Today was my first day in the school. It was so much fun! Everyone was so welcoming and so nice. I’m in a special education classroom this week that has kids ranging from Year 2 to Year 6 – with none of them doing work above a Year 3 level. Much of the work that the students did was individualized, with them working through different spelling lists and different math pages throughout the morning.
Here are a few major differences that I noticed today between the American schools I’ve been in and this Australian school (and I’m saying it in that specific way because I’m sure my experiences of schools in America are not all encompassing and I’m positive that my one day in one school here in Australia doesn’t make me an expert on the subject):
-Here, the students wear uniforms at this public school. Part of their uniform is a wide brimmed floppy bright blue sunhat to protect them from the sun.
-Recess and lunch here include every grade. Everyone was surprised when I said that we have recess and lunch by grade in most American schools. Recess here happens a few hours into the school day and all students eat a small snack at this time before having some time to play. Although the day started out sunny and beautiful, it started raining pretty hard right before lunch, so I didn’t get to see the students out in the play area. They were all squished onto the cement area, so I’m excited to see them all out and playing tomorrow (weather permitting!)
-The school is open to the outdoors! I keep calling it an open air campus or an open campus school, but I just googled both of those terms and one is a response to a tuberculosis outbreak and one is referring to students getting to leave during lunch. So whatever it’s called, it’s awesome! The classrooms are indoors, but all the hallways are outside. I told people that there are schools like this in Florida (my dad lived there and we’ve driven by his schools before), but that in PA they aren’t like this at all. They were really surprised to hear that you walk into the school and then can’t see the sky until you leave. Here, the students eat, play, and walk to different rooms outside!
-The students were all very polite. Being polite is an important part of the teaching here. Doing what your teacher tells you is actually one of the school rules, and this way of thinking seems very different from what I’ve seen and learned about in the US. From what I saw today, the kids were polite and kind and always working to show their manners. The students chorally said good morning to each teacher today, thanked their peers for sharing after they read from their journals, and were expected to give their full attention while listening. I’ll be interested to see how these rules play out in some other classrooms in the school as well.
-At lunch, the students were to get quiet after a teacher blew a whistle, but they would not get quiet. The teachers ended up lining the students up in the way that they sit at assembly (which is the morning meeting type thing where the whole school sits with their teachers while some announcements are made and then they all sing the national anthem**), and they were reprimanded for their behavior. The teachers were very straightforward in the way that they talked to the students and it struck me as different than what I would have heard in America.
-**One teacher I met this morning told me that every exchange student had to go up and sing the national anthem on their first day in the school. I didn’t believe him, but it made me laugh to think about me actually having to do that. I could barely understand the kids when they were singing the national anthem! I’ll have to look up the lyrics. I’ve never had any trouble understanding anyone (except when they use slang terms and I have to ask what they mean lol I’ve been discussing slang with lots of people and it’s so interesting – I love asking what different words mean), but the kids were singing and not enunciating and I seriously had no idea what they were saying hah!
Everyone was super nice – when some of the staff heard that I was missing my college graduation, they started planning a morning tea for me on the Friday that coincides with my graduation. It happens to be on the first Friday in May, which is the first Friday after the two week holiday. I’m looking forward to that. =)
After school, I went with C to have coffee with her mom. I bought some juice boxes at the store near the coffee shop (because I’ve been craving juice!), and I tried some more uniquely Australian food: milkshakes (their milkshakes are much thinner than ours – so not too different, but still different enough to count as trying a new Australian food) and musk stix. The milkshake was amazing – I had a Caramel Malt one – and the musk stix were DISGUSTING! Seriously tasted exactly like soap! M says it’s something you had to grow up on, which is what they’re also saying about Vegemite, so I’m slightly suspicious about trying more Australian foods lol. Just kidding, I’m always up for trying anything, but it is funny how I keep hearing that all the gross stuff is only liked by Australians because they grew up with the taste. But I did love Tim Tams and the milkshakes so I guess we’re tied with 2 loves and 2 hates in the Australian food category.
C keeps trying to think of something super Australian for me to eat, and she keeps trying to convince me to eat witchetty grubs (blech!) and turtle soup – I don’t think she’d really let me eat either lol but she keeps joking about it. People keep mentioning eating kangaroo, but C says she wouldn’t even eat that. I wouldn’t want to either! Kangaroo here are like our deer at home though so I guess it isn’t too crazy to eat it, but it still seems weird! I don’t think kangaroo is something that people here regularly eat, but it’s sold in the supermarket and it’s served in some restaurants (probably more for tourists).
After C dropped me at home, I went on a run. There wasn’t an amazing sunset that I saw tonight, but I did see some awesome trees including this one below! I couldn’t stop staring at it, it’s awesome. Dad, I thought you would love this tree, too!
I showered and settled in to eat dinner (M is an amazing cook!) before writing this blog post, and my bff was attached to my side tonight! She was acting crazy and really hyper and, of course, adorable. Every time I sat down she would race across the room and fly into my lap. The only reason she’s not laying across my computer right now is because she’s eating her dinner!
It’s 8:00pm here right now and I think I’m going to head to bed! I’ve liked getting up early (not 2am early, but even 5am was nice, although 6 would be fine too – I think I might be turning into a morning person!), and it’s nice to relax while eating breakfast and getting ready. Well, if I pick up my Kindle right now I probably won’t go to bed till midnight anyway, so we’ll see!