Five features of American schools that will surprise immigrants - ForumDaily
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Five features of American schools that will surprise immigrants

Фото: Depositphotos

Individual tasks, mixing classes, a “date” with a teacher and fundraising instead of extortion - American schools are very different from what we are used to at home.

My son is in the third grade of public school in the school district of Feerfax (Virginia). Some features of the organization of school life, described in the article, are inherent in the schools of our district. However, most of them are found in any state American school, where about 90% of all US children study.

1. Differentiated learning system

Starting with kindergarten (zero class), the child performs not only the tasks that are given to the whole class, but also receives from the teacher the individual, which most correspond to his level of abilities and inclinations.

And already from the third grade, children learn at different levels. The highest is the fourth. These children are engaged in all subjects in a specially designed program for them. The children are selected by the commission based on the results of cognitive tests, teacher recommendations and grades. In our school, 150 third graders (5 parallel classes) on the fourth level - only 14.

Those whom the teachers consider talented enough, but they were not selected into this elite group, get to the third level. They study together with everyone, but on one or two subjects - reading and mathematics - together with “advanced” children. There are also few such children. My son is on the third level. In his class of more than 20 children, only two people attend individual classes.

He is delighted with these classes. Here is an example of a class work: the children read the myth of Daedalus and Icarus and should have offered a version of why Icarus flew too close to the sun. My son decided that he simply did not calculate the distance to the sun. Other children hypothesized that Icarus either did not believe his father, or was so carried away by the flight that he did not notice when he took off too high. And every 8-year-old child had to present his theory, justify and protect it in front of others.

The difference in math homework is astounding. In a regular classroom, children place three-digit numbers from the largest to the smallest; in the “advanced” class, they solve problems that require the construction and solution of 2-3 arithmetic operations.

The second and first levels are tasks that should teach a child to think critically. The first level is for everyone. The second is individual.

These things are not the same throughout the junior high school. In January, parents can submit documents of their child (with new test results that can be re-passed) to the commission for enrolling him in the fourth level of education. And on the third level, the teacher can at any moment transfer the child himself, if he sees that the level of mathematics or reading in the classroom is quite easy for him.

Also in our school district there is a program called “doubly exceptional students”. These are children who may be gifted in one thing, but have problems in other subjects or with learning in general. Mary Keen, who in our school is engaged in a differentiated education, believes that in every child, whatever problems with education he may have, you can find talent or at least an interest in a particular subject, and it must be supported.

There are already three levels in high school - regular, honorable (honors) and advanced (advanced). But there children begin to choose subjects, first on the recommendation of the teacher, and then independently, as well as the levels of these subjects, which means all learning becomes differentiated. Smart children in high school can study under the university program in separate subjects.

The program that I described works in the school district of the province of Feerfax. In other school districts, it may be differently called (gifted and talented, enrichment) and be different. Sometimes schools, for the purpose of additional development of talented children, attract resources at the local level (libraries, for example) and even private companies.

Фото: Depositphotos

2. "Date" with the teacher

Parent meeting is what I look forward to. When will you still have the opportunity to talk with a person who knows your child well and is ready to talk about it?

Meetings of parents with the teacher are individual. Once a year, parents receive an invitation to book an 15-minute window in the teacher’s calendar. As a rule, I do it immediately and “slaughter” in the morning to do it on the way to work. Always uplifting. I was especially happy after the first meeting, when I found out that the fours that my son brought home are the highest rating.

Also you can always contact the teacher by e-mail or call. In addition, at the beginning of the school year a general meeting is held, the school also organizes special lectures for parents who read teachers or invited experts on topics such as differentiated education, relationships between brothers and sisters, attention deficit disorder, and the like.

3. Stormy school life, but without requisitions

Schools are trying to attract parents as much as possible. Weekly, the child brings in the backpack advertisements about the next fundraising (fundraising), Bingo game nights, 6 Grade Olympiad, general Thanksgiving dinner and the like.

At the beginning of the year, the teacher also invites parents to become volunteers in the classroom — to help prepare task folders, sharpen pencils, and invitations to accompany children during excursions are sent separately.

The teacher of my son, Julie Poggiolo, says that teachers determine what kind of help they need, and, as a rule, in the lower grades she is the most desirable.

We cannot physically participate in all activities of our school. But when the opportunity arises, be sure to join. International night where my son and I go in Ukrainian clothes and dumplings. Halloween party. Clean-up, on which it is necessary to come with the rake and hoes. Movie night. Once I became a volunteer during a class in the first class. I liked the very calm and friendly atmosphere, as well as the fact that in the lesson the children are not afraid to make a mistake or ask questions.

A lot of school activities are a form of fundraising. For example, ticket sales during the International Night. Sometimes the Association of Parents and Teachers sends calls to participate in a particular auction for the needs of the school. Children can collect money themselves - sell lemonade, wrapping paper.

Local business is actively involved in fundraising, especially if the children of the owners attend school. From time to time I get an invitation to have dinner or buy pizza at a local restaurant, whose 15% of income will go to school this night. For restaurants, this is a great opportunity to attract new customers. For parents - to meet each other. And for the school - to build a new playground.

At the same time, all this is voluntary. Nobody will demand money, and poor families are also provided with assistance, such as free meals for children.

Фото: Depositphotos

4. Inclusive Education

When I was in my son's class, one boy stopped work and went to sleep on a rug on the floor. He also had a special chair with a straight back, which should help him calm down.

In American schools for many years, the principle of inclusive education. Children with physical problems learn along with everyone. By law, all schools and childcare facilities must be accessible for wheelchairs.

For children with autism or other developmental problems, there are special classes here, in an ordinary school, where, as a rule, a specially trained teacher works with them in small groups. In Feerfax County, 10 years ago, children with autism began to be brought to general classes for music, drawing and physical education classes.

If a child has serious emotional or developmental problems, but demonstrates success in a particular subject, such as math, he can study this subject with children in a general class. But in this case, the child should be able to learn the material, and he is always accompanied by a teacher's assistant. The decision to teach this child in the general class is made jointly by teachers, psychologists, and parents, Poggiolo told me.

If a child has minor problems, for example, it is difficult for him to concentrate, then by a joint solution of the same “consultation”, the teacher can use separate accessories, for example, a separate chair for my son's classmate.

In the US, the millennials, in many surveys, are much more tolerant of any differences than the older generation. “But you have no idea how tolerant the generation that follows him is,” my son’s teacher tells me. She says that their neighbor’s child changed sex in the summer. “It’s good that he did it between junior and secondary schools, no one will know in the new school that this girl was a boy,” she shared her thoughts with her son, also a seventh-grader. “Mom, why should he worry about this? - the son did not understand. - Well, replaced and replaced.

You will not surprise anyone with an unusual appearance or name in our school either - there are many employees of embassies, Indian, Vietnamese, Arabian, Chinese and Latin American diasporas living in our district. Among the friends of my son are children with such names as Nickel, Faisal, Pufaraj.

At the same time, the principle of zero tolerance to violence and threats in schools in the United States. For children with serious behavioral problems - with or without a diagnosis - there are so-called alternative schools that send children after the 6 class. They try to solve the problem with the younger ones: the director intervenes in the situation, the child can be removed from the classes for a while, as a last resort - expelled. But I have not heard about any such case in my entire 30-year-old career.

5. Mixing classes

Unlike the other features that I wrote about, I don’t really like this one. Parallel classes are re-formed annually, stirring up children. The best friend with whom you are sitting next to the first class simply cannot be. Parents, too, it makes no sense to establish close relationships, because in a year there will be a new parent structure.

This is done in the United States for a long time. When I tried to raise this topic with other parents and teachers, I reacted to it as if I were trying to understand the question “What is a fish for?”.

The explanations that I was able to find are the following: approximately the same number of children who study well or poorly, are bullies or geniuses, thus fall into all parallel classes.

Children, on the other hand, can get closer to a large number of children - old friendships do not disappear, because schoolchildren still play together at recess or attend extracurricular activities. If an unhealthy relationship is established between two children, it will not drag on through all the years of study.

Also, the child each year gets a chance to re-conquer his place in the team, given the previous mistakes, and beginners in school are almost the same as the others, which makes moving to a new place less traumatic for the child.

The column was published in blogs on the website of the Ukrainian Voice of America Service. Opinions expressed in under the heading "My America" , convey the views of the authors themselves and do not reflect the position of "Voice of America"

Published with permission of the author and publication.

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