The school culture in Australia is immensely different than America’s culture. Learning about the physical differences as well as the differences in which the school operates has been an interesting experience.
The school environments differ greatly than those in the United States. The elements I noticed immediately was the way in which the school was designed. I am student teaching at Trafalgar High school. The school consisted of 6 buildings clustered around the central building which contains the majority of the staff rooms, the school’s main office, student lockers, and science department. To the left is the schools resource center which contains their library and 6 open concept classrooms which can open and close with moving walls. The building to the left and the portables these building are temporary most of the art classrooms are held in these three buildings. The art building is currently closed for refurbishments. Next to the portables is a path that leads to the wood working rooms and to the left of these buildings is the computer building. This building reminds me of a horse stable, the middle path is wooden and veers off into different directions.
The way in which students are organized is also different. In the United States we have elementary School, Middle school, High school and then a trade school or college. In Australia the secondary schools are for grade levels 7-12. Their high schools encompass all of these levels. In Australia they also use the words high school and college interchangeably. Higher education such as trade schools are known as Universities. The short term is uni. When students, staff and parents refer to the different grade levels they do not call the students freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors but they call them by year. For example: Tuesday’s I teach the year 7’s and year 8’s.
The teaching environment is very laid back in comparison to the United States. Often students arrive late for class and may leave the classroom without permission. Another difference is the sound levels in the classroom it is not uncommon for students to be very loud and the students can be very boisterous. I have noticed in and outside of the classroom there are very different levels or respect for the classroom teachers. Due to the relaxed teaching environment students will often talk back to teachers or continue to disobey a teacher. But the overall level or respect students have for teachers is very high. Teachers are often admired by students.
Accountability system, their accountability system is very different. There are not set rules in which every teacher is asked to follow. For example, when teachers ask for daily attendance. When roll is taken the teacher calls out each child’s name is a child is “here” but not presently in the room the teacher will ask if anyone has seen that child. If the answer is yes. That child is marked present. If a child arrives late nothing is said. Another difference is that students are not held back. If a student fails their classes they still move up with their class. This makes it very easy for students to fall between the cracks.
In regards to classroom management the school uses the existing system. Meaning teachers choose to execute this system in any way in many way they see fit. Some give warnings before the student is exited and others do not. When a student is exited the exit teacher is called or another student is sent to get that teacher. This can be any of the teaching staff, the staff at the high school take turns being the exit teacher. This teacher is sent to collect the misbehaved student and take them to a class that is older. For example a year 10 student would be sent to a year 12 classroom. The student will then sit in the back of the classroom and will participate in the class is being taught for example math. The school believes by being placed in the year 12 classroom they will acknowledge that their poor behavior is unacceptable. Misbehavior in this environment will be absolutely unacceptable.
Student teaching in Australia is exceptionally different then teaching in the United States for the school culture is different is almost every aspect. Learning about their school’s culture and how the students interact and function with peers and staff has been a fascinating experience.