Sunday, October 09, 2011

The oddities of a British education

Actually, some of these might not be oddities because I don't have much (any) experience with American schools within the last 12 years. It's possible that all of these are standard operating procedure in the US these days. But here are some things that strike me as interesting or quirky about my kids' British-curriculum/culture schools.

1. I got a note from Magdalena's (British!) teacher one day that said Magdalena "wasn't too keen on" her carrots at lunchtime, and that she had "slightly soiled her knickers." Even though the news was bad, I kept reading the note over and over again because I got such a kick out of the oh-so-British delivery.

2. The girls both have something called a Journal, which is sent home with them every day. The teacher writes notes in it about their progress (or soiled knickers; see above) or what they did in class that day or what events are coming up. I have to initial that I've seen the journal entry and respond if I want to. The teacher initials any comments that I send to her. It's got a bit of a middle school passing notes air about it but at the same time, I love having a reliable, constantly open channel of communication to my kids' teachers.

3. They do something called Jolly Phonics to teach pre-reading skills. Magdalena is always making certain phonetic sounds while doing certain actions with her hands. It's at once adorable and odd. I don't doubt that it is an awesome, well tested system of learning. It's just that it's different from how I learned to read (then again, I distinctly remember using my finger to trace letters made out of sandpaper, so).

4. It's a canteen, not a cafeteria, ok?

5. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the US does this too, but it's "Numeracy" now, not "Math." Except I also hear it called "Maths," with an S.

6. Aside from Numeracy, Literacy, Geography, Arabic, PE, etc., Miriam has Art, Dance, IT, Swimming, and Music class. Magdalena has a cooking activity every week. Is that British, or just a relic that exists in schools that never experienced budget cuts?

7. Both my kids randomly pronounce words in a British accent. I love love love this.

So, what are American schools like these days? I felt a little pang when the school Miriam would have attended in Ithaca earned a national award for excellence, but I think we're doing ok here in our British school in the UAE, too.


Liz Johnson said...

Hmm... the high school that my mother teaches at was on lockdown for 3 of the past 5 days due to "imminent threats of violence." The local public schools are about to be taken over by the state... yeah, now that you've found black beans, Operation: Move To Dubai is back on.

Tia said...

Abigail had cooking class in preschool too. We have a similar communication journal with Abigail's current teacher but its only once a week. Although if she brings home a honey pot, we know that she was good. No honey pot= she got in trouble.

Kathy Haynie said...

I confess I don't know much about current elementary practices in Oregon City. Our high school has earned the "outstanding" rating for 3 years in a row now, which we are very proud of. I have heard of "numeracy" as a term, but I don't think it's widely used, and I think I've only heard about "maths" (with s) when I've run into Australian education sites...of course they derive from British education terms.

I think your girls are very fortunate in their education practices. Two years ago we cut staff with budget cuts, and our high school classes are now all between 36-39 students. This year we couldn't cut any more staff, so we cut two weeks of school. Sigh.

I love the daily journal. I hope you get to keep it at the end of the year.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

The journal as a means of communication w/ parents was beginning to pop up when you were in elementary school. I still have those sandpaper letters. They were copied from a Montessori exercise. There was a time when it wasn't easy to find educational tools or games at an affordable price (or find them at all).

I believe that a successful education has as much (if not more) to do with the home environment as with the school a child attends.

Katie said...

I only really know about Olivia's preschooling. Which I do here at home. So I don't have much to report for you here. Except that I'm real jealous your girls pronounce things with a British accent. SUPER adorable.

Shannan said...

Budget cuts. That's what school is like in the US.

We even lost our librarian which means parents have to volunteer to check out/check in books in the school library. That's not even the beginning, but the most sad to me.

I'm so cranky about these budget cuts I could just cry.

Sarah Rose Evans said...

When I taught in Korea some of the books were from the US, and some were from the UK. So some had math and some had maths, and some had crisps and others had chips. It was mostly amusing.

Matthew said...

My kids also have those supplemental classes and they are at American Community School in Beirut. Perhaps it is more indicative of private school expectations in the Middle East than British system? That being said, 'maths' is definitely British.


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