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.