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Saturday, April 28, 2012

British Classroom Culture

British elementary schools are fairly structured in their day-to-day activities, which is similar to that of the US. But, students are constantly moving in-and-out of the classroom. They have piano lessons, choir rehearsal, are being taken out to work with another teacher, etc. It is rare for every student to be in the class at once. And this is normal to the classroom. The teacher thinks nothing of it when a student walks out of the classroom. It is a bizarre system to me and I have stopped trying to understand what is going on at all times. Another interesting British classroom culture quirk that I have found is the way they share scores (marks). It is typical for students to yell out their scores for the teacher to record it. In general, they are very open about who is higher and who is lower in the class. That would not be the case in the US. Each student would be responsible for only his/her work and scores. Should the students be competing against the other students in the class or should they be competing with only themselves to make improvements?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Differences Between Education in the U.S. and Senegal

Walking into the classroom in Dakar, you are immediately aware that education in Senegal is different than in the US. There are 50 students in my 5th grade class and only one teacher. In the US a 50:1 student to teacher ratio would be unthinkable, but here it is all too often common. Students sit two to a desk with their backpack and other belongings stuffed in between them. Students do not speak unless called on, and have to stand in order to respond to questions. The walls are decorated with education posters from the 80’s and the occasional poster of Obama.
One of the largest differences I have noticed during my time at Ecole Primaire Sainte Bernadette is the lack of resources. The whole day is designed around the resources that are available. Students do all their work on individual chalkboards to avoid spending money on notebooks and paper. If they run out of chalk they are expected to sit silently and wait for the lesson to be over. The teacher does not have extra materials, and the students have to rely solely on what their family can provide for them. That means that if a student cannot afford chalk, they show up everyday and sit silently in the classroom while their classmates do work.
My CT copies all her lessons and tests on to the chalkboard, which takes up a considerable amount of time. She rarely is able to fit the whole test on the board at one time so she writes the test up the board in sections, then waits for the entire 50 students to recopy and complete the section in their notebooks, and then erases and starts writing the next section. My classroom spent a whole day completing a math test that would have taken no longer than an hour in the US. It makes me think about how much the students are missing, while they are spending time copying.
Another difference I have noticed is the lack of group work among the students, which may be a reflection of the French Education System that Senegal has adapted. During the day, the students only leave their seat to complete a problem on the board or to stand to answer a question. Students are not given any time to discuss with partners or think for themselves. The curriculum is all based around memorizing, reciting, and copying, with little room for anything else.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Catholic School in Dakar, Senegal

I am completing my international pre-practicum at Ecole Primaire Sainte Bernadette in Dakar, Senegal, a large private Catholic school. Senegal is a Muslim country so many children are placed in Quranic schools, or stay home to study the Quran and work with their parents. If parents do decide to send their children to school they have two options: public school or private Catholic school. Over the past year there has been little to no political stability and many teachers have joined the union, demanding better pay or they wont work. As a result, many public schools have not been in session for months and parents are left scrambling to make enough money to put their children in private Catholic school.
Attending a Catholic school in Senegal has been an overwhelming experience. More than 95% of the population at Ecole Primaire Sainte Bernadette is Muslim, and yet I have seen no sign of religious tension at any point during my time at the school. In the morning, after the students have filed in and taken their seats, they recite as a class: Seigneur, donner nous la force et la courage de bien travailler. Merci, Seigneur pour cette journée qui commence” (Lord, give us the strength and courage to work well. Thank you, Lord for this day that begins). When I asked why everyone has to recite this prayer, even though the majority of the class was Muslim my teacher replied that no matter what religion you practice, you believe in a higher power that gives you strength and courage and lets you live another day. She explained that she had chosen this prayer specifically so that the whole class could participate.
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning my teacher holds mass in her classroom for both 5th grade classrooms. Out of over 100 students, there are only twelve Christian students that attend each week. The Muslim students wait in the other 5th grade classroom until mass is over. Other than the poster of Jesus hanging over the blackboard, religion does not seem to be imposed on the education of the students. Both religions seem to be accepting and understanding of the other, which is a reflection of Senegalese culture in general. For example, Christian neighbors bring their Muslim neighbors dessert during Easter, and Muslim neighbors bring their Christian neighbors part of their dinner during Tabaski.  It has been an amazing experience to see how two completely different ways of living can co-exist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Typical Day at the Jes in Galway, Ireland

      A typical day at the Jes begins at 9:00am and commences at 3:20. The students have two classes and then a break from 11:15 to 11:30. These first two classes that Mr. O’Flatharta teaches are on the Irish track, so although they are both History classes they are carried out in Gaelic. After the break, Mr. O’Flatharta teaches a double block of Modern Irish History for the 6th years who are preparing for their Leaving Certificate exams. This double block goes from 11:30 to 12:55. Then the students have their lunch break until 2pm. The upperclassmen, the 5th and 6th years, are allowed to leave campus too. Afterwards the students have another class, sometimes a double block like on Wednesdays. Then the students have one more class and the school day ends at 3:20pm. At the start of each of his lessons by taking attendance and then usually goes over the homework. It rarely is an official homework check but he’ll ask certain students to share their answers to the questions. Their homework usually includes written responses to specific questions. The kids will then read their written work out loud and Mr. O’Flatharta will occasionally add some more information or write the key points, names and dates on the board.  
      Lately, for the 6th years, they have been working on practice and sample essay questions for the Leaving Certificate. There is a separate part of the Leaving Certificate exam that is an oral section that all of the kids must complete as well. Everyone has a scheduled date and time and these have already started actually. For the written portion however, the students all have practice essay booklets for the exam which they bring to class with them. These have sample questions as well as questions from exams from years past. For example, the other day the students reviewed an essay question from 2008 which was “to what extent was the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) responsible for the Irish Civil War?”. The class would discuss the question overall and then Mr. O’Flatharta gave them five to ten minutes to write out a general plan for their paragraphs and to bullet point their points as if they were answering the question.

English Importance...

Throughout working with various levels of primary school classes in Florence and encountering people throughout Italy and in my travels, I cease to be amazed at the amount of English I hear. Recently, on a trip to London, a man from Brazil working at a market asked us if we spoke Italian since we were studying in Italy. We commented that we were learning it but we're definitely no experts. As English being his second language, he noted how lucky we are to speak English because there are so many places now that put an emphasis on learning and being able to speak English. 

I feel I can get by most places in Italy with my Italian, but the truth is, in a bind there is almost always someone who speaks English that is able to understand and help me. If Italians study in America, England, Ireland, as many do, and can not speak and understand English conversationally, they can not simply walk into a store and have someone assist them in Italian. I realize why it is so important to my CT to have us as "English natives" to talk in English with and to the students, starting from first grade! It is her job to prepare these students to be able to speak English, quite a big task considering she only sees the upper primary classes at most two or three hours a week! She aspires for them to be able to travel and have the opportunities to study elsewhere. This begins with studying English in first grade to fifth grade when the students are taken on a trip to Ireland where they are expected to converse in English and see the practicality of the work they have been doing in class. 

The difference was apparent when I was working with the third graders on -ing verbs. We were going over how when you use an -ing verb it must be paired with a to be verb, mostly am, is, and are. I.e.: The children are playing. She is eating. I am   singing. After a basic explanation of these verbs, a boy realizes and exclaims, "Ohh, il gerundio!" I laughed to myself thinking on how I had a quiz later that day in my Italian class on "il gerundio." It seemed almost comical to me that I am living in their country and learning the level of grammar in Italian that they learn of English in primary school. Also, it helped me realize how much this "teaching English" experience has been a "learning Italian" experience as well. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catholic Social Teaching in Spain

The school that I am working in is a Catholic Charter school here in Granada. I was excited to have the chance to work in a school with a religious affiliation since I have only worked in public schools in the past. So far I have really enjoyed observing the Catholic social teaching lessons and have found them to be very beneficial and engaging for the students. Every morning the students begin the day singing a song that they have learned already with music. The students love to sing, don't get embarrassed, and the majority put in a lot of effort into the songs. The sounds are catchy and simple, and either speak about God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit in general. Then my teacher reads a short story that has a moral lesson. She asks questions to the students and they are often given a quiet moment to sit and reflect on what they would do in the situation before they discuss the story. The discussions are the most interactive learning that I observe during the time I am in the class and the teacher really seems to enjoy teaching them. Afterwards, the students are given a chance to say out loud what they are thankful for or ask God to help them with something. Then they are learning the Our Father in English, so I say each line and they repeat afterwards. Then the lesson concludes with another song.

The stories vary greatly and therefore include a wide range of opportunities for different social teaching. Stories in the past have been about growing up and becoming your fullest potential, even though it might not quite be what you expected, about how everyone is loved and how to show your love to others, forgiving, how to be a caring person, etc. Sometimes the stories are not necessarily religious, but are incorporated into the lessons. Today for example, the teacher read a story about a boy who started to read books without pictures and fell in love with the book (yesterday was national book day here in Spain). She then proceeded to ask the students what they were thankful for in relation to the story - a few children raised their hands and said "Gracias a Jesus por los libros". The teacher then encouraged deeper thinking and proceeded to explain how we should all be thankful for being able to read because everyone in the class had the ability to do so. She explained how we can be thankful for our ability to see, because there are people in the world who are blind and can't read books like the ones the students have. She explained how we can be thankful that we can go to school to learn to read, because they are children in the world who cannot go to school because they have to start working when they are very young to support their families. Also that we can be thankful that our parents can afford to buy books for us to read, because a lot of parents cannot afford to buy books for their family. The students really reflected on these ideas, and I thought that it was a wonderful way to learn to be grateful for what they have been given but also to be concious about others who may not be as fortunate. I believe that these lessons are very important for all students and are very easy to teach in a Catholic school with Jesus as a model for the students in how they should act. I wonder how this type of teaching can be converted into a secular setting and whether or not it would be as effective. I think that often in the U.S. (or at least the classrooms that I have been in) moral lessons are taught implicitly through the books that teachers select for their students to read. However, I think that this explicit way of discussing how to be a caring person is worthwhile.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Typical Day at Colegio Menor

            A typical day at Colegio Menor closely resembles a typical school day in the United States. Parents drop off their little ones and help them settle into the school day. My CT has morning work ready for each student at their seat, so parents can help students get started and motivated with this work. The work is occasionally individualized. For example, if a student struggled with a concept or was not able to complete a task the previous day, this may be the focus their morning work. The work is mentally stimulating, but is not too challenging or dull. This work really seems to prepare the students for the day. The teacher uses this time to pull students individually and practice the vocabulary of the unit. Once they finish, they can choose a book to read. Many times, students will form their own groups and read books to one another based on their own interpretation of the pictures. Next, the students go to morning circle, during which they go over the weather, date, classroom chores, and schedule of the day. This part of the day resembles the style of morning meeting I saw when I worked in a Sheltered English Immersion classroom. The teacher focuses on the concepts, but there is a big emphasis on language as well. For example, the students were having great difficulty pronouncing “Thursday”, so the practice of the “th” sound turned into one of the focuses of the morning circle.
            After morning circle, half of the class goes to a special such as art or music, while the other half stays in the classroom for a small group lesson. It is beautiful to see that the school puts such value into music and art. As we lose funding for art and music programs in the United States, this Ecuadorian school teaches their students how to play instruments such as guitar and piano, has singing lessons, and incorporates all forms of art such as ceramics, painting, and drawing. The half of the class that stays in the classroom receives instruction in a 1:4 student to teacher ratio. Usually this instruction is in math. The students in specials then return to the classroom, and the other half of the students has their turn in specials. I really love this system and how it provides quality instruction and time for development in the arts simultaneously.
            The students then go to centers. The centers are designed so the students can move from center to center independently. Centers include dramatic play, arts & crafts, blocks and manipulatives, writing, listening center, and fine motor skills. I love that students thoroughly work at each center before moving onto the next center. Teachers monitor their progress and movement from center to center while simultaneously granting these students autonomy. I think this was accomplished through much practice and a gradual release of independence. The centers are also designed well, so that each is appealing and students do not rush through one center to get to the most appealing center. There are three to four Velcro spots below the name of each center. When they enter a center, students Velcro their nametag under the name of the center. This way, students know if a center is already full. After centers, the students go back to a circle. Depending on the unit, they engage in a whole group lesson that usually focuses on Language Arts, Reading, or English Vocabulary. I leave after this point in the day. Before I head back to the United States, I am going to try to stay a whole day because I would love to see what else occurs while I am gone!

Ecuadorian Culture Reflected in Colegio Menor

            Teaching Abroad at Colegio Menor in Cumbaya, Ecuador has been incredible. I am currently working in a kindergarten classroom with children who are being taught completely in English, rather than Spanish. As I have learned about Ecuadorian culture throughout the semester, I have seen more and more of the culture imbedded in the curriculum and everyday events. The school is modeled after schools in the United States and is often referred to as an “American school” by people who I have spoken with about my Practicum. Because of this, I initially had trouble finding Ecuadorian culture within the classroom. Upon entering the classroom, you feel as though you are in the United States. There are centers set up such as dramatic play and art as well as a circle area with calendars, a class schedule, a class chore chart and weather charts to use during morning meetings. The students receive an incredible education here, but I wondered, how can students live each day immersed in Ecuadorian culture, and then enter an environment modeled after the United States and adapt accordingly? I knew there had to be some essential elements of Ecuadorian culture imbedded within the “American” style school day.
            In Ecuador, the concept of time is completely different than in the United States. People in Ecuador consider time in the present and the past, rather than the future. Their concept of time is like the waves of the ocean. It moves forward to the present and then cycles backwards towards the past. Generally speaking, Ecuadorians live in the present and do not worry much about deadlines or plans for the future. They are more relaxed in the present and are in no rush to go towards the future. The teacher in my classroom paces the class much differently than teachers do in the United States. The flow of activities and lessons seems less forced and more natural. I can tell she makes sure to give lots of wait time to her students. If the lesson goes five minutes over because students needed more clarification, that is totally okay. The teacher often moves around the schedule depending on how students are progressing each day. The teacher even paces her words slowly, but naturally, giving the English language learners the clarity they need to comprehend the lesson. Due to high stakes testing (among other factors), classrooms in the United States seem much more rushed to me. In my opinion, children of this age, who are adjusting to being in school, need a pace like the one I am finding here in Ecuador in order to be more in control of their own learning and discovery, rather than rushed toward meeting a lesson objective.
            Ecuador is home to great biodiversity. In a country smaller than the state of Colorado, you can find the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Rainforest, and snowcapped active volcanoes such as Cotopaxi. My classroom is called Antisana, which is the name of one of the volcanoes in Ecuador. Ecuadorians take pride in this biodiversity and learn in school how to protect nature. Nature is also utilized at Colegio Menor as an educational tool. The school resembles a college campus, filled with green space, flowers, and plants. My classroom looks out to a huge soccer field of rich green grass. I spoke with my CT about how the view of green space and the sun that shines through the room are used to stimulate the children’s minds while relaxing them and readying their minds for learning. Preschoolers at the school are in a program known as “Play Group”, where most of their learning is achieved through self-guided outdoor activities. Unfortunately, we do not always have an appropriate climate for such activities in Boston. However, when possible, I think teachers should try to incorporate nature into lessons.
            Family relationships are very important in Ecuador. Because of this, I feel that my CT makes family involvement a huge priority. She often uses arts and crafts activities that students can bring home to share with their families. She has pictures of each student’s family in the classroom as well. Parents are super involved, which is normal for a private school, but even in the public school that I volunteer in, parents are very involved as well. Teachers often send home homework for the parents and students to do together. When learning the English alphabet, my CT utilized the names of each student’s parents to play an alphabet game. In general, the family is brought into the classroom much more than I have seen in the United States. This seems to motivates the students and makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bath, England vs. Chestnut Hill, USA

In general, the English culture is not too different from that of America.  This stays true for the education systems as well.  Although classes are larger in England (my class has 33 children with only one adult, which is normal), the classroom has a similar format as in the States.  All students have their own assigned table seat, but can choose where to sit as they like on the carpet, where most instruction happens.  The day is also broken down by subject with some topics spanning multiple days and others remaining unique to one day in the week.  This would bother me as a teacher because I function greatly off consistency, but it doesn’t seem to bother my cooperating teacher or the students.  England also has a national curriculum, which all publically funded schools must follow.  This includes standards on what to teach and when to teach it.  The Common Core Standards in the States are very similar to this, although they are not mandated by the government as the National Curriculum is here.  While some say it restricts teachers on how they run their classroom, it really just provides a basic set of guidelines for the teacher to expand on and creatively adapt for her set of students.
One major difference I have encountered in my school particularly is the lack of direct focus on reading.  They only spend about 25 minutes a day, and I do not think every day, on guided reading where my teacher takes one leveled group and reads with them while the rest of the class reads independently or swaps books.  She has me take a group on Wednesdays when I go in and I literally just follow lesson plan directions from a teacher’s guide that accompanies the students’ book.  I feel like we place a much higher emphasis on teaching reading in the States than they do here.  Another more significant difference is the scheduling.  They have a shorter summer vacation by a few weeks, but have more breaks throughout the year which are either for one or two weeks.  This has made scheduling the necessary number of visits for my program in more difficult, but at the same time, it must be nice to have the year broken apart more.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

American History and Perception of Culture

As part of my pre-practicum experience at Presentation Brothers College in Cork, Ireland, I did a lesson on American History for the 4th and 5th year students (the equivalent of sophomores and juniors in American high school).  I was very impressed with some of their knowledge already of events like George Washington's crossing of the Delaware, the Boston Tea Party, and the Civil Rights Movement.
The boys were particularly interested in the Civil War, and in cultural movements throughout the 20th century.  They had a lot of questions about the Jim Crowe laws, general segregation, and prejudice.  I think that this concept may have been so intriguing to the students because it is an emerging issue in their own country with recent immigrant influx, but remains something they are still not totally familiar with or sure how to approach.  The older boys often come up with incredibly thought provoking questions that lead to very successful discussions.
My cooperating teacher and I made the class into a more comprehensive assignment for the boys.  They will give short presentations in small groups on Irish History in the style I modeled with my own.  I cannot wait to get a better insight into their cultural history and national development through these projects!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lesson Planning and Delivery in New Zealand

This week at my placement at the George Street Normal School in New Zealand, I paid special attention to the planning and delivery of a mathematics lesson on statistics. The lesson focused on bar graphs, and the students were asked to draw a picture of themselves on a small piece of paper and then place it on a life-sized graph of the months of the year corresponding to their birthday month. The students began the lesson by sitting in a circle on the floor, which was a very good teaching strategy because all of the students could see what the teacher was doing and they were all (for the most part) actively engaged in the lesson. They started with a review of what they remember about statistics and what they already know about it and its real-life purposes. After they brainstormed, the teacher provided a summary about statistics so that all of the students could start off on the same foot regardless of their prior knowledge about the subject. I noticed that this is very similar to the format of lessons in America. The lesson was relevant to the students, and having them place photos of themselves on the graph was very clever and engaging.

I noticed that the two most challenging aspects of the lesson were timing and management of the students. When she sent the students to draw the pictures of themselves, they were given five minutes to create the drawing and sit back down on the carpet with it. When she dismissed them, the students erupted into noise and chaos. It took longer than five minutes to get everyone seated and calm again, and once she started calling out the months of the year, the students jumped up to place their photos down and got them all confused. Because of this, the teacher had to dismiss the students for lunch time before getting a chance to finish the lesson and wrap it all up. These observations seem to be very similar to my observations in the states, and I do believe that it is probably the case for teachers around the world.

Culture of New Zealand Reflected in the School

After having been a part of my New Zealand classroom for five weeks now, I can see many distinct ways in which the culture of the country is reflected in the school and the individual classroom. As I have mentioned before, I have definitely noticed how the general attitude of New Zealand is reflected in the school. The country is much more laid back and relaxed, and there are no liability threats hanging over the teacher's heads. For instance, last week I saw one of the boys scratching his back. He looked very uncomfortable and would stop wherever he was and scratch his back for a while. I asked him if I could take a look, and I noticed that it was covered top to bottom in hives. I immediately went over to the teacher and informed her of the situation. She looked at his back and said, "Oh, it looks like some sort of allergic reaction or something. Alright go on!" I was shocked because in the states, the teacher would have been more concerned about it and at least sent him to the nurse. This just reinforced the laid back, go with the flow atmosphere that New Zealand has. Along these lines, I have also noticed that there is not nearly as much of an emphasis on formal assessment. The students have not taken any tests as of yet, and have no homework except to try to read a book at home if they can.

Another way in which I have seen the culture of New Zealand reflected in the school is through the emphasis of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. There have been major conflicts and tensions between the New Zealand Europeans and the Maori over the years, and the government has tried its best to incorporate the Maori into New Zealand society as much as possible. Because of this great emphasis, students are taught Maori in their everyday classroom routines. Once a week a teacher comes in to teach them the Maori language. Every day when my CT calls out the student's names for attendance, she says "Kia ora" which means "hello". There are posters around the room with the Maori translation for things such as foods or animals. Finally, I have seen Maori artwork and projects on display throughout the school. It is through these examples that I can see the culture of New Zealand reflected in the George Street school and in my classroom.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Teaching English in Italy

I had been placed with another BC student in a private school with a specific English speaking initiative where the school has a partnership with another elementary school in Ireland. This program is designed to promote English-proficiency and even allows fifth graders to visit the partner school in Dublin. Upon entering the school and meeting my cooperating teacher, I have learned that European culture and especially these schools that I have been working in, place a large value on speaking, understanding, and writing English. This was a very interesting realization because I have found that the large majority of adults in Florence do speak English fairly well, even if they are modest about thier abilities. It was interesting to think about how my CT and I were starting to lay this foundation of the English language at such a young age. The English Language teacher who travels from classroom to classroom to instruct students on how to speak, read, and write in English. The teacher was very excited to have the other BC student and I and immediately assured us that we would be a “huge help.” I wasn’t so sure. I had barely learned any Italian myself since arriving in Italy and I had no idea how I could assist her. However, when we would go into the classrooms, the teacher would ask us to recite the vocabulary words that the students were learning so that they could benefit from hearing a native English speaker recite these words and aid in their pronunciation. Never before had I felt like I could be helpful without even trying. It was interesting to hear think about an advantage I had had without even knowing it.

The teacher also said that having us in the classroom helped make the students more enthusiastic within the English class. The teacher allowed the students to ask us any questions they would like to in order to practice speaking in full sentences and practice their pronunciation. Some of the younger students would ask us simple questions such as, “Do you like chocolate?” and I could tell that that it was difficult to ask these questions in the same way that I would be intimidated to ask that same question in Italian. My CT emphasized that she wanted the children to start feeling more comfortable speaking in English and modeling my pronunciation. For the first time I felt very connected to my students and I finally understood what the students were feeling as they were learning, mostly because I feel the same way when entering my Italian class twice a week. Also, as the kids kept asking me questions and we started to get to know each other, one of  the children asked me to say something to them in Italian.I started laughing and immediately felt a bit awkward; what should I say! I said a short few sentences to the kids, saying my name, my age, and telling that I am a student who is originally from Boston. All of the children listened intently. As soon as I finished, all of them began clapping and smiling, as if they were proud of me even though we had just met. It sounds dramatic but having all of these students smiling at me and understanding me was kind of a beautiful moment. It made me realize that this experience is such a give and take between Italian and English, between what we know and what we are learning. It is an amazing experience and I am happy that I am able to be a part of this opportunity! 

Similarities and Differences

Although the differences probably stand out to me more than the similarities, there is an equal share of both when comparing my pre-pracs back in the States to here at the Jes in Galway. The main difference for me initially was my schedule. I go to the Jes for almost a full day on Tuesdays and then for another class on Wednesdays before my classes at the university to see a different level. Because my co-operating teacher teaches history classes for both the Irish and English tracks, I don’t go to every single one of his classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s definitely a little more flexible than my pre-pracs for BC because of the nature of the school. The teaching style and routine for an average is also different. After taking casual attendance, the class usually goes over their homework. Although there are sometimes a variety of activities, what struck me was their reliance on the textbook. Particularly for the 6th years in their Modern Irish history class, they read aloud and highlight from the textbook almost without fail each class. As they read through, Mr. O’Flatharta will point out sentences or dates for them to underline or highlight. It is really important for the 6th years to know these specifics for their Leaving Certificate exams, but it’s interesting to see them use the textbook so much. I feel like in education in America there is such a strong emphasis on not relying on the text too much and using other sources and types of instruction. The students are still held to high expectations however, especially at the Jes. At my first pre-prac at Brighton High School one of their main problems was turning in homework in addition to attendance. Although Mr. O’Flatharta usually only checks the homework by going over it in class and asking the students questions from it, it is rare that more than one or two students out of 20 don’t have it. Almost every day their homework consists of them writing out page responses to various questions. Especially for the 6th years, they take their work very seriously because they have their Leaving Certificate exams coming up. The Leaving Certificate exams are somewhat similar to our standardized tests in the United States. The students spend usually three to two years preparing for these exams and there is one for each subject. These exams encompass written essays and for the language exams an oral section as opposed to multiple choice questions however. Like the SATs and ACTs, the results for the Leaving Cert often determine matriculation to certain universities or programs too.