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Settled into Hamburg

I am absolutely loving Hamburg. I was a little bit homesick for the first few days, but I think it was more of just adjusting to a new place and a new routine - learning the train system, finding a grocery store, getting used to not always being able to communicate when I went somewhere. I can say I am fully adjusted now, however!

 

Here are some of my favourite things about Hamburg so far:

 

  • The St. Pauli fish market (Fischmarkt) - essentially a farmer’s market that opens only one day a week (Sunday) from 5am-9:30am. Here you can find fish sandwiches for breakfast (Parm had two!), rock bands playing Nickelback, adult beverages being served with the sunrise, and you can really get a feel for the history and culture of Hamburg as a port city.
  • Franzbrötchen - a Northern German baked good that is basically a cinnamon bun but made with croissant dough that I’ve been eating too much of.
  • Our German “buddies” and contacts - we were all given a “buddy” from the University of Hamburg to show us around and help us out in the city. They have all been so helpful! If we message them asking for a restaurant recommendation they respond immediately with great suggestions, or if we tell them we are lost they tell us where to go and what bus to take. We have all been able to hang out quite a bit and we have a really fun time with them. Also, our two contact people at the University of Hamburg have gone above and beyond to make sure we feel welcome - we got help with our monthly bus passes and a tour of the campus! It’s true that Germans as a whole can seem somewhat businesslike or even abrasive sometimes to us Canadians who are used to saying “sorry” for everything - but every German I have personally met has been nothing but kind and welcoming.
  • Amazing public transit - I can’t believe how easy it is to get around the city! There are multiple train lines and tons of buses that are so easy and efficient!
  • I’ve found that Germany has a generally relaxed sort of atmosphere, probably due in part to lots of people finishing work early in the afternoon.
  • CHEESE IS SO CHEAP!!!!!!
  • School - the bilingual school I’m at is wonderful. The teachers are very welcoming and helpful to us. I won’t get into it now since will be writing a full post about my experience in the school at a later time, but observing a German school has been super valuable to my teacher education. Plus, school usually ends at 1:10pm every day! Some days it goes until 3:30, depending on the class and grade - the students call them “the long days”!
  • The weather has been very warm - 30 degrees some days and maybe one or two days of rain since we’ve been here. Everyone says it is very unusual for this time of year and I am taking advantage of the nice weather by finding new walking routes and parks to run in.
  • Online classes are a pain.

 

I’m currently on a train to Copenhagen where I will be spending the weekend. See you later!

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Language Learning

Hallo again! It has hard to believe that over 2 weeks has already passed here. I have settled in quite well and to honest it has been infinitely easier adjusting than my time in Korea! This is probably because there isn’t really a language barrier (most people speak English quite well), I am not isolated as I meet up with the other TAB students frequently and our awesome German buddies, my apartment is already furnished and finally I think the overall culture and norms are not too foreign for me.

My school has been extremely welcoming, and I have never felt out of place – as I so often did in my beginning months in Korea. Overall, the school does feel like a school and the grade 1s and 4s are as energetic and mischievous as you would expect from any child that age. There are some differences, which I will discuss in my next post. For now, I’ve gained some insights on language learning which I would like to compare with my experiences in Korea.

                                                                                                                                                  The Berlin Wall

Students Learning

I’ve been placed in an immersion school and am in a grade 1 and grade 4 classroom. My partner teacher speaks in both English and German. Mondays are English days and she usually talks in English first and gets a student to translate. These students can’t read yet and are just learning the alphabet, counting, colours, etc. To be honest, I am quite surprised at their comprehension! They can understand a lot of basic things, even if most of them can’t reply in English. Some have better comprehension than some of the middle school students I taught in Korea! In Korea, public school starts English lessons in Grade 3. They learn the alphabet, while learning vocabulary and while trying to get use to the phonemes in English. I’m starting to wonder if it’s better to just focus on comprehension first – instead of phonetics at the same time. I mean, naturally, kids learn their first language by first listening, then speaking, then reading and writing. Of course, Korean is completely different from English while German is more similar, so that is a factor as well.

My Language Learning

Before coming here, I did learn some basic German to get around and I found it much easier to remember things than when I was learning Korean. We have a similar alphabet and it’s much easier for me to remember words if I see it. However, after a few days here I realized that most people speak English and my motivation is now lacking! In Korea I was there for longer, was the only foreigner in schools and needed to learn Korean to get around – so my motivation was much higher. I had to learn Korean actively (studying in workbooks, making notes), but I find that I am learning some German passively.

I am finding that my comprehension of German is improving as a lot of words are like English. For example, “Vas ist das” – is obviously “What is this?”. I can’t produce German, but I do think I can understand a little. For example, today the grade 1’s were doing a math test and the teacher was speaking out the questions. With the pictures, I was able to understand a lot of what was being asked. As well, I was able to pick out adjectives – for example langer, klein – that I had learned before. Of course, this is limited. The grade 4’s were doing word problems in math. It was all in German and I felt so lost in trying to help the kids with these basic math problems! The kids spent a lot of time trying to translate the problem to me without focusing on the math. I dislike that feeling of not being able to fully do my job, but I'm doing my best.

That is all for now! 

Current squirrel (Eichhörnchen) count: 7.

 

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A New School Year Finally Begins

I have just finished my first couple teaching days at IES Leonardo da Vinci. The start of the school year was to begin on September 12, however, the start date was delayed due to construction. The school is in a brand-new building and construction is not even yet fully finished. The school gymnasium, cafeteria, and library remain incomplete as of yet. Further, not all classrooms have whiteboards installed nor overheard projectors to deliver lessons. Despite the unfinished building, students and teachers are in full swing of a new year. 

 

Classes begin at 8 am and each class is one hour in length. Students have three classes in the morning and then a short lunch break from 11:00 am – 11:30 am. The afternoon block also has three classes with the day ending at 2:30 pm.  I was a little concerned my first day at the sound of the bell to switch classes as it resembles more of a fire bell sound as opposed to a school bell. Needless to say, I will get used to it!

 

The school system here is composed of four years of compulsory secondary education referred to as ESO (educacion secundaria obligatoria). After these years, students can choose to no longer pursue any other education, but many students elect to attend technical school. Another option following ESO is to attend two additional years of upper secondary education called bachillerato. The students that follow this path do so as they are preparing to write an exam that will allow them entrance into university. The students that I will be working with are in first, second, and fourth ESO as well as first and second year of bachillerato. So far, the students have been very welcoming of having me in the classroom and are eager to ask the “Canadian teacher” questions about not only myself but Canada as well.

 

Some of the immediate differences that I have observed in the school as compared to schools in Canada is that students call their teachers by their first names. Also, the teachers move from classroom to classroom to teach their respective classes as opposed to having a homeroom and the students moving from one class to another. In the coming weeks, I am looking forward to getting to know the students better and learning how I can assist them with their English language learning.

 

Outside of school and our online courses, I have been exploring Barcelona and have even made a day trip to the quaint little beach-side town of Sitges. There is so much to see and do just in Barcelona. I can walk the same street multiple times and each time I notice something new that I didn’t see the previous times. I am excited to continue exploring this beautiful city!

 

 

Adios for now!

 

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Barcelona: One Week In!

Now that I have been here a week and I've discovered so much: My spanish is only mildly embarrassing but no one seems to mind. BCN does not stand for bacon but the jamon iberica is very tasty. When it rains, it pours and your dinky umbrella won't save you. Also the school I will be at is under contruction so some classrooms will not have internet, projectors or even whiteboards (!) yet.

The teachers are aware that it will a struggle but they are all ready for the challenge. Construction pushed the start of school a week so the teachers are eager to get started. Listening to how some teachers have had to be creative really shows their passion and enthusiasm. I think I will learn much from them. One teacher brought in a plastic tube from the construction scraps and pretended to order food through it because he knew needed some sort of visual aid with their class. It was a hit!

Today I visited the school but tomorrow I will actually be in the classroom. Practicums have always been my favourite part of the Education program so I am very much looking forward to it. In fact it's the whole reason I'm here (being in the Mediterranean is a nice cherry on top). I will have to remember to use appropriate grade level vocabulary, especially with the younger grades whose English is not as strong but I'm excited to see what they know and what I can teach them!

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September 9 - First week of TAB in Vietnam

This week we got to meet with the representatives from the University of Da Nang who set up the exchange for us, as well as the teachers from the primary and secondary schools. We have already attended some classes from the primary school, and we will attend some at the secondary school next week. 

Classes here start at 7am, which is a bit too early for my liking, but waking up early and going to bed early is easy here, because the sun rises by 6am and sets soon after 6pm. All students wear uniforms with little red ties. Early in the morning the all get together and do group chanting and some warms ups before moving to their classrooms. In the primary school, the students stay in the same classroom, while the teachers move class to class. Each class has 40-50 students in it, and they spend all of their time sitting at desks with the teacher talking in front of the class. Teachers have to be very engaging and entertaining, because there isn’t very much time given to independent or group work. While this is vastly different from Canadian schools, it is actually pretty much exactly the same as schools were in Russia when I was growing up. Nowadays, Russian students do not wear uniforms, but the rest of the rituals of school life are extremely similar. 

The opening ceremony we attended at the primary school this week was also very much like the first day of school in Russia. Both countries have the uniforms, the singing of songs, the welcoming of first graders! At the end of the ceremony they even played a classic Russian school song with the lyrics translated into Vietnamese. Fighter jets were loudly flying through the sky every 5-10 minutes for several hours in honour of the first day of school. I was very moved by how much students respected school, and acknowledged its importance. It seems that in Canada many students have the attitude of being forced to go to school, whereas in Vietnam, even students who misbehave seem to be doing it with an attitude of simply wanting to goof around, rather than one of wanting to be anywhere but school. The students were also all very excited to see us, and kept on swarming and saying “HELLO TEACHER!” very loudly, telling us their names, and asking how we were feeling. I am convinced that I have peaked in popularity. Never in my life will I be as famous again!

After the ceremony, Jade the primary school English teacher took us to the fabric store and tailor to get our áo dài orders in. The áo dài is a traditional garment worn by women, especially teachers. Once they are made, this is what we will be wearing to school! I am looking forward to seeing lessons at the secondary school next week!

In non-school news, we explored the super busy streets of Da Nang, went to the big supermarket, drove to the water park in the mountains, spent time at the beach, and found local eats. I have an acute sensitivity to MSG which I fully forgot about before coming here (and spending many an hour crying about stomach pains in my first few days in SE Asia) because MSG is not commonly used in Canada, so I cannot eat any street food, and almost no local cuisine. Having grown up in Russia eating almost exclusively dairy and root vegetables with salt and horseradish, my palate is also very spice-averse. Basically, I have been surviving off of Italian restaurants and a cute French place that makes crepes. 

 

Kids reading while their parents shop in the book section of the Big C supermarket.

The library at the University. I LOVE LIBRARIES.

The band at the opening ceremonies on the first day of school.

Living eidence that after 5 years of going to the ceremony, it really does get boting.

The cloth shop

Us picking out materials for our ao dais

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Today we have arrived in Da Nang after spending the past week travelling through Cambodia. I am excited to meet with the representatives of the Da Nang University as well as the two schools we will be spending time in this week to find out about our placements. We have only been here for several hours, and already we are seeing a big difference between Thailand and Cambodia, which were very tourist-centred countries, and Vietnam, which is not so. In Thailand and Cambodia many more people would approach us on the streets asking where we were from and if we wanted a taxi, a tuk-tuk, or to buy something. In Vietnam, we are not approached nearly as much, and we can wave away unwanted sales with much more ease. 

The week we spent in Cambodia was beautiful and very culturally rich. We spent several days in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat. I highly recommend bringing books about the region to all travellers that go anywhere in the world! In our first day of being in Cambodia I read “First they Killed My Father”, the story of a Pol Pot regime survivor, and I purchased a history of Angkor Wat. Here are some fun things I learned about Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples: Angkor Thom was the largest known settlement complex of the pre-industrial era. The construction of Bayon, one of the temples in Angkor Thom heralded the rise of Mahayana Buddhism as the state religion of the Khmer Empire. Most of the temples were designed to look grander through proportional reduction architecture - stairs narrow towards the top, carvings reduce in scale. Interestingly enough, the stairs in our hotel are build the same way, with the height of each stair decreasing 1/3 between floors.

While in Siem Reap, we fell in love with Phare, the Cambodian circus! It was intimate, lively, incredibly authentic, and a very wonderful experience. This circus is part of a performing arts school that provides free education for youth from tough life situations. Every year they provide free education to 1,200 youth and graduate 150 professional artists! All the music is live and the performers are so genuinely excited to perform! The shows the circus puts on often discuss challenging topics, such as bullying, alienation, and self-discovery, but they also have very funny shows, and we got to see one of each. The funny show we saw was called Same Same but Different, a phrase commonly used in Thailand and Cambodia to describe the similarities and differences between the culture of locals and that of tourists. I have fully adopted this phrase, and have even purchased a shirt with the saying. It is very useful when comparing cultures in conversation.

We also checked out the Le Chantiers Écoles, a part of the same organization as the Phare circus, which provides students from impoverished villages free education and career opportunities in the arts. All of the artists are trained in more than one craft, and their talent is incredible! We got to tour the workshops and see wood carving of statues out of wood and stone and silk paintings, each of which takes 3-4 weeks to complete. We also saw some metalworking, pottery making, and jewelry making. The school even has a silk farm and artists who weave, dye, and paint on the silk.

Before moving on to Vietnam, we spent several days in Phnom Penh, where we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields to learn about perhaps the most grim period in Cambodian history. Tuol Sleng was a former school where innocents were brutally and systematically tortured, and the killing fields saw tens of thousands of innocents buried in mass graves. One out of every four Cambodians lost their lives during Pol Pot’s regime (approximately 2 out of 8 million citizens). The book “First they killed my father” along with internet research helped me  repare for this visit, so it was not quite as shocking as it would have been while listening to the audio guides on both tours. As the guide said, we now share the responsibility of passing on these stories, so that humanity never forgets the horrors that occurred here. We remember so that it does not happen again.

As a soon-to-be-teacher, I felt a lot of respect for the Cambodian people when I learned that all high school students learn about the Pol Pot regime and the genocide. Many classes from around Cambodia are provided with scholarships to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing fields. I feel that in Canada, we learned about wars, Japanese camps, and residential schools that are part of our history, but we are very distanced from it. Students do not get to experience these locations first hand, and the flexibility of teaching the content means that not all students have a teacher that truly emphasized the importance of knowing about such things. In Canada, I struggle with the notion that we are asked to teach about unjust actions of the past, but the culture of schools and of Canada in general always tends to coat everything in a layer of protective padding because of potential “triggers” and the tendency towards conflict avoidance. I find that we are also quite polarized in terms of our approach to many issues - either we refrain from holding anyone accountable, or we point our finger of blame and assign sole and full responsibility. The attitude of the guide at the museums and the history books when it came to the Cambodian genocide was admirable - atrocities happened, and they were terrible, but they are in the past and we cannot change anything now, so let’s work to make sure they are not forgotten, so that this does not happen again. They are not bitter, they are not vengeful, they are not angry. I am sure that they have such moments, but this is not their root emotion when they talk or teach about it. I think this philosophy of letting go of the past and living well in the present definitely stems from the Buddhist religion prominent here. Coming from Canada, where a lot of issues are always hot-topic and get people on all sides of all debates get very angry and intense, I really appreciate the calm, rational, and constructive mentality of the Cambodians.

View from our hotel in Siem Reap.

Phare, Cambodian Circus.
Angkor Wat.

Artisans of Angkor silk painting workshop

Silk worm coccoons being unwoven

Artist polishing stone carving with water

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

 

 

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TAB has begun!!!

This week has been an exciting whirlwind of introductions to faculty and students at the PUC University (our host university), visiting a public school, and taking Portuguese classes. The latter has been quite exciting for me as this has been my first honest try at learning a second language. And before I continue, I cannot stress how important it is to learn as much Brazilian Portuguese as possible prior to and while in Goiania. This is not meant to scare future TABers away, but more of a disclaimer that you should practice, practice, practice because English is not as widely spoken as you may think.

A great starting point would be learning travel essential phrases (i.e. greetings, asking for the bill, yes/no, etc.). From here, I would definitely download Google Translator to help you when, for example, needing to know what you are ordering off the menu or asking for specific items at a store. When it comes to the more ‘technical’ aspect (e.g. using verbs with the proper pronoun) the Portuguese classes at the host university are phenomenal! We have started with the very basics, which has made me feel confident in learning a second language. *fingers crossed*

I will not lie and say that being fully immersed in another language has not come without some hardships. It can be frustrating at some points because things we take for granted at home, such as asking for directions, becomes a lot more tedious. But I try not to be discouraged by these moments, and look at it as a learning opportunity to, for example, see things from the perspective of an ESL student. Being aware of these difficulties gives me some insights as to how I can help ESLs feel more comfortable and confident in their immersion into another language.

Thanks for reading!

Below: As mentioned earlier, we have been meeting many people thus far. Here is a picture of one of those meetings where I attempted to introduce myself in Portugeuse - with the aid of my Brazil TAB peers. 

 

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Today my partner and I arrived in Cambodia after spending a week traveling through Thailand. I am not yet thinking about my teaching practicum, partly because we do not know too much about the schools we will be attending, and partly because I still have a week of travelling to do in Cambodia. Overall, the culture I have experienced in SE Asia is has not seemed strange or too drastically shocking in any way. I think that being an immigrant and working closely with multicultural ethnic groups in my regular day-to-day makes travelling gives me no more of a foreign-land feeling than when I come back to Canada. The biggest difficulty so far has been not being able to speak or read the language. My basic knowledge of french and spanish has always helped me in the past, or I have been able to decipher Eastern-European languages because they are so similar to Russian, my mother-tongue. Thai script is not one I know, and the language sounds very different from the ones I’m used to. Thankfully, many people can understand some English.

Here is an overview of our trip through Thailand, and the things I have noticed. Our first stop was Bangkok where we stayed the street over from Khaosan - the party street! Because we were so jet lagged, we took a very very long nap, and it was amazing! People were still hanging out on the streets and at restaurants until 4am, which made me feel like home. I am originally from Russia, and have spent a lot of time in Moscow - the city that never sleeps. I find that I often get “culturally” lonely in Calgary because people don’t just sit out on the streets to talk and eat, there aren’t too many cultural attraction to walk to and from, and there aren’t any boulevards to go wandering at night. Bangkok satisfied my big-city itch! Something else I noticed right away - there are SO many plants growing around everywhere in SE Asia. Pots of them on every corner and along every street. People are very friendly, street food is plentiful.

The most exciting park of Bangkok were the temples. We visited the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Phra. They were only a 20 minute walk from our hotel, but so ridiculously hot! Men and women have to have their shoulders and knees covered when going into the temple, so I wore a long dress and Nathan brought some pants along in the back pack. Crossing the streets in big cities here is also very exciting! I was somewhat disappointed that there were crosswalk lights most of the way to the palace. The most fun I’ve had so far was crossing a many-laned street of traffic very slowly (as my guidebook told me) to give all the drivers time to avoid driving into us. On one of the days we spent exploring Bangkok we found a GIANT flower market, which was this huge network of warehouse-like buildings on one street full of hundreds of stalls of people delivering flowers, drying them, or making the into buddhist garlands. The smell was incredible.

After Bangkok, we made our way to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Here, we went on a full day visit through the jungle and to a Karen hill tribe village to see their handicrafts, rice fields, and way of life. On the way we stopped by some waterfalls. It was like a scene out of King Kong! At the end of the tour we visited the highest spot in Thailand, which was on a forested hill-mountain, so we were in a jungle with no view (super underwhelming). On our last day in Chiang Mai, we made our way to another Karen hill tribe to visit some elephants! The animals were lovely, and the people were even more so! The clothes we got to wear were traditional Thai pants and Karen tribe shirts lent to us! After our tour we were fed rice and veggies wrapped in banana leaves. At the end of our elephant visit our guide sang us a thank you song and extended and invitation to come live with the Karen tribe and their elephants. He told us that a serious busy life is no good, and that in the village they say “take it easy”. I think that is is particularly interesting that the traditional way of life practiced by the tribes is not seen as too different or separate from that of Thai people living in villages and cities. I think this is because there is not a big of a gap in lifestyle and pastimes between tribe and city people as there is in Canada. On to Cambodia!

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Lessons in Courage (and Capoeria)

Olá (hello) from Goiania!

These past couple weeks settling into our new environment have been a whirlwind of WhatsApp messages, new friends, mall trips, broken Portuguese, and plenty of giant avocadoes. I’m loving it here, and I’m so grateful for the beautiful people here in Goiania who are making this city feel like home.

There are 6 of us from the UofC here in Brazil, but the Pontificia Universidade Catolica (PUC) has split us into pairs with student teachers from History, Geography, and Physical Education. Jasmine and I have been hanging out with the Physical Education group, and despite the fact that we are both training as English teachers, we are absolutely loving our time with the PE crew. (Side note: the first thing we taught the PE boys was how to say PhysEd. It was a really surprising hit :P)

Today we were at the PE campus where we started by observing some student teachers leading a futebol (soccer) class for a group of neighbourhood kids.  PUC offers sports programs to the community, and this is where many of the PE student teachers get most of their practicum hours. After this, we had the privilege of sitting in on a very impactful presentation on Anxiety Disorders that was led by a girl who was sharing about how therapy, healthy habits, awareness, and exercise can all contribute to addressing these disorders.  It was so beautiful to see her step out in courage and share some very personal reflections on her own experiences with anxiety and the paths she is taking to heal. We could only understand approximately 5% of what she was saying, but with the help of our student translator and the obvious emotion that this student carried, we were able to get a good feel for her passion about the topic.

Some new buds! The beautiful Ranasha (in black) was the student presentor. 

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my own habits, and the ways that these instincts hinder and help me in my life as a foreigner, as a student, and as a teacher.  Courage can be a habit, and I’m determined to make it one of mine.  

These university students choose to be courageous in their warmth and acceptance towards us, even though they are just as nervous about their English as we are about our Portuguese.  They take a chance on us every day by allowing us to watch their personal presentations, observe their classrooms, and take part in their confusing capoeira classes. (Side note #2: Capoeira literally kicked my butt, but 10/10 will go again).  I am realizing more and more that this courage is so essential to the way that we invite new students, parents, and other staff into our classrooms. We have to be brave in the way that we present our passions to our students. We have to be willing to teach from a place of vulnerability because we will inevitably let a little bit (or a big bit, fingers crossed) of our hearts leak into the people that we are investing in. 

Canadians take on Capoeira.

 

For me, travelling is a really unique area to practise this courage because if I don’t try things now, then when? This is an attitude that I feel like I can generally tap into in very particular places and with very specific people, but I’m seeing the value more and more of choosing to bring this with specific intentionality into my role as a teacher.

I am very aware that I am a creature of habit.  I move around a lot, but I love to make safe spaces for myself.  I have a habit of bringing my little “home sparkers” to every new space that I’m in, and my roommates have to put up with all my little decorations that I’ve strewn around our apartment.  However, I’ve found that as I start to settle in my own head and heart here in Goiania, I have been able to be more courageous and truly enjoy the benefits of choosing to say yes more often than I say no.   

People who help me practise my courage:

  • The student teachers. WhatsApp + Google Translate = 3 new Instagram friends everyday.
  • Every Uber driver. Today I talked to a driver for 5 whole minutes in Portuguese. A new personal record.
  • My travel buds. They show me different ways to say yes everyday and I am so very grateful!

Até logo (see you later)!

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Voce fala inglês?

I have truly felt how scary it can be to try and communicate in a language you are not familiar with. Before coming here, I had gotten stitches that needed to be removed in Brazil. As soon as I got here I was nervous about figuring out the healthcare system in a place that I struggle to communicate. I have already had instances where I am trying to buy something at the market and I start to feel hot and sweaty because I have no understanding of what the sales are despite how hard the merchants try and explain it to me. These are low stake situations that really will not affect me if I do not quite understand, but something like finding someone to remove my stitches is a bit more serious. I was nervous and desperate and got sent to four different places. I was close to just getting my new Brazilian friend’s mother to remove them for me until we finally found a doctor. I would have never been able to do it without the help of my friend and the kindness of strangers. People have been so patient with me and eager to help when they can see that we are confused. They do not get frustrated at our broken Portuguese but teach us how to communicate better instead. This really made me reflect on newcomers who come to Canada. I cannot believe how terrifying it would be to try and navigate and understand new systems that dramatically impact your life (ex. Healthcare) while not knowing the language. I would be completely lost! I imagined what I would have felt like had the people I encountered been rude with me or frustrated that I do not understand their language; I would feel very lonely, hurt, anxious, and fearful to speak again. There have been more instances than I can count where I have seen Calgarians act coldly toward newcomers who do not have the best English, understanding of our culture, or even just have an accent. It is sad to think that some Calgarians have made these people, who are already in a difficult position, feel even worse. It is ironic how, at the same time, I have a family friend who has moved to Canada from India that ended up texting me while I was here. She told me how much she misses India and wishes she could go back; it made me sad to realize that the Canadians she was interacting with were not as warm and welcoming as the Brazilians that I had interacted with.

The kindness of strangers and some of the friends I have made here is the reason I have been having such a great experience. They have fueled me with excitement about immersing myself into this culture and learning the language. Their actions make me feel confident enough to speak, learn, and survive here. These are lessons that I want to take back to Canada and keep in mind when I meet someone who does not speak English or is just new to town. I want them to feel excited and confident as well. I want to express the same warmth to them that I have been receiving because I have had a small taste of how hard and emotional it can really be. I want to alleviate their anxiety and be a helping hand so that they fall in love with Canada the way that I am falling in love with Brazil.

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First school visit

Over the past couple of weeks, I had the chance to experience the culture and history of Goiania in a very fun way. This includes dancing “the first myth” circular dance in a class for the elderly, trying Brigadeiros on my first day at the university and Galinhada during the school visit, attending a Geography field trip to the Pedro Ludovico Museum and the Goiania Art Museum, and attending my very first Capoeira class. I heard from a fellow teacher in the Brazilian school system that Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian dance/self-defence sport, is included in the physical education curriculum for elementary students. I think this is a very engaging way to incorporate culture and history in the physical education class, especially considering this dance was originally used by African slaves as a way to practice self-defence techniques. Brazil’s culture is very rich and I am very happy to be experiencing it as part of TAB.

As I have visited only one public school, I have a very general idea of how the school system works in Goiania. The school I visited hosts students from 16 to 60 years old who did not had the opportunity to finish or even go to school as kids. It serves as both an Elementary and High School, but they also have specialized Portuguese classes for newcomers.

We observed a Spanish class, where they were analyzing a small text. It was interesting to see the different ways in which the teacher engaged with an adult audience. As part of the visit, I learned that although the government funds public school, they are often in need of resources and are not able to pay teachers as much as they would want to. The school has a few students in need of differentiation and the host told me that they usually have meetings to discuss the creation of new supports for them. In one of the classes we visited, there was a teacher assigned to one student for support. If I understood correctly, he is a teacher there, but he also volunteers in order to help that student. Although the school is physically small, it is very complete in terms of classes and separating grade levels. The majority of people prefer private schools, as there is a big gap between the public and private school systems in terms of teaching quality. I now have a very general idea of the school system in Goiania, but I hope to learn more about their curriculum and pedagogical strategies.

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Language Learning in China

It’s been two weeks of living in Xi’an and I’m finally feeling a little bit settled. We’re housed at the “old” Yanta Campus of Shaanxi Normal University at Qi Xia Yuan hotel with a roommate and the hotel itself is an interesting mix of international students and chinese travellers who appear to be attending conferences here. There’s a number of things on campus including canteens, a library, recreational areas, student dorms, some convenience/grocery stores, a kindergarten, and a hospital. We’re also very close to Shi Da Road with many store and restaurants and a train station is close by.

One of the really cool opportunities that we have as TAB students is that we have been registered as language students at SNNU. We take mandarin language classes from Monday to Friday from 8-12 each morning, and our class is made up of students of all ages and backgrounds including students from Kazakhstan, Ubekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, Yemen and us Canadians.

Basic literacy in Chinese is considered 3000 characters but I have found that even learning 10 characters is overwhelming at times. As part of trying to remember the strokes and how to represent the characters, I started looking into the origin of the words. I noted that many words include characters (radicals) that help indicate their meaning. For example, dog, cat and pig all have the same radical (dog) to indicate that the character is an animal.

This has really enforced the lesson learned in my EAL courses that helping students make connections in English (e.g. through suffixes and prefixes) to their heritage language really helps to grow vocabulary and aids in memory. I don’t think before this experience I had realized how difficult it is to associate different sounds to objects when you are used to another sound association.

I found that they did really well in our lessons here when they introduced similar sounding words (kafei – coffee; jia na da – Canada; kele – cola) to help us feel like we already knew some Chinese. =) I hope I can do this for any ELL students I have in the future.

Linked in with origins of words and cross-language connections, we learned that China has comprehensive and “normal” universities. The Normal universities are historically teacher training universities – with “Normal” stemming from the French “normale” which is also connected to our English “norms” – e.g. a school for teaching norms.

 

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2 Weeks in Hamburg

Hallo again from Germany! 

Let me just begin by saying how much I LOVE Hamburg. This city is so fun, vibrant, diverse, and beautiful! They call Hamburg the 'Venice of the North' and it is not hard to see why. There is water everywhere. You can easily spend the day cruising around the Alster, smaller canals, or smaller lakes around the city. Although I have only been living here for 2 weeks, I feel very settled into my new 'home'. My buddy from the University of Hamburg has been so helpful and has helped me feel like a local by showing me around the city, taking me to local spots, introducing me to her friends, and inviting me to events such as an outdoor movie on the Alster.

It has also been wonderful observing and reflecting on the similarities and differences between Canadian and German

high schools. I have noticed a lot of big differences such as bilingual learning, and interdisciplinary subject content. Some examples are how students in the Bilingual program are instructed in English, but are often asked to translate what they have learned into German, make English-German vocabulary lists, and the use of textbooks and resources which are primarily English, but also use German mini-texts, vocabulary, and occasional instructional boxes. I believe this kind of bilingual learning is very beneficial to the students because as they are learning in English and expanding their academic English vocabulary, they are also learning in German at the same time. I have also noticed that the English classes are very interdisciplinary, and not at all similar to what I have experienced taking language electives in Canadian high schools. For example, the students are not only studying grammar and vocabulary, but rather the English classes look more similar to a humanities class where they study literature, global issues, economics, and politics (while also studying grammar and learning vocabulary). It is very interesting to observe this, as the students learn so much vocabulary because of the topics that they are studying. In one class I have been observing, the students are doing a unit on 'figure and famine'. Here they study eating disorders and why someone might develop an eating disorder, the differences in diet across various countries, and industralizion and importing/exporting. Here, the students were learning vocabulary related to all of these topics, but also discussed deeper topics which made their learning more meaningful and relevant to them. Another thing I LOVE about the school is how it is surrounded by trees and all of the classrooms have windows for walls. It is so refreshing to look around and feel surrounded by treetops!

 

 

 I have also enjoyed using my spare time to travel! Below are some photos from my recent trips to Bremen, Germany and Gdansk, Poland! Tschüss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crises and Community

     Japan is historically known for its natural disasters, including (but not limited to), tsunamis, floods, typhoons, and earthquakes, and while these occurrences do not always result in mass destruction, they are not uncommon.

     Before our official start date of our Teaching Across Borders (TAB) program, we heard news reports that Typhoon Jebi, the strongest Typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years, was headed towards Hokkaido late Tuesday, September 4th. Even though Sapporo was not directly hit by the Typhoon, we experienced extremely high winds and heavy rainfall Tuesday evening into early Wednesday morning. This caused a lot of damage throughout the city and resulted in schools being closed that day.

     The storm had passed, or so we thought. Just after 3 o’clock Thursday morning, I was abruptly woken up by the trembling ground and swaying house: it was an earthquake. My adrenaline pumped as I sat on my bed in my traditional Japanese tatami room analyzing the severity of the rumbles of the ground beneath me, listening for my homestay mother in case we needed to evacuate. The shaking lasted for nearly one minute and then finally settled. Immediately afterward I started getting messages from my fellow Japan TAB-ers. A sense of relief started to fill me as each member checked in. We were all safe.

     A series of strong aftershocks continued after the initial earthquake which left me unsettled and unable to sleep. And then the power went out. My homestay mother told me she was moving our family over to her parent's place in hopes that we would be safer together. We were without power for the next 36 hours while other areas of Sapporo and greater Hokkaido went longer without power.

     Grocery and convenience stores all over the city ran out of food and water, and gas stations sold out of gas. Emergency shelters were set up throughout Hokkaido for those who did not have food, water, or housing during the blackout. We lost all communication with our group, family, and friends for about 8 hours while mobile signals were down.

     Since September 6th, there have been over 150 earthquakes and aftershocks that have transpired where the earthquake originated, and though it has been nearly two weeks since the earthquake occurred and we are still recovering from its lasting effects. While many things have been restored, such as electricity, water, and transportation, the stores in Sapporo are still slowly being restocked, resulting in certain foods have rationed limits or remaining unavailable.

     Typhoons and earthquakes in Hokkaido are extremely rare occurrences, especially the magnitude that we endured. My homestay mother has never experienced either in her lifetime. While this experience has brought about many difficult challenges, one positive perspective I have felt is a sense of community. Community comes in all shapes and sizes and I have seen many ways in which various communities have banded together to help support each other through this crisis in whatever means necessary.

     As a pre-service teacher, I think it’s very important to put effort into building a strong sense of community both within your classroom and school. In all hopes, you will never have to undergo any serious crises in your classroom, school, or city in which you work, but think of the potential if we all recognized and acted on the need for community? By being there and supporting each other throughout the year we could have limitless success in the classroom and beyond!

 

Reference:

Waldrop, T. (2018, September 10). Japan earthquake: Death toll rises after devastating tremor. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/09/asia/japan-earthquake-death-toll/index.html

 

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I’ve been in Goiania for exactly two weeks now as I write this post, and I’m reflecting upon all of the crazy experiences we’ve had in such a short period of time. It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind – meeting so many people, struggling to communicate, introducing myself in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, hanging out with new groups of friends and hearing four different languages being spoken at the same table. We’ve met some awesome people who have been so kind and helpful and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain my appreciation for them effectively.

One experience that I can foresee as being the most important to me by the end of this trip is my Portuguese class. We’ve only had one class so far since it only takes place once a week, but I wish we had it every day! Our teacher, Daniel, is fun, charismatic, also teaches French (yay French teachers!!) and clearly has a passion for teaching languages, as do I. After only one four-hour class with him my confidence level shot through the roof compared to what it was before. Even though he is teaching us Portuguese, that is not at all the most valuable lesson I am learning from him. Daniel is an INCREDIBLE teacher and during class I’m finding my notes are a conjoined mess of Portuguese grammar and how to teach a second language. In that one class I found myself constantly thinking “what a great activity!” or “I wonder if this would work with high school students” or even quite simply “this is so much fun!”. He has also been so kind and invited Paola and I to come and observe his French classes next week, which I think will be extremely valuable. He reminds my of my high school French teacher who had such a passion for French and a desire to share her passion with her students. She instilled her zest for life and language in to me as a teenager and I’ve never lost it. If I can become half the teacher that Daniel and Mrs. Webster are, I’ll consider myself a success.

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Hello from Brissy!

We’re well into our stay here in Brisbane and it’s hard to believe how fast the time is flying!!! We have a school spring break coming up, which they refer to as their midterm break. We’ve discovered their school year here runs in conjunction with the calendar year so they’re coming up to their final term and their summer break which kicks off close to Christmas! As you can imagine, just like home, this means the students are getting excited and full of energy for their time off school as well as year end. You can feel the restlessness in the classes at the end of each day. Makes you realize that kids are just kids no matter where you are in the world.

Melissa and I have had some fantastic experiences thus far at our current school and we’re actually sad to only have a few more days there. It really is a school that offers a lot of awesome experiences for their students. In just two weeks we have been a part of: a colour run to raise money for their Chaplin, an after school program called Wellness Wednesday that encourages students to focus on their own mental health, independent reading groups that provide children with additional support to improve their reading level, and explored the gadgets available to students during their STEM classes. It’s amazing the variety of support and opportunities available to these students.

What I have been most impressed with so far is the focus on students and their reading abilities. The motto of our current school is “if you can read, you can do anything.” This is not just a part of their pedagogical framework, but it is strongly reinforced every day of the week. Every day the students in prep to grade 6 spend the majority of their morning reading in specific reading groups. Every day of the week is designated to a specific skill: accuracy, fluency, comprehension and stamina. The students are fully aware of what skill they are working on and what that skill means and looks like in terms of their reading. We also had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with all the grade three teachers and learning aids as they discussed each child in grade 3, what level they were reading at, what level they should be at, and methods to try to help that student improve their skill. Every teacher and aid knew exactly where every grade 3 student was at and were fully invested in finding ways to help that student. What I found even more interesting was it was just about the students reading, they considered factors such as the students background and personality and how that might influence their reading ability.  

We were also lucky enough to get some time to play with the VR machine in the STEM classroom. An absolute out of this world experience! These kids are so fortunate to have access to that kind of technology!

Outside of school we’ve been exploring coastal beaches, hanging in coffee shops to work on our online classes, cuddling koalas and feeing kangaroos! We recently tried the national dish: vegemite. We collectively agree to stick with peanut butter from here on out.

Time for me to refill my chai latte and get on with some school readings.

Until next week!

Carolyn

PS: Wish I could share pictures with all of you but they're not working for some reason! Check out pictures from my peers to see all that we're up to! :)

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Language and Classrooms

Since arriving in Goiânia, we have been able to take one Portuguese class, which has helped immensely. When we first landed in Rio, we realized how little English there really is here in Brazil. While you could find a few people who could speak a few sentences in order to sell something or receive a food order, the rest is in Portuguese and that was in the biggest city of the country. Here in Goiânia it is possible to find a few uber drivers who knew some sentences in English, our true help has been a few people who work with our program. There are about three people who are fluent in English helping us through this process. While not being able to communicate has led to a few frustrating moments, it fuels my desire to learn Portuguese. We have been practicing with one another and really trying to speak to the locals here and I think we have already learned so much, which is so exciting! I’m looking forward to our second Portuguese class this week to further learn the structure of the language. We are met with patience and plenty of opportunities to practice, a language enthusiast’s paradise.

 

 

When it comes to learning about the education system here, we have been able to visit one school, have conversations with the professors at the university, and attend a few classes at the university. The school we were able to visit is a public school with students who range from adolescents to adults who are in their seventies. At this school, anyone who has not received their high school diploma can take classes free of judgement. We were able to speak with some of the classes, as well as, take part in some readings during a Spanish class. We were told that many of these students have very difficult lives and some mainly come to school in order to eat the meal provided. They allowed us to try the meal that they serve to the students, fried rice with vegetables and chicken, it was delicious. It was really great to see how much the teachers cared about the learning and nutrition of their students, no matter the age. I learned a lot from the students and teachers at this wonderful school! The quote below is pictured right when you enter the school for the students to read:

 

"Our semester will be a success! Your presence is very important to us. We are happy because you are with us. Let's walk on the road of knowledge and build a new future. Welcome!"

 

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Southern Hospitality

As I have been in Oxford for over a week now, one thing has particularly stood out to me - the overwhelming kindness of people and their eagerness to help out. I think Americans are typically stereotyped as being rude and self centred. And although I have heard of southern hospitality and the general friendliness of southerners, I definitely did not expect it to this extent. For example, upon our arrival home from our first trip to Walmart, our Uber driver quickly hopped out of the car and helped us unpack our extensive pile of groceries and supplies, which I have never experienced before and was not expecting. Since we do not have a car, several people we have met (including our RA at the apartments and a grad student associated with Ole Miss), have offered to pick us up any time we need even though it would be going above and beyond expectations. The other day, I took the bus home after getting my groceries. It was raining a little but I only had a 5 minute walk home. However, on the way a lady pulled over to ask if I needed a ride home or to the university. It was just another example of how people are so willing to help out everyone they meet! When we met with the Dean of Education and the support staff, we were met with such excitement. I have never received so much free swag! We were also graciously offered football tickets in the nicest part of the stadium. Additionally, the University staff were willing to reach out to anyone they knew to help ensure our experience is the best it can be. It was encouraging to hear the professors speak of the networks of people they knew - between a few of them it sounded like they had contact with the whole town! 

In the schools, I have continued to experience the exceptional warmth and kindness of others. Each morning, the social studies teachers meet in professional learning commons (PLCs) to review their plans and reassess how their classes are doing. It was wonderful to be welcomed into such a supportive community within the school. 

As Stephanie mentioned in her last post, Southern Hospitality is truly something you need to experience to reach a full understanding. I am unsure if it’s because Oxford is a small town, or that the community is so connected by the University of Mississippi, but I have never experienced such a strong sense of community that eagerly welcomes others in. I feel incredibly safe and welcomed, which surprises me since I have only been here for several days. I look forward to becoming a closer part of this community and to build on the warm sense of welcoming that I have already received.

Hotty Toddy,
Victoria 

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Getting my teaching Koalafications downunder!!

Well after three weeks of traveling New Zealand and questioning if this is real, reality is finally starting to sink in. I am really on the other side of the world about to begin my studies in Australia! But before we get into the academic side of things I should say that my beliefs about informal learning have been reinforced throughout my traveling adventures. 

Prior to arriving in Australia, I joined a friend in exploring the wonders of the north island of New Zealand. And wondrous it was!   When arriving in the country I had little to no expectations. I did not know the “must do’s” of New Zealand and was more or less just following where my feet, and the bus, took me. And I couldn’t be happier on how it turned out. Just over 2 weeks I experienced; sand boarding down the dunes in Hokianga, exploring the beaches of Hahai, and hiking the Tongariro crossing. It was like everywhere I had ever been in the world wrapped up in one little island.

On my travels I had the opportunity to stay in a homestay and talk to an Indigenous Maori family about the history of their people and what that looks like in a contemporary context. The parallels that could be drawn from their early interactions with Europeans and those of Canadian Indigenous peoples were compelling. Although at one time in history the Maori peoples’ way of life was threatened by extinction, it seems as though the culture is making a comeback throughout society and more specifically the education system. During our time we had the opportunity to visit a local school and in conversation with one of the teachers she explained that teaching Maori history is now a requirement through years 1-8.  This includes teaching the Treaty of Waitangi and how it has influenced Maori and European settlers’ history. Although this is just the surface of what they are teaching, one can quickly see there are similarities arising between our history in Canada and that of New Zealand’s. In addition, the family explained that in a tool to preserve their traditional language there is a push to develop a language curriculum and are hoping to someday have it recognized as a second-language in university.

Another wonderful opportunity we had while we were at the homestay was to learn a traditional Haka. The Haka we learned was traditionally used as a war cry/war dance and in contemporary times is now used by the All Blacks rugby team before each game to motivate the players and intimidate their opponent. Overall It was an amazing opportunity to be invited to take part and explore the beautiful culture that is Maori. 

I am taking with me from my travels not only amazing memories of everything I did but also a genuine curiosity to explore more about the education system in New Zealand and the Indigenous peoples that call it home. But for now, off to the next adventure.

So far, we have had the opportunity to meet with our QUT liaisons and have a tour of the school. After visiting the university, we adventured out to our placement schools; St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School and Earnshaw State College. At initial glance the schools are very different, but both seem to be engaging in 21st Century learning and STEAM opportunities. I am hoping to have the opportunity to see the students engage with the technologies they have at their school see how they can apply these skills in real-world application. Everyone at both schools seem to be amazingly open to having us and I am excited to begin working with them. I hope in my time here I am able to observe different teaching styles and programs and hopefully I can add some new tools to my teacher toolbox.

Along with getting more classroom time, I am hoping that while I am in Australia I have the opportunity to observe Indigenous/settler relationships and perspectives. This complex relationship has always been a passion of mine in Canada I am curious to see if I am able to draw parallels between the current and historical relationships of the Indigenous peoples of Australia and those of Canadian Indigenous peoples. Along with the personal growth I believe I will gain from this, I also see this opportunity as a unique teaching opportunity in my future classroom.

 

 

Til next time,

 

Brianne B

 

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Finding Pieces of Home in Australia

So, at this time I am more than halfway through my practicum (“prac” as the Aussies call it) at St. Aidan’s and what an experience it has been. St. Aidan’s is an all-girl school, from primary to year twelve. Considering my specialization is elementary, I was a little apprehensive having my entire focus of my prac being in the secondary school. Nonetheless, I have learned lots from both the teachers and the students! In some of my previous experiences entering classrooms as a visitor, students become very shy and are not so willing to open up their learning space to a stranger, but with the students at St. Aidan’s that is quite the opposite.

Students are very interested in hearing everything about Canada including our funny sayings or how we could fathomable stand a temperature that drops below 15 degrees. Luckily, in a year seven Geography class, the teacher put our knowledge of Canada to the test. The teacher was introducing a new unit on “liveability.” The teacher started by presenting the students with a definition of liveability, highlighting aspects such as weather, transportation, prosperity, etc. The students were working out of a textbook that provided images of individuals with blurbs of what they find to be a livable city but did not include the perspective of a Canadian. The teacher, therefore, proceeded to use us Canadian teachers as a “primary sources,” having the girls ask us questions about where we are from while focusing on why we find Calgary to be a liveable city. It was quite an interesting experience to reflect on and share what I love about Canada and have students so eagerly ready to learn.

Some students are quite funny in their responses to our descriptions of Canada, but the general consensus is that they are afraid of how cold it can get and luckily enough for some of the year tens, they will be visiting Calgary and Panaorama in this coming January for a ski trip. I was sure to tell them to pack their toque and mittens!

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