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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Similarities and Differences in Aussie Classrooms

            I’ve been at South Coogee Public School outside of Sydney, Australia for about eight weeks now, and I’m really enjoying my time here!! I’m in a pretty rowdy second grade classroom where my CT is absent a good amount of the time, so sometimes it can get tricky to control the students when it is just me and the full-time student teacher, but the kids are sweet and its been a great experience so far. The school system here is definitely different from home.  The main thing I’ve noticed is the layout of the school. At least in schools that I have learned and taught in at home there is one big main building that houses everything: the classrooms, the faculty lounge, the gym, the cafeteria, and so on. At South Coogee Public School there are three blocks of buildings: One for the upper grades, faculty lounge, and offices, one for the lower grades, and one for the preschool. In addition there is a fourth building that acts as a hall for performances and assemblies. The school doesn’t have a cafeteria or gymnasium, lunch and gym class are all outside, as well as all of the lockers and hallways. Having a school next to a beach with beautiful weather means that a lot of time is spent outside! Another big difference here is that the school day is much less structured, at least in my classroom. There is basically a big block for ELA in the morning, then a big block for math (which they call maths) after recess, and then a block for social studies, arts, or science after lunch. The teachers don’t have a concrete, detailed plan for each lesson; they kind of just go with the flow and see what they can fit in. This is compared to home where each lesson is planned and the schedule is usually laid out in detail on the board.
            A great similarity that I have seen between here and home is the collaboration between teachers. Teachers here share lessons and whole units, and my CT has an amazing supply closet full of materials and lesson and unit plans accumulated from years of teaching and collaborating with others. Just last week we used worksheets for a unit on toys developed by the teacher across the hall. It reminded me of home and the way that teachers in the American schools I have taught at have shared information, advice, and lessons with each other. One last similarity between the American and Australian systems is the existence of standards. I know it seems pretty basic, but it is important that the teachers have standards around which they can plan lessons and units. My CT here has shown me the math and ELA standards for this term, and there are also national standards for what the students are supposed to learn. This reminded me of the national benchmarks in the U.S. for each subject. Overall, I’ve been able to see a lot of similarities between the school systems, but there are still a lot of cultural differences here in Australia that I am still learning to understand!

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