During my visit to Canada in January 2018, I was lucky enough to be able to visit two Elementary schools in the Barrie area, Simcoe County Board, Ontario. I was warmly welcomed by the Principles and Vice Principles of both schools, who were very keen to show me around and to share information about their wonderful schools.
Both school buildings were different in style and layout. The timetables varied slightly too, one of the schools had a slightly later start for the students. Every classroom was inviting and I was welcomed in with smiles and hellos.
The children were very keen to talk to me and ask questions. In one class, where I spent quite some time, I couldn’t resist giving the children who were unable to move on, some help. The children were happy for me to support them and it was great to see them be able to complete questions. When it was time for me to go, they didn’t want me to leave. This demonstrates the impact of two teachers in one room – if only that could happen on more occasions!
Every teacher I spoke to enquired as to why I was there and why there is a shortage of teachers in the UK. After explaining about Government cuts, issues with teacher training numbers not being high enough and teacher retention becoming a challenge, they seemed to understand. In Canada during the past few years, teacher training numbers remain high but job availability for new graduates and teachers in the early stages of their careers, remain low. However, the outlook for Canadian teachers should soon be improving as some universities have reduced recruitment numbers and stopped offering teacher training completely.
Whilst touring the schools I noticed that classrooms look like they do here in the UK. Usual set up of tables, chairs and carpet areas, with some stimulating displays on walls and in corridors. It was lovely to see Kindergarten children talking about items they made during the lunch break in ‘Show and Tell.’ In both schools, it was pizza delivery day (not something we have here as our children have access to hot meals every day but in Canadian Elementary schools they only seem to have lunch from home), and it was great to see the higher grade children helping with taking orders and delivering the goodies. The smell in the building was delightful! I also saw paired reading and it was fantastic to see the ‘big ones’ share books with the ‘little ones’ – something we do in the UK too.
The largest differences I could see was in the curriculum content and levels of marking. The curriculum varies from province to province so comparing it to the UK curriculum is quite a challenge. Using books as a tool for learning and cross-curricular referencing is another similarity to here. Levels of marking/teacher assessing student’s work I know is greater in the UK as there is a huge emphasis on assessment and feedback to show progress by schools, Head teachers and Ofsted.
It is, however, reassuring that children remain children wherever you are in the world. That they all have their own learning styles and they all respond well to interactive learning, far better than passive learning. Children love to talk and welcome new people, a sure sign that Canadian teachers will be welcomed here. Children are always eager and love a challenge. Somethings will never change.