Nov 26, 2013 - education, technology    1 Comment

US vs Canadian schools

I grew up on the Canadian border. The border between Maine and New Brunswick in that area is the St Croix River, and any time you went from one country to another, it was “going over the river.” Some things about growing up on the border (particulary in the 90s):

  • You know the difference between M&M’s and Smarties, and know that Smarties are superior
  • You know the difference between American Smarties and Canadian Smarties, and know that Canadian Smarties are superior
  • Tim Horton’s > Dunkin Donuts
  • Nanaimo bars. That’s all.
  • You know that if your friend takes a serious header on his skateboard in the US, you drive him over the river before seeking medical attention.
  • You get Sesame Street in the US version AND the Canadian version. (or, you did when all you had was a rooftop antenna.)
  • Mr Dressup. 
  • Everyone you know has been to another country, but some of those kids have never been to another US state.

I could go on, but growing up on the border has given me a slightly different perspective on a lot of things. So, when I find myself following lots of Canadian educators on Twitter, I can’t help but wonder how their great ideas and practices translate to American schools. This post was inspired by finding this Tedx Vancouver talk by Dean Shareski: Whatever Happened to Joy in Education?

Dean is a Canadian educator, that now works for the Discovery Education Network. Most (all?) of the people he features in this video are Canadian educators, and it brings up the questions about the border differences that I have now, 20 years removed from my own public school education and deep into my career as an instructional technologist working to prepare the next wave of American teachers.

The question I have for the Canadians, particularly those that spend time with teachers on both sides of the border, what are the differences that you see between your schools and American schools? Do you think that you have more freedom to find joy in education? Do you have more freedom to connect your students with others via social media?  Is there more freedom to inject your own style into your teaching? What are your perceptions of American schools?


1 Comment

  • Thanks for the shout out Gretchen,

    I would say that there are far more similarities than there are differences between US and Canada education. We tend to focus on what makes us different and while I would argue that there are some differences particularly the ability for teachers to be a bit more autonomous in the classrooms it still is not the norm.

    I would also say that in the US there is a greater gap between high-performing, excellent schools and poor schools due to a higher population you just naturally going to see more diversity. In Canada there seems to be fewer differences across the country again still great schools and poor schools but less of a gap.

    In classrooms and schools were joy is evident it almost always comes, in my experience, with high levels of autonomy. Teachers who make decisions about what matters for the students and they make it happen

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