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Monday, April 15, 2013

Classroom Management

Colegio Los Robles- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Last week the director of the English department at asked me to observe the first grade boys class (the classes are divided by gender until the 7th grade) and give her some feed back the teacher’s the classroom management. I was surprised that she asked me to observe a classroom evaluate my CT since I am pretty in experienced myself, but I was happy to give my input. The way the classroom was organized reminded me a little bit of the scenes of classrooms in old movies. The desks were all arranged in rows facing the chalkboard with the teacher’s desk facing all the students. The room was pretty sparse, with very few decorations and materials. One of the few things hanging on the wall was a list of rules, but I got the sense that the teacher did not spend much time explaining the rules and setting expectations. The students came in from recess and began talking to each other and did not stop until the end of class. When the teacher was explaining the activity none of the students where listening, so when they began the activity she had to go around and explain it to all them individually. The students were not given any instructions on what to do when they finished their work so they just turned and chat with their friends.  This made me realizes how incredibly important it is to have established routines in a class. So much time was wasted telling at the students to be quiet and transitioning between activities. I think this also put a lot of extra stress on the teacher because she was behind in her lesson and had no methods of regrouping the class other than yelling at them.
The language also added a new challenge to classroom management that I had never seen before. The teacher spoke to the students only in English, but since their understanding of English is very limited, it was difficult for them to pay attention and understand what the teacher wanted. I think that if the students had some other materials to refer to while the teacher was talking, such as a handout or visuals posted on the board, the might have been more engaged and less disruptive. As a way of encouraging the students to speak only in English the teacher told them that I do not speak a word of Spanish so they have to speak to me in English. This was really hard to do because when I spoke to the students in English they gave me that blank stare indicating that I could be speaking Martian for all they knew, so I eventually started repeating the phrases in Spanish. This of course led to a minor freak out when they all realized I actually could speak Spanish and suddenly started bombarding me with questions.
The main method of discipline the teacher used was talking away recess time when the students misbehaved. I was a little bit surprised by this because the whole time I was thinking that the students could benefit from 10 minutes of running around the playground to get out some of their pent-up energy. At my last placement they gave students breaks as a form of discipline. When a student was acting up in class the teacher would ask him or her to step outside of the class and take a break until they regained focus. Several of the boys had to stay in for recess so by the end of the day they were bouncing off the walls.
I shared these thoughts about the teacher’s classroom management with the director of the English department but felt a little strange sharing my observations and making suggestions because I do not yet have a degree or much experience managing a class. However, she said it was really helpful to hear my thoughts because I brought in a new perspective after having completed two pre-pracs in the United States. I went into this whole experience thinking about what I could learn from completing a pre-prac abroad but I never really considered that it could be two way street and the people I work with would be interested in learning from my experiences!  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Similarities and Differences

After a lot of missed phone calls and doubts about even completing my international pre-prac, I woke up on Wednesday morning and walked up the hill to South Coogee Public School. I initially found the office and was swept away to my first grade classroom to meet my CT. She is an older lady that has been at the school for a long time and knows the ropes. I spent the day mostly observing and talking to some of the staff and I through this I noticed three major differences between South Coogee and my prac experiences back in Boston. The first was the uniforms. Even though it is a public school all of the children have to wear uniforms complete with matching backpacks and matching hats. Australia has universal health care and because every Australian has a 1 in 2 chance of getting skin cancer they take wearing the hats especially seriously. The children cannot play, go to lunch, or go to sports without their hats which was super interesting. The second huge difference was the instruction. The teacher did not really plan or execute any lessons but would rather review a lot of already known stuff and hand the children worksheets to complete. The teacher was also a lot more stern with the children and did not hesitate to raise her voice or call out children for bad behavior. Finally, the biggest difference was the schools dedication to the arts. I actually went to a school assembly that is once a term that commends students on their art work and allows them to show it and talk about it in front of the entire school. The students seem to love art and the teachers incorporate it within their curriculum as much as they can, something I have never seen done within my pre-prac experiences within the United States.

There were a lot of similarities though. One of the main ones was the parental involvement that is present in so many schools in the states. Parents volunteer to help with reading groups and actually spend an hour in the classroom twice a week which is awesome. On Wednesday morning there were actually 5 parents for the 20 person class. The parents are also present around campus helping out at lunch and sports and such. The second similarity was the creating of a school culture. It seemed like the students were so excited to go to South Coogee and there is even a school song they sing loud and proud.

I can't wait to get back into the classroom and learn more about the school and get to know the students better!