My purpose for this experience was threefold. First of all I wanted to gain experience and knowledge through teaching/observing in an overseas setting; secondly, I wanted to network with the great minds on the other side of the globe that are seeking to implement effective changes in education. Thirdly, I wanted to take the time to visit the history and culture of another country firsthand (I am currently a social studies teacher and love any chance to study history!)
I was placed at Vanguard which is a high school-level military-charter school created for the purpose of meeting academic needs in certain students that traditional schooling did not fill. While the school is designed to help the struggling learner only, it is successful in reaching that intended group. The group of like-minded educators who established Vanguard came from a military background themselves and through the acknowledgement of the impact of discipline on their own lives sought to create an institution that instilled discipline upon the struggling students.
A Typical Day
The school day began at 8:45am and concluded by 3:00pm with all academic classes taking place in the morning and physical activity occurring after lunch. Physical Training occurs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week. Friday the normal routine changes just a bit. After morning parade students gather for a student- led assembly in which announcements are made, birthdays acknowledged, and a general encouragement/challenge is given. The week is concluded on Friday by section competitions to encourage physical activity and help the week end on a positive note.
Not only can this change your perspective and effectiveness as an educator in what you can bring to a classroom, it can honestly change you completely as a person. The lessons learned, personal connections made, and experiences I was able to glean were invaluable.
Charter schools are a new idea to the New Zealand school system and I hoped to observe the success of this movement overseas. While our cultures have their differences, our minds, the way we learn and teach are relatively the same. Through the success and failures that Vanguard has experienced I hoped to glean important concepts that could be effectively applied and implemented back home.
The staff were incredibly supportive as they were not only open to ideas from my perspective concerning teaching pedagogy and charter school sequence, but were also willing to share their successes and failures throughout this new journey in education. I definitely made some connections that will last a lifetime.
Bringing the Experience Home
I incorporated the overseas experience to the classroom “back home” by being mindful of the following points of discipline which worked very well:
- I will not entertain you, I will teach you
- Respect: If you cannot respect an adult you must face a consequence
- Don’t wait for the class to settle down and be quiet. Take control when you are ready
- Focus question at the beginning of each class
- Morning news/current events to make historical connections
- Notes and powerpoint (15min max) per class hour
- Incorporate group project/individual work to the class hour
- No homework assigned, all work to be done in class
Advice for Future Participants
I would strongly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity! Not only can this change your perspective and effectiveness as an educator in what you can bring to a classroom, it can honestly change you completely as a person. The lessons learned, personal connections made, and experiences I was able to glean were invaluable. Don’t let the cost deter you! It is entirely worth the “sacrifice.”