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W. York - Human Diversity Project

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Human Diversity Project prepared for EDU 600 - Summer 2012 on Belize Student Teaching Experience.

Human Diversity Project prepared for EDU 600 - Summer 2012 on Belize Student Teaching Experience.

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W. York - Human Diversity Project W. York - Human Diversity Project Document Transcript

  • Running  Head:    HUMAN  DIVERSITY  PROJECT   1                     Human  Diversity  Project   Whitney  R.  York   Murray  State  University          
  • HUMAN  DIVERSITY  PROJECT     2     One  of  the  most  educationally  profound  experiences  I’ve  ever  had  the  privilege  of  participating  in  was  the  Belize  student  teaching  experience.    After  years  of  studying  education  and  attending,  observing,  and  teaching  in  schools  in  Illinois  and  Kentucky,  making  the  transition  to  a  school  in  Central  America  was  certainly  an  eye  opening  experience.    We  are  very  much  accustomed  to  our  own  culture  and  education  system  and  often  participate  in  it  without  question  about  whether  the  basis  for  the  entire  system  is  effective  or  has  the  potential  to  change.    This  experience  taught  me  that  not  only  is  our  system  unique,  and  of  course  somewhat  flawed,  but  there  is  a  great  deal  more  that  goes  into  a  school  system  than  the  curriculum  and  the  teachers.      Through  more  careful  examination  of  the  community  and  culture,  school  system  itself,  and  my  classroom  experience  I’ve  had  the  opportunity  to  reflect  on  how  this  experience  continues  to  affect  me  as  a  teacher  almost  two  years  later.     Belize  is  a  small  country  located  in  Central  America  bordered  by  Mexico  and  Guatemala.    Rich  in  Mayan  culture  and  a  former  British  colony  the  culture  of  Belize  is  extremely  varied.    Although  the  official  language  is  English,  many  residents  speak  Spanish,  Kriole,  or  a  mix  of  languages.    The  local  economy  is  dominated  by  agriculture  and  tourism  due  in  large  part  to  the  climate  and  various  historical  and  natural  sites.         It  took  a  little  while  for  me  to  fully  understand  just  how  different  the  school  system  of  Belize  was  due  in  large  part  to  the  industries  located  in  the  country.    We  prepare  students  for  all  types  of  jobs  from  doctors,  to  lawyers,  to  farmers,  to  mechanics.    Belize  however,  tends  to  focus  students  in  tracks  based  on  their  interests  in  future  careers.    Even  the  curriculum  is  extremely  different  from  ours  in  similar  subjects  to  reflect  the  need  for  focus  on  local  industries.    Overall  though,  education  is  considered  extremely  important  to  Belizeans  and  they  have  a  great  deal  to  be  proud  of.      
  • HUMAN  DIVERSITY  PROJECT     3     I  had  the  privilege  of  working  with  two  teachers  in  the  business  department  of  Corozal  Community  College,  the  equivalent  of  our  high  school  grades.    Here,  students  are  organized  into  four  forms  or  grade  levels.    Forms  one  and  two  offer  students  a  general  curriculum  in    areas  one  would  expect:  English,  Math,  Social  Studies,  Science,  Spanish,  Technology,  PE,  Life  Skills,  and  Home  Economics  or  Music.    Forms  three  and  four  are  then  specialized  based  on  students  interests  or  future  goals.    There  are  three  options:  general,  academic,  and  business.    From  what  I  gathered  the  general  curriculum  is  the  most  basic,  academic  is  focused  on  students  who  are  looking  to  pursue  further  education,  and  business  is  for  students  interested  in  the  business  world  in  some  capacity.    Students  stay  with  their  class  or  form  for  the  entire  year.    So  for  instance  the  3B2  class  is  one  of  the  business  ‘homerooms’  in  the  3rd  form,  and  those  20-­‐30  students  will  be  together  the  entire  year  for  every  class  of  their  day.     Besides  the  organization  of  classes,  the  other  glaring  difference  between  their  school  system  and  ours  was  the  organization  of  teachers  and  their  schedules.    I  taught  in  the  business  department  so  I  will  use  that  area  as  an  example.    There  were  five  specific  business  teachers  responsible  for  teaching  overall  sixteen  classes.    A  teacher  usually  focused  on  one  or  two  of  the  classes  but  might  teach  to  both  the  3rd  and  4th  form.    Their  schedules  varied  from  day  to  day,  sometimes  teaching  classes  for  one  period  and  sometimes  for  two,  or  about  80  minutes.    In  between  teaching,  teachers  had  wide  gaps  of  time  for  planning,  grading,  and  work.    By  wide  gaps,  I  mean  that  some  days  teachers  had  only  two  or  three  class  periods  to  teach  and  spend  the  rest  of  the  day  working.   For  me  the  biggest  shocker  was  the  fact  that  teachers  don’t  have  their  own  classroom.    Instead  the  3B2  class  had  it’s  own  classroom,  and  teachers  traveled  to  the  different  classes  as  
  • HUMAN  DIVERSITY  PROJECT     4  their  schedule  required.    In  their  ‘off’  time,  all  the  teachers  occupied  one  large  room  overflowing  with  desks.    Homerooms  or  classes  of  students  were  solely  responsible  for  maintaining  their  classroom  throughout  the  day,  which  involved  cleaning  the  boards  off,  sweeping,  straightening  desks,  and  locking  the  room  when  they  left  the  classroom.      Overall  it  was  quite  a  different  organizational  system  than  anything  I  had  the  chance  to  work  with  in  Kentucky.     The  stark  differences  in  our  educational  system  continued  inside  the  classroom,  after  I  hiked  over  to  the  building  I  was  teaching  in.    The  only  materials  I  had  to  teach  with  were  a  textbook  and  a  chalkboard.    Day  one  I  observed  both  of  my  ‘supervising’  teachers  in  their  classroom,  and  by  day  two  I  was  teaching  alone.    Students  were  more  than  respectful  and  compliant  with  my  instructions  and  extremely  attentive  to  the  material  they  were  learning.    Perhaps  the  hardest  roadblock  in  the  classroom  was  the  fact  that  although  student  spoke  English  they  could  also  speak  a  mix  and  variety  of  other  languages,  which  they  used  frequently  in  their  informal  conversations.    I  of  course,  had  no  clue  as  to  what  they  were  saying  and  immediately  my  classroom  management  education  had  to  kick  in  to  manage  these  new  situations.    Overall,  most  students  seemed  motivated  to  do  well  in  their  classes  and  had  some  sort  of  career  goal  in  mind  for  when  they  finished  school.     So  how  did  this  experience  affect  my  current  teaching  practices  and  views  on  education?    There  are  still  times  when  I’m  teaching  when  I  flash  back  to  that  month  long  experience  and  remember  the  lessons  I  learned.    First  and  foremost,  quite  possibly  the  biggest  shock  to  me  was  the  lack  of  materials  and  the  methods  that  teachers  had  to  present  materials.    In  Kentucky  an  overhead  projector  would  be  outdated,  but  in  Belize  I  just  kept  breaking  piece  after  piece  of  chalk.    During  my  student  teaching  placement  at  Murray  High  
  • HUMAN  DIVERSITY  PROJECT     5  School  I  solely  taught  computer  classes.    My  classroom  had  30  computers;  I  had  a  projector,  SMART  Slate,  and  the  latest  software  to  monitor  student  computers.    Needless  to  say  it  was  quite  an  adjustment  for  me  to  have  to  focus  more  on  what  I  was  saying,  learn  to  write  quickly,  and  use  the  limited  poster  paper  to  make  models  and  examples.         I  also  still  reflect  a  great  deal  on  the  culture  that  their  educational  system  was  born  out  of.    In  America  I  don’t  feel  that  we  really  look  enough  at  the  needs  for  our  society  and  communities.    Even  now  we  continue  to  standardize  education  across  large  areas  when  the  needs  for  certain  occupations  vary  greatly  from  region  to  region.    In  Belize  that  focus  was  clear  and  straightforward,  and  students  simply  didn’t  take  classes  that  weren’t  going  to  be  useful  to  their  futures.    In  addition  it  was  evident  that  their  culture  valued  education  greatly  and  both  students  and  teachers  took  pride  in  the  work  they  were  doing.       I’m  not  sure  I  can  even  narrow  down  specific  things  that  this  experience  taught  me  as  it  was  such  an  intense  overall  experience.    However,  broadly  what  being  thrown  into  a  classroom  in  a  foreign  country  taught  me  was  that  the  premise  of  education  is  the  same  no  matter  where  you  go.    A  community’s  children  need  skills  and  knowledge  in  order  to  ‘succeed’,  and  more  importantly  become  productive  members  of  the  society.    If  the  adult  members  of  the  community  don’t  take  the  responsibility  for  creating  an  environment  in  which  these  children  can  achieve  these  goals  then  the  entire  community  has  failed.    Do  we  take  enough  responsibility  for  the  education  of  all  students  in  our  community?    Do  we  meet  the  needs  of  all  students?    We  don’t  need  to  be  ranked  number  one  to  achieve  these  goals,  as  Belize  proves,  but  we  do  need  collective  understanding  and  drive  to  make  the  system  as  effective  as  it  can  be.