E-Mail: intlprac@bc.edu or SKYPE us: bc.prac.office

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Scottish Culture and Views on Education

After reading through a lot of other people’s posts there seems to be a big difference between U.S. schools and people’s placement schools.  While I did notice differences at my school in Scotland the contrast was not so drastic.  This is probably because the cultures in the respective countries are somewhat closer.  Despite the many similarities in U.S. and Scottish schools, the education system in Scotland is distinct and unique. 
At the University of Glasgow I took a course focused on the history and development of the Scottish education system.  It was really interesting to learn about public schooling in Scotland, as it is one of the oldest public systems in the world.  The system values comprehensive education and low government control of curriculum.  There are still standards that schools are expected to meet, but individual schools have much great autonomy than other schools in the U.K.   These ideals were definitely evident in my placement school.  There was a lot of room for creativity in lessons and teachers were encouraged to teach students about nontraditional subjects.  For example one class I worked in was doing an entire lesson on Hollywood.  The students learned about the entertainment industry and made there own movies in groups.  
Overall, I think the style of education in Scottish public schools reflects the country’s culture and a respect for the history of education in the country.  I would say that education is almost universally valued in the United States.  However, in Scotland, that promotion of education is taken to a higher level.  All public university are free to attend, the government will subsidize the cost of living for many students at university.  Students receive a full four years of higher education paid for by the government.  Clearly the culture shows a high appreciation for learning. 

Being Back in the States

So being back in the States has been great thus far and I've had some time to think about my time teaching abroad. In writing the Letter to Future Teacher and attending the workshops for my upcoming P2, I see some major differences in the education system here in America and the education system in Spain. At times, I was very critical and judgmental comparing the two systems, but I really shouldn't be. Even at the university, the Spanish students and the American students treated school very differently and learned in very different ways but it was learning all the same. We have to be open minded by how a certain culture approaches education in the same way we have to be open minded by how a culture does anything else. Learning some of the strategies in the Read Aloud Training Session and the Classroom Management Sessions, I realized that a lot of the stuff we were learning would not really be appropriate for the Spanish classroom and the Spanish students. A classroom in Spain is managed much more freely without as much "organization" as we American students would handle it. There is not the same dynamic of the "ELL students" in Spain because basically everybody is an ELL language learner and there are some other students who are learning Spanish as a second language with English added to that. I am learning how to see things more clearly for the way things are, rather than how I think they should be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Classroom Management in the UK

            The classrooms in my placement are managed very similarly to those that I have experienced in the U.S.  The building itself is new and the physical classrooms work well with the teaching philosophy of the school.  The average class has around 25 students in it.  Many of the classes in the school are combinations of grade levels and ages.  For example, I spent one day in a combination Primary 6/7 class.  This doesn’t seem to affect the way teachers interact with their students as all of the lessons I observed are taught to the whole group regardless of age. 
            Each Primary 1 classroom has a list of classrooms rules and expectations featured for students to see and read.  These are very similar to the rules in my U.S. placements.   They stress respecting other peoples space and thoughts, being a good listener, and always doing one’s best.  The teachers in primary 1 use a variety of techniques to enforce these rules.  To get students attention and remind them they should be listening each teacher has a rhyme that they call out and the students cheer back to them.  Teachers will single out individual students with both praise and criticism in front of the class.  The praise is for positive behavior not only regarding classroom rule, but participation in lesson.  The criticism is almost always about a student not following class expectations. 
The discipline is usually not very harsh in primary 1, the students are very young at ages 4 and 5.  A student would have to ignore many warnings before they were punished.  Because students have to reach such a high level of disruption before they are really reprimanded, the punishment they receive is more intense than I’ve seen in American classrooms.  A good example of this was during a rehearsal for the grade level nativity play.  One student continuously misbehaved until the teachers were forced to remove him from his peers and have him sit isolated facing away from the other students in the room.  Because this time out style of punishment did not happen often it actually had a greater effect on the children than one might think.  Overall, the style of classroom management seems to be effective in my placement and is comparable to what I have seen in U.S. classrooms.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Typical Day in Primary School

      During my placement at Merrylee Primary I worked mostly in Primary level 1 classrooms.  The students in this grade level are four and five years old and there were around 20 students in each class.  The majority of children are dropped off at school around 8:00.  They are allowed to play outside in the school yard until 8:30 when the day starts.  In Primary 1 there is a lot of free play and less formal learning because the students are so young.  For the first 30 minutes they  usually have play time, followed by a literacy lesson.  The curriculum at Merrylee stressed the learning of letter sounds and phonics.  I was even shocked to see that they displayed letters on the classroom walls out of alphabetical order. They opted instead to put them in the order students learn them (from what I could tell  this was from least to most difficult).
    In the morning the children had two snack breaks where they went outside for fresh air and had a little bit of time to play.  My CTs really utilized teaching in the outdoors and tried to take students outside whenever possible.   After break the students would typical practice writing with a series of small group activities.  They had a lunchtime and full length recess at 12:30.  I went to school on Fridays so the time after lunch was used for specials, like time in the school's technology center or working on a grade level nativity play.  I found that Primary 1 was interesting to work in because of how different each day was.  I even got to go on a field trip to the science center with one class!
     Working with both teachers and students in Glasgow was different than what I experienced at BC.  All of the teachers at the school work closely together and there was a strong sense of community.  I was lucky enough to bond with my CT during my pre-prac at BC and we got along really well, but I didn't interact with as many teachers as I did at Merrylee.  The students in Scotland were a little more independent than children I've worked with in the US.  Because I rotated between classes the students didn't always see me as an authority figure in the classroom.  They were definitely less well behaved and like to test their teachers more than the American students I worked with.