There are not many differences in expectations for students here at Rolling Hills Primary School in Australia in comparison to student expectations in America. Students are expected to show respect for one another as well as to the adults, and are to have a go and do their best that they can do. Attendance is very consistent here, and, if a student is not finishing their work on time consistently, teachers are allowed to hold the student in from lunch play until they finish their work. This hardly happens, as it is considered very important to give the students time outside. Homework is not a common occurrence, but if it is indeed assigned, it is usually given out on Friday, and is not to be turned in until the next Friday, unless otherwise noted.
Teachers are expected to do quite a bit here. This school is a Professional Learning Community, and there are specific committees dedicated to one aspect of learning. For example, there are Literacy, Numeracy, Sustainability, Learning Spaces, ICT, and Assessment committees that the staff is divided up into. At the beginning of the year, each group comes up with, and implements, a new goal that can be applicable school wide. Teachers are also on rotation for yard duty and extreme weather (i.e. indoor recess). 5/6 teachers are in charge of 5/6 ISS, and have to coach and referee the teams and games during their lunchtimes. Teachers are expected to have team meetings after school on Tuesdays, and there are school wide teacher meetings after school on Wednesdays. Needless to say, there is plenty to do!
The way that teachers are trained varies from state to state, and within that, also varies from university to university. Prior to entrance to university, one must actually declare that they are going to be a teacher, and sign up for that course, in comparison to the States, where you can go into college with an undeclared major and take your general courses right away. Programs for course as a primary teacher or as a primary and secondary teacher tend to be four years in length, and they have a requirement of spending 80 days in a school setting. So far there have been two other student teachers here, who were only here for two weeks. I found this to be very interesting, since it is very general and broad in terms of expectations, and it appears to be quite relaxed in terms of expectations and requirements for prospective teachers.
For my first four weeks, I was in year 4, and primarily taught Inquiry and Maths, as well as worked with small groups for reading and writing. In Inquiry, students investigated flowers and plants by observing and drawing cross sections of lilies, tomatoes, kiwis, passion fruit, and limes. They also conducted investigations of seed dispersal by ants using different foods, and also had to prove a “Peter Pan Seed Dispersal Theory” by looking at pictures of actuals seeds, the image from Peter Pan that it was associated with, and as groups, come up with memorable movements to share with the class to help them remember the different dispersal types. They had a blast with this, and it was fun to see every single one of the students involved and excited about their learning!
In Maths, the students were wrapping up their unit on 3D shapes, and were focusing on faces, edges, and vertices. Students built 3D shapes out of pipe cleaners, folded and arranged different nets into shapes, constructed 3D shapes out of manipulatives, and reviewed online using their Interactive Mathletics program.
I then moved on to teach in Foundations for two weeks, primarily in reading and writing. We focused on writing on the tightrope, having uppercase letters start in the sky, lower case letters in the grass, and tails hanging down in the dirt! 🙂 Both weeks focused on a specific letter (G and E), and we spent some time working on comprehension (specifically retelling a story using important key things from the beginning, middle, and end of the story. My next two weeks will be with the Specialists (Physical education, Visual Arts, Performing Arts), followed by two weeks in 5/6, and my last week is currently blank.
The mentoring I have received has really been quite positive both from EAST and my coop. They both have really noticed how well the students have responded to my personality and my teaching styles. EAST has only come once, and is going to come by one more time. My coop gives me complete control of the classroom, and has always been supportive when I have had questions or need clarification, and we collaborate very well together. It has really been great having this type of environment, as it really has helped to bring my confidence up in terms of where I am at in my progressions as a student teacher!