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Friday, October 16, 2015

Comparison of El Colegio Menor in Ecuador to the US System

El Colegio Menor 

I student teach in a first grade classroom at Colegio Menor, a private pK-12 English immersion school in Quito, Ecuador. Before reading further, keep in mind that Colegio Menor is one of the most expensive and “best” schools in the country, so this is by no means representative of a typical Ecuadorian public school, which I will discuss in my next blog post. Colegio Menor is very similar to those in the US with an abundance of resources and similar teaching styles. Even so, the culture is more laid-back and the students are in a total immersion environment (my CT uses SEI techniques, which I will discuss in a later blog as well), which seems very different to me.

My lesson on sight in the first grade classroom

My first thought walking into Colegio Menor on my first day was to notice the beauty of the campus and all the wonderful resources available to the students. The school is particularly expensive in Ecuador, so the tuition pays for resources such as smartboard like systems in every classroom, curriculum and books from the US, a full school library, computer labs, and many buildings on the huge campus. The resources are here are very similar, and perhaps even more abundant here, than what I’ve seen in the US in middle to upper income schools. My CT also taught in the US for a few years, so her teaching style seems familiar to me. She uses US curriculum (Foss curriculum for science and Math in Focus for Math) and books. She starts each day with a morning circle, which I’ve seen many teachers in the US do, where they discuss what day it is, what they will learn today, the schedule, some new letters and their sounds, new sight words, and morning work. She expects students to raise their hands and to sit on the rug or at their tables. She uses lucky sticks (popsicle sticks) to call on children and uses positive reinforcement (I see that Maria is sitting down, thank you…).
However, I did notice some differences from the US right away, such as the very laidback and relaxed atmosphere, as well as the sheltered english immersion (SEI) techniques that my CT used to help the students understand English. All the teachers here call the students “my love” or “my life,” and are very affectionate with them, hugging them and not hesitating with physical contact, as they would in the US. Ecuadorian culture is very affectionate and warm, even with newcomers. All the students call teachers by their first names, so I am Ellen instead of Ms. Daly. The school is also surprisingly laid-back, even lax in special education. The new ecuadorian law now requires schools to include all students with special needs in general education, as they often just stayed home before, and in theory requires an IEP where applicable, but IEPs are virtually non-existent and no pull-out or special education classrooms exist. The school only has one special education professional, who is stretched too thin over many classes and is never really with the students for long enough to do much. A student in my class has Aspergers and really struggles with transitions, but he does not have an IEP or any accommodations. For the very few students who do have IEPs, they just consist of a few insufficient sentences, such as “give Martin blocks to use for math.” My CT also is very relaxed in her teaching approach. I’ve taught lessons almost every time I’ve gone to the school, but she often only tells me “teach the next lesson on the sense of sight” or “let’s do the next lesson from the foss curriculum, whatever that is,” which seems to reflect her personality but also that the general approach at the school is not as structured as in the US. Her primary focus, she told me, is on caring for the students, and all else, even lessons and learning, are secondary. Her loving attitude helps her connect with the students more and help each one in the best way. My CT also uses SEI techniques in her pedagogy, since all the students are native spanish-speakers and are learning English. She uses a lot of pictures, verbal explanations of vocab and new words, songs, and gestures to help students understand, which is more than I’ve seen in the US in general education classes.
Overall, my experience is going well and I love observing my CT, teaching lessons every day, and learning ways to help ESL students. I will discuss my other public school volunteer experience, which is drastically different, and I will also go into more depth on the SEI techniques and lessons.

Hasta luego!

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