Question #1- Similarities and Differences
It is difficult to completely compare the similarities and differences between teaching in America and teaching in Australia because my observations are based off of a limited exposure in either context (ex. one pre-practicum at home and a couple of days here in Australia). Even though that may be the case, certain aspects have stuck out as being either similar or different. Similarities have been shown in both the classroom layout and teacher collaboration, while differences have come in teaching style and schedules.
With classroom layout, both the class in Boston and the class in Australia seemed to be set up very similarly. The teacher’s desk is located in the front by the smart board, with the students all set up facing the teachers. In both classes, the students each had individual desks that were set up in groups of four students each. The classrooms were both highly decorated with very little white space on the walls. Decorations include posters of the class rules and behaviors, the date, when the class birthdays are, and most importantly, student work. It showed both teachers wanted to show they valued what their students completed and respected the quality of their work. Because the actual size of both classrooms was very much the same, it seemed both teachers were utilizing the space in a way to make the most out of it without making it seem cramped or overcrowded.
The second similarity noticed was the use of teacher collaboration. Teachers within the same grade work together in terms of planning lessons and making sure students in the same grade are being taught the same concepts and information. Co-planning is done when creating the actual activities and when planning out the schedule of when certain things need to be done. This is done throughout the day during the different breaks. For example, during lunch when the teachers are not on duty, they are all in the staff room and discussing what needs to be done. This was present in both schools, and showed the teachers truly cared about their students’ success because even during their break of the day, they were still discussing what could be done to benefit the students.
The first difference came into play in regards to teaching styles. In Australia, there seems to be more independent work on the part of the students, as opposed to more group and teacher oriented work seen in my first pre-practicum. In my pre-practicum here, the amount of time the teacher spends teaching each individual lesson seems to be less. This is not to say that the teacher in Australia does less teaching altogether, it is just broken up differently. It is a quick teaching session and then the students move on to complete and correct a worksheet addressing the specific topic. After that there is another short lesson followed by more independent work on that lesson. Students are occasionally allowed to work with the person next to them, but usually the work is done on their own. In my first pre-practicum, each individual lesson was longer and students were encouraged to engage with the people around them for certain activities.
The second difference was in regards to the schedules of the day, however this could just be because I am now in a first grade classroom, as opposed to a third grade classroom. Students here receive more breaks throughout the day with both a thirty-minute recess and a fifty-minute lunch break at different times in the day. Switching between different activities also occurs at a much faster rate than my first pre-practicum, but again that could be due to third graders having a longer attention span than first graders. Regardless of the similarities and differences, both schools have proven to be very successful in what they are trying to accomplish, showing that when comparing the methods of different schools, it does not have to mean looking at one as ultimately being better than the other.