Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Teaching License is Like a Passport

Every country in the world has teachers. When you get your teaching license you can potentially go anywhere in the world to teach. That deosn't mean that teaching and Education are the same the world over.

Two weeks ago the students in my Schools and Society course discoverd this by interviewing a group of international students studying at St. Mike's. The goal of the activity was for the SMC students to get a sense of the similarities and differences that exist in K -12 education on a global scale. The international students were from China, Japan, France, Venezuela, Congo, Peru and Panama. The interview contained ten questions ranging from simple (At what age does school begin in your country?) to more complex (Did you like school?). An additional goal of the activity was to help the students identify the difference between ideographic (pertaining to an individual) and nomothetic (related to a group or norm) data. Whenever we use an interview as a data-gathering device it's really important to make this distinction.

Yesterday in class we discussed the results of the interviews. Of all the questions they asked the one that provided the most surprising answers concerned the way students with special needs are educated in other countries. In most of the countries represented, sadly, there are still special schools for students with special needs. In many countries they are treated as "inferior" citizens and not allowed to integrate at all with the rest of the population. Interestingly, the notable exception is Peru; at least according to the individuals interviewed.

When we teach students from other countries in our US classrooms it's important to understand
something about the education experiences they have already had before coming to the US.

The picture is of part of Sefton Park school in which I started my teaching career in Bristol, England. The windows to my classroom are just to the left of the inside corner of the building. My fourth-grade classes averaged thirty students for the 5 years I taught there. The students' families had ethnic origins primarily in Pakistan, India, the West Indies and,of course, England. My first professional development as a teacher involved learning about some of the cultural characteristics of the Indian, Pakistani, and West Indian cultures and way of life.

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