Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Classrooms Around the World

One of the significant elements of my research into how English Language Learners learn math in US classrooms is the nature of the schools and classrooms the students experience before ariving on US shores. For several years I taught a graduate course for a week at a school in Monterrey, Mexico and was alsways impressed by the way adults treated children as children and celebrated childhood. Children were not seen as mini or potential adults as we often tend to do in the US.

Valerie Bang Jensen, one of my colleagues, recently sent me a link to an interesting website that shows the diversity of classrooms around the world. The website, Brain Pickings is the work of Maria Popova, a self confessed  "interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large".

By looking carefully at each picture you can get a sense, to a small degree, of what education might be like in that particular school. One of the things that strikes me is the incredible diversity between each classroom and the almost total lack of diversity in some of the classrooms. There are classrooms where all the students are either male or female and there are classrooms where all the students are wearing identical clothes.

Perhaps the most remarkable lack of diversity is in the facial expreessions of all the students. Not a single student in any of the pictures is laughing, smiling broadly or even smiling at all. The pictures are clearly posed for the camera but I wonder why no-one said the usual "say cheese" or whatever it is in the appropriate language. The author describes how the students have to concentrate during the photoshoot but why do they have to all look so glum?

Is school really like that? Perhaps Sir Ken Robinson is right!   

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