- Morning: a new day begins
- Lunch break!
- The day ends
- Basic general rules
- Knowledge check: exams and tests
- What grades are given to American students?
- Reading is the path to education
- Teachers are at one with parents
- Classmates are not a concept for the USA
Not all of us can afford to pay for a private boarding school in the United States. However, if you are willing to spend a little more time looking for housing for a schoolchild, or if you are moving to the United States together and looking for a day school - public schools are perfect for you!
In this article, we'll walk you through a typical day at Harris Elementary School, St. Louis, Missouri.
Morning: a new day begins
The famous yellow buses that "collect" children on the route to the campus arrive at school around 8: 30-8: 40. Often in schools, the day begins with a general meeting - this is the way it is at Harris Elementary School: the tradition of daily morning assemblies was introduced by the new director Tyson Plumley.
I introduced these assemblies when I came to Harris Elementari a year ago. It seems right to me that in the morning the whole school should get together so that the children can see both the teachers and each other. In addition, we can discuss our common affairs and problems, together to wish each other a happy birthday, this unites us, and helps me as a director to remain a leader.
The main task of the director, in addition to the safety of the school, is to create such conditions that children and teachers only care about personal achievements and work, and all other problems must be solved. This applies not only to material tasks, equipment, buildings, but also to the creation of a climate, an atmosphere of friendship and trust. Children, teachers and parents alike should be pleased to come to school. It is important to understand that this is where they will find support .
The schoolchildren are seated, according to the division by class - the director greets them, invites them to sing the first verse of the American anthem, and then proceeds to the news: what is for lunch today, what awaits schoolchildren in the week, who should be praised and rewarded for and for what, who has a birthday today in which competitions Harris Elementary School will participate in the near future. After the end of the meeting, the children go to their classes: by the way, in elementary school they are not "first A" or "2B", but "Miss Jenkins' class," and so on. - each class has its own teacher.
The beginning of the school day is almost always two main subjects:
- English (writing, reading, speaking tasks).
Students go to the cafeteria at about noon. Someone dines in the common dining room, someone gets lunch at home: as a rule, these are parents who follow a certain diet in the family (there may be vegetarians, allergy sufferers, adherents of healthy lifestyle or religious precepts).
For lunch, 15 minutes are allotted, and the rest of the time of the big break, the children spend in the yard: they play, run, jump rope or play ball. In half an hour they return to their classes.
After lunch, primary school students will have additional lessons:
- As a rule, in primary school this is the primary course in natural sciences - "The World Around"
- Music and physical education (both subjects receive equal attention, often alternating weekly)
- Electives (for example, computer literacy). You can sing in the school choir or play musical instruments, there are also academic clubs - for example, for lovers of mathematics. But, as a rule, they are not every day (1-2 per week), so that children do not overwork.
The day ends
Lessons end closer to 15:30 - students move to reading rooms and libraries, from where, by invitation, they already go to the arriving buses.
In the elementary grades of the USA, homework, as we are used to, is usually not given - most likely, the student will receive it at home, and on a per week basis:
- several math problems
- reading log, something like a reader's diary (at least 20 minutes a day, that is, 400 minutes a month). The reading log contains the names of books, how much and when it was read, parents help to keep it
- letters of recommendation from teachers: what to pay extra attention to, what tasks to help the child with, what to work out again and repeat.
Basic general rules
Calls are given quite different attention here than in Russian schools: in fact, in primary grades, he calls twice a day - at the beginning and end of the day, but it does not serve as an unambiguous signal for anyone. Teachers themselves control the time and schedule of classes.
Primary schools usually include a kindergarten, a kindergarten - here it is often called a kindergarten: it accepts kids who have turned 5 years old by August 1 of this year.
There are a lot of rules in school that look at children from almost all walls: no one scolds anyone with loud shouts - the children themselves, visually, get used to the routine and customs.
- The class usually moves together, in an approximate line along the corridor, carefully letting in those coming towards
- You can run, sing loudly, laugh and talk only at a big break (the only one for the day). There are other short breaks, but they are spent in class, more calmly: you can chat with classmates, draw, play a board game, have a snack.
- You can find yourself a place to study at any convenient point in the room, move your desk
- There are rules of conduct in the classroom and in the cafeteria, in the hallway and on the playground, and on boarding and disembarking from the school bus.
According to the director, the task of the school is to educate, not train children:
One of the main tasks of the school is to teach children how to behave with each other and with adults. And know the rules of behavior: how to live in society, how to communicate with other people.
The rules are relaxed a little at the end of the school year, in the second week of May. Usually they are arranged thematic: teachers are congratulated (they are given gifts and letters, they arrange performances), the school is designed according to a fictitious scenario, and schoolchildren can come to lessons in their favorite and comfortable clothes, even if it is pajamas with Spider-Man (private schools for this parameter is much stricter).
Knowledge check: exams and tests
In elementary school, tests are present, but these are not strict exams: they must check how easy it is for the student to learn the program, whether the teacher is coping with the teaching or he needs to correct the course. Basically, these are tasks in mathematics and the basic course of English ("the art of communication", or Communication art).
Training programs and screening tests in public schools are standardized and approved by the city or state. The teacher can add his own touches and individual details, select new aids for the lessons, but the base should be the same:
In our country, quite often people move from district to district, and it should be easy for a child to join the learning process at a new school, so the core of knowledge is the same for everyone.
The pros and cons of standardized tests like our USE are argued in America too - the question is too ambiguous:
“How to combine the desire for good results in tests with an individual approach to the child, with the desire to give knowledge, and not to train on the test? This is our challenge, and here a lot depends on the teacher, and the director's role is to support teachers and children and keep the focus on the needs of the child, ”- Keith Schulter, university instructor and supervisor of the school principal at Harris Elementary School.
What grades are given to American students?
In primary school, all grades are only positive:
- in the process of mastering the basic level
- basic level mastered
- basic level mastered and understood well
- the child has understood the basic level and can explain it in other words (a rather rare mark - it is about “excellent plus plus”).
In addition, teachers actively use additional notes such as awesome, good, good job. The assessments are ambiguous: for example, a teacher can put a “2” and next to it, “Brilliant!” - this means that before the student mostly received "ones", but now he has risen to a higher level, and the teacher wants to encourage him.
Grades are made regularly, quarterly and annually. There are subjects for which marks are given for different sections (for example, in mathematics, a student can receive several different points - for multiplication / division / geometric shapes and spatial thinking / understanding of the perimeter and area), and the average mark in such cases is usually not displayed. The behavior of the little student is also assessed "separately" - there are usually 5-6 key points.
If the child has excellent grades and the teacher suspects he has great potential, he is tested under the Gift and talented program. This is a special course for gifted children - somewhere the level of complexity is increased, somewhere the range of knowledge is considered - and it is not offered by every school in the district. For example, Harris Elementary School is responsible for Gift and talented in its district.
Reading is the path to education
Harris Elementary School Methodist Kara Canning considers reading to be one of the most important aspects of elementary school education:
Reading is the foundation of elementary school education. If you cannot read and work with information, you cannot learn. In middle and high school, children will have to work a lot on their own, for this we need to raise good readers.
Previously, in the United States, there were common readers with common tests and questions for everyone, but children are different, and they like different topics, different stories. Moreover, there are no two students on the same level. My task is, together with the school librarian, to select books for everyone, those that may interest them, evoke a response. And make sure they build up their reader competence. Today we do not have a single collection of texts for everyone. The teacher, librarian, specialist like me, if there is one at school, chooses. Some may never have read Shakespeare. Of course, every day in the classroom there is joint reading and discussion with the teacher, but once a week in a library lesson, they will try to help everyone choose "his book." Summer is coming, we will have a reading summer camp organized jointly with the children's library. The teachers will volunteer there.
I cannot say that we here in Missouri have learned to instill a love of reading in all children and compete with video games. This is too difficult a task, but this is my goal. The next year, I set myself the main task of working with my parents. Research has shown that the most critical age for reading is grades 2-3. Children already know how to read, parents stop reading aloud, which means that discussions and conversations about a book disappear, and children first stay in place, and then begin to lag behind in the development of their reading competencies.
It is logical that in American schools there are many children who come from other countries: for example, Harris Elementary School has 70 students in 17 different languages! The school employs a specialist, Miss Sheets, who helps the kids to integrate into the English-speaking world. Every day for half an hour they master the program "English as a Foreign Language", the specialist also supervises in ordinary lessons in the classroom, helping as needed. Moreover, sometimes the Americans themselves need help: getting used to reading a lot and understanding what you read can be difficult.
Teachers are at one with parents
So such textbooks in elementary school are not always available: most often, parents receive weekly something like a synopsis, a report on what was studied at school, with examples of tasks and options for reinforcing tasks. According to the director, well-coordinated work of the school and parents is the key to the child's success:
You understand that motivation to study is not only a matter of school. We can create conditions here, we can support, guide, look for approaches to children. But parents are often the main motivating factor for children, especially in middle and high school, when students can choose the level of difficulty and the number of subjects. Of course, sometimes children choose the minimum, especially during adolescence. But the parent can influence the student, and the school counselor can assess the possibilities.
Education in the United States works as a powerful social lift, so that often parents even move to another area / city / state to enroll their child in a good school. They are even willing to pay more for housing, mortgages and other expenses: they understand that all this goes to local taxes, and they, in turn, are responsible for funding the public schools in the area and provide the chosen school with good quality.
Classmates are not a concept for the USA
It is consistently surprising for Russian parents and students that in the United States, children do not attend all elementary / middle / high school in the same class with the same homeroom teacher. Every year, primary school students mix up, and a new teacher is appointed to them - not just “primary grades”, but a “second grade teacher,” and so on. So the American education system seeks to solve several problems at once:
- save children from bullying, probable ridicule and bullying, strengthen their socialization
- give everyone the opportunity to find a teacher for themselves, ideally suited, motivating, inspiring
- creating an overall positive atmosphere. The classes are always mixed so that they are homogeneous and approximately equal: there is no such thing that the “a-shki” are the smartest, but the “ve-shki” are lagging behind, they have shoved everyone in a row, No: the classes are formed based on academic performance and behavior, the number of gifted and talented children, foreigners and Americans (ethnic variants are even evenly distributed among foreigners), by sex and age.