Going into this trip I had no idea what to expect. I was going into a new country, new school, and was going to be meeting new people. Everything about it was foreign, but as I spend time here I have become more accustomed to how things work. The first part of the transition was tough at times. I was not used to the style of teaching here, but as I go I am constantly learning!
Our school uses a program called PBS, which stands for Positive Behavior Support. It is very similar to the program PBIS in the United States. The students have four values that they are expected to adhere by and they are: be safe, be a learner, be caring, and be proud. They then have a matrix explaining how to follow these values at different places in the school. I found this to be almost identical to what I saw in my Oshkosh school which I thought was interesting. This is a school wide program so all of the teachers have the expectations posted in their room and they are posted in their main building as well. Students can earn “Newbee tickets” when they do behaviors that are going above what is expected of them. They can then use these tickets to be put in a drawing for special prizes. I would like to see these tickets be used for more of a group reward verses individual award. It seems like the same students are getting the tickets every time and the ones that are not getting tickets are the ones that need the support for doing the right thing. I think that it is very interesting to be able to compare the use of the program here to the program at home.
In my classroom my teacher uses her voice as her main form of class management. She rarely uses non-verbal cues to get student attention, which is something that I like to do. The students respond to her quickly when she raises her voice which tends to be quite often. I have noticed that she tends to use a harsh tone of voice often as well. One negative thing that I have noticed is she points students out saying “You have been lovely today or you are always lovely” and then will go onto say “You are not so lovely or you are not so good at math.” I find this to be a very negative act that puts students in a mindset that they are not good at certain activities. This sort of negativity is something that I do not use while teaching. Another system of management that is used in my classroom here is something called house points. There are four teams in the classroom: red, yellow, blue, and green. Each student is assigned to a different team and they can get points for their team by doing their nightly reading, getting work finished in a timely manner, answering questions correctly, and for other helpful behaviors. I like this system because I have found that it motivates students to work as a team. They want to be a part of the team and get points so many students work harder. One aspect that I don’t like is that my teacher hands out negative points as well for students that are misbehaving and who have not done their reading. To me this is a form of negative reinforcement for students and can discourage good behaviors. At the end of the week the team with the most points gets to pick out something from the lucky dip box. The students seem to respond well to this program as a whole. It is supposed to be implemented school wide as well, but they have not put that in place yet.
One of the hardest things so far has been getting used to the difference in pedagogical styles here. The Australian school system has recently switched to a national curriculum called AusVELS which is similar to the CCSS being implemented in the United States. The first thing that I have found different is math. When I was asked to teach math I was told to do some basic lessons on fractions. I was given the national curriculum for Australia, but that was all I had to go by. For me this was very tough because I did not have a good grasp on the student’s prior knowledge. I found myself planning lessons and then going in a completely different direction once I started teaching because it was too difficult at some points. This showed me that I had become accustomed to teaching math from the Everyday Math book. The book gave me the information I needed to teach and helped me to go in the right direction for teaching. Here I found myself lost and frustrated because I didn’t know where to go next. I do miss the fact that the Everyday Math books help you to think at a different level and keep the words and phrases consistent from one teacher to the next. Teaching math here has really helped me to appreciate the help of resources and talking to other professionals.
The other major difference here is that there is no small group work and very little individual work. When they teach here they teach is large groups. Our class size is 21, but there are so many different abilities. The teacher teaches to all students at the same time and then once the students have work time we spend time with the students that struggle which leaves no time to work with the students that are achieving at average or above. When the students have silent reading time teacher will call students up to read a page or two to her from their book and then sends them back to their seat. I think this is very interesting because you don’t get to know the readers as well if you only hear them read short parts. She also does not take any notes on their reading which makes it hard to pick up patterns and work on comprehension strategies. The classroom functions in a different way than I have been used to. I am used to seeing a lot of intervention work in small groups that helps multiple students at once. This has taken some adjustment for me, but each classroom runs differently as I have noticed!
On a side note we have been able to travel on the weekends and here is peek at some of the places we have gotten to go including Mebourne, Torquay, Dandenong National Forest, and Bonnie Doon!