US Journal I - Education

Can’t believe that it is already the third month after I have come to America. And I can certainly feel the difference from the life I had in Shanghai.

  1. Education

The education system here is totally different. It even made me feel “anxious” when I first started. Instead of staying in a single classroom doing nothing but waiting for teachers to come, we have to move classrooms ourselves. And this class pattern starts from elementary school. At our school, the breaks between classes are extremely short, or tiny, for there’re only 4 minutes. Like most of you, I don’t really know why it is 4 minutes, not 5. So it is short, and you don’t really have time to go to the bathroom or drink some water, etc. After the bell, if you want to enter the classroom without an absent mark, you should get a teacher’s pass which indicates that you are excused. Yet to me, this kind of routine is no good for students. For the students have different schedules for their days, it is not even possible to have a “close friend” that you can be with for the entire day. That lead me to another problem: if there’s no chance for us to make friends at school, where are the friends from? For public schools, you can easily make friends by searching people on your school bus - they must live near you. What that means is that you can easily access your friends’ houses - on foot! But unfortunately, that might be the only way that you can make a “close” friend.

Then the grading system. I was surprised because the education system here is totally based on the internet. Teachers post the grades of classes on the internet where there is a special system that students and parents can go and check the grades. Here’s our major grading percentage: homework is worth %10, when formative tests are worth 65% and summative (final) tests are worth %25. As you can see, homework is only worth a little bit on the total grade. Here’s the reason: teachers don’t always give homework. Be careful - they do not leave HOME-works. While a teacher gives homework, he or she always has time for us to get the homework done in class. We can ask if we have any questions about homework instantly.

Teachers. That’s the topic that most people care about. Teachers at my school are always well-experienced teachers, whom usually have been teaching for at least 15 years. My English teacher, Mrs. Phyllis Bank, has been teaching for 39 years at this school! Even her children are at their thirties, so she might be at her sixties this year, but she is still fairly energetic while giving classes. She used to be a Spanish teacher, and then a physical education teacher, and finally fixed her job as an English teacher. She is just a simple example I can give as teachers, so it might be very normal to have a PE teacher teaching you Math, etc.

In classes, we do online searches, make random group discussions, or debate with each other which is my favorite part. Yet the weirdest thing I think, was the teachers’ role in classes. They always discuss with us together and keep themselves as friends of ours. So it might be more appropriate to call them as “instructors”. I had a class this year called “Humanity” which is probably my favorite. At this class, we discussed things like “what made us human” or  “what made human different from other animals” which were very special. You can choose classes at the beginning of the semester, except English, Algebra and History which were fixed according to your test result of the last semester.

Mingjie Jiang

Maryland, United States


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