I have just begun my second placement which is at Trafalgar Primary School. The school very welcoming. It located next to the high school. The two schools are relatively small in student population. The high school has approximately 500 students attending and the primary has 340 students. Trafalgar is a small country town located just outside of Latrobe Valley, which is about two hours away from Melbourne.
The two schools are designed very similarly. Each school has a central building with the majority of their grades. Behind the main building is one or two portables. These are temporary buildings which are often shuffled between schools. They often use these when are existing classroom is being refurbished or under construction. These portables often exist in schools. Funding does not always immediately follow therefore the portables sometimes become permanent. On the other side of the portables is one long building which contains the library, gym and art room. Beautiful murals wrap around the building’s exterior. In front of the library is a beach scene painted on the black top. The school refers to the library as the reading resort. Because their library is so small the librarian sets up the library much like you would a store. The library has huge sliding doors making itself appear much like a store window. She chooses a theme every month and chooses books in relation to this theme. This way the library is always changing. Students stay excited about visiting the library and cannot wait to see what they can find next. I think this is a great use of the very small space. To the left is the gym and to the right is the art room. Their art room is beautiful; the space is long and large with huge windows. Allow a great deal of natural light to shine in. Two large sliding doors are located on each side of the classroom with the words Art and Craft printed on the doors. They have a large flat screen television mounted on the wall, which is perfect for slide shows and playing video presentations. The interior is organized very well. All art supplies have a place and student work is organized my class and in folders the students have created.
Primary schools in are similar to our elementary schools except their grades encompass grades prep-6. Prep means preparation; these students are preparing for grade one. Their prep grade is much like kindergarten. Grades are referred to as years. For example a 5th grader would be called a year 5. Many Australian schools have combination grades. Grades are grouped: prep/year 1, year 1/year2, year 3/year4, year 5/year6. I feel like there should be a straight year 6. By having a straight year 6 the school would be able prepare them for their next academic leap which is their transition to high school. Students in Australia begin their first year of high school at year 7. The high school has a high set of demands and expected behaviors than those at the primary level. I have found through observation and though my teaching experiences at the high school the year 7’s often struggle with appropriate behaviors.
Classroom management at the primary level has some similarities and differences to the methods and procedures used in the states. Trafalgar primary uses key phrases to grab student’s attention. For the younger grades students are asked to stop, look and listen. Students will then sing back to you stop look and listen. At this point all eyes are on you and they have prepared themselves to listen quietly. For the older classes there is not a standard phrase. One year 5 teacher uses the words, Mexico, Mexico. Students then reply Yeeeeha! At this point they are ready to listen. I have been using eyes on me, zip the lips and throw away the key! Students then pretend to zip their lips and throw away the key. This has been working very well for the older years. I feel that the major differences in Australia’s behavior plan. Like the states the student will receive 3 warnings, if a student misbehaves. But after the third warning the will need to leave the classroom they will then be sent to a lower grade. At this grade level they will then begin a ten minute time out. Once their time out is complete they may come back to class and rejoin the activity. If the behavior is more severe they are sent directly to the principal’s office and action is taken from there. Sending students who have behavior problems to a lower grade level is very common amongst schools in Australia. Schools believe that students will be embarrassed and this will correct their poor behavior. I do not necessary agree with this system but I feel that this is an interesting way to approach behavior management.
Learning about the primary school environment and classroom management strategies has been very interesting. Drawing the parallel between not only the United States approach to behavior but also to the Australia High School’s approach has made it easier to understand and communicate with my students.