School seemed pretty simple and obvious to me when I was a kid. I attended the same small (and I realize now, very progressive) district for my entire K-career. I “knew” that in elementary school, you sat at desks that were arranged in table groups and sometimes the teacher made you do stuff together. I was sure that every elementary school classroom in America had a rug and a classroom library, where the teacher would read aloud to them from chapter books each day. You would have a morning recess and an after-lunch recess. Everyone knew that.
Well, I’ve been in quite a few more elementary schools since then, and I have a much broader concept now of what a “normal” elementary school and classroom looks like. From communicating with other teachers online, I have been introduced to still more ideas of how schools differ across the country and around the world. I now understand what a variety of philosophies and curricula exist and try not to assume anything, especially when considering schools in other countries.
While I have seen photos, read reviews, and know a fair bit about my new school’s curriculum, I still feel uneasy because I don’t know if any of the assumptions I *have* made are correct. You kind of have to take certain things for granted, just as a human being: that the sun is in the sky, that most people walk on their feet and not their hands, that babies are smaller than adults. We all assume a lot more than we realize. That’s what worries me though, even though it’s human nature.
I find myself questioning everything I expect about my school and my class: the language level of the kids, the supplies available, what my responsibilities will be, whether there will even be a photocopier available. That’s a given at almost any American public school, but I’m not going to an American public school. When I moved to Georgia it took me a week or so to realize that the reason I hadn’t been told how to join the teacher’s union is that there IS no teacher’s union here. I had taken for granted that all public schools have unions because it was all I’d ever seen before. It wasn’t just that I didn’t know whether there would be one; I didn’t even consider that there might not be one. Same thing when I discovered that I was expected to take my kids out for recess every single day (effectively I have recess duty five days a week)–here that’s expected, in Massachusetts I can see that causing some sort of strike!
When I get over there, what things like that are going to take me by surprise? I don’t know. I have no idea what preconceptions–good or bad, major or minor–I have that are going to turn out to be false. What questions have I neglected to ask because I didn’t know enough to even wonder about them? I’m trying to keep a really open mind, because I don’t know what else I can do.