Since the sample size of my classroom varies between 6 and 12 any given day, I can’t make too many generalizations about the differences between Mexican students and American students. However, I have noticed some major dissimilarities between my classroom experience in the States and here in Mexico. The main difference I have found here is how honest students are with teachers, even when the honesty is to their detriment. Here are a few examples to illustrate:
1. On Monday the teacher asked a student why she wasn’t in class on Monday. The student explained that she stayed home in order to study for another exam that she had on Monday. The teacher found this to be a somewhat acceptable excuse and probably marked her for an unexcused absence since she didn’t have a slip from anyone excusing her absence. I was shocked that she would tell her teacher that she stayed home to study for another class, which was basically like telling her that French class was a lower priority class, which could be true, but I would never tell a teacher that! In my experience, an American student probably would have lied and said they were sick or something else. Or the teacher wouldn’t have even asked.
Phone use is also more in the open during class than in the U.S. In my classrooms in the U.S., students are a little more sneaky or covert about their phone usage, usually hiding the phone under their desk or even inside their backpack to hide the glow of the screen. Here, some students openly have their phones on their desks and text during class. Sometimes the teacher says something about it, and other times it goes unnoticed.
2. In one instance, a student had his cell phone out in plain view and was responding to a message. The teacher asked him to put his phone away and he said that his friend had woken up late and was going to miss an exam they had in their next class. The teacher found this to be an acceptable explanation and even sounded like she felt sorry for the student who was going to miss his exam. I was baffled that he would have explained the situation to the teacher, an apology for having his phone out and putting it back in his bag would have sufficed. However, by telling the story he received sympathy instead of a reprimand, so it worked in his favor.
3. In another instance of phone use, one girl checked the time on her phone and the teacher asked her to put her phone away. This student has a particularly busy schedule and didn’t have much time to get to her next class and we were in danger of going over time (side note- I still don’t know what time class is supposed to end. Sometimes it’s 10:50, sometimes 10:55, usually sometime between the two). The teacher asked her if she was anxious or nervous (rude), and she responded that yes and she was checking the time. The teacher nicely told her to calm down and continued the lesson.
Maybe I’m with a bunch of kids who don’t represent the average Mexican college student, but they all seem to act in a similar manner.
Tomorrow is my first French exam and I’m not really sure what’s going to be on it. My teacher often forgets what she actually teaches us versus what is on the lesson plan. We are four weeks in and we don’t have a syllabus or homework and today we went through have the alphabet for the first time (we made it to M, after skipping K, and then the teacher was interrupted and abandoned the alphabet). Wish me luck!