Connections between the Culture
My first impression of Argentinians is that they are very friendly and animated. Furthermore, they posses larger than life personalities. Wherher they are soft-spoken or louder than the rest, all locals seem to have very distinctive personalities. This all translates directly into the classroom.
On my first day of school I remember when the very first teacher I observed, the Senior 2 French teacher, asked me my name. I asked her if she meant my first name or my last name and she looked at me, confused. Eventually I simply responded, "Je m'appelle Sydney Meaux". She then proceeded to introduce me as Sydney. Not Ms. Meaux, not Miss Sydney, not even the French title of Mademoiselle. Simply Sydney. I originally thought I would be identified by my first name because of my student teacher status throughout the school. Perhaps my first name would be used because I was would be operating in the capacity of a guest rather than a formal teacher. However, the more and more classes I sat in on, the more and more I realized that students addressing teachers by first name was the norm. In fact, the only people addressed with a title are the principals of the primary and secondary schools. I believe teachers being called by their first name is a direct result of Argentinian culture. Though there are hierarchies present, in my opinion the lines are not as strictly enforced as they are in America and in American schools.
The school and those who reside in it take the approach of almost a team working together to accomplish a common goal -- ensuring students pass examinations, do well in school, develop good character, etc. In the United States we have a similar goal, however our approach is more authoritarian than the more cooperative Argentinian style of learning.
The friendly Argentinian nature is also exemplified by greetings and farewells. In Argentinian culture it is customary to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. Everyday, when greeting students there is a formula to follow: "¡Hola!" + *kiss on check* + "¿Cómo estás?" = welcome to school or to class. Similarly, at the end of the day, the formula is: "¡Ciao!" + *kiss on check* + "¡Hasta luego!" = goodbye and have a great rest of your day. This small exchange, though routinely done everyday, is always genuine. When students are asked how they are, it is a real question that is meant to be answered. These interactions only further build on the close teacher-student relationship.
It is very apparent that the average teacher-student relationship is closer than that of American student and their American teacher. This is even more true for the relationships in the secondary classes. This is semi-ironic because teaching is a part-time job and so the teachers spend less time with the students than the average American teacher.
The passion and exuberant nature of the Argentinian culture is seen in the school via the animation and passion the students display for things that interests the students. This also has a large impact in the classroom. St. Charles College is a very small school. The school population is under 275 students for the primary and secondary school. The smallest class is Senior Three, with only six students while the largest classes, Junior Four, Junior Six and Senior Two, have closer to twenty-eight students. However, you would never notice how small the classes are because each is full with a plethora of strong personalities where opinions are openly shared on every topic being taught. This is extremely impressive to me because this willingness to always participate in classroom activities is what I have observed in the English and French classes -- with students who are speaking in their second and third languages. They do not let vocabulary and unknown grammatical structures keep them from trying to say what they want to say and that always makes class a lively affair.
Debates are an especially popular mode of teaching because, unlike many classes in the States, these students fight at the chance to discuss and exchange opinions. They are never short on inquisitive questions and insightful answers. In this way I consider myself very lucky to have been exposed to this type of hyperactive classroom participation b cause it's unlike anything I've ever seen.