2012 / England

Biggest Challenge/Surprise at St. Saviour’s Primary School


Today marks my 3rd full week of teaching at St. Saviours Primary School in London!  The best 3 weeks have been wonderful and I have learned so much already!

I spent a lot of my time over the past 3 weeks working with key stage 1, which is nursery – year 2, and got to experience the ways they teach phonics!  Growing up I don’t remember ever learning phonics the way they teach it here.  I have found phonics to be challenging for a couple of different reasons.  The first being that I never was really taught phonics myself, until the one class we had in college.  I know I learned the rules over time but we never directly had “phonics” like they do here.  The 2nd challenge of teaching phonics here in London is that as an American, I pronounce things very differently than they do here! Each student has a phonics book that is done one-on-one with the teacher or TA to evaluate what level they are at. I had the opportunity to help with some of these however it was quickly brought to my attention that I would have to be very focused on the way I pronounced things!  The students are very good about correcting me or just laughing at the way we say things 🙂

Something that is very surprising to me is the way in which the students put on their PE kits (AKA gym clothes).  They wear uniforms at my school and they have uniforms for PE as well. My second week of school here I was in year 2 and Eloise, the classroom teacher, told the children to go get their PE kits.  Once the children were back in the classroom she started playing the song “eye of the tiger” to show them how much time they had to change.  Once the song started the children began to change IN THE CLASSROOM with EVERYONE THERE boys and girls!!!! I was shocked!!! I did not know that was going to happen and could not believe it! I asked Eloise about this and she said they do this in every classroom except for in year 4, 5 and 6 the boys and girls split. For example, the boys stay in the classroom to change while the girls go into the bathrooms.

As if I wasn’t already thinking about how crazy different this was compared to anything back home, I then got to experience taking year 4 to swimming.  They go swimming once a week and split into two groups and each get a half hour of lesson in the pool.  Before we left for swimming the children changed into their swim outfits in the bathroom.  However at the health center where they take their lessons we don’t use the locker rooms.  We go into one of the rooms where they hold fitness classes, walls covered with windows.  Once the kids are done with their lessons, they change back into their school uniform for the walk back to school.  They all change, boys and girls, in this big room covered in windows.  For them it is normal, but I am still freaking out about it!!


6 thoughts on “Biggest Challenge/Surprise at St. Saviour’s Primary School

  1. I would like to agree with this whole post. The phonics are extremely hard to teach. I am trying to learn the correct sounds so I can teach it the same way. My teacher is from Scotland and has a thick accent so it is especially hard.

    The gym clothes comment is exactly what I was thinking. My students are Year 1 and they all get dressed in the classroom. It was eye opening to me because I feel that would never happen back home. The kids are like running around the classroom naked. It was definitely different and something I have to get used to.

  2. Crystal, I am experiencing similar difficulties when it comes to teaching phonics here in Cameroon. I also was never taught phonics well when I was in primary school, so I am not completely familiar with the best methods. Since my students range from 5-7 years old their phonics’ levels are drastically different! They also pronounce their vowels very different here! Today we were reading the word ‘goat’ and my cooperating teacher was even pronouncing it wrong! Which leads me to not trying to correct all of their pronunciations since everyone in their life will be pronouncing it the other way. I am trying to learn how they pronounce some things the Cameroonian way so I can teach it to them that familiar way…it’s odd. Maybe someone will forward these posts to Dr. Mike Ford and he can give us some suggestions ☺! Keep up your hard work Miss Crystal, you’re a London rock-star for sure ;-)!

  3. Crystal,
    The phonics debate continues… my generation was steeped in it as elementary students and I’m sure you discussed in your reading courses the debate and interest in bringing it back. The British/African/ fill in the blank “other nations'” systems do seem to focus on phonics. I guess it can be a great learning experience for all of you as you work to get those pronunciations down! I’m sure that is a challenge.

    The whole scenario with kids changing in a classroom or P.E. setting is also a cultural surprise to we Americans who tend to be very conservative with any issues of nakedness – i.e. nudist beaches or spas in other countries where garmentless folks wander around without a second thought. Some interesting perspectives to think about and discuss in a different context.

    What are you teaching? How much? Staying with one grade/age level? Enjoy!

    • hello! My phonics skills have been growing here! My students have been very excited to help me pronounce things the British way! haha I am not settled into Year 5 which is where I will be for the rest of my time here! Last week (which was only my 2nd week in year five) I started teaching Numeracy, and will continue to do that along with adding lessons as time goes on!

  4. hello! My phonics skills have been growing here! My students have been very excited to help me pronounce things the British way! haha I am not settled into Year 5 which is where I will be for the rest of my time here! Last week (which was only my 2nd week in year five) I started teaching Numeracy, and will continue to do that along with adding lessons as time goes on!

  5. Hey Crystal,

    Phonics still….That is tough. I dealt with the same thing with phonics. I spent my first two weeks with Senior Infants which is ages 5-6. All they did most of the day was phonics and it was very hard for me to teach and understand it because, like you said, we never had phonics as a kid. It was just part of a college course we had to take.

    I actually had to talk to my kids the other day. I am now with fourth class which is ages9-10. All they do all day while I teach is correct me. It can be fun because we will talk about culture differences but it also gets them so off track. I have found it to be one of the hardest things to deal with since I have been teaching in this class. Even though it is just Ireland, they use so many different words and meanings than us and it makes it very difficult. I always have to watch how I talk or what words I use to describe things. Otherwise, the kids will be off task for ten minutes if I say the word jelly instead of gummy.

    I have not had to experience anything like the P.E. thing though at my school. They wear uniforms but do not change for P.E. Honestly, thank god! Cause I would still be freaking out as well!

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