This semester I was very lucky to student teach while I was abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I was able to observe and become a part of a third grade class at St. Andrew’s College, a catholic, private, and preparatory school. The male teacher I observing has been a teacher for over twenty years and displays a great joy for teaching that makes it easy to understand why his students are so eager to learn and love being a part of the classroom environment he has created. My CT was playful and joking with his class but also developed respect from his students that allowed him to still be an authority figure in their eyes. It is easy to see that my CT knows his students really well and about each of their individual needs as learners. For example, we would have conversations about which student would require the most extra attention from me and which were capable of focusing on their own. Other things I noticed about my CT and his classroom was the similar use of technology to enhance learning that I observed in my first practicum experience last year. The classroom was equipped with iPads for all students, a smart board for presentations, and an ELMO projector. My CT utilized this technology in many ways to enhance learning and present material in new and interesting ways for his students. He definitely recognized the benefits of using technology and thus was adept at using it in exciting ways. For these reasons, it was easy to recognize similarities between Irish and American schools and teachers. I am not sure what I was expecting but do not think I was expecting to find the two school systems to be similar in so many ways.
My time teaching abroad also exposed me to some of the differences between the American school system and those of other countries. The first main difference I noticed was my CT’s reliance on lectures instead of group work or individual quiet working time. In most of his lessons, my CT stood at the front of the classroom and spoke with the help of a powerpoint or other presentation on the smartboard to help guide the class. My CT facilitated engagement in the lessons by calling on students and structuring it as a back and forth. However, I was interested because I never saw the class broken up into groups to discuss an assignment or work together to solve a problem. I also did not see individual work very much unless it was an exam. This teaching style was very different from what I saw during my first practicum but seemed to fit my CT’s personality as well as the nature of the classroom that he had created. Another difference I observed was this school’s emphasis on cultural studies. The students learned two languages, either Spanish or French as well as learning the Irish language. It was very interesting to observe an Irish language lesson because it is such an interesting language. It is law in Ireland for the language to be taught in schools in order to preserve the language that had been dying out with the prevalence of the use of the English language in the county.
All in all, with the similarities and differences I observed between American and Irish school systems, I cannot decide which I find to be the most effective. I think for the most part it depends on the teacher’s abilities and personality to determine which teaching style would be most effective. Depending on which learning style a teacher is most comfortable with will help determine if they are effective in their classroom. I learned a lot during my time in Ireland and from watching my CT and I am excited to bring this information back with me and apply it to my future practicums at BC.