In addition to the tasks I was able to complete I learned a significant amount about the differences between the American and Irish school systems. The rigid nature of the curriculum and state standards and testing is reflected in the teaching methods and overall classroom atmosphere. My CTs in Boston both had a strict schedule that they followed and it was made very clear to the students which subject was coming next, typically by being posted in the wall of the classroom. In Ireland they hop around from subject to subject and the students are told when they are switching as opposed to referring to a schedule posted on the wall. While I can understand the benefit to making the schedule apparent to the students, the lack of awareness does not seem to bother the Irish students. They can easily transition from one subject to the next by simply being told to put away one assignment and get ready for the next.
The Irish classroom did not do half as much group work as I have observed in American classrooms. The only time I saw group work being done was during reading groups. However, the reading groups were a combination of both 2nd grade classes, making the average size about eight. This limits the individualized attention many students require to succeed. The lack of group work may be due to the lack of support my CT receives in the classroom. Throughout my ten visits there was only one occasion when another teacher came in to do math with the students.
Finally, the biggest difference between the school systems was the disciplinary philosophies. The most problematic students in the class in Ireland were yelled at in front of the entire class. At first I thought I was opposed to this treatment, however, I realized that it got all the other students to be conscience of their own behavior. Also the students in Ireland seem to be held to higher standards of responsibility than I have observed in American classrooms. The most displeased I witnessed my CT was when a student reported not completing her homework for the third time that week. He told the student that she had no one to blame but herself because it is her homework and she is the only person responsible for making sure it is completed. He also handled some playground mishaps in front of the entire class. From what I have observed in American classrooms, these issues are often dealt with by pulling a student out of the class to be scolded for misbehavior.
Overall, I truly learned a lot and I am certainly pleased with my decision to complete an international pre-prac.