I am over half way done with my experience at the George Street Normal School and it has been an incredible experience. Everyone, including teachers, college teachers, and students have been so welcoming. My CT, Mrs. Sturge, has been incredibly helpful by offering many opportunities to get involved in the classroom instruction. She’s only a second year teacher and so is very familiar with how to support college teachers.
The first difference I noticed right away was the schedule. The school day doesn’t start until 9am and finishes at 3pm. However, at 11:00 the teachers have a 25 minute break for tea time while the students play in the yard. During this break, the teachers gather in the staff lounge, chat, and announcements are given. In my opinion, this time creates a strong work community among the staff. The academic calender in general is strikingly different. The New Zealand legislation has broken the school year into 4 terms, each running 10 to 12 weeks, with 2 week breaks between each term. The first term starts the first week of February and ends by December 20th. There summer is much shorter but I believe that this model could be extremely beneficial for reducing the amount of knowledge lost over the longer 10 week summer had in America. The second difference is that other than this morning tea break, and lunch/recess (which the teachers must staff in rotations) the teachers have no time to themselves as they are responsible for incorporating all “specials” including art, music, fitness, science, etc. My teacher said that this can be a challenge because it requires you to think more outside of the box, but her solution is to keep it simple and the students seem to still enjoy it.
Despite these differences, similarities I found included classroom layout and student curriculum requirements. The classroom feels like any American classroom with desks grouped together, a “mat” area, a library/reading area, shelves full with resources, the teacher’s desk, and bulletin boards full with student work. I am actually really impressed with Mrs. Sturge’s organization system for student work and would consider using a similar model one day. The second similarity is the curriculum requirements. The curriculum includes all the basic subjects included in the U.S, however the requirements for the liberal arts subjects seem to be a bit more relaxed. Nonetheless, a heavy emphasis is put on reading and math, as reflected in the daily schedule, much like US requirements.