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My name is Sally Akerlind and I was a visiting teacher from a small town called East Grand Forks (EGF), Minnesota, USA.
When I first arrived in St. Cronan's I was expecting a lot of differences to school in the U.S. The most obvious difference was that the teachers and students speak Irish. There is Irish class but what I have found is that the students already know a lot of Irish language. Where I am from, small town northern Minnesota, it is rare for people to be bilingual. So, hearing everyone speaking English and Irish was really interesting and unique.
In America we have P.E. teachers, music teachers and art teachers that only teach those subjects. In some rural towns teachers may have to teach one or two of these subjects, but that is rare. The class sizes are much larger in Ireland than the schools in my hometown. In first grade the numbers are typically around 20 students per class. The majority of the schools are co-ed as well. All boys' or all girls' schools are pretty rare. St. Cronan's is the first school I have ever been in that is an all boys' school and I have never been in an all girls' school.
The school I have come from also has what we call hot lunch. The meals are paid for in advance and most kids eat what is served to them in the hot lunch line. It is an option to bring a cold lunch if you don't like what the school is serving that day. The lunches cost about $1.50 - $2.00 a day. I am used to the kids getting a half hour lunch which includes their recess/play time. This is considerably less than what children are given in Bray. In American schools the lunch and recess time is the only time students have during the day to eat and play. Some classrooms do have a morning or afternoon snack.
The school day is much shorter in Bray than where I live. In East Grand Forks (EGF), MN the school day goes from 8:25am to 2:55PM. The Elementary schools are split up in Kindergarten - 2nd and 3rd Grade to 5th Grade. Kindergarten is for 5-6 year olds and 5th Grade is for 10-11 year olds. Everyone goes to school for the same amount of time.
In EGF there is a free bus service for everyone that goes to school. It doesn't matter how far you are from the school. It is MN law that there must be transportation available for every student. Some kids may live nearly 30 miles away from the school and a bus will go out there to pick them up. The only students that walk to school are the ones that live within about a block radius. Everyone else travels by bus to school or dropped off by parents.
In EGF you can attend public or private school. In public school there is a K-12 school, a 3-5 grade school, 68 school and a 9-12 grade school. At private school it is K-12 all in the same building. The private school is a Catholic school attached to the Catholic Church.
Since I have been in St. Cronan's, I see that there are many similarities. The students still learn Math, Spelling, Geography, Reading, English, Handwriting, etc….The teaching styles seem to be very much the same. The adults that I work with are very nice and welcoming, just as they are in EGF. The students are all very good kids, all eager to learn. In a country where I am an outsider, I feel at home at school, because of all the similarities.
Ms. Sally Akerlind
Visiting Teacher from the U.S.