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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Final Reflection of Irish Primary School

      Yesterday was my last day at Scoil Bhride in Galway, Ireland. As it was also my last day in Ireland before returning home to the US, I was very sad to say goodbye. I always feel like right as I am really starting to get to know the students and master the classroom routine the semester comes to an end. One thing I regret was not teaching more lessons during my time at Scoil Bhride. My CT was incredibly accommodating and told me I could let him know whenever there was something I wanted to teach. However, this was challenging because there was a lack of direction and incentive. With endless options, I found it difficult to plan lessons. However, I really did enjoy all the responsibilities my CT continuously assigned me throughout my time in his class. Every week I led a small reading group. I incorporated many techniques I had previously used during Read Alouds and adapted them to a group setting. I also got to try out popcorn reading, which is a technique I always learned about but had never got the chance to tryout before. The students really enjoyed it and it was a great way to keep them focused on the reading because they never knew when it was going to be their turn. I also go to work one-on-one with several students. One student that had transfered into the class mid-year was behind in his reading capabilities. My CT asked me to go over a list of high-frequency words with him to determine which ones he did and did not know. This was extremely beneficial for me because I was able to identify where he was struggling. The following week I got the chance to continue working with this student. We worked on rhyming sounds, using an interactive online computer game. It was helpful because I could point out to him the combinations of letters that make the same sounds through the use of rhymes. I was also given the task of checking students mental math worksheets that they complete every morning when they come into school. I enjoyed this because I was able to help struggling students or correct students' mistakes. More often than not, with a little bit of scaffolding the students were able to come up with the correct answers.
     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.

1 comment:

  1. Kelly, I really enjoyed reading your final reflection and it was nice comparing your experience in a primary school in Galway to my experience there in a secondary school. One of the biggest differences that I also noticed in my high school in Galway was how the students participated in far less group work than most classes do in America. There was a greater focus on individual work and the teacher's instruction. Like in Scoil Bhride, the overall nature of the Jes is much more relaxed and the schedule is a little more flexible than in American schools. The only mild expecption to this was in the 6th year history class because they had a strict curriculum that they needed to cover in preparation for the Leaving Certificate Exams which factor into which college they go to much like the SATs. In terms of discipline, expectations are naturally slightly higher in secondary school because the kids are older but I also observed the same direct style at the Jes. If someone spoke out of turn or didn't do their homework, my CT would simply and briefly address it in class and then move on. As Kelly pointed out, it seemed that the other students would note this and there usually would only be one incident per class if any.


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