2013 / Chile

The Mackay School

Here is some more information about the school in Chile I am teaching at. The Mackay School in Renaca, Chile is said to be one of the best schools in Vina del Mar. This school believes in academic excellence and places a strong emphasis on athletic abilities, physical activity, and hygiene. The Mackay School for boys is based off The International Baccalaureate (IB) educational system and I am working in the The Primary Years Program: A Basis for Practice (PYP). The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. As an educator in an IB school I fostered inquiry, knowledge, thinking, communication, principles, open-mindedness, caring, risk-taking, balance, and reflection in the classroom. Similar to many schools in the United States, the IB system believes that students learn best from the constructivist approach to learning. Learning is the creation of meaning that occurs when an individual links new knowledge with existing knowledge.

Naturally, there are a number of cultural differences at the Mackay School towards learning. For example, in Chile people tend to talk a lot. It is not considered “rude” to talk while someone else is talking or to cut a person off. These talking habits are carried into the classroom. Students talk non-stop, but it is by no means of any malicious intent. I have always believed that there is nothing wrong with a “busy Hum” when is comes to learning, as long as all students are able to learn. It is challenging at times to teach while 17 students are talking about who knows what. I am working to implement a classroom management routine that can work for both my students and myself.

Moreover, my third graders at Mackay are also very particular about their routines and directions. For example, you cannot tell the students to write their name and date on their papers, you need to tell them EXACTLY where to write. The students are also particular about their penmanship, so writing work takes much longer than I expected, but it is ALWAYS legible. It is nice to have legible papers at all times, but sometimes I would like to focus instruction on more critical skills like comprehension and critical thinking…not writing pretty 🙂

One aspect about Mackay that I LOVE is the teamwork! There are three teachers (in Chile they say professors) in every grade level. The teachers plan together as a team for two hours every week. During planning time, teachers discuss lessons for Science, Math, Social Studies, and English. The three classes are required to go at the same rate and meet the same objectives every week. As team, the teachers create the formative and summative assessments. Assessments are not used from the book; the tests are created by the team, using the objectives the team used while teaching the units. Naturally, the same assessments are given in all three classes and assessed the same way.  All lessons, objectives, and assessments need to be reviewed by the head of the department before being implemented into the classroom. The head of the department is in charge of grades Kindergarten through Fourth. Grades Five and up have a different head of department.

At the Mackay School ALL students worked is checked but not all student work is graded-only formative and summative assessments. Grades are translated into a scale from zero to seven. Seven is a perfect score and Zero would mean the student did not complete the assessment. Assessments for Math, Science, Social Studies, and English are completely in English and students are required to write in only English. Punctuation and spelling are always assessed, so students have to be extremely careful with their work.

The majority of formative assessments are quizzes, short readings, writings, and even some group projects. For example, the students did a research in groups of three in Science while learning about the five food groups and maintaining a healthy life style. All summative assessments are tests.

All three teachers have to discuss every minor detail in grading and come to an agreement because assessments need to be graded exactly the same by each team. The head of the department gives the team dead lines for unit tests and grading. She reviews all the results with the teachers to discuss students who exceed expectations, students who meet expectations, and students who are below exaltations. Most students receive between a seven and five on assessments. However, some struggling students receive a four or below.

For example, I was placed in the lowest achieving academic class. The majority of my students are receiving below average scores.  As a team we are discussing ways to enhance the academic achievement of my class. I will keep you posted on the success of my class once we develop an academic plan!

Thanks for reading!

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