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Monday, December 15, 2014

Differences & Similarities between British and American Education

Now that my international pre-practicum is over, I have reflected on the experience as a whole and compared and contrasted it with my practicum experiences in America. One of the most noticeable differences between teaching in England and teaching in America are the class sizes. In England, it is pretty standard to have a class of around 29-30 students. My classroom consisted of 30 students, and the other Year 2 class had 29.  In America, the largest class I’ve ever seen is 25 or 26 students, and that is considered too large for most teachers.  However, the caveat is that at Manorcroft teachers have a full time teaching assistant in the classroom 4 out of the 5 days. In general, the teachers get much more support in the classroom in England.

Another big difference is the seamless integration between staff and teachers in England. I was amazed that most teachers know the names of all the students in the school, younger and older. There is a huge community at Manorcroft. From the weekly assemblies, productions, and events, there are many opportunities for teachers to interact with students not in their classroom. There were many times when my CT, Miss Cornick allowed students to go show their previous teacher, Mrs. Mercer, some of their best work. Getting the positive praise from their old teacher meant a lot to the students. During lunch, in the teacher’s room all the teachers share the problems they are having in general and with specific students. Their previous teachers provide a lot of helpful ideas for ways to deal with the issue. There is constant communication between not only the teachers, but also the teachers and students. One reason for this is that the classrooms sometimes stay together year after year. The teachers can choose if they want to mix up the classes or if they want to keep the same group of kids together the next year. It all depends on the classroom dynamic, the number of “problem children” and the needs of certain students. While there are some schools in America that follow this same philosophy, most classes are mixed up each year.

In terms of similarities, many of the basic tenants of teaching that are present in America are also there in British schooling. For example, Miss Cornick used many of the same classroom management techniques, such as clapping patterns in a call and response form to get students’ attention, and playing music during clean up time and expecting students to be on the floor by the time the song ends. Additionally, Miss Cornick also uses a behavior chart where students get to move their name up when they are doing a great job and down when they are misbehaving or not listening. This type of behavior management system is present in almost every classroom in America.

The aspect that I was most comfortable with, because it was so similar to American ways, was the teaching style. Miss Cornick would always introduce the lesson topic as a whole group on the carpet using the smart board. Then she would send students back to their table groups to do work that practiced/reinforced the information she just taught them. There are three different ability levels in the class so students sometimes had to do more or less than others, but they were always all working on the same topic. Moreover, I was completely in awe of Miss Cornick’s preparation for always having three different activities planned for the three different abilities. This was not only the case for in-school work, but also for homework as well. In general, there is a huge focus on differentiation for individual students. During my time in the classroom, I saw many similarities to the education system in America, but also many differences. It was such a great learning experience and I look forward to implementing some of the things I learned while abroad in my last pre-practicum!

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