E-Mail: intlprac@bc.edu or SKYPE us: bc.prac.office

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dublin International Practicum

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

End of the Year Thoughts

This semester has presented me with a great opportunity to view the education system through the eyes of another country, and has left a lasting impression on me.  I loved the time that I was able to spend in my CT's classroom, and learned/reinforced teaching strategies that I have been learning at my time at Boston College.
My cooperating teacher provided me with good insight on how to maintain a controlled classroom.  She likes to keep a quieter classroom, and achieves this by constantly having the kids doing an assignment or worksheet.  When they first walk into the classroom, a Do Now is already up on the smartboard, so they put away their things quickly and begin working on it.  When they're done, they either help those that aren't done around them or read quietly in their seats.  Next, during lessons, my CT is either teaching the lesson, or they are quietly working in their workbooks.  This is a technique I hope to use in my classroom, have the kids always focused on something so they don't think to act out.  My CT is firm but kind, a quality that is vital to any successful teacher.
I also recognize the great opportunity that I was given to be able to work at St. Andrew's College.  This private school provides their students with a top quality education and hires incredibly capable teachers.  I am very lucky I was able to shadow Ms. Powderly for a semester and see how she incorporated technology into her classroom.  I have yet to be in a classroom where a smartboard is available for daily use for every teacher.  Technology is an important part of the future of teaching, and my CT showed me several programs that can be used to help teach a lesson.
Also, being in an Irish classroom itself was so incredible.  Something unique to all Irish classrooms is that in elementary school across the country, every classroom teacher has to be able to teach Gaelic to its students as a way to preserve Irish traditions.  At the end of Irish students' secondary school, there is a test to ensure that the student has retained enough knowledge of the Gaelic language to ensure that this Irish custom endures.  The pride that Irish people have for their traditions of the past is touching.
I loved my time teaching abroad, and I feel lucky that I was provided with this unique opportunity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Day in the Life

The school that I volunteered at this semester was called St. Andrew's College, and it was a well funded school in a fairly affluent area.  I went to the school on Wednesdays until lunch, and the day to day schedule was always the same.
The school started around 8:45 every day, but my teacher was always there well before that time finishing setting up for her lessons.  Often one or many of her students would be in her classroom in the morning instead of waiting outside for line up.  On my last day in class, my teacher was helping one of her students sew a stocking that was to be a gift for her family.  My CT was always available and welcoming to her students at any time of the school day, even before and after class.
On Wednesday, the day always starts with the students writing down their homework in their assignment books that is shown on the smartboard.  While they are writing down their assignments, Ms. Powderly walks around the classroom and signs off verifying that they did their homework from the night before.  Once the students have written down their assignments, they work on their do now assignment.  While they're working on their do now, if any of them have questions, they raise their hands and I help them with any questions they may have.
After their morning assignment, the class moves on to a math lesson.  Over the semester they largely focused on understanding the basic concepts of fractions.  Fractions are a difficult concept to understand, so my CT had blocks to make the abstract concept more tangible.  The kids often manipulated the blocks to get a better understanding of the fractions, so a lot of the math lessons included using these blocks to solve the problems.  My CT also takes advantage of her smartboard during lessons.  She will write word problems on the smartboard, and she calls up a volunteer to solve the problem in front of the class.
After math, the students are split up and go to their specific, individualized classes.  Because this is an international class, during this next period, the children are split up into their respective language classes.  The Irish students stay with my CT to learn Gaelic, the American students go to their American studies class, and the Spanish and Polish students go to their classes.  I typically went to the American studies class.  During this class an American teacher taught the students about different American holidays.
During the last period before lunch they had English.  During this class, my CT would read a passage of a short story out loud. After, the students would ask questions about anything they were confused about, or any terms that were unfamiliar.  Next, the students would silently read the passage to themselves, and then would answer the multiple choice questions.
Some challenges that my CT faced while teaching was how dynamic the school was.  Because the school is well financed, there are many different types of classes that are offered to the students.  All of the students play a different instrument, and many of them take different language classes throughout the day.  Because of this, the students are constantly leaving and coming back to the classroom.  It is difficult for my CT to keep track of where everyone is because of the dynamic nature of the school.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Twas A Night Before Christmas" Lesson and Challenges of Teaching at Colegio Menor

On my last day, I taught a lesson pertaining to the story “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  My students have been learning about writing descriptively.  Thus, I had the students identify what actually occurred in the story.  They realized that there is not much action in the story; rather the majority of the story is description.  The students then pointed out interesting descriptions from the story.  Finally, they drew a picture of a family holiday tradition, wrote 5 descriptive words related to that tradition, and used those words in a paragraph about the tradition.
In general, I was very happy with how my lesson was executed.  My teacher was surprised that this was my first lesson that was not a full-class Read-Aloud.  Several students told me that they enjoyed the story I picked.  Upon reviewing the students’ notebooks, they all did a really good job using more complex descriptive words in their paragraphs.  I was pleased that, although “Twas the Night Before Christmas” can be a challenging story in terms of language, the students demonstrated that they understood by correctly answering my questions and participating in the discussion.
I believe that the majority of the challenges that my teacher and I face in the classroom are similar to those in a fourth grade classroom in the United States.  As in all classrooms, students have many different learning levels and needs that correspond to these levels.  Therefore, instruction needs to be differentiated.  Furthermore, especially for elementary school, it is important to find ways to maintain the interest and attention of the students (because their attention span is often shorter). 
There are some unique challenges due to teaching in a bilingual school.  First, the teacher must ensure that the students are speaking the language they are supposed to be speaking.  Also, it is often important to recognize cultural differences that could be a factor in comprehension.  For example, many of the English books that my school uses do not always contain the customs that the Ecuadorian students are used to or can connect with.  Unfortunately, this also can occur with testing because my school uses Scholastic tests.  Thus, there are many different considerations that a teacher must have.
I am very glad I got the opportunity to teach at Colegio Menor.  I was lucky enough to work with two great classes and an amazing teacher.  I believe I learned a lot about the different challenges and advantages of bilingual schools and the educational system in Ecuador.  I hope to use this knowledge in my later practicums.

Final thoughts on American Overseas School of Rome

Teaching abroad will definitely impact my feeling of responsibility to promote equity and social justice. I saw so many differences in my students, regarding home language or other needs. There were Italian students who did not do as well as they could because of the language, as well as Italians on the other hand who were in the top of the class regardless of their first language. There was one girl, born in America who only knew and spoke English, who was barely able to read at a kindergarten reading level in fourth grade. Also, one Israeli student was still on his very first x2 fact times tables while the rest of the class was at x7 all the way past x12. The one thing that every student had in common was their good behavior in school. Honestly, there were so few incidences of students acting up, and none very serious, it was very refreshing! There was such a varying degree of ability and required accommodations in my classroom and it was a great experience to learn about equity in the classroom.

Every math period a specialist would come in and either take certain students to her room if the lesson was difficult, or take them to a back table to provide extra support. During some science and writing periods another specialist would come in to aid a specific student who had a serious learning disability (but was also one of the sweetest kids in the class). Overall though, the students were expected to perform to the same standards regardless of home language or years in an American school. 

It was hard to see some students struggle because they did not speak English as well as they knew Italian, especially in writing and grammar. There is a line between proper equity and unfair equity. All students shouldn't receive the same services and be held to the same standards in everything if they are very different learners. My CT definitely promoted proper equity. With certain students who had a much harder time in math (regardless of language or official diagnosis), she would modify their homework and tests to give them a chance to demonstrate the knowledge they had. Though all students had the same writing assignments, they too were modified for certain students and graded on slightly different scales. 

It was hardest when dealing with Italian students who had clear signs of some learning problem. Unfortunately, the culture in Italy is to ignore any signs that your child might have a problem and never let it become official that your child has a "learning disability" or "special needs". I would hear all the teachers comparing issues with this in their classrooms- trying to convince a parent to let the school test their child, trying to give as many accommodations as possible without having an official IEP or other document, and more. It definitely made me think about social justice in the classroom and the misunderstandings about learning disabilities. It was so sad to be at a school with so many services and the ability to really help so many students, but unable to do as much as they could for students who weren't tested and diagnosed because of the law. I will always remember this class and the variety of students I encountered here. Being in such a diverse and multi-lingual classroom I thought a lot about equity and social justice, and I am so glad that I had this class and opportunity to study abroad to think about these issues. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Varying Instruction

Different Learning Styles

My cooperating teachers have made concerted efforts to cater to different learning styles during lessons. For example, in English the students first read the short story silently to themselves. They then listen to the audio form a CD that the teacher plays while underlining any words that they don’t understand. We then review the words they had trouble on and they copy them into their notebooks with the definitions. The next day the students take turns reading the story aloud. They do the following reading comprehension activities in class and for homework, so that in total the students should have reviewed the material 4 or 5 times by the end of the unit orally, through listening, and through written activities.
Miss Anne also constructed some fun hands-on projects for the class’s final review before their test. Using mirrors and toilet paper rolls the students created a type of kaleidoscope and talked about how their eyes worked to see the image. To review the respiratory system Miss Anne constructed a model using a soda bottle, straws and two balloons. For the circulatory system the students were given sponges cut into the shape of valentine hearts a bucket of water that had been dyed red. At each of the stations we asked the groups to tell us what system they thought this station represented, what were the parts of that system, how did it work, etc.? The students all loved getting to move around and play with the different systems.
Miss Monica, my other cooperating teacher has been working on integrating their new projector into her lessons. So far she has used it to project videos, power points, and to show a verb webpage that the class completed together to practice irregular past tense verbs. The students get really excited whenever she uses it. I’ve used it once to teach a lesson about North America for the class’s continents project.

It’s important to vary lesson structure, not only to appeal to different learning styles of the students, but break up the monotony of long blocks and keep students excited about learning and lessons. 

Review and Intro Activity

This week I led an introductory activity for the human body unit in third grade science. Somewhere in between one college lecture and another, I had forgotten how much reiteration is necessary and built into the curriculum, especially at the elementary level. On Monday, Miss Anne, my cooperating teacher reviewed information about the senses that the students learned last year. Today on Wednesday, I also reviewed the information with them, before moving onto the lesson introducing the body. This is something I feel we phase out as students progress in school. Through talking with Miss Anne, I think some of the reason for this is pressure to progress through content. In Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos, the students are split into two classes, a boys and a girls class, so Miss Anne has a different class each day. I am only at school on Mondays and Wednesdays with the boys, but Miss Anne and I have discussed the struggle she faces in ensuring that the two are keeping pace with one another. Often the boys' class has fallen behind, and in an effort to make sure she covers all the content, reviews sometimes get cut, despite their helpfulness both for the students in remembering material and as assessments for the teachers.

For the new content I began by asking the students’ table groups to brainstorm a list of parts of the human body. Then I asked for two volunteers and had one lie down on a piece of butcher paper and the other student traced him. We then went around the room and each group shared a part of the body that they had brainstormed. In retrospect I would have liked to had more varied participation and possible have asked that a different student from the group share each round. Then, using posters provided by my cooperating teacher, I asked the students a series of questions about the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems. Questions were constructed as an informal assessment to gauge what the students knew about the chapter we were about to start. The questions included things like, What do you see on the poster?, Can you label any of the parts?, Do you know what the function of it is (what does it do)? What else do you know about this system?

First Full Class Math Lesson in Rome

I am an Elementary Education & Mathematics/Computer Science double major and I really enjoy math and look forward to teaching this subject the most to my students. Every day in my classroom, there were two identical math lessons, one for each fourth grade class. It would start with the other class coming into our room and having their 50 minute lesson, then the students would switch back to their original classrooms and our class would have math (with a few tweaks made depending on how the previous lesson went). I really enjoyed this style of working with the two fourth grade classrooms. Instead of teaching a lesson, noting what worked and didn't work, and then tweaking that lesson for your next class a full year from now, the teacher was able to rework and teach the lesson immediately after teaching it once.

I thought this way of teaching two classes allotted for a lot of freedom and ease for the teacher, as my cooperating teacher taught every lesson- math, science, writing and geography- twice every week. Since each teacher (the other teacher taught reading, current events, and history) had their specific duties, they were able to concentrate more on those specifics and really get their lessons down well. I know that the two teachers liked this split version too, because they were both teaching the subjects they were strongest in. When I decided to teach a math lesson with my cooperating teacher, I knew I would be also be teaching it twice.

My cooperating teacher had a lot of faith in me and my teaching abilities, which really helped me feel more confident and prepared for teaching a full class lesson. Before school around week 5, I was telling her that out of all the ways that I had learned to do multiplication problems as an elementary student, the only one I really remembered and used was lattice multiplication. I did a quick demonstration of lattice for her, and she thought it was really interesting and the kids would love it. We decided the next week I would teach lattice to both classes. Since it wasn't part of their actual syllabus or requirements, that took some of the pressure off of me for teaching my first big lesson. My cooperating teacher really believed in letting the students do what worked for them, versus having all the students always do everything the same. For example, she let them do any version of multiplication on tests to solve problems, after demonstrating that they did know how to do all the methods that they had learned. She thought if one way came easiest to a student, he or she should be able to use that all the time. She wanted lattice to be one more option for the students.

To prepare the lesson, I went to Khan Academy. I watched a short video that perfectly explained how and why lattice worked. I jotted some notes and printed out a worksheet for the students to do, full of practice problems as well as empty lattice box problems. I worked with my cooperating teacher through email to discuss the lesson, and copied all the worksheets and prepared with her the morning of the lesson (week 6 or 7).

The lesson went really, really well, better than I thought it would. The first class seemed to understand my explanation of why lattice worked and everyone thought it was a really cool way to solve multiplication problems. The students enjoyed working in pairs to make their own problems, solve them, and then check with their partners. I noticed that some people in the first class had a hard time keeping track of what numbers went in what square, so for the second class, I made sure that they understood what numbers went where. I taught them how to use their fingers to make columns and rows, understanding that where their fingers intersected they would write the number for that problem. This helped a few students in the second class, and I was really glad to have two classes to teach one lesson. They all listened very attentively, and I think they were excited to see their student teacher up at the board giving a lesson!

I think my first lesson went very well and I was really happy to be up there teaching. I was glad I waited a few weeks until I taught, to be comfortable with the students, teachers, and classroom first. After the lesson, one my favorite students came up to me and said, "Good job teaching, you did great!" with a big smile. It was so sweet and just such a grown up thing to say good job to the teacher, something that most fourth graders would never think of doing. It made me feel so good not just to have a successful lesson, but to have one of my young students recognize that it was something new and maybe nerve-wracking for me to be giving a lesson. I really enjoyed my first lesson and I am so happy to have taught it to these fantastic two classes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Grahamstown, SA: Promoting Equity & Social Justice

“How will teaching abroad impact your responsibility to promote equity and social justice?” 

I left this blog for last because I knew it would be a hard and important question to answer after spending five months in South Africa. The idea that I have a “responsibility” to promote equity and social justice is the most meaningful thing that I have learned during my two years at Boston College. It is what inspired me to study in South Africa. I never imagined that teaching abroad was going to be such a life-changing experience. Not only did it reinforce my decision to become a teacher, but it also taught me a lot about promoting equity and social justice.

It has been 20 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa, but still inequality and injustice are undeniably existent. This is especially evident in the education system. I chose to have two placements in order to better understand how unequal the institution still remains. As I explained in my first post, I visited Victoria Primary School and the Good Shepherd School. VP is an all girls, fee-paying public school (while the fees are not as high as private schools’, they are still too much for many South Africans to afford). I was in the Grade R (kindergarten) classroom. My other school, Good Shepherd, is a free, co-educational public school. Here I was in the English classroom, and I taught grades four through seven.

From the beginning, it amazed me how different the two schools could be, despite the fact that they literally shared a back fence. On a surface level, Victoria Primary had a gorgeous campus. There were beautiful gardens and large sports fields. They had tennis courts, a swimming pool, and multiple playgrounds. My classroom was huge with plenty of toys for the girls. There was a large hall where the whole school could gather for assemblies and concerts. There was an excellent music program with a choir and instrument lessons. Good Shepherd’s campus by comparison was much more sparse. There was only one gravel netball court and a strip of pavement for the students to play on. My classroom was small, especially with 40 desks. While my teacher had decorated her classroom with creative posters and students’ work, other classrooms had bare walls. In reality though, Good Shepherd is much nicer than most other free, township schools in South Africa because of the Good Shepherd Trust. The Trust raises money, supplying extra resources that the government does not provide such as the library and computer lab. I saw first-hand how much of a difference these extra resources made for the students. For some classes, my teacher was able to send half of the 40 students to the computer lab. The students were able to work independently on the computers while she or I could focus on teaching a much more manageable small class of 20 students.

Staffing was another major difference between the two schools. Both Good Shepherd and Victoria Primary had amazing teachers and administrators from whom I learned a lot. However, Good Shepherd was very understaffed, especially in comparison to VP. In my grade R classroom, there was a teacher, an assistant teacher, and a classroom aid for the 19 students. Victoria Primary could afford to hire additional staff such as physical education and music instructors too. At Good Shepherd, my teacher had no assistance for classes of 34 to 38 students. The government only pays for one teacher per grade. The responsibility to pay for additional staff (such as a principal) has fallen on the Good Shepherd Trust. My teacher told me that the government has been extremely slow in replacing teachers in the past. For example, the grade 4 students went without a classroom teacher for over half the year two years ago. As a result, the students (in grade 6 now) are still very behind. She said that they would sometimes have the cleaning staff watch the class as they completed worksheets. With such little staff and no substitute teachers, classes are often left on their own when a teacher cannot come to school. During one of my visits, there were three teachers absent! The students ran wild, playing outside.  This was very distracting for the other students trying to learn inside. A few times my teacher scheduled doctor’s appointments for Fridays because she knew I would be there to cover her classes. While at first it was intimidating to be left alone with classes of 40 students, I was glad to be able to fill in. 

With eleven official languages in South Africa, language was one other area in which I witnessed inequity. Less than ten percent of South Africans speak English as a first language, however it is the predominant language of instruction throughout the country.  At Good Shepherd, nearly none of the students speak English at home (most speaking Xhosa and Afrikaans), but since grade 1 are taught entirely in English. It never seemed fair to me that the students should be forced to learn in a language they did not choose. The students received minimal extra support for this transition at Good Shepherd. At Victoria Primary, fewer students spoke Xhosa and Afrikaans at home. However, the few that did were sometimes at a disadvantage. Some of these students were able to receive extra support through speech therapy though. 

After 5 months in South Africa, it has been hard for me to accurately describe the inequality I saw between and within the schools. This institutionalized inequity often saddened and frustrated me. Why didn’t anyone care that there were not enough teachers for my Good Shepherd students? Why did my VP students get outings to the beach and their own swimming pool, while my Good Shepherd students had a few deflated netballs to play with? Why did classes have 20 students at VP and 40 students at Good Shepherd? How was it possible that two publicly funded schools could be so disparate? Why did I constantly have to remind my students to speak in English when I was the only native speaker in the classroom? These are questions I continue to have.

Despite these worries, the students and staff that I worked with gave me constant hope. At both schools, the teachers still loved their students and the students still loved learning. I enjoyed teaching at Victoria Primary just as much as I did at Good Shepherd. I was able to learn a lot from both placements.

I have learned that I need to continue asking similar questions about the American education system now. What are the sources of inequality and social injustice in American schools? Furthermore, as a future teacher it is my responsibility to help create a fair and equitable education system. My last anecdote is from one interaction with a VP teacher. Upon meeting her, I told her that I would also be student teaching at the Good Shepherd School on Fridays. She asked me where Good Shepherd was … as I said: the schools literally share a back fence. The students could hear each other’s bells and watch each other play, but yet this teacher had no idea what was going on next door! While I came to respect this teacher’s professionalism and ability, I do not want to be her. I want to be a teacher that works towards building an education system that benefits not only my students, but also all children.

Student teaching in South Africa was by far my favorite part of study abroad. I have been home for two and a half weeks and already really miss both schools! I hope that all I have learned will continue to make me a better educator, dedicated to promoting equity and social justice.

Singapore Schools (Alternative Assignment)

Unlike many of the international pre-practicum students abroad, I was not able to successfully complete a practicum placement. Though I could not attend a local school multiple times to observe lessons and to have discussions with the students, I was very fortunate to be able to visit two different schools. After visiting both schools, I realized that schools in Singapore are different from schools in America in two very distinct ways. Firstly, it seems that both schools have clear and focused missions and values that are enforced in their schools. Another big difference is that these schools use various different modes of learning that are incorporated into their school environments.

The structure of the elementary schools in Singapore is different from the elementary schools in the US and is more similar to that of the middle and high schools in the US. They have different teachers for each subject. So what surprised me the most and reminded me that I was in Asia was seeing the students show respect to their teachers by standing up and saying in unison, “Good morning/afternoon Ms. ________” when a subject teacher walked into the classroom. This is one way I saw the schools enforcing their values upon the students. Their values and missions are also very clearly written and explained on their respective school websites, which are often updated. Lastly, students attending either school must take character and citizenship education classes once a week where they are reminded and educated of these school-wide and nation-wide values.

I remember learning, in my Teaching Reading course sophomore year, the importance of creating an environment conducive to learning. In this course, we learned about how text outside of just textbooks and worksheets, such as posters and graded work hung on the wall could also be a source of education. I have seen such examples in schools in the US, but in Singapore, I saw how these schools use every space possible to create an educative environment for their students. For example, in both schools, the hallways were painted with a historical timeline of Singapore. In West Grove Primary, the hallway leading to the art classroom was decorated with information of different artists and their paintings. The most interesting environmental learning setting I found at West Grove Primary was the “Memory Lane” hallway. It was a kind of museum set up in one of the hallways that walked the students through the various different cultures existing in Singapore and their history with the use of traditional costumes and other artifacts to make this learning process more engaging and interesting. One last way the students at West Grove Primary are educated by their school environment is through their small outdoors farm and garden.

History Hallway

History Hallway

Art Hallway

Memory Lane Museum

Outdoor Farm

Outdoor Garden

Final Reflection

I can't believe that our semester is over and that I'm writing my final post about teaching abroad in Dublin. It was truly a worthwhile and formative experience for me; I loved every day that I was able to go into St. Andrew's! I have learned a lot about myself as a future teacher through this practicum and I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about going abroad to pursue this additional experience.

What I liked most about St. Andrew's, and what I think makes it different from schools we would be placed at through BC, is the overall responsibility that is placed on each student to really be in charge of their own learning. There is very little hand-holding and coddling, and as a result the students (by 5th grade at least) seem very mature and inquisitive. My classroom had very few written rules on the walls; it was expected that they would behave and be respectful towards each other and to the school. As a result, the environment throughout the school is so warm and personal because everyone who is there really wants to be successful at school. The principal's office is right in the middle of classrooms, which demonstrates how accessible she is to her students and teachers. It was such a great environment to be working in, and I'm sure I would have loved to go to school there as well.

While I never encountered any explicit examples of social justice teaching, I saw examples of how the school promoted equity without taking away from individual talents. In the schools I attended growing up, there was a tendency to overemphasize the fact that everyone is equal in the "everyone's a winner" way. There were certain games we weren't allowed to play at recess or in gym class because not every person could "win" the game. At St. Andrew's, there is a school-wide competition that is based on merit. If students are performing well in academics, sports, or other activities, their team earns points. At the end of the year, one team wins, but every student has tried to be their best at something throughout the year. I think that this is a great way to promote equity because everyone ends up working towards doing their best. It certainly creates a positive and fun environment at the school. If the opportunity arises in the future, this is a method I would certainly try to implement within my individual classroom.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Classroom Management in Spain

With the classes large, around thirty students in each class, classroom management could be very difficult at my placement. As a result, classroom management is very important to the school.
First of all, the set-up of the school helps manage the students. There are four floors, one for each age group, and the classrooms are all in the single, small hallway. As a result, it is very easy to monitor the hallways and make sure that all students are where they should be. In addition, instead of the students changing classrooms for each of their classes, the teachers do. This keeps the students in their classroom and therefore limits the possibility of misbehavior. The set up of the school and the administration create expectations for behavior and enforce them strictly making it easier for the teachers to monitor their classrooms.
All of the classrooms are set up with the desks separated, making it more difficult for the students to talk to each other and therefore distract each other. Furthermore, my CT constantly walks around the classroom and watches the students. This way, she can make sure that the students stay on track.
While having the desks separated helps limit teaching, the students of course still talk. However, my CT does not interrupt the class to silence them unless they are causing a disruption to others. In her mind, if a student doesn’t want to pay attention, she can’t force them to, but in the end they will not do well in the class. This very much reflects a common attitude about education in Spain: if you want to learn, you have to take the initiative and do so. While this classroom management technique allows my CT to continue to teach so as not to take time away from those who want to learn, it would be difficult to have this attitude in the US with the importance of standardized tests because there would be students who will not have learned what they needed to.
Finally, my CT also manages the classroom by making sure her classes are interesting. She adjusts her teaching methods and material based on the needs of her students rather than just sticking to what she prefers. If the class is interesting and centered on the student needs, they will want to pay attention and will therefore learn more.

With these techniques, my CT is effective in her classroom management and has earned respect from her students.