At this point in the semester I have been lucky enough to go to Scoil Bride 8 times so far and it has really been eye-opening in terms of the completely different atmosphere the classroom has compared to an American one. My class is only made up of 12 children and more likely than not, at least one is absent every time that I go to the school. This makes the class size significantly smaller than the average American classroom, so it is not often that the children will join together and act out during instruction. However, my teacher does not take interrupting and disrespect lightly, so if one of the students talks out or is somewhat rude, she immediately calls attention to it and lightly scolds the child so that they understand their mistake. These 1st grade students are between the ages of 6 and 7, but they are much better behaved than the 4th grade students that I had this past semester back in Boston. They are nowhere near perfect, but they seem to grasp the concept of being accountable for their actions within the classroom. My 4th grade students back in Boston were constantly on the lookout for someone to take the blame for their actions. The phrase, “It’s not my fault!” was a common exclamation if students forgot their homework or were asked to stop talking in class. Instead of apologizing for disrupting class or not being responsible for their own homework, these children looked for a way out every single time. Here in Ireland, these young children are disciplined in a way that they understand their mistake and understand that they were at fault. The idea of something not being fair is not even in their mindset. It is refreshing to be in a classroom where the students are conscious of their behavior and how they should behave in a classroom. This method of discipline creates a different atmosphere in the classroom and I think it proves to be beneficial for the children as well. It makes me wonder if we should enforce this sort of discipline in American schools to start creating an atmosphere where students are held responsible for their actions in hopes they can learn how to be accountable students.
I also think it is interesting that these young students are able to be so responsible because a majority of them have disabilities that can sometimes complicate their concentration during the school day. For example, one student in my classroom, who I will call student A, very easily can get off task, though he is very bright. He is aware of this slight difficulty he has so he makes sure that he has his special chair whenever he supposed to be doing work. This chair is shaped in a way that keeps him in a completely upright position instead of allowing him to slouch or sit sideways. This helps him stay focused to the best of his ability and he knows that without this chair, the school day could be much more frustrating for him. Overall, this is just one area of the classroom that I have found to be surprisingly different from American schools. It would be interesting to take a more serious discipline approach to the children in American schools and see if it could work as well as it does here in Ireland. The students have currently been on a two-week break for both spring and Easter, but fortunately I will be able to get back into the classroom next week!