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Friday, October 31, 2014

Comparing schools in Dublin vs America

Reporting from Dublin! Hi, this semester I’m pracing at an elementary school a little bit outside of the city called St. Andrew's College.  The school starts in preschool and goes all the way until secondary school.  I'm currently shadowing a teacher in a third grade classroom.  The class has about seventeen students which enables the teacher to have a good handle on the classroom.  

For my first post I wanted to speak about the similarities and differences that I have noticed since I first got involved in St. Andrew's.  One similarity between America and Ireland is the importance of technology in the classroom.  Due to the fact that technology is more and more becoming a vital part of our society, it seems to be internationally recognized that technology needs to be incorporated in some way.  The school that I teach at allows for the teachers to have many opportunities to use technology throughout the day.  So far, I have not seen a day go by without having my CT use the smart board that she has at the front of the classroom.  The students' day begins with them reading their 'Do Now' assignment from the smart board that is to be completed as soon as they sit down in their seats.  My teacher has also used the smart board so far math lessons, including games with fractions that makes the lessons more interactive and allows the students' to manipulate the shapes electronically.  My CT has also used the smart board to show movies, a website of an author that was a guest speaker for the day, and for many other activities.  The smart board allows my CT to transition easily between subjects and allows for a more cohesive and efficient day.  

Another similarity that I have noticed is the general structure of the days in both countries.  In America it is common in elementary school to have one teacher with one class for the whole day.  My classroom in Ireland is also run the same way.  Also, my teacher jumps from math directly into a language lesson back to back, which is similar to in America where all the subjects are done one directly after another.  The school also has recess and snack breaks to allow the students to refocus, which is similar to America.  

One difference between the two countries is that the students are being taught another language as one of their subjects during the day.  In most schools in Ireland teachers instruct the students in the Gaelic language.  There are a few American students for my classroom, and when the other students are learning Irish, they go to another classroom to have their American Studies class.  I have only sat in on one of these classes, but the teacher during that class was teaching the students about the different holidays in America such as Columbus Day or Memorial Day.  I also noticed that some of the students also leave the classroom during the day to learn another language such as French or Spanish.  These students are learning two languages simultaneously as well as improving their knowledge of the English language.  

A last difference between schools in Ireland versus schools in America is how extra help is given to the students that are struggling.  Their special education classes are done similarly to how we teach in The States, but an interesting difference that I have noticed is that when a child is struggling with a particular concept, the teacher can recommend that they leave for extra instruction on that one topic.  That way she does not have to slow down the entire class to accommodate that one student, and the students does not fall behind on the topic.  This seems like a great strategy because the students benefit from one on one tutoring and the teacher is able to maintain the speed of her lesson.

So far it seems that the two countries have very similar forms of school with just a few subtle differences, but for the most part the schools in both locations are fairly similar!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creative Lessons in the Classroom

Last Wednesday I went into St. Andrew's as usual, excited for a morning that was going to be different from a normal day at school. P5W had been working on projects about Ancient Roman lifestyles and culture. They had had three weeks to create a mini research project about an aspect of Ancient Rome that they were particularly interested in, and create a visual to complement their posters. The students got to choose their own topics because my CT really tries to give her students as much autonomy as possible within their classroom. However, many of the students ended up picking similar topics; girls chose clothes/fashion and boys typically picked something to do with gladiators or the army. One girl did food and made fried cheese and honey balls, which apparently were part of the cuisine of wealthy Romans! The entire morning was spent having other classrooms come in and learn about the projects, and then we improvised chariot races and gladiator matches in the classroom! Additionally, each of the students was assigned a role within Roman society (patrician, citizen, freed-person, or slave) in order to facilitate groups for the various activities.

I was very impressed with how the fifth graders handled being labeled as a "patrician" or a "slave". Throughout the day, the "slaves" had to be last for the activities, or sit on the floor as opposed to on the desks or in a chair. However, none of them complained about their lower status, and instead jokingly offered their assistance to the patricians in the classroom. I feel that this scenario would never happen in America, where the children assigned to be slaves would complain and whine about not being first all the time. I also have reason to believe that some American parents would have something to say about their child being labeled a "slave".

This difference seems to come from the fact that in this particular classroom, my CT emphasizes the fact that everyone in the room is an equal part of the classroom and how it operates. There is a strong focus on learning how is best for each child, as well as tailoring units and themes to what this group of students wants to learn. In many American schools, especially public schools, there is too much of a focus on grades and testing to allow for the promotion of the joy of learning.

We had this week off from prac because St. Andrew's had their fall term break, but I'm looking forward to going back next week!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Placement at Colegio Menor in Quito, Ecuador

I am doing my practicum at Colegio Menor de San Francisco de Quito.  Colegio Menor is a bilingual private school just outside of Quito.  There is both an upper school (middle and high school) and a lower school (elementary school) on the campus.  However, I am working strictly in the elementary school with a fourth grade English Language Arts teacher.  As I attended public school and my first practicum was at a public school, this experience is something completely new for me.
I visit Colegio Menor every Monday and Wednesday for three hours.  While I appreciate being able to consistently fit this time in my schedule, I wish that I were able to attend more frequently.  An interesting aspect of the working in a bilingual school is that the students rotate teachers based on subject.  Thus, on Mondays, my teacher only works with one class.  However, on Wednesdays, she switches between two different classes.  It was definitely a challenge for me to get used to this schedule.  It also took me longer to feel as connected with the class that I only see for about 2 hours on Wednesday.  Although I now understand my CT’s schedule, I still sometimes get confused with the various different switches the students make throughout the day.
Aside from the schedule, a typical day of teaching in my classroom is pretty similar to one in a school in the United States.  We begin each day with a greeting.  Then, we will work on reading, grammar, and writing.  Every other Monday (Tuesday for the other class), the students go to the library for 45 minutes.  Teaching ELA in a bilingual school has definitely helped highlight some of the common errors and difficulties that non-native speakers have with English.  I believe this will assist me in meeting the needs of these students in the future.
I am very fortunate to have a cooperating teacher that has a similar teaching style to my own.  She also trusts me and thus, gives me more responsibility.  In fact, starting next week I will be teaching at least an hour every week.  I cannot wait to continue to challenge myself and grow through this unique experience.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

British Culture in the Classroom

           From the moment I stepped into the classroom at Manorcroft, I noticed that the atmosphere of the classroom was very formal, and it wasn’t just because of the British accents. I was not too surprised however, because everything in England seems to be more proper than it is in America. For example, every morning and afternoon the register is taken. Miss Cornick will say, “Good morning” and then the each student’s name. The student is expected to say, “Good morning” in return. Hearing this made our American practice of saying, “here” during attendance seem very informal. Moreover, if students are talking during the register or during an assembly, they have to stand for the remainder of it as a punishment.
            Another indication of the school’s formality is students’ handwriting. Students must join their letters so that it looks like cursive but doesn’t have the tricky letters that are hard to write. Unlike in America where students learn cursive as an additional, fancy, way of writing, that is how British students are taught to write from the beginning. I felt really self-conscious the first time I had to write for students on the white board in my own cursive handwriting. However, I can say that I am beginning to pick it back up again with all the practice I’m doing at Manorcroft.  
            This past Friday was Manorcroft’s annual Harvest Festival. Year 4 (third grade) students acted out the story of the Harvest while all the other students sang the songs. While I was standing there watching my students sing these songs, such as “Pray to our Lord” and “Lord of the Harvest,” I was surprised to hear such a strong religious presence in a non-private school. Then I realized that, unlike in America, there is no separation of church and state. I had become so accustomed to separating the two that I completely forgot that there is no split in England. These songs were the only sign of religion I have seen in my time at Manorcroft so far, but it seems that the teachers do not have to be as careful as to completely separate the two.
            The British culture is also reflected in the curriculum; as they focus on one specific topic at a time. In America it is pretty common to have a science and social studies lesson in the same day. Here, the entire half-term (about 7 or 8 weeks) is dedicated to one or the other. The topic this past half-term was “Under the Sea,” and students did not learn about anything history related. But, this switches in the upcoming half term as students will be learning about “The Great Fire” and will not be learning any science.  Miss Cornick explained that it allows for a more focused curriculum and easier planning because she can plan every Topic activity and lesson for the half-term in advance.
            Finally, the non-academic aspects of school are also quintessentially British. For example, every day for lunch students have a “warm dinner.” This usually consists of meat, a vegetable, and a cake or jello. There is no other choice of lunch; every student gets the same meal. Additionally, for gym class, students must change out of their uniforms and into gym clothes that are kept in their gym kits, bags that are brought to and from school each week. And, during the autumn and spring, students also have swimming once a week. Parents do not pay tuition for their kids to attend Manorcroft, so it was really interesting to hear that the school offers swimming, especially during school hours. I’m sure that as I continue visiting Manorcroft, I’ll discover even more ways in which the British culture is reflected there. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Teaching in Austria vs. Teaching in America

Hello again! I am back to share some more of my experience teaching in Austria. After four weeks in my classroom, I feel much more accustomed to the Austrian school system, my classroom, and the language barrier. Now that the students know to expect me each week and I am no longer a strange face, I have started to build a stronger connection with them. I also have started to work on my ability to get  a grip on classroom management in a class where we do not share a language (definitely a challenge). Through these experiences, I have noticed many differences and similarities between teaching in Austria and teaching in America.

The difference that stands out to me the most and interests me the most in the structure of the actual school system. Kindergarten is not required in Austria. Formal schooling begins in first grade when pupils are required to complete four years of elementary education in a Volksschule. After these four years, teachers are given the responsibility of choosing which students are gifted and will go on to Gymnasium (the 12 year college track) and which students will go on to vocational preparatory schools (which can end after a total of 8 years of schooling). The students that go on to Gymnasium receive the "Matura" university admission certificate after they complete their final exams. The initial shock after learning about this system was that after FOURTH grade student's futures were being decided for them by their teachers. This tracking system is very different from what we have in our general K-12 American public system. In our system, it seems that schools prepare all students to go to college and encourages them to follow this track. While I do not agree with making college seem like the only option after high school (I do not believe college is for everyone), this tracking program at such a young age takes almost all of the choice out of the individual student's hands. I do not know enough about this system to really say what kind of an impact it makes and how students feel about it. But I do know that it is very different from what I have experienced before and that it took me by surprise. One particular piece of this system that I have experienced is the Volksschule. What I find most interesting about it, is that teachers teach the same group of students for all four years. So the class stays together for 1st-4th grade with the same teacher. This is different from an American elementary school class where each year you get a new set of students and you teach the same grade. I asked my CT how she liked this system and she said that she loved it. She could not imagine teaching the same material year after year like they do in American schools. She also likes that she gets to build strong relationships with the students and knows them and their learning styles so well. This system, while it does have its faults, seems pretty appealing to me and seems like it could be very beneficial to students learning.

I think the biggest similarity I have noticed is teaching style. While many aspects of the classroom, culture, and management are very different than america, teaching style seems to be pretty similar. In general, students sit in rows or small groups. The teacher stands at the front of the classroom and has a chalkboard and posters to use behind her. Students raise their hands to be called on when the teacher asks questions. The overall format is that the teacher stands in front and lectures while the students sit and pay attention. Obviously, in an elementary classroom it is more interactive then just a lecture, but that is the basic frame. Collaboration is not often seen in the classroom. I find this similar to my experience teaching in elementary school in the United States. In upper grades in the US I know that more collaboration is involved but also a lot more straight lecturing is involved. I am not sure how the older grades function in Austria. But, it does seem like the teaching style and format has some similarities in elementary school.

Everyday I see small similarities and differences from my own experiences in America and what I see here in my Austrian school. These are some of the biggest things I noticed and that I thought people might find interesting to read about! I am loving the fact that I am, overall, having such a different experience here then I have had in the US. It is definitely opening me up to new experiences, ideas, and possibilities in the classroom.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Teaching in Spain vs. Teaching in the U.S.

            Since being in Spain I have noticed a lot of differences in how people interact, some that I’ve come to embrace and some that I’m still getting used to. So, before I went to my placement for the first time I was expecting to see a very different experience than what I am used to in the United States. While I did notice a lot of differences, I was also surprised to see that there were a few similarities as well.
            First, I will give a quick overview of my school. It’s a Catholic school that is partially funded by the state. There are students ages 3 to 18 there. One obvious difference that I noticed was the organization of the different levels. First, they have levels equivalent to pre-school/kindergarten. Then, there is what we would consider elementary school. The difference comes when there is “escuela secundaria” and “bachillerato.” “Escuela secundaria” is what we would consider middle to halfway through high school, around 10 or 11 years-old to 16 years-old. In Spain, this is as far as one has to go in their education. They can then choose to enter “bachillerato” for two years. This track is for students who want to go to the university and are therefore more motivated students. These students have to have an idea of what they want their major to be by 16 because they have to either choose a science track or a humanities track for “bachillerato.” To me, this puts a lot of pressure and stress on kids to know what they want to do early on, which may make them choose without really exploring their options. However, it does help them to get an early start on topics that interest them. I, however, have not been able to really see how this works as I have been working with an English teacher in the “escuela secundaria.”
            Another difference that I have found is that the teaching style in my placement is much more teacher-oriented rather than oriented towards student collaboration. In every classroom all of the desks are in single-filed rows facing the front of the classroom. In the lessons that I have observed, the students took turns answering the book’s questions, reading paragraphs from the book aloud, and working on worksheets individually or sometimes with a partner. However, this may only be the method of this individual teacher, not the entire school. There is some opportunity for discussion for this students when they leave in groups of five to participate in discussions with the American volunteers in English for 30 minutes, but it is not as integrated into the curriculum as it has been in my experiences at schools in the United States.
            One difference that I enjoy about this school is that instead of the students changing classrooms for their different classes throughout the day, the teachers change classrooms. I think that this allows the students to have a constant learning environment and not have to waste as much learning time transitioning. This also might be the reason that there are very few posters on the walls in the classrooms.
The students also have a half hour break in the middle of the day to go outside, eat a snack, and talk to their friends. This takes the place of lunchtime in the United States since they eat lunch after school here as school ends at 2:30pm and the Spaniards generally eat lunch around 3pm.  After the break, they have five minutes of relaxation with music and then a prayer. I think that this schedule helps the students transition from the burst of energy they got from the break into being in a calmer state in order to be ready to learn.
While there are many differences between this school and the schools I have seen in the United States, there are also some similarities. For example, the collaboration between teachers is valued as much as it is in the United States. There is a board in the teacher’s lounge to make announcements and to coordinate schedules. Teachers also meet in the teacher’s lounge and coordinate their lessons, like I have seen in the United States. For part of my pre-prac I take out students from their classrooms to give them lessons in English that are more discussion-based. When I do this, they are not always in English class. I think that this shows the collaboration of teachers across subjects much like is encouraged in the United States.
The expectations of students are also the same. Like Catholic schools in the United States, students receive demerits for not wearing their uniform, not doing their homework, not bringing their textbooks, causing too many disruptions, etc. While the students call their teachers by their first names and are more comfortable talking casually to a teacher, there is still a respect for and obedience to the teachers as authority figures like in the United States.

At first I was expecting my experience in a Spanish school to be completely different from what I’ve seen in the United States. While I have seen differences that have expanded my ideas about teaching, I am very happy to see that the two countries are not that different.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teaching in Dublin

Colleen Hughes
October 15, 2014

Hello from Dublin!

Although we've been here since Sept. 1, our placement in Dublin just got sorted out. In the past two weeks, I've been able to be at St. Andrew's College primary school for two mornings! I am teaching in P5, which is a fifth grade classroom, which is a much different placement from any experience I've had. I have taught preschool through a volunteer program as well as sophomores and juniors during my pre-prac at Brighton High, but this is my first elementary school level prac. So far I've enjoyed it immensely!

St. Andrew's is a private school in a suburb from Dublin, about a 20 minute walk from UCD's campus. It's a relatively small school, with 1300 students from preschool through grade 12. The classroom I'm in has 21 students, which they consider to be a smaller classroom. There are many international students there, as well as Irish students, because the school has ties to the embassies in and around Dublin. A lot of the parents working in the embassies send their children to St. Andrew's. If they are American, there is a separate class for American Studies, which the kids go to a few times per week while the Irish students have instruction in the Irish language.

As soon as I walked in to St. Andrew's, you could tell you were not in a typical American private elementary school. There is an emphasis on learning for the sake of learning, rather than teaching to an inflexible curriculum or standardized tests. My CT has her students write down the things that they want to learn whenever they begin a new unit. She explained that she does this because everyone is interested in different things and has different ideas about how to learn the material. Often in the US, especially in public schools, there is little opportunity for this kind of individualized instruction.

The school has many resources, and all of the children in the primary school take PE, art, choir, Irish (or American Studies), and the standard core subjects. Additionally, they receive instruction in a musical instrument (violin, cello, bass) and take either French or Spanish. Clearly, there are myriad opportunities and activities to promote learning in various ways. The students in my classroom are bright and inquisitive, and are always eager to show off their most recent project or piece of writing! They have a blog, a class twitter account, and penpals all around the world. It is exciting to observe how much they love learning and communicating their abilities to me, their teacher, and to other students.

Today we got to speak to the headmaster of the whole school. He was incredibly welcoming and we spent half an hour speaking to him in his office. He told us about teaching and directing other schools in multiple countries, and gave us some chocolate when we left! One thing that I enjoyed hearing about was that he got his degree in engineering, went right into teaching, and never looked back. He said that he loves working with young people and appreciates how his job allows him to make a direct impact on someone' s life. It further reinforced my desire to become a teacher, because he articulated exactly the reasons why I first thought about majoring in education. 

I'm looking forward to going back to St. Andrew's on Friday, it has become my favorite part of the week!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spanish Culture in the Classroom

October 13, 2014 

Amy Haskell

So far, I have spent three days in Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos and each of the three days I have been there I have noticed many differences between the Spanish and American school systems. Some of the differences between the methodologies of the schools are positive and others are negative, but I think observing and experiencing these differences while completing my international pre-practicum in Madrid will vastly shape who I am as a teacher. 

For a bit of background knowledge, I am placed in a primary school in the suburbs of Madrid. The school is Catholic, and not having taught in a school with a religious affiliation before, this was one of the biggest differences that I have experienced so far. Throughout the day I move from class to class, starting with fourth grade boys to second grade girls, to fifth grade boys, and ending with sixth grade girls. The school is bilingual, meaning that 50% of the student's education is in English and the other 50% in Spanish, but I am placed only in the classes taught in English.

From my first day in Madrid, I have noticed many cultural differences, and now having spent several days working in a Spanish school I have seen how these cultural differences have carried into schools. Some big differences are that the students all wear uniforms (different uniforms depending on their age), the students all call the teachers by their name prefix and their first name (for example: Miss Amy or Mr. Richard) instead of by last name, and the students all stand up when a teacher or faculty member enters a room. 

One of the most notable, surface level differences I have noticed includes the schedule of the day. The school day starts at nine am and ends at five pm, which is about two hours longer than the typical American school day, depending the school, of course. The start time of the school is much later, but this reflects the Spanish schedule-- most Spanish people do not eat until at least nine pm and do not go to bed until much later, even children-- so their days start and end later than ours do. Also, the day starts at nine and the teachers then have a half-hour long coffee break at eleven, where we are given coffee, juice, bread, cold cuts, cookies and pastries. This is a very typical part of the Spanish day, which is very unfamiliar to me because I am used to working in a school where a ten minute break to eat a piece of fruit we packed for ourselves is a luxury. We then have another two hours of class and then have a two-hour lunch break where we are served a three-course meal. This is also a very notable cultural difference, the fact that teachers and students are given all of their meals for free. This may partially be the result of the fact that the school is private, but also the result of the fact that food is a huge part of Spanish culture. Many students who live close enough to the school go home during the two-hour break to eat with their families. It is important that everyone has a long time to eat, talk, digest, and relaxed. Twenty-minute working lunches are not a part of the Spanish routine. 

This schedule change is one of the most positive differences that I have noticed. The students have plenty of time to go outside and play throughout the day and to spend time with their friends. You can always feel how much lower the restless energy is when you come back to class after the students have had a nice long break; meanwhile a lot of the day is packed tighter in the American school system. I think that valuing relaxation and physical education is very important, and I really like how it is done at the Colegio Highlands.

Another notable difference is the fact that boys and girls are separated in class. Each grade has two classes, one for boys and one for girls and they never mix throughout primary school. This is a system that I have noticed has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, the girls’ classrooms are much calmer than in other schools I have worked in where they have boys to distract them. Boys and girls are often at different developmental stages so it can be difficult to have them all in the same classroom. However, the fourth and fifth grade boys' classrooms that I work in are very hectic and the teachers have very little control over their classroom. I do not think that this is the result of the teachers' lack of training or capabilities, as both the teachers are well seasoned and experienced, I jus think that having a class of twenty-five ten and eleven year old boys is unrealistic. I think that this could work if the classes were divided into higher and lower levels so the groups were smaller, but most of the time the boys all are very distracted by one another and they get embarrassed about speaking English in front of one another. I think that this could work, but it is not necessarily functioning properly in this particular case. 

One other interesting difference that I have noticed is the bilingual education system at Colegio Highlands. Most of the English teachers are Spanish people that did their studies at English-speaking immersion schools, mostly in the British education system. But, although these teachers are Spanish, the students are all told that the teachers are native English speakers from Great Britain. So, as far as the students know these teachers do not speak a word of Spanish. Although I am American and speak English, I am also near fluent in Spanish, but I was told on my first day at Colegio Highlands that I am not supposed to tell the students that I speak any Spanish at all. The director, the person who told me this, said that if I tell the students that I speak Spanish then they will only want to speak Spanish to me and in their English classes the students are supposed to be using English only. Having now spent some time in the school, I think that I do not necessarily love this rule. Sometimes I feel as though it is good because the students are forced to use their English. However, there have been times when the students are really struggling and I feel as though it would be better to have them tell me the word or phrase in Spanish and then have me explain it to them in English so that we can work through it together. Of course, I am not trained in bilingual education so I do not know what the proper technique is, but I just feel like sometimes the students give up because they are unable to express themselves, or they might benefit from comparing the words and phrases in both English and Spanish.

To wrap up this post, I feel as though I am taking away a lot from being able to see this school system and the way that things are taught in Spain and at this particular school. There have been a lot of methods and practices that I want to use and combine with those of the American school system, and others that I don't want to use at all, but I think this is really helping to shape my teaching style. I look forward to going back again and learning more!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

First Day at Manorcroft, a Traditional British School

This past Friday I had my first day of student teaching at Manorcroft Primary School in Egham, Surrey.  I was in a state of constant amazement all day just observing and soaking in everything that was going on.  Although there is no big language difference between British and American schools, there is a huge cultural difference.  I am positive I will adjust to the “new culture,” but right now everything about the British classroom is very new and exciting.  A typical American school day is very different than a day at Manorcroft, which is why doing this international pre-practicum is going to be such an interesting experience.
            The classroom I’m placed in is a Year 2 class, which is the American equivalent of first grade. There are 31 students in the class, which is taught by Ms. Cornick, and a teaching assistant. However, the teaching assistants do not work on Fridays, which is the day that I am at Manorcroft.  The school day began with Ms. Cornick, taking the register.  She says, “good morning” to each individual student, and s/he is expected to respond with, “good morning.” At that moment, and throughout the day, I noticed that school in general is much more proper and formal than it is in America.  After the register, there was a great deal of time spent on reading and literacy.  From the decorations around the room and from seeing the timetable, it was clear to me that Manorcroft gives a great deal of instruction on literacy and considers it to be the most important subject.  One of the most surprising parts of the day occurred when students returned from playtime outside and had 15 minutes of “cutting skills.”  During this time, students had to practice properly cutting out squares of various sizes after Ms. Demonstrated that students rotate the paper when cutting as opposed to turning and twisting their arms.  Having instruction on such a task goes to show that British educators want students to learn the “proper” way of doing things.   
            From observing the entire day in Ms. Cornick’s classroom, a couple things stuck out to me as being very different from the American culture.  Unlike in America, where students will whine, “I wasn’t using that” when asked to tidy up, students in 2C had a much better attitude about it.  Even if it was not their mess, students simply picked up or threw out anything around them.  And when their table was clean, they went to other tables or got on their hands and knees to clean up there too.
Additionally, I noticed that the students, at least in Ms. Cornick’s class, had really good relationships with each other.  All day long I noticed students helping and assisting each other whenever possible in small and big ways.  For example, a student asked me how to spell a word, and before I could answer, the student sitting next to her showed her that I had already written out that word on the white board.  Students were constantly offering to put others’ books and notebooks away for them.  This is something that I seldom see while in American classrooms. I did not see a single student conflict all day long.  While there are many reasons for why the students get along so well, one reason could be the fact that students are forced to build relationships during their playtime.  Unlike most American schools, there is no play structure or swings at Manorcroft.  Instead, there are just three big cement areas.  With no other option, students have to play with each other, engaging in sports or imaginative play.  I spent about 30 minutes simply watching students run around with each other having tons of fun.  They did not need to be entertained by tire swings or slides; they entertained themselves.  I believe that it is all this bonding time that contributes to such a positive classroom experience.
            Some of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the day were my interactions with students.  At one point, some of the boys were talking about football clubs and when I asked them, “Which club should I support?” they all erupted with different team names, “Manchester United,” “Chelsea,” “Spurs,” and “Belgium.”  There was some banter between the boys and some of the kids were saying things like, “No no, Chelsea’s rubbish.”  Football (soccer) is something that people in England have really strong opinions about, and so it was really funny seeing these young boys get so heated about the teams they supported.  Another funny instance came when I was telling a boy how a trash bin is called the “trash” in America instead of “the bin.”  A couple minutes later when Ms. Cornick told everyone to tidy up, he says to me, “I’m going to throw this in the trash.” I asked him why he said trash instead of bin, and he said, “I’m saying it the American way.”  I always believed the stereotype that British people don’t like the American accent because it sounds uneducated and harsh. But, from my time in England so far, I’ve learned that the stereotype is not quite true, and that the British are almost as fascinated with the American way of saying things as we are with British accents.
            Overall, I had an amazing first day at Manorcroft; I LOVE it there!  I am so excited to go back next Friday and to continue building relationships with all the students in Ms. Cornick’s class.