Involvement in the Classroom
So far I have been primarily observing classes and serving as a teacher aid in the different classes I have been assigned to. My typical weekly schedule for my 35 hour week at St. Charles is as follows:
On Monday afternoons, I am in two different French classes with the Senior 2 and Senior 4 (8th and 10th grade) students.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spend four hours with the students in the Junior 6 (6th grade) class helping the English teachers teach social studies and literature.
On Wednesday mornings I am back with Senior 2, but this time in their English language classes. After helping with that class for two hours, I move to the Literarure class with Senior 4 for two hours and then get to spend an hour assisting with the Social Studies class in Junior 3 (9th grade) class.
Wednesday afternoons are filled with more French -- two hours with my Senior 6 (12th grade) class, the self proclaimed favorites, and then one hour with Senior 5 (11th grade) to round out the afternoon.
Similar to Wednesday, Friday's is equally as jammmed pack. Mornings are spent with Senior 1 (7th grade) studying English language and literature. After two hours with this course I spend another two hours teaching literature to the Senior 3 class before having a short planning break. My afternoon classes are all in French where I aid in teaching the Senior 3 and Senior 5 course their third language.
Because of this somewhat crazy schedule, I've been able to become very involved in the school -- even more so than when I was student teaching in the United States. Similar to the paid staff here, I am familiar with the majority of their secondary students. Thanks to this familiarity with the students across discipline, and, in some cases languages (as I am present for language taught in Spanish, English, French...and Spanglish...and Frenglish) I am just as involved in all aspects of their learning as the rest of the teachers are in the tight knit community of this school.
It seems that not only at small private schools like this one, but all over Buenos Aires, the staff is very involved in all aspects of student learning. As one teacher may be hired to teach more than one subject across many different grade levels, they are aware of and responsible for multiple levels and aspects of student learning. I almost find this ironic because, in this country, teaching is a "part-time" job. However, I challenge this label because it seems to me that though this is a job the staff paid part-time for, they still devote full-time energy to it. Despite the fact they work at one or two other schools and may even still go to school to get their teaching certificates, they still give it their all. Their dedication and commitment, even more so in the junior levels of the school, despite the horrible pay, is astounding and awe inspiring.
Parent involvement here is similar that in the United States. You have an equal balance of super involved parents and super uninvolved parents. One interesting thing schools in Buenos Aires use are, what they call, "Communication Copy Books", pictured below. Similar to perhaps the "agenda" or "take-home-folder" systems used in the states, these books are used throughout the school as a means of daily communication with the parents. It is through these books parents and teachers typically voice their concerns about behavior, social adjustment or academic performance. Though seemingly more antiquated than the modern e-mail, traditional note writing seems to work well for this school and adds a more personal touch to the communication for sure.
In my two weeks here I've learned that despite the cultural and language differences, schools here and at home in the States are more alike than I initially thought. Though different, both systems work because, at the root of it all, they both have caring and passionate staff members that love children and desire to see them succeed in whatever it is they choose to do in life.