Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mrs. Keys' Observations About School Part II

I've gotten CRT work pretty much every day possible since we got back from Thailand and Bali, so I've come up with some more observations about schools here in Australia. If you missed my original posts on this subject, you can find them here and here. Anyway, here are the ten interesting differences that come to mind right now (with a special cute story at the end)...

1. Most schools group their students into "houses." These are not physical structures; they are just names for groups of students from various grade levels. So in one classroom, you have a few students from each house. There are usually four houses per school, named after nearby streets or important people in the school's history or something like that. Houses compete for points throughout the year, and each classroom has a house point chart. Teachers use house points as incentives and discipline tactics. They'll say things like, "Go subtract ten house points" when a child misbehaves, or they'll hand out house points for having neat desks or lining up quickly. House point totals are usually announced at weekly assemblies, and sometimes a trophy is involved. I guess it's a way to get the whole school and students across all grades connected on some level.

2. Every school seems to have a never-ending supply of tea, coffee, biscuits (cookies), crackers, and cheese in the teachers' lounge. Maybe my school back in the US was slacking, because I think we just had tea and coffee. Australians even supply various types of milk in the fridge! I think it's part of the morning/afternoon tea culture, and I like it! And some schools even supply fruit for their students.

3. Kids, especially younger ones, freak out if you mess with their routine. I'm sure this isn't distinctly Australian, but it's something I've definitely realized as a sub. Even the littlest thing, like writing the spelling words on the big whiteboard versus the one in the corner of the room, can elicit a chorus of "You're supposed to write them over there" or "Mr. Whatever doesn't put them there." Sometimes, if it really doesn't matter, I simply say (nicely of course), "Well, I'm not Mr. Whatever, and today they're over here." I like to think I'm teaching these kids to be a little more flexible!

4. The kids at the schools where I've subbed on a regular basis know me as "the American teacher." When they originally try to figure out where I'm from, one of the first guesses (especially among the younger kids) is Ireland. There are lots of Irish teachers doing CRT work over here, so I can't blame them for thinking that. Unfortunately, recently when I tell the kids I'm from Colorado, they only know about it because of the movie theater shooting. It's not a very good impression of my state-ugh!

5. During the Olympics, many schools did an ongoing activity called the Potato Olympics. The kids decorated/dressed their own potatoes, wrote "biographies" about them, and even created events for competition (potato toss, timed slide runs, etc.). It was a pretty creative unit, and some schools found a way to incorporate math(s!), social studies, and science lessons into the project. A few schools I've been to have also had real Australian Olympians come in to speak at assemblies-very cool for me as well as the kids!

6. Apparently, at least at one school in the Preps classroom, the name for a certain part of the male anatomy is a "doodle." When I got a few tattles from Preppies one day that a certain kid was showing his underwear and/or his doodle, we had to have a little talk about doodles only being appropriate for mummies (not mommies-mummies) and daddies and doctors to see. Oh, the joys of teaching Preps!

7. I've mentioned some common boys' names in other posts, but a really common one I forgot is Lachlan, which is shortened to Lachie (pronounced Lock-hee). For girls, a few common ones that seem a bit unique to Australia include Ava, Georgia, and Tahlia. And I'm not sure if old-fashioned names are becoming the latest craze, but in one recent Preps class, I had an Esther, Olivia, Alice, and Agnes!

8. Several teachers have classrooms that are unbelievably messy. I'm talking stacks of random crap in all corners of the room and even on the floor sometimes. It drives me batty! Maybe I'm entirely too organized or Type A, but I can't even imagine functioning on a daily basis in some of these rooms. While I'm there, I try to tidy up things as best I can (without disrupting their "system"), and I try to get the kids to clean up their desks and cubbies. It's interesting to see how the teacher's disorganization spills over into the kids' behavior and messiness level. Again, this is probably not uniquely Australian...I just notice it as a sub without my own (neat and tidy) classroom!

9. Recess or break is in the morning, and kids get extremely confused if you call the playtime after lunch "recess" as well. To them, that's just the playing part of lunch after ten to fifteen minutes of eating, which is done in the classroom or outside on warmer days. I haven't seen a single cafeteria. Some schools have "lunch orders," which is some sort of catered lunch that can be ordered ahead of time. A few have a "canteen," where students can buy some a la carte food items and treats.

10. LOTE is the name for the foreign language class at some schools. I just learned that it stands for Language Other Than English. In the realm of "foreign language," last week I taught one music-loving Preps class (actually, it was the class with doodle-boy) the song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Luckily, I thought ahead and changed the "Root, root, root for the home team" lyric to "Cheer, cheer, cheer..." because of the different meaning that "root" has in this country!

Cute Story of the Day: I taught a third grade class today, and one boy was especially trying. Jack (not his real name) spent the morning knocking things off kids' desks, walking by kids' computers and pecking random letters, and just being obnoxious in general. Apparently (according to things I overheard from the other students), this is a daily occurrence. I had a talk with him about treating others how you would like to be treated and such, but he was still testing my patience. I sat with him on the bus ride to swimming and engaged him in some conversations about finger tricks, footy, painting, etc. When he opened up about his interest in painting, I jumped on it, asking if he wanted to do that when he was older...become a famous painter and such. He said no, but that he was sure he would be famous. I asked, "What are you going to be famous for? Playing footy or swimming or what?" In complete seriousness, he answered, "I just know I'm going to be famous, because I'm going to go to the North Pole and find where Santa lives." He continued, "I'm going to take a snowmobile and go all around looking everywhere, and when I find him, I'm sure everyone in the world will know my name!" I kept my composure and assured him that yes, he probably would become very famous if he was able to find Santa's home. How adorable are third grade boys?! Incidentally, Jack's behavior was nearly perfect for the remainder of the day!

Well, time for bed, because I'll probably be heading to school in the morning...

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