to the students how I had never worn uniforms in my schools in the U.S.  The students were very surprised to hear this and this discussion inspired the first-graders to ask me more about my life in America.
            Throughout my first day at South Coogee P.S., I tried to make comparisons in my mind about the differences between Australian and American schools.  My students here rarely sit in desks.  There is a lot of interaction and hands-on activities going on in the classroom.  They often work in groups.  They have a “morning tea break” around 11am which gives the students an opportunity to have a morning snack and play outside for half an hour.  Around 1:15pm, the students are given a lunch break for 45 minutes that allows more time to play outside.  My CT told me that Australians believe in movement and interaction by the students throughout the day.  They are still young and need to release their energy in a productive manner. 
            My CT also created an activity called “crunch and sip.”  This activity is snack time with news announcements made by a few students each day.  Every student is assigned a day where he/she writes up an announcement about any topic he/she chooses.  While the students have snack time around 10am, the students present their announcements.  I thought “crunch and sip” was a great idea because it gives the students time to rest and reenergize without completely shutting down the learning in the classroom.  The day keeps moving with the news presentations and keeps the kids’ minds thinking. 
            My favorite part of my first day was journal time.  After a spelling lesson, the students got their journals and were given 20 minutes to write about any topic they wanted.  I liked walking around to see what the students were writing about and some even drew pictures to go along with their stories!  One little girl came over to me when she was done and asked if she could read me what she wrote.  Since the public schools were going on a break the following two weeks, this girl wrote about her upcoming trip to America!  She was so excited to read me all about her plans for San Diego.  When she was finished reading me her journal, she asked if San Diego was near where I lived in America.  I said that San Diego was on the other side of the country from where I was from but I was still very happy that she was going to my home country.  Even though it was my first day at South Coogee P.S., I felt so welcomed by this little girl and the rest of the class.  These students had just met me, yet they were just as interested in learning about my life and culture as I was about theirs!

A Typical Day at San Rafael

Since I split my five hours over two days a week, I go to San Rafael on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. after my own morning class and on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. However, there have been some random Wednesdays when my university classes have been cancelled and I have been able to go for some full days, which have been good to get a look at how a typical day of school runs at San Rafael. Generally, on Wednesdays I arrive at school while the kids are on their mid morning break which is from 11:10 a.m. until 11:40 p.m. Following the break I accompany one of my cooperating teachers to a series of classes that last until 2:30 p.m. and range in age from fourteen-years-old to eighteen-years-old. Most of the time the cooperating teacher will assign me a group to have a conversation class with students, since English class here in Spain resembles more of the equivalent to a foreign language class in the United States. The cooperating teacher usually advises me ahead of time some relevant lesson plan topics and I prepare some activities to facilitate conversation among the students and tailor the activity for each class I have, with the help of my cooperating teacher, based on the age and English language level of the students. Having back-to-back classes of varying ages makes it really interesting and educational for me to see the different English language levels and what types of activities do and do not work effectively for each level and each dynamic of the class.

I am fortunate enough to have to cooperating teachers and alternate weeks between them. For my other cooperating teacher, I usually have the opportunity to plan lessons about American culture by request of the cooperating teacher, for the entire class of students of eighteen years of age. This class has simultaneously yielded some of the most challenging and enriching experiences for me. For example, one of the first times I was in this particular class my cooperating teacher had me talk about myself and explain to the students what I was doing in Spain and tell them about my life back in the United States, about my family, what I study, etc. Afterwards, the students told me about themselves and were asking me all about the United States. Interestingly enough, the students were most curious about American politics and foreign affairs, which let to a challenging discussion for me and revealed to me a lot regarding the image of the United States abroad. I got asked questions such as why the United States is in Iraq, why the U.S. is in the Middle East and if they are there for only oil and money, why the U.S. spends more money on military arms than humanitarian aid, etc.

In addition, it was challenging to get the students to only speak in English, as is the purpose of the class. The students were extremely intelligent and well informed, but were struggling to say all they wanted to say in English, as their first language is Spanish. Thus, it was hard to keep them speaking English. At the same time, I could also recognize the frustrating feeling of having an observation or something to say in class but not being able to translate it well or spit out what I’m trying to say in Spanish because I feel this way all the time in my own classes, which are taught in Spanish. However, when a student would try and succeed in getting a whole question out in English with the meaning in tact and everyone else could understand what he/she was saying there was a common feeling of achievement and satisfaction, which was extremely exciting to see.

Equally enriching was when a student would ask a question about something in the United States that is different in Spain and I would explain how whatever it was works in the United States and then they would explain to me how it works in Spain and a kind of cultural exchange occurred. For example, a student asked me why there are so many flags in public in the United States, so I explained that hanging a flag is a sign of patriotism and a way to express it. The students then explained to me that people do not think of flags the same way in Spain because of the dictatorship and right wing political party of Franco, with which the national flag of Spain is associated. The party used the national flag as a symbol and marked fellow right wing houses and followers with the national flag. Thus, in Spain it is socially frowned upon to have a flag hanging in public, because it connotes association with the former dictatorship. In fact, one of the students had gotten in trouble once for bringing a flag to school. The only time that the national flag is generally seen is at athletic events.

Moreover, the class and I found this among many other differences very interesting and the whole discussion and exchange was very enriching. In fact, all my interaction with students and teachers and faculty thus far has been extremely positive as the teachers and faculty are very open to teaching and helping me and the students are open to learning. Thus, I look forward to the rest of my time and the interactions, both challenging and enriching, to come at San Rafael.

How the Spanish Culture is Reflected in the School

The Spanish culture is reflected in the school through numerous ways, which include class subjects, classroom layout, class schedules, and lesson plans. To begin, the class subjects offered at my school in Madrid, Spain are influenced by the fact that Spain is surrounded by a multitude of other countries that speak a different language. Thus, there is a necessity for speaking language besides Spanish in a way that is different than the emphasis placed on foreign languages in secondary and elementary schools in the United States. In my school, San Rafael, students have English language c classes everyday as well as French classes. In addition, the school is preparing to teach the subject of history in English in the near future, which shows how the geographical culture of Spain demands knowledge and an emphasis on foreign languages.

Furthermore, the classroom design in my Spanish school reflects the more laidback atmosphere and attitude of teachers in Spain. My school has students from infancy until when they graduate the American equivalent of high school. The kids younger than approximately 7th grade and the students older than freshmen in school sit in rows in the classroom. Those students in the middle grades sit in groups of threes or fours because they are part of an experimental learning technique called cooperative learning, according to my cooperative teacher.

Moreover, the schedule of classes is built around when the Spanish people eat in their culture. For example, in Spain breakfast generally consists of coffee and bread. The main meal of the day is lunch or “la comida”, which can occur anytime between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Then, dinner is a smaller meal that occurs at 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. This focus on lunch as the main mean is part of the culture and reflected in the class schedule because school starts at 9:00 a.m. and there is a break in classes for breakfast at around 11:00 a.m. After this break the students go back to class until 2:30 p.m. when they all go home for “la comida”.

So far I have also noticed that lesson plans and class activities are less structured than they are in schools in the United States. There is an expression in Spain, “mañana” meaning tomorrow. This expression describes the general Spanish attitude. There is not an intense value placed on the end result of “grades” and assessments. For this reason, teachers are not as receptive to individual students. I have also noticed this general attitude in my professors at the university I attend in Madrid. This trait of the Spanish school reflects the attitude of the Spanish culture, which is less focused on results and is more laidback. In essence, success is defined in a different way. The Spanish schools are not as focused on results-based success and do not place the same emphasis on test scores and grades and what colleges students get into as the United States does. Spanish students take public examinations in the last year of their secondary education to determine what they are best at and go to university for what they want to study. The less intense emphasis on what school students get into or what they grades they get seems to influence them positively as they all the students I have encountered in my class are interested in learning just for the sake of learning. In conclusion, many aspects of my Spanish school are infused with elements of the Spanish culture whether it is in terms of geography, eating schedule, or societal attitudes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

English Class

There are a number of ways in which my teacher organized the classroom schedule to maximize time for student learning. She worked hard to ensure that students would be able to learn a large amount of information and for them to also have a solid grasp of this information before they left the classroom. On some days, she asked them to complete homework assignments concerning the grammar exercises involved with English. Every two weeks represented a new topic for the students. My teacher would first explain the topic to them, and then have them do exercises that would help them practice this new concept both at home and in the classroom. My CT collaborated with the other English teachers in the school and discussed new exercises that were more appealing for the students. Many of the children in my class were reading short stories that introduced advanced vocabulary about the human body, the solar system, the sea and the rain forest.
Often during the short 45-minute classroom periods my teacher would ask the students to read these different stories aloud. She would then ask them comprehensive questions that they were to explain in English. From the students’ answers from both portions, she could have an understanding of whether or not the students felt confident with material that was being presented to them.
     My CT was extremely creative with the students. She liked to play games with the students that would be enjoyable for them, but also would help to further their understanding. One of the most creative exercises I believe she executed was a game that the was entitled “hot chair.” The students would beg my teacher to play this game every class. The game began with a student who sat in the front of the whole classroom, unable to look at the chalkboard. My teacher would pick a student for the chair and then write a particularly challenging vocabulary word from that week’s lesson on the board. After this was finished, the other students in the classroom would have to explain or describe different definitions for the word written on the board until the student in the chair was able to guess the word. My teacher also liked to play different “chants” based on the different topics that were presented to the students. At one point in my teaching, I created my own rap about Space; describing the elements of the solar system for the students to learn! The students would sing along to the rap while learning the vocabulary words. My teacher also occasionally played The Beatles songs for the students to sing along to in order to better pronounce their vowels. The song “Ob la di Ob la da” was a particular favorite! She would also create a test for each topic they completed. The same test would be administered to the students with different teachers. These would represent a more formal assessment of each student’s progress. 

Classroom Management in Greece

     The classroom management techniques that my teacher used in her classroom were very similar to those I have experienced in my pre-practicums in the US. The fourth and fifth grade classrooms were much like those in the US, containing children of an age that is full of energy! My teacher had quite a challenge keeping the children inside the classroom as they were very rambunctious. My teacher didn’t believe in a very strict discipline with the students, as she was very good hearted. However, she had a wonderful way of managing the classroom so that the students would show her a large amount of respect. She had a strike system—at the beginning of each class she wrote “3 strikes” on the board. If a student misbehaved, talking out or was disruptive in the classroom, she would write the students name under the strikes with a number next to the student’s name. If the student received 3 strikes then they would have to stay in for recess and have a talk with the gym instructor. The school’s gym teacher was a very intimidating and tough teacher in the school. Many of the students were affected positively by this system. They made sure to behave in order to not lose their recess, a time which they cherished and also to avoid the gym teacher’s scolding.
            My CT would also offer different rewards to the students if they completed assignments well, or if they were being particularly well behaved in the classroom for the day. A long-term reward for the students was giving them an opportunity to have a pizza party at the end of the year. She applied the strike system to the entire classroom. If the classroom misbehaved they got a strike, if they got 3 strikes as a class they wouldn’t be allowed to have the pizza party. My teacher also had a large bucket of candy that she kept behind her desk. She would often give it to the students if they answered a question correctly, or won one of the games that we played in the classroom. I think a large portion of my teacher’s management skills were do to the fact that she treated all of the students in the classroom with respect. She was always optimistic and caring with each of the students in the classroom and it was very evident that the students in the classroom internalized this and so were respectful to her in return.

A typical day teaching in Greece

The English classes that I volunteered in met each day for 45 minutes. I would usually go to teach during gaps in my own class schedule. The two classes that I was part of the most in my experience at Anatolia were a fourth and fifth grade classroom. Each class had about 20 students in it. Each grade within the school had two different classes of students. All of the students that I was able to interact with were perhaps the most enthusiastic students that I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I’m not sure if it was because I have never had experience working with 4th and 5th graders in America or if it was because of the differences in culture, but this group of students had the most energy I have ever seen! They were all particularly thrilled with learning the English language, and also seemed eager to learn in general.
            A normal day would begin at about 8 am and end at 2:30 pm. The fourth and fifth grade students at the school usually have their normal academic classes such as Math, Greek (equivalent to American students’ language arts classes) History, French (the students were learning to speak French fluently along with English), and finally an English class. The class schedule varied each day. Instead of having long breaks such as lunch and recess breaks that we have in the American school system, the Greek students have breaks for about 15 minutes four times a day. It gives them the opportunity to go outside in between lessons and play. During their break time, the students would frequently play “football.” The students were particularly engrossed with this sport, called Soccer in America. “Football” is an extremely popular sport in Greece and so the students are very competitive with one another when they play. The elementary school scheduled games for the students to play in tournaments against other classes. One day, classes were cancelled because a “football” game was being held!
            This is very much an example of the Greek culture in the schools. It is very different from American school systems in that the schedules were determined on a daily basis. Sometimes classes would be cancelled because of different events or sometimes the teachers wouldn’t know if classes would be happening. One of my favorite aspects of the Greek culture is the importance of community and celebration of their own culture in the schools.
            Everyday my teacher would change student activities in order to make learning more exciting for them. On Fridays, the students were given the opportunity to pick a topic that was of interest to them and present this topic to the classroom. One Friday I was able to observe this presentation, and watched one of my fourth grade students present his topic on the deep sea. I have never seen a student so interested and excited to share his knowledge about a particular topic. It was an extremely rewarding experience to be a part of.

Teaching in Greece!

Hello! My name is Hannah I am a student in the Lynch School and have created this blog to track my teaching experience abroad! I am teaching in Thessaloniki, Greece at the Anatolia Elementary School. The school's predominant language is Greek, because I do not speak Greek I have been placed in an English learning classroom. The following reflect some of my experiences! 

       The classroom that I volunteer in for student teaching is one based solely on educating Greek students about the English language. Through my experience teaching in this school I learned many factors about the English language that I had never known before. There are many different versions of the English language outside of the United States that I had never considered to be learned by others. There is the American English, the British English, the Irish English and many many others. The curriculum for this department was based on teaching the students both the American English and also the British English. Since the school that I student teach in is a private school, it is very important for the students in this school to learn English and to become fluent in English before they graduate and enter into the high school.
            In the 6th grade, students are required to take an intensive exam that they must pass in order to be accepted into the higher grades and most importantly the high school. A large portion of this test is focused on the writing and understanding of the English language. This is why the English department within the elementary school is of much importance to the school. The students in my classroom because they are older are quite fluentThey are able to carry on conversations and understand the English language very well. It was interesting for me to help instruct in this environment as many of the sentences and phrases that we use grammatically in America are different in each country. Phrases that involve “have got” are stated differently. In American English for example: “Bobby got a new bike”, and in British English: “Bobby have gotten a new bike.” It certainly took some getting used to in order to help the students in their understanding.
            At first, it was also challenging for me to socialize with the students because they were not familiar with the “American slang” that we sometimes take for granted in the English language of our country. There were a few times when I would enter the classroom and ask the students “How’s it going?” or say “Hi guys, what’s up?” my questions would be met with a blank stare. Even though they were very familiar with the English language they only knew the formal statements for conversations. Throughout my time teaching at the school I was able to become more comfortable with the students and learn more about their lives.
            This year the school is implementing a new program for teaching English. For many years teaching English was based on lectures and written examinations. This year, under a new English program coordinator, the school worked with a program that proved to be much more hands on. It provided students with workbooks that had practice exercises, a series of storybooks about science and history, and finally computerized “chants” that provided the students with a musical basis for learning. It was a great experience for me to be a part of this change, as the teachers were just getting used to this new program and also were working to adjust the students to this new program.