Macon- Observing various types of classroom environments is a requirement of teacher education students at most colleges and universities. Mercer University's Tift College of Education recently added a twist to this common practice. Six education students had the unique opportunity to observe classrooms in Scotland over the summer.
As a part of the Mercer Study Abroad program, these education majors, along with two professors, spent 11 days in Scotland and England. While there, they took classes at the University of Paisley and visited classrooms at three Scottish elementary schools.
"At Mercer's Tift College of Education, we strive to teach our students to embrace the diversity of today's classrooms," said Dr. Margaret Morris, an associate professor of early childhood education at Mercer and one of the faculty members who organized the trip. "This trip provided our students an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of other cultures, and in turn, they will be better teachers."
Upon return from the trip, the six students gave presentations on the differences and similarities between Scottish and American schools as well as what they gained from their experience abroad.
Kelly Quinton, a senior early childhood education major at Mercer, said while there were differences in the curriculum and the classroom atmosphere in Scotland, it was interesting to see that the children in Scotland have the same struggles as the children in the United States.
"I wanted them to see that the need for education is international-that children have similar needs the world over," Morris said.
Quinton said she enjoyed interacting with the Scottish students, one of whom asked if she knew Britney Spears. "I think anytime you travel it opens your eyes," she said. "This experience made me realize that whether I'm in Scotland or America, I feel called to be a teacher."
The Mercer students also were able to glean new teaching practices from the educators they observed in Scotland.
Christy Mitchell, a junior holistic education major at Mercer, plans to use the "word bank" concept that one of the Scottish teachers used in her classroom at the primary school. The word bank, Mitchell explained, was a personal dictionary each student created on his or her own. The words included in each personal word bank varied from student to student depending on what words they needed to look up in the classroom dictionary as they worked on other assignments.
In addition to their experiences in the classroom, the six education majors from Mercer had an opportunity to see the sights of Scotland and also to tour London.
"The beauty and the history of the Scottish castles was overwhelming," Mitchell said.
Morris said this part of the trip was also important for the Mercer students.
"Being able to understand other cultures is especially important today," she said. "Now these students will have greater empathy with people globally. They have escaped their comfort zones and broadened their perspectives. When they become teachers, they'll be able to prepare their students to become global citizens."
Mercer's Tift College of Education is planning another study abroad trip to Scotland for next summer. For more information, contact faculty members Margaret Morris at email@example.com
or (478)301-2580 or Carolyn Garvin at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (478)301-5388. For more information on other study abroad opportunities at Mercer, call the Study Abroad office at (478)301-2573.