Monday, January 28, 2013

First Day of (Actual) Classes

I noticed quite a few differences between schooling in America and schooling here, in a bunch of different ways. I figure that this will only be interesting if I explain specifics, so I figure I should do exactly that. Although to be fair, when I say America, I can really only attest to the schools that I’ve been in. I generalize based on what I’ve heard from other Americans. If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment.

First of all, the class schedule. In America, it’s standard to have class for a certain amount of time, a bell, a couple minutes of “passing period,” a bell, and then a class. Class (normally) starts promptly at the bell, and depending on the teacher, students are given detentions if they are late. Here, there are no bells, and no passing periods. While not having bells is WONDERFUL, as you don’t feel like you’re being herded around like cattle, the lack of passing periods is another thing entirely. Having one class end at nine o’clock and another starting exactly at nine o’clock is quite the dilemma, especially when the two classes are in different buildings. Culturally, it’s acceptable to be five or ten minutes late for everything, but in a school setting, this really cuts into teaching time. With a single-block being only forty minutes long (doubles are eighty), being ten minutes late takes out a quarter of the class. Also, with no bells, you end classes when the teacher ends, and they are never cut off by the bell. As such, it’s entirely within reason to end two minutes late, have to walk four minutes across campus, and get to class eight minutes late. I suppose eventually I’ll get used to this system, but I hate being late, and a system that leaves no possibility of being on time, however culturally acceptable that might be, is a pet peeve of mine.

Secondly, paper. Paper is longer here, which doesn’t really matter because the folders are taller. But, loose leaf paper has two holes, as do the binders. Notebooks are rarely spiral-bound; it’s much more typical to use something closer to composition books with actual bindings. They’re also much thicker – notebooks in America are always 70 pages for a single subject, but the notebooks here seem to be mostly 192 pages.

Third, the teaching style is much more laid back. Teachers in America rarely prepare during class. Today, in my Physics, class, the teacher spent the first ten minutes FINDING the books, the second ten minutes, handing them out, and then another significant chunk of time stapling packets together before he handed them out to us. I mean, it was fine, but it was definitely a different atmosphere from, say, Mr. ONeill’s class, where there would be stacks of packets and handouts ready, without fail.

Fourth, the building is quite different. First, I have to say that I really love the classroom block. Secondly, I have to say that it’s terribly designed, and in interesting shape. The architect was from Mozambique, and it’s a very open block. Apparently that doesn’t work out so well in July and August when it’s winter and the temperatures really drop (none of the buildings are heated or air conditioned). Secondly, it’s a full-on maze. You go inside, outside, back inside, upstairs, downstairs, down a sketchy walkway between two buildings, and so on. Some classrooms have doors inside; some of the doors are outside. In America, classrooms are numbered. Here, they are in effect labeled, but the “numbering” system doesn’t help with finding rooms. In America, room 252 is next to 253. Here, G2 is not next to G1. G2 is inside. The door to G1 is across a bit of grass, facing outside.

On another note, they love acronyms at this school. Choir is held in the LSR. Drama is upstairs at the CCLD. The climbing wall is in the MP hall. The first TOK meeting was in the assembly hall. The IB2s are working on their EEs. We have to keep track of CAS hours. LDF had its first meeting, and PAP’s first meeting is coming up. It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes, but you get the hang of it. It sounds really funny at first.

Despite the differences in school though, it’s really nice. I really enjoy my classes, and while I hate to say it – I enjoyed my homework tonight. Having siSwati homework is still novel enough to be enjoyable, so I figure I’ll enjoy it when the novelty remains!

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I applied for UWC this year through the USA committee! I'm interviewing in 4 days for entrance into the UWC movement and I'm quite nervous!

    Any tips?

    I love your blog by the way. It really has shown me what UWC life is like! My top choice is UWC Pearson in Canada! Maybe we can talk and correspond about the program!

    My email is

    I also have a blog that has updates of my application process!

    Hope to talk to you soon! Thanks! :)