Friday, May 25, 2012

Mrs. Keys' Observations About School

So my CRT (casual relief teaching) work has been picking up lately, and I'm usually out at schools a few times each week. I've noticed some other differences between Australian and American schools lately and had a few amusing experiences I thought I'd share for today's blog post:

1. I already mentioned a few common names for boys (Hugo, Henry, Harry, and Jack). I've noticed a couple more: Hamish and Luca.  I haven't noticed a pattern with girls' names yet.

2. Pencils are called gray lines. Markers are called textas. Erasers are called rubbers. And pencils don't seem to have erasers at the ends of them. Kids are always looking for rubbers to use or borrow. I think bringing this one invention to the Australian school system would singularly save hours of wasted time each year!

3. Younger kids get confused when I write my a's how they look when you type them. They want to see the regular circle with the tail. It's a hard habit to break! Older kids don't care.

4. The other day I "taught" Italian. No, I don't know Italian! I guess they figured because I know some Spanish that I could handle it. With most classes, the kids had projects about famous Italians to work on anyway, so it didn't matter.

5. When a Year 5/6 class walked down the hall toward their room and saw me, they asked if I was their Italian teacher. When I said yes, one girl said, "Yay, you're so pretty!" and then almost gave me a hug. I wonder what her normal teacher looks like?

6. I introduced myself to this same class with the usual, "My name is Mrs. Keys, I'll be your Italian teacher today, etc." and they all burst into spontaneous applause. It's a pretty good gig when you get a roomful of people clapping for you just because you say your name and tell them you'll be with them for an hour!

7. Australian kids are obsessed with their rulers and "ruling up" their pages before starting their work. For some reason, their paper in their notebooks doesn't have the red/blue margin lines that we're used to seeing, so students have been taught to use a ruler to draw a line across the top and down the side before doing any writing. I sort of understand the line along the side (so the writing lines up all the way down the page), but geez, these kids are super anal about having to "rule up" everything perfectly! One girl almost cried today because she couldn't find her ruler, until I showed her how she could use the side of her book to do the same thing.

8. Every school I've been to seems to have two distinct breaks. One is mid-morning, and the kids definitely eat. It's not just a recess. Some schools call it "brain food," and it has to be fruit or something semi-healthy. Other schools let the kids basically eat an entire lunch! Then they have a later break, usually at around 1pm. They eat again and get a longer recess. It sure breaks up the day and makes it go quickly. Sometimes, you only have one subject/lesson after lunch before the kids go home!

9. Swimming is a regular part of many schools' PE curriculums. Or when I've done after-school care, lots of kids go off to swimming lessons for part of it. Also, kids seem to do their music lessons during the day instead of after school. Random children leave in the middle of various subjects for their keyboard or flute or some other musical lesson.

10. Kids trade footy cards (they look just like baseball cards!) with each other at recess. I don't think they call it recess though. I think it's just "break."

11. Teachers in Australia get yard duty just like in the US. But you have to wear a bright neon vest and carry a "bum bag," which is a first aid kit fanny pack thing. I've heard that fanny pack might not be an appropriate term in this country!

12. Favorite questions asked by kids so far:
-"Have you met President Obama and Mrs. Obama?"
-"How big is the Statue of Liberty?" (I describe it.) "Oh, well forget it. I don't want to see it then."
-"Are you from Ireland?" (Lots of Irish girls come to Australia to work as teachers.)
-"Does everyone in America carry a gun?" "Do you get robbed all of the time?" (They watch too many American movies I guess!)

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll collect more tidbits and do another post like this in the future!


  1. Good post - as usual!

    Perhaps some of the things / names etc you mention have changed over time.

    Many years ago (when I was in school!) pencils were never called gray lines, they were always called pencils. Never have heard the term 'gray line' before. I was a draftsperson and we did call our pencils "gray leads' sometimes, the gray lead being the lighter lead pencil as opposed to the heavy thick lead pencils. 2B HB or similar.

    Pencils usually did have erasers (or rubbers!) on the ends. In fact just checked my drawer and most of my pencils have one on the end.

    We never called our mid morning or afternoon 'break' anything other than PLAYTIME .... morning playtime or afternoon playtime! We were supplied with free milk for morning play. We rarely ate anything at that time.

    As for the school work books, ours (I am sure) were always lined / ruled .... we never had to do this ourselves.

    Interesting observations on both sides though. Even for me to see the difference now to what you are describing in schools today.

    thanks again. :)

  2. This is great! I don't have kids or know anyone in Oz with small children so it's nice to read these humorous observations. Rule up!

  3. I love these entries. Reading made me look up "fanny pack", who'd have thought it'd mean THAT?!? I found another nice blog addressing this phrase and the meanings of others in Australia:

    -Nathan (Denver, Smurf)

    1. Nice! I miss playing soccer with you guys!

  4. This is so neat! It's really interesting for me to see the differences in a country that from the outside (and from a two week trip!) seems to be so similar to the States.

    1. Thanks Pam! And yes, I still need to send your prize-don't worry-I haven't forgotten!

  5. Hi there, just started following your blog. Love this post! I'm a supply (relief/casual) teacher in the UK. Can't say I've ever had a round of applause for introducing myself before! Our school pencils don't have rubbers (erasers) on top either. And kids leave classes for their music lessons here too. Interesting! Vic:)

    1. I wish I could say the applause was a regular thing, but I think that will be just a one-time occurrence. Thanks for reading!