More breaks, less exercise

More breaks, less exercise

The author says that the only thing that unites American and Australian students is their dislike of homework.
Courtesy of the author

  • I have spent time in the US and Australia and have seen the differences in schooling.
  • During a recent trip to visit family in Texas, I was able to see the inside of an American school.
  • Although there are many differences, I found something that unites the students.

I live in Australia with my partner and twin sons and recently got to experience school life in the US for the first time on a family trip to Texas.

My nephew Cooper invited me to have lunch with him at his elementary school in San Antonio. The dinner invitation seemed foreign to me – I had never had lunch with my children in 12 years of school, and I was surprised that this was a common occurrence in the US.

Lunchtime is a completely different experience in the 2 countries

We were given special security passes and invited into the cafeteria to meet Cooper, where we were seated on a stage overlooking the rest of the cafeteria.

With a beautiful view of the cafeteria, I was amazed at how different it was from Australia. Students would line up to get their school lunches (Enchilada Wednesday was popular in Texas), sit at designated tables with their teachers, and spend all their time at the desk. I don’t think my sons would have enjoyed not being able to run and play sports.

There are no school canteens in Australia. The kids bring their lunches, eat out, and play with their friends while they eat.

My sons often brought their lunch home from school as they preferred to spend their lunch break playing with their friends rather than eating. My wife and I were always told that “we don’t have time to eat!”.

My nephew’s school in Texas had more school pride

Walking around Cooper’s school grounds, school pride was palpable. The school mascot was on display; there were banners throughout the school and many school events were promoted.

While some Aussie students take pride in their school, it’s nothing compared to what I’ve seen in the US. There are no school mascots, no banners, few school events, and frankly, very little school spirit.

The national pride shown by the students is also different. Australians do not have to celebrate the Pledge of Allegiance or any oath, and not all schools fly the Australian national flag.

Australia has more term breaks and also more school days

The academic year in Australia is divided into four semesters starting in January and ending in December, which results in more term breaks.

Despite more breaks, the Australian school year is longer, with about 200 days of school compared to about 175 days in Texas.

Our summer vacation is about six weeks away and there is no summer camp program to send the kids off. My American friends are always shocked that parents have to entertain their kids all summer long, but I enjoyed the extended family time – although I was relieved when school resumed.

My nephew was more focused on sports in the US

My sons attend a public school and their school sports games are in the middle of the week, often early in the morning. They play their matches without any crowd, party or any atmosphere. Sports teams are coached by a single coach, usually a math, English or history teacher, who coaches the team as a voluntary addition to their regular teaching duties. Students are often required to organize their own training.

In 2021, my son’s school made the state football championship and I went to offer support. Even though it was a state championship, less than 20 people participated.

My brother-in-law is a high school basketball coach in Texas. For Australia, this is a full-time job and has support staff. He spends his days (and nights) planning, strategizing, scouting opposing teams and conducting extensive training sessions.

I went to the game on Friday night and was shocked by the size of the stadium, the number of people in attendance, the festivities and the pomp and pageantry that accompanied the game. I found myself cheering loudly; it was a big difference from home.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere and felt that my sons would enjoy playing in similar conditions. I can only imagine what a high school Texas football game would be like.

Despite the differences in education between the two countries, my sons and my nephew have one thing in common – they all hate doing homework.

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