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Monday, April 20, 2015

How the French Manage

Classroom management in general is something that has always interested me because of how difficult it can be and how many different strategies there are that work differently for different students. Keeping this in mind, I was super excited and intrigued to see how teachers in another country would manage their classrooms and how it would differ from anything I’ve seen in my other pre-practicums.

The situation that I am in right now in France is different from a traditional classroom setting so the management is therefore vastly different. As I explained in my last post, the first session I observe at my placement is a parent-child class. The basis of the class in itself creates a difficulty for management. Before even starting at my placement, my CT explained to me that one of the hardest things for her is finding the right balance of behavioral management in this class. She explained how she feels intrusive if she corrects the children’s behavior since the parents are present and interactive the entire time. Over the months I have been at my placement, she has held true to that statement. At times I can tell that she wishes she could intervene when a child is misbehaving but restrains herself. It would be an extremely difficult position, and I am not sure how I would handle it if I were in her shoes. Management becomes an entirely different ball game in a situation like this.

In the second session I observe the teacher does not use many classroom management techniques. I can tell that she struggles with what exactly to do to develop a standardized strategy especially because there is one child who dominates the class. The student is extremely advanced in English and races to beat the other children with almost any question, which then discourages the other students.

Similar to classrooms in the United States, you’ll find a range of students with different abilities. I do not know from experience, but I have heard that in French elementary schools teachers and rules tend to be rather strict. I have noticed during our arts and crafts time with the older students that they do not dare make something that looks different from the model the teacher provides. Down to the color they try to keep it exactly the same. I wonder if this could be a reflection of the strictness and how the teachers manage their classrooms.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Independence/Responsibility amongst Viennese Students

     After observing and teaching for many weeks in a Viennese elementary school, I have noticed that students are granted more responsibility in the classroom as well as outside of school. My students are only in first grade, but yet they are expected to complete all homework assignments and bring in library books without any reminders. If students forget things, like sneakers for gym class or money for a field trip, teachers normally won't let them participate. If students don't complete their homework, they have to tell their parents that they didn't do it and finish it for the next day. In American schools, I frequently hear teachers reiterating due dates and assigned tasks. Students I have worked with have forgotten homework on multiple occasions and are given stern reminders, but they normally are not excluded from the day's activities. 
   My teacher will also leave the students alone for some time in the classroom to complete certain tasks. Legally I don't think this is allowed in most U.S. schools, however, in Vienna the children are expected to continue working and remain in their seats. Of course there are instances where students get up and start chit chatting with peers and not engaging in the assigned worksheet, exercise, etc.  However, generally, I get the impression that Viennese children are accustomed to working on their own without their teacher's constant guidance and support. They understand that it is their responsibility to complete their work and that there will be consequence if they do not. 
     Another example I notice daily is that very young children will ride the public transport system on their own. This is not something I see frequently in the United States. It seems like children are just naturally instilled with more independence and responsibility than in the States. It may also have something to do with Austria's very low crime rate. Parents aren't scared of sending their children on the subway because they know it is safe. After school when students are going home, the teacher will freely let them out of the classroom. There isn't a teacher in charge of pick up who makes sure that each child gets picked up by the right parent or gets in the right car. Initially this was strange to me because in the States teachers must be very aware of where each of their students are going after school. However, in Vienna it's in the hands of the kids to know where they are going and where they are supposed to be.

Bienvenue...

Greetings from Aix-en-Provence, France!

I have had the opportunity to work at an after-school program/club that offers a number of different classes in English ranging from pottery to yoga classes.  Traditionally French children did not attend school on Wednesdays to have a day to practice religion at home since France is a secular country. Now many schools continue this tradition and therefore the program where I am completing my student teaching holds classes all day Wednesdays for students who are out of school.

Each week I go to my placement on Wednesday morning and observe two classes. The first session is a parent-child class with children ages 2-3 years old. During the 45 minute session, my Cooperating Teacher goes through a number of different songs in English as they practice colors, numbers, and a different vocabulary focus every few weeks. After singing, they continue into an arts-and-crafts where the parent and child work together to complete the desired project. This session, in particular, is extremely different from anything I have observed or participated in because the parents are present for the entire time. It is a completely different dynamic as the parents typically speak to their children in French while my CT speaks almost completely in English.

The second session I observe is an older class of students ranging from 5-8 years old. This session is similar to the first parent-child session on Wednesdays, but it typically involves a game in English and the art they complete has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary and the “lesson” for the week. I have a much larger role in this session because there are fewer adults and more students who need assistance. The teacher for this class uses more French during the session as the range of language abilities of the students is much larger.

These first few months I have spent at my placement have been very interesting, and I continue to notice and observe different aspect each week. Being able to observe two different types of sessions allows me to gain a better insight into the French culture and expectations as I can watch parent-child interactions and how children behave in a somewhat classroom environment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Initial Impression of Viennese School

Hello from Vienna!
    I have been teaching now for the past 2 (almost 3) months at an elementary school in Vienna, Austria. I work mainly with first graders, but I also spend an hour a week with 3rd grade students. The children barely speak English, which has been a challenge. However, I have been able to implement some methods for teaching ELL/bilingual students (and I've been able to practice my German!)
   One of the first things I noticed at my Austrian school is that teachers are quite open and forward in the way they speak to students. They do not hold anything back or try to make things sound kinder. For example, when disciplining a student my Cooperating Teacher said in front of the whole class something along the lines of "You're not going to get anywhere if you keep acting like that." When commenting on a student's writing of the letter A, she said that it was terrible and he needed to do it again. In writing these words sound much harsher, but even so the discipline/criticism was quite direct and to the point. There was no "sugar coating." This may be just my CT's style of teaching, however, from other experiences in Austria I get the impression that people here speak honestly and bluntly. Austrians, including my CT, are not passive aggressive. They say things as they are and aren't always worried about hurting people's feelings. When my teacher said those things to young children I was a little shocked, but the kids didn't seem bothered by it at all. I have student taught in a variety of American classrooms, and a comment like this would have surely embarrassed the student. Criticism and discipline normally is not as public in American schools, especially for small things like writing a certain letter again. In the States, teachers normally talk to students individually if there is a problem so as not to involve other children in someone’s personal business. This does not seem to be the case in Vienna. At times my CT's style of discipline and criticism has made me feel uncomfortable (especially when she yells it in German and I have no clue what she is saying). However, fortunately, she allows me to use and implement my own teaching and classroom management strategies while I am there. She appreciates my work as a pre-practicum student and despite our teaching differences, we get along and collaborate well with each other! 

Classroom Management in Bath

I just completed my sixth day at St. Andrew's yesterday, which is sad to think about as my time here is starting to go by so quickly. Since I have been teaching there for six weeks, I have been able to see a lot of different classroom dynamics and have had the opportunity to really observe the actions of my CT and her students. I have definitely noticed an emphasis on conduct and discipline at my school, as good behavior, respect, and paying attention in class are highly valued and monitored throughout the school day. I consider myself to have a more laid-back teaching style than some of the teachers at St. Andrew's and I am nervous about how this will translate in my lesson that I am teaching next week.
St. Andrew's is a beautiful school, the students are wonderful and the staff is well-trained, attentive, and are some of the best teachers that I have ever seen. My CT is wonderful, the amount of love she has for her students is obvious and her level of skill and expertise is really impressive. I feel so lucky to get to observe her and I am learning a lot from getting to watch her teach and interact with her students.
My CT, Miss. Sandey, has high expectations for her students as she constantly tells them, "you are Year 5 and I expect more from you". They are expected to be on task, respect each other, and listen to the teacher, which I have found to be very similar values to ones that I have seen in American schools. While the values are the same, I believe that the promotion and regulation of these values is more strict than back in the states. The teachers are not likely to give out warnings or to let things slide, they are quick to be on a student when they are misbehaving and are not weary to embarrass them in front of the class if it means that it will facilitate good behavior. I find that this method of discipline works on the students as they are not only used to it since the majority of them have been in the school since Foundations; but it also is obvious to me that it works since even the worst behaved students are pretty well behaved, in my opinion. Therefore, I find it hard to discipline the students to the extent that my teacher wants me to because, compared to American students, I find them to be really well-behaved, courteous, and kind.
One of the major problems that I have found in my classroom in terms of behavior is their lack of eagerness to learn. Many of the students, upon being given a task, will choose to ignore the instructions and not participate at all if they see the task to be unfair or a waste of their time. I spend a lot of time throughout the day convincing students to do their work and trying to get them to engage with the material in the way that Miss. Sandey wants them to. I find that this type of behavior is more distracting and damaging to their ability to work in the classroom than other types of behavior; however, I feel as though other types of behavior are focused on more heavily by teachers than some students' lack of motivation. I come across this lack of motivation to do work often in my class and I wonder why it is so prevalent in British schools but not so much in American schools. I also am curious as to what I can do as a teacher to motivate and increase the learning outcomes of my students.