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TAB, thank you.

I always think of the best thing to say in an argument after the fact. Often, the eureka moment occurs in the shower two days later. In the same vein, it is taking me more than a week to absorb and make sense of my TAB experience in Vietnam. I am missing the country terribly, the people, the food, the beach, the liveliness of Da Nang, the students and teachers, my apartment, my motorbike, and the warm weather! I am back in Calgary now, and well underway in my third practicum placement at a middle school in the city. When I arrived back last week, I did not want to be here. I have never really liked November in Calgary. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gloomy. I wasn’t prepared to deal with the post-TAB blues and November blues at the same time. But life goes on and there is fun to be had and more things to be learned as I dive right into the remaining months of my Education journey!

The nine weeks in Vietnam had their moments of amazing highs and lows. And in between the calm (i.e., strolls along My Khe beach) and the chaos (i.e., end-of-October madness with finishing group projects), the mundane and routine of waking up at 6 am, putting on an ao dai¸ riding a motorbike to the schools, and going to Bac My An market and Lotte Mart for groceries seem to be the ones I am missing the most. Earlier in August, I was chatting with someone who I consider a mentor and we talked about how traveling can be a transformative experience. Did my TAB experience in Vietnam change my life? No. I quickly fell back into my routines and habits shortly after arriving back in Calgary—though a bit of a challenge with the jetlag! I am still either taking my sweet time or rushing, I am still driving my car to school, and I am still missing breakfast. It wasn’t life-changing in that I am still the same person that I was before my departure in August. But what TAB did was it gave me a change of perspective. I am a little more aware, a little more grateful, a little more present, and lot bit more open to embracing uncertainties.

As I read my letter-to-me I wrote during our last pre-departure workshop, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment because I really did what I hoped I would do. For instance, I wrote, “Moments, both the extraordinary (going on trips, presenting at the university, interacting with students and staff) and the mundane (going to the market, eating at a restaurant, walking by the beach) have taught you valuable things you’ll bring back to Canada. I’m sure Vietnam was full of surprises. It must have been exciting, scary, wonderful, and so beautiful!” I did go on weekend trips (Saigon, Dalat, Hoi an, & Hue); I did presentations at the university and at the schools; I religiously went to markets; certainly ate local foods; and unwound at the beach! Vietnam was definitely full of surprises, it was everything I hoped and said it must have been and more!

Settling in the Grade 5 classroom I am placed for Field Experience III has also been a smooth transition post-TAB. The two months of teaching elementary and high school students in Vietnam has made it easier to get into the swing of things such as in lesson planning and establishing a teacher presence in the classroom. I know that I will always refer to my TAB adventures because they would only enhance my future teaching experiences from here on in.

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Xin cảm ơn,

Joyce

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Final thoughts about my TAB journey

So, I’ve been home about 30 hours now and here I sit in my basement apartment in Calgary, it's 2:40am in the morning and the jetlag has me thinking it is midday, and the temperature outside is a balmy -3C but feels like -5. In comparison to where I was just a mere 2 days ago: I was in a 4th floor apartment with a nice balcony in Danang, it’s 3:40pm there, and the temperature is now 24C. It all feels like it was some sort of a crazy dream and I can’t believe how quickly the time went. There were days where it dragged but looking back on things in hindsight I cannot comprehend where the last two months disappeared to!

It’s funny how the universe works, and I think back to how I first heard about TAB. I’m a server part time at a restaurant and one night in late November I was chatting with one of my tables and we got onto the topic of the future. I had just applied to go back to school for my Education degree at Werklund and was quite excited for the next chapter in life and it turns out they were both students at the U of C and so were super happy for me. The conversation paused as I had to go do something for another table but when I got back, we continued our talk. Turns out one of the two ladies had just returned from doing TAB herself and so then we really got into it. She had nothing but positive to say and mentioned the travel grants and funding to make it more affordable. I told them I would think about it because at the time I was just focused on making enough money for my first-year tuition. The seed was planted though and from that day on the idea percolated. Fast forward to first year and the info sessions and my mind was made up- I was going to do TAB no matter what! And fast forward again to the here and now, and what can I say?

TAB was truly an amazing experience that I will look back fondly on forever. There were some challenges and times when it wasn’t so sunny but all in all it was super beneficial. It was almost like an additional extra two months of Field, but without the support and guidance of a Field Advisor and not really the same feedback from partner teachers. It was more of a trial-and-error experiment where we got put into a lead position in an ELL class and told what to teach, and then were left on our own to figure out the how. It was a steep learning curve but by the end we had it dialed in pretty good!

And then on top of the teaching experience there was the cultural immersion and exploring a new landscape on the other side of the globe. Vietnam definitely tops my list for countries I’ve visited, and I see why all my travelling friends say the same. The people, the food, the scenery, the inexpensiveness of it all. The coffee. Oh my, the coffee was good! I could go on and on and I’m sure all of the other TAB students from around the world feel the same about their host countries and their time abroad. We all made memories and had experiences we will cherish for a lifetime and I can’t speak for everyone else, but I would recommend TAB to anyone thinking about options during their time at Werklund. What an amazing adventure! Thanks to Cindy, Claudia, Pam, and Joyce for sharing some of the adventures with me. What a ride!

And putting the experience into the big picture of me as an educator moving forward, my time abroad in TAB will definitely enhance and affect how I approach my students and my teaching/learning in general.  I will continue to be humble and look to them to help guide me because there is a lot I do not know. When I was in Vietnam there were many times where I reached out for support, be it other TABers in Da Nang with me, or family back home, or locals who knew enough English to help translate in to Vietnamese for me so I could get what I was looking for. We are all learning and growing through life together and we cannot do that alone. The more we look to each other, the better able we will be to meet the challenges of our chosen profession. It’s going to be tough, it’s not all going to be sunny, but if we plant seeds and support one another in making things happen, it will work out and the time will continue to fly by!

 

 

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Final reflections

Looking back on my adventure as a whole this week. Reflecting on some of my best times and my worst times. There were many new adventures, friendships, challenges, successes and failures. Being home, I feel now that I have a better understanding of what is truly important. I feel silly about how many molehills I made into mountains over there. I think the challenges were great for building my resiliency and upsetting my complacency, and I think this will make me a better teacher in the future. It will certainly help in my upcoming practicum (I'm at a pretty challenging school I think so I'm gonna need some toughness). I really lucked out with the school I was placed at, my partner teacher was so helpful and amazing to me for the entire trip. She invited Victoria and I into her home for dinner and was always ready to help when I needed it. She offered to write me a reference letter on our last day of school. And on my last day in Hamburg, we went out for breakfast and said goodbye after a few hours of chit chat. Genuinely felt like a friend! I want to go back and visit her one day. If I could learn German and work there as a teacher, that would be the dream. She said it's possible! Who knows. For now, I'm ready to take on Field III.

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity TAB, I'll never forget it.

Brandon

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Saying Goodbye

Reflecting on my journey now, after the date has passed when I was supposed to return home, I must acknowledge that saying good-bye to the partner teachers and students at the schools was also one of the hardest parts of leaving Vietnam. I am not sure if that is because I had to leave early or not? Although one would think more time would have just made it harder. Of course, I also miss the hot sunny weather (although I hear it has been rainy lately), the beach, exploring the beautiful sites, the friends I made, and, as I talked about in my last post, my TAB cohort. The gratitude, enthusiasm and acceptance I felt at the two schools I volunteered at in Vietnam, was incredible, and is sincerely missed.

In my second blog post, I wrote about a few of the challenges I encountered, while also noting some of the similarities and differences I found between the schools I experienced in Vietnam and at home, and how I was enjoying making those discoveries. However, in the end, it was the wonderful teachers who worked at the schools, and their enthusiastic students who made my time at the schools truly special. I was impressed with the relationships the teachers had with each other, and their students, as well as how eager they were to include us and ensure we felt welcome. The students were also delightful and for the most part very respectful, although some were a little shy about speaking English.

Furthermore, in our studies with Werklund, we have been reminded numerous times of the importance of forming positive, caring relationships with the students and coworkers at our schools. It was evident that the teachers in the schools we visited in Vietnam valued that importance as well, which is a significant similarity. Hence, the fact that saying good-bye was so hard, and one more reason why the TAB learning experience was well worth the time invested, and why the relationships that were made, will be valued for a lifetime. 

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 Saying goodbye at Hoang Hoa Tham High School.3701831907?profile=RESIZE_710x

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Almost Home

Suggestions to future students

Here I am sitting in the Vancouver airport waiting to fly to Calgary and after spending 2 months in China, I do not want to come home. The experience has been even more amazing then I thought it was going to be and I have learned so much about china, teaching and myself along the way. As a result, I will talk about some of the things I learned during my trip and things that I wish I would have learned before leaving for my trip.

  1. English speakers are far and few between- After traveling to many countries in the world I realized that almost everywhere you go you can get by using English for basic conversations and day to day life. However, this was not the case in China. It was rare to find somebody who spoke English which sometimes made it hard to communicate with people. Google translate is a MUST as it helped us deal with a lot of situations where English would not help
  2. Internet usage- The “Great firewall of China” sometimes made it extremely hard to get things done. Course readings were blocked by the government which meant that unless you were connected to a VPN you could not access them. I only downloaded two VPNs which I felt was not enough as they were often impossible to connect to. I would suggest downloading 5-10 different VPN apps for when your having a hard time connecting.
  3. Amazing food- China has some of the most amazing cuisine in the world which often came at a very reasonable price. You could easily find a meal for under 3$ and the food on campus was amazing. The university is known throughout the city for having amazing food and I can assure you this is right. The only struggle was sometimes using menus that had no English translations on them. We often ordered dishes that we had no idea what they were so anybody who is a picky eater might have a hard time with some of the meals.
  4. Learning mandarin across boarders- Although this program is called Teaching across boarders, I felt like this trip was more about learning a language. The teaching opportunities in china were very small and allowed us to be in the classroom for a maximum of 3 hours a week. Before I left, I was very excited to get into the classrooms and teach local students, however, most of the time spent here was in the 4 hours of language classes a day which unless you studied outside of class would be very hard to keep up with.

The trip was amazing and I know I will take this experience with me into my future teaching practice

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Adiós Madrid!

Well amigos, I’m officially back in Calgary! I can tell you it won’t be easy getting used to the cold again, especially with it being 30 degrees colder right now than in Madrid (and soon to be even colder I’m sure!)

I’ll be honest, it’s strange to be back home. It’s incredibly bittersweet as a big part of me wishes that I could stay in Madrid. I absolutely loved the students that I was working with and felt as though I had just gotten to the point of having established relationships with all of them, so it was very hard to leave. Because of this experience I’m very hopeful that one day in the future I will teach abroad again! For the time being though, it has been wonderful to see my family, my friends and of course my cat Yubi as I truly missed all of them.

Although I didn’t come out of this experience fluent in Spanish (if only!), I’m happy that I did pick up enough for basic conversations and to understand the majority of what others were saying. Conversational Spanish was the easiest to learn just by hearing it all the time and through speaking it myself. It’s been interesting as a lot of the theory that I’ve learned about teaching French back in Canada (like the Neurolinguistic Approach and the specifically the literacy loop) has translated both to me learning Spanish as well as to teaching English! A few of the things I’ve personally learned include greetings and goodbyes that are often shortened (such as saying ‘buenas’ instead of ‘buenas días’ for good morning and ‘luego’ instead of ‘hasta luego’ for see you later). With our weekly Spanish class we got to explore aspects of the language we were curious about. For example, Alon wanted to know what ‘falta’ meant because he kept hearing it. We learned that it has a vast number of meanings but is often used when something is missing or lacking. After we talked about this in class I started hearing it everywhere and in so many different contexts! I got into the habit of speaking basic Spanish with everyone, and so coming back I had to be careful not to accidentally say hola or perdón to everyone!

I want to end my final blog post by mentioning some of the biggest cultural differences I’ve noticed over the course of my two months in Madrid, though keep in mind that this is by no means comprehensive and this is based on what I experienced personally:

  • Schedules in Spain are nothing like ours! Many cafés don’t open until 9am. Lunch often isn’t eaten until around 3pm and dinner isn’t eaten until 9 or 10pm. I tend to eat pretty late anyway, so luckily I already fit in! Buses also don’t run on the same schedule. As my school was outside of Madrid, I had to figure out how to take transit there. My first week involved trying different bus routes because buses consistently wouldn’t show up or would show up 30 minutes late. In the end I ended up taking the school bus with the kids, eventually figuring out the closest stop to my house by Plaza Castilla.
  • Spanish people don’t stress about time. In other words, if you’re late because 2 buses didn’t show up or you miss a day because you’re sick, well no pasa nada (aka no worries)!
  • Don’t expect everything to be planned out like it is in Canada. You may find out your schedule last minute or be asked to teach a class spontaneously. The best thing you can do is be open to it and adapt!
  • Spanish people are very passionate! They show more affection and emotion. For example, it’s not at all unusual to see teachers give their students kisses on the cheeks or to say “I love you.” This also works for reverse scenarios and so they can be very direct and blunt. Upon first seeing this you might interpret it as rudeness, but in reality it isn’t, it’s just the how they communicate!

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One final picture of our whole group in Madrid! 

Thanks so much to everyone reading. This has been an absolute blast and I’m so appreciative of the chance to experience this program. To anyone interested in participating in Teaching Across Borders in the future, I highly recommend going to Madrid! I have learned and grown so much from this experience. I wish all future TABers all the best and look forward to reading future posts!

Adiós,

Michelle

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Some pictures and recommendations

If I was to make any recommendations for living in Hamburg, it would be to:

go to a St. Paulii football game (look for ticket scalpers out front)3700454032?profile=RESIZE_710x

 

 

visit Lübeck, 

 

And the Castle in Schwerin

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Go to Miniatur Wunderland (and see Batman and Robin in Vienna)

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visit Sternschanze (check out some of the street art there).

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Also, check if there are homestay opportunities before you book your accomodations!


Brandon

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Hello YYC!

Well, it is the end of out TAB experience and we are back home safe and sound in Calgary! 

 

These past few months have been quite the rollercoaster. My personal experience started off fairly uncertain as it took me a while to be placed in the correct country. Once in Spain, I began to settle in and get used to my surroundings. Before I knew it, it was crazy again trying to keep up with teaching, courses, work, and travel. Additionally, I struggled with homesickness as we encountered some stressful situations. Sometimes we would get very last minute schedules and had to adapt quickly, and unfortunately we encountered some intense protests in Barcelona during our stay. Saying goodbye to my students was a bitter-sweet moment. I was sad that my time in Spain went by so quickly and I had build awesome relationships with my students. On the other hand, I'm very happy to be home and to be able to share my experience with my friends and family, and apply the lessons I learned to my future classroom.  Through all of the ups and downs during my trip, I can happily say this this is an experience that has forever changed me. Not only as a person, but as a future educator. I will cherish everything that I was lucky enough to experience and I will never forget my time abroad. 

 

Until next time, Barcelona!

 

With love,

Fiorella 

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Back Home

It's a chilly return! 

Returning home from a trip is never easy but it's definitely much harder when the place you're leaving is having average temperatures of 17! My way home was less than direct with a 7 hour stop in Portugal, to a 14 hour stop in London and finally a 4 day stop in Toronto for Halloween  to visit some old friends (some I haven't seen in 5 years!). Finally ending up in Calgary on the 4th my jet lag is catching up to me and I've been sleeping from 8pm onwards (which is very unusual for me!) 

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A Second Family

I will miss this experience of being able to spend time with host families. Living with them taught me lots about how similar and different a person's life could be in Japan, versus here in Canada. Even simple things, such as what my host siblings did before/after school, helping out with family chores, going out on errands, trips, and sitting down to talk with them and their friends--all of these helped me gain an understanding and appreciation of how others live their lives. I once read a poster that said, "we can't make all our mistakes by ourselves, we have to learn from others", with a picture of one penguin watching another slipping on ice. Likewise, I've learned lots from the ways my host siblings studied, and how the families arranged their time. One interesting thing was the "coin" system introduced in my last host family, the parents would give their kids "coins" for completing tasks, and they could be used for videogame time. A simple idea, but I saw it in action and it was amazing.  

Here are a few pictures of my adventures with my last host family:3700213802?profile=RESIZE_710x

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 I will miss these guys a lot. I've been told very firmly that I must come back and visit, I hope to as well. It was tough leaving, but these photos will keep us company in the meantime! 

 

 

As I returned from Japan, the practicum immediately hit me. I've been up looking at the programs of study and looking up my school on the website, prepping for our start next week. It's a bit of a grind, but it's good to be back in my own bed! 

 

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This was the final week in our placements! 

Most of my lessons up until now have been heavily focused on Canadian culture. Some topics that my students and I explored include: Canadian actors, film, cowboy culture, music, and special events in Calgary. This week we gave a conference presentation on cowboy culture in Calgary, how it differs from the United States, and how Spanish culture influences ours. The students had a lot of fun engaging in conversations and asking lots of questions about the Stampede in particular. Our presentation covered western values, cowboy clothing (past and present), western movies, country music, and country dancing.

To finish off our time here, Safa and I decided to end on a high note by teaching our students how to line dance for our final lesson. The students were eager to learn the dances and had lots of fun and lots of laughs learning the steps. Even our partner teacher's joined in ! This was my favourite class as I was able to combine my passion for teaching dance, and my passion for teaching academics into one lesson. Initially, some of the students struggled to learn the footwork, but by the end, they were all dancing and "yahoo-ing" !

 

It was an emotional day as we had to say goodbye to our students, but it was one that I'll never forget! 

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Post-Vietnam Reflections

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My time in Vietnam was not “easy” by any means, but it was so rewarding. I was constantly pushed outside of my comfort zone, especially with the language being so different. Even with Google Translate, communication can be difficult, especially when teaching. Thankfully, much of the communication here is indirect, using facial expressions and body language, so I found that even if I wasn’t able to verbally communicate with someone, there were ways to get my point across and connect. Being in such a different culture definitely makes you feel like a child again, constantly exposed to a different language and alphabet and way of life, especially with the lack of regulation that exists in the country, it’s challenging, but it teaches you a lot. I have learned so much from the Vietnamese people, they are so hardworking, forward-thinking, optimistic and kind. As a culture, they really value family and community, which is a big contrast to the individualism we value in the West. Whether you’re in a school, company, or family setting, the individual always comes second to the group, because the Vietnamese are highly collectivist. Humility is respected, and showing off and egoism is looked down upon. There is a strong sense of duty and sincerity that permeates the culture.

I think what I valued most about my time in Vietnam, is something that I value about travel in general. It is the opportunity to develop your identity away from home, and discover who YOU are, without the context of your home, social groups, family, etc.

If you are debating going to Vietnam for TAB in the future, I think this is a wonderful place to come if you are seeking exciting adventures, and are looking to grow as an individual. You will be challenged, and pushed outside your comfort zone, so make sure that’s what you’re looking for.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and I will miss this beautiful country so much!

-Claudia

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Favourite Memories of Vietnam

I wanted to dedicate a blog post with pictures to show the most memorable moments of my time in Vietnam!

Visiting Hanoi
Hanoi is Vietnams capital city, and is rich in its culture. Its streets are narrow and crowded, and I have never seen so much traffic in my life, but it is an absolutely charming and interesting city.

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Hai Van Pass (Overcoming my fear of motorbikes)
I ended up renting a motorbike after being convinced I wouldn't, because I got used to Vietnamese traffic and I became familiar with my neighborhood and its streets. Even though the motorbike accident I experienced at the beginning of my trip was terrifying, part of my decision to come to Vietnam involved overcoming my fears, and I felt it was important I overcame my fear of driving. After taking some time to get used to the bike I rented, I took it on the pictureresque coastal highway of Hai Van Pass, and it was one of the most beautiful days of my entire life!

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Exploring Son Tra (Monkey Mountain)
I got to see such beautiful views, hidden beaches, hiking trails, and monkeys! This mountain is located just north of Danang, and gives you great views of the city.

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My teaching experiences
The students I worked with were so sweet. Teaching was challenging at parts, because of the communication barrier, but I was able to form wonderful relationships with my students.

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My Khe Beach
I think out of everything I got to experience, what I will miss most is living so close to the beach!

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The One Where Rachel Cried

The final blog post, HELLO! 

I am currently writing this last blog post with a cup of coffee, wrapped up in my duvet in the cold cold COLD snow in Calgary. Although I was very sad to leave the Australia heat, I was very excited to get back home to hug my loved ones, smother my dog, and get back into a proper routine.

During our last couple weeks in Brisbane, we tried to get as much travelling in as possible. This meant 4 flights, probably 18 RideShares, hours on trains, trams, and busses, a water taxi, a couple more hostel bunks, a very weird Air BNB, and a sailboat called “PowerPlay”.

After getting back into the new school placements, we left for a weekend trip to Stradbroke Island, or as the locals call it, Straddie. We had booked this “glamping” (glam-camping) trip at the beginning of our time in Brisbane as Straddie was a must-see recommendation from the Brisbane locals. I’d urge you to google “Adder Rock Camping” on Stradbroke Island and you will see why I call it glamping. The “tent” has real beds, fridge, barbeque, etc. and lucky for us, you are fully sheltered from all-weather conditions (it rained the WHOLE time). Regardless of the unlucky weather conditions, Stradbroke Island was absolutely stunning. We tried our best to stay dry but still got to see mumma kangaroos and koalas with their babies, whales, dolphins, lizards, frogs, and the most beautiful sunrise.3699760660?profile=RESIZE_710x

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Back to schools for the week then jet set off on a flight to Melbourne! We spent the weekend immersing ourselves the bustling city’s art and food scene. As it was actually VERY cold in Melbourne (not joking, a crisp 13 degrees Celsius), I spent a lot of my time in art exhibits, markets, and libraries all while drinking some of the best coffee in the world. We walked the Melbourne street art walk which took us down laneways filled with graffiti and street art. Some of the more popular laneways such as Hozier Lane and AC/DC Lane were filled with people looking to get the most Insta-worthy selfie. Nathan, Nancy, and I also did a day trip to the Brighton Bathing Boxes, which is a group of 82 wooden beach huts that were built in the early 1900s. The colours contrasted with Melbourne CBD in the background was such a sight and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have looked like when they were regularly in use and not a highly photographed tourist attraction. Melbourne is overflowing with culture and it was very hard to squeeze everything into the couple days we had.3699764744?profile=RESIZE_710x3699764274?profile=RESIZE_710x

Our last weekend getaway was to the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays are 74 islands that lie between the northeastern coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef with massive stretches of coral and white sand beaches. We took a boat tour that departed from Airlie Beach and sailed through a very small stretch of these islands. I would recommend this trip to anyone, it was spectacular. There is something so special about sleeping in a boat on the ocean with 18 strangers (trust me) and getting to explore the islands over a longer period of time. During this tour we had the chance to snorkel around the coral and see all the amazing little critters that get to call it their home, dig our toes into the 99% silica sand (purest in the world) on Whitehaven Beach, paddleboard at sunset, and make some amazing new friends from all over the world.3699766660?profile=RESIZE_710x3699765531?profile=RESIZE_710x

Coming back from Australia has been the biggest reality check. I think the toughest part will be accepting the fact I can no longer do school work from the beach in a bathing suit. In all honesty, I am happy to be home and so grateful for everything this experience has given me. The last 8 weeks in Australia have taught me lessons both inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve been very grateful to be given the experience this semester of learning and teaching while travelling around a different country. I have found myself reflecting on this time with such appreciation for the teaching experience I’ve gained, new friends and places, and the countless number of adventures I’ve been on. I feel as though I have become a much more confident traveller, as well as a much more confident teacher. Brisbane had truly become a second home and I will cherish these experiences throughout my everyday life and in my career.

To any future TAB students, I can’t put into words what I feel this experience has given me. My time in Australia feels like it may have been a dream so please force yourself into uncomfortably and put yourself out there. Make it happen, travel is such a gift and an amazing learning experience. Pour yourself into everything you possibly can. As cheesy as it is, I have caught myself being a big puddle of tears thinking how I will never be in these moments again.

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Thank you, TAB for providing me with this opportunity.

Thank you, Nancy, Nathan and Tina.

Thank you, to everyone who has supported me along this journey. I cannot express enough gratitude.

My heart is full.

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The One Where No One's Ready

Hi again! 

We are on the home stretch of our time in Australia. Over the last 4 weeks we spent our practicum time in a school called Earnshaw State College. Earnshaw is a co-ed Prep to 12 located in a suburb outside of Brisbane City. Unlike my time at St. Aidan’s where I was placed with one class for the entirety of my time there, at Earnshaw I floated between a 2/3 class and prep. It has around 700 students, being quite small for a school that holds all grades. I loved my time in the classrooms at Earnshaw but as you could probably imagine, my overall experience was very different from the first 3 weeks in the private system. There were many similarities between the two schools such as the courses they offered and the support given by teachers and teaching aids, but I found that there were many differences between the two schools as well.

One example of a difference I noticed was the discrepancy in resources. I figured this would be an obvious one considering the difference in tuition between the two schools. Although Earnshaw had ample amounts of extra space in the school, empty classrooms, extra areas for play, etc. it seemed that they went unused. On a more positive note, during my time in the prep classroom (ages 5-6) at Earnshaw I witnessed the introduction of Indigenous education. There were components of Indigenous history and values that were worked in to a couple different lessons I had observed. I was very impressed by the teacher’s initiative to incorporate Indigenous ed into her lessons as this wasn’t something I had seen yet, regardless of the rich Indigenous history Australia possesses. We have been completing a Werklund Indigenous education course online during our time in Australia so being able to apply this learning and see it carried out in a classroom was refreshing. Finally, as Earnshaw has a much higher ESL population comparatively, I was able to sit in on a couple small group sessions working with ELL students. As my specialization is English as an Additional Language, I found this very helpful. I was able to witness a number of different strategies for all levels of English language learners of varied ages.

Earnshaw has a similar class structure to our first school which includes frequent breaks to refresh and refocus. From what I have seen, this structure is extremely beneficial as it gives the students a chance to take a needed break from school work, keep motivation high while in the classroom, and gives students a chance to refocus on their school work while keeping distractions like hunger or thirst minimal.

Overall, I believe that the caring nature of the administration and teachers was very evident in both schools. At no point did I feel unwelcome in the classrooms and the teachers were very receptive to whatever support I could offer. It is extremely evident that both schools strive to create a safe and loving school environment and care a great deal about their students. My time teaching in Australia has been very beneficial to both my overall personal travelling experiences and my future teaching practice. I am so excited to implement some of the practices I have witnessed in my own classrooms and share what I have learned with my own students one day.

As much as I am looking forward to coming home to Calgary, I have to admit I would love a little more time Down Under. The last few days in Brisbane (and saying goodbye to our amazing apartment) will be very tough. I am not ready. No one is ready. 

One more post and its goodbye blog and goodbye TAB! Thank you to everyone that has stuck with my rambling this long, see you soon. 

Cheers

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I was asked to prepare a presentation to university level students with the University Camilo Jose Cela, and I decided to talk about interdisciplinary education and Indigenous education during my presentation. I embraced narrative learning to talk about my experiences as a preservice teacher in Canada. Since my audience members were preservice teachers who were completing their last year of education, they were engaged and even voluntarily stayed longer for our TAB presentation. The Spanish university students were very interested about the topics that were presented. The director of the international program was also present at this presentation and she demonstrated great interest about Indigenous women in Canada because of her interest in feminist theory. We had a great conversation after the presentation; the next day, she asked me to write in their blog about my experiences with their schools. Since I had collaborated with the nursery department in assisting one-year old children, singing songs, feeding them, playing, and supporting the staff while also working with elementary students for the duration of the placement, and also presenting to university students, my volunteering perspective was full of rich experiences I could share, while engaging with different students.  

 

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Isabel Morales and I after my Presentation with Education Students in the University Camilo Jose Cela

 

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My Nursery Students!

My grade two partner-teacher has suggested that she would like to keep in touch with me, and she would like to engage in an international collaborative project with my students and I during my placement III in Calgary. I was thrilled to hear this idea and suggested we develop interdisciplinary international projects to connect our two classrooms. Her students need to practice English and my students in Calgary will need to practice Spanish. There is much potential for future projects with San Estanislao de Kostka, SEK schools.  The grade three teacher also gave me permission to have full access to his own online materials that he has designed over many years. These resources will be very useful for my field experience placement when I teach Spanish. He is the same teacher who trained me about the subject of Religion; if I work for the Catholic School Board, this teaching experience will be very beneficial for me.

 

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Melissa and I in the Elementary Facility

It is time to say goodbye to the SEK schools, but I honestly do not want to leave the school. I feel so good and productive in the elementary SEK school Castillo. I know all of my students’ names and I have made more connections with teachers beyond the elementary school. Some children have made drawings for me to take back to Canada and one child even composed a song for me, which I found super cute and touching. During my last day of school as I was saying good-bye to all the children, I saw many sad faces and I received many hugs and kisses. I will never forget that as I was leaving, the toughest boy in the grade two class hugged me to say good-bye and he just could not let me go. He hugged me as hard as he could and I felt his tears on my shoulder. I would never forget his beautiful face. Thank you, SEK schools! It has been a truly wonderful experience—one I shall never forget.

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I am teaching English Language Arts, Spanish, Math, Social Studies, Ethics and Morals, and Religion to grade two students. I am very comfortable in the two grade two classrooms. I am a strong believer in authentic and positive teacher-student relationship so learners can feel listened to, connected, respected, and nurtured at the human level first, so they can actually focus on learning academics. My relationship with our learners in Madrid is rooted in love for them and their well-being is essential to me in my role as a teacher. I connect with learners every day when we engage in casual conversations on the school bus that travels from Madrid to Villa Franca del Castillo, which is about a 40-minute drive from Madrid. Once we are in school, I make sure to exchange a few words on a one-on-one basis with learners before the school day starts so I can then start talking about the day activities or discussing with my partner teacher about the specifics of the day’s agenda. Knowing learners has been key to helping me identify areas of strength and growth in students. I particularly dedicate extra time to students who need some classroom differentiation. I have also noticed that those learners who need more emotional attention work well in the classroom once they feel listened to in a fast-paced environment that offers many extra-curricular activities on top of the normal classroom environment. I recall one student who was not able to work in the classroom and kept distracting peers and getting into trouble with his teacher. I asked to spend some time with him. After we connected for about 15 minutes and talked about his troubles and challenges at home, he integrated back into the classroom and focused on his schoolwork.

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I take the school bus from Madrid to SEK-Castillo daily and I have a good time!

 

I have spent a great deal of time preparing lessons that support the learners’ emotional development and learners have responded very well inside the classroom and at recess time. My partner teacher is very supportive of my ideas and has implemented several strategies I have suggested. Specifically, my partner teacher has always referred to me as an experienced teacher, not as pre-service teacher, and demonstrates this positive attitude along with her many supportive confirmations of trusting my work. For example, she has offered me higher responsibilities within the classroom and extra projects and this environment has been perfect for launching my creativity, which I believe is one of my assets. Moreover, my coaching-relationship with grade 6thstudents has produced positive results because they are incorporating productive learning habits and strategies that are serving them well in their daily work projects. I have been bringing to their attention that I will soon be leaving for Canada and the children have told me they don’t want me to leave. The grade two students are very cute when they suggest that I should move to Madrid.

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Coaching Grade 6 Students

 

The other day, my grade six partner teacher and other fellow teachers were chatting at lunch-time when she began talking about the “amazing project I am coaching with her students.” She told her fellow teachers that the children were captivated with my teaching style and the students are developing the largest sheet of paper with wonderful research. She spoke about the project design and she mentioned that she was impressed with my contributions in the classroom with those students who needed extra support. The truth is that I feel so good when I work with students who need support. I believe they are so capable and bright, and I only need to say one or two things for them to bring who they are into the project. I love working with learners who think they cannot do the work because they are the learners who surprise themselves. When they find them are capable, their beautiful faces and expressions of surprise motivate me to keep learning about Universal Design for Learning and differentiation, which is one of my favourite areas of study. This placement has truly shown me the value that teachers bring to a classroom and the feeling of satisfaction that we as teachers receive from our students as we see them learn and grow.

 

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Ready to go Home, Not Ready to Leave

Disclaimer: I apologize if this blog feels like the 6th season of a tv show. 

 I'm ready to go home, but I don't want to leave.

What you hear about TAB, and what you learn in the workshops is true. You will learn a lot, and if you maintain a positive outlook you will learn more.

Time flies and just when you start building relationships and getting the hang of the whole teaching thing it will be time to go. You realize you'll miss working at your school and the students as much as you'll miss that restaurant where you've become a regular, and the eatery where the owner calls you "guapa" like it's your name.

3699488779?profile=RESIZE_710xJust when you're ready to call Madrid home, it's time to go.

There's a statue of a bear in the city center (Sol), and if you touch it's foot that means you'll come back to Madrid. #touchedit

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The Bear and the Strawberry Tree

 (The bear and the strawberry respresents RESILIANCE ) #yaaassss

            I learned many things on a free walking tour when I first arrived in Madrid. I highly recommend - free walking tours. One because their free, two, you get your steps in, three, you learn a lot of history, and four, you're attention is brought to beautiful things you might otherwise have missed if left to your own devices.

           You should learn to take note of things that you want to do, and make a plan, schedule it, make a list (remember how important lists are?) because as soon as things get going you'll be one assignment and lesson plan too late to make it to a Real Madrid soccer game.

           Tranquilo, your time at an SEK school will be well spent!

SEK Schools

I found that SEK schools have a holistic view of teaching. The goal is to create learners that want to change the world and have the tools to do so. The schools value openess and the classroom designs represent this with open entry ways, clear wall classroom dividers, and plenty of windows. The princhipal of "being open to the world" is represented through the use of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

https://www.sek.es/en/sek/ethos-and-values/3699546616?profile=RESIZE_710x 

A portion of the IB approach to teaching and learning involves lanquage aquisition, which was a great fit for a preservice teacher with the specialization English Langauage Learners (ELL). Although I faced some challenges and had many questions about a system and a style of teaching that differed from what I had experienced thus far, my placement reignited my passion for teaching. I was a student as much as I was a teacher and I've never had so much fun teaching. I will miss how the students would begin their explanation of an English word with the Spanish equivalent. They would also provide engagning metophors and analogies, like the student who used my braids to describe "personality", and told me I had some. 

An SEK school will challenge you, change you, and inspire you.

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And as soon as I started to get my bearings, and truly feel like a part of the school community, it was time to go home, but I'm not ready to leave.

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An ode to the land of sunshine

Hello again! 

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I can’t believe that my two months of Aussie adventures are over. It went by so fast and in some ways feels like it all happened in a dream. In this blog post I’ll be talking about some of the touristy things I did over my weekends in October, and finish with my final thoughts about Australia and its schools.

The first weekend after starting up my second prac placement, the four of us took a ferry to North Stradbroke Island (or as it’s more commonly called, ‘Straddie’). This trip actually happened the day after I had visited the island for a field trip, and so it was nice to revisit it from the perspective of a tourist. On Straddie we stayed in a ‘glamping’ tent, i.e. the appearance of a really large tent on the outside, and the appearance of a four-star hotel on the inside. This proved to be an excellent decision because it proceeded to pour rain for just under half of our trip! I learned that Australian storms are seriously intense. Take the worst rainstorm you’ve seen in Calgary, multiply the amount of rain falling at the worst interval of that storm by 5, and then make it last 12 hours. So intense. We were lucky enough to have things clear up for our last day. Venturing out of our tent at 5:30 in the morning, we walked up to a lookout point on the beach to watch the sunrise and were lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming in the distance. Straddie was the best for wildlife because on top of that we also saw whales, a family of kangaroos, and a mama koala with her baby!

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The next week we flew to Melbourne. One thing that people forget to mention about Australia is that it can get quite cold. The entire time we were there I wore the only sweater that I had. It was so cold!!! (I say as if I wasn’t in a windy snowstorm like an hour ago). Regardless, it was still a good experience. I visited an Asian night market, went to the Brighton Beach Bathing Houses, and got to explore some of the quirkier suburbs of the city. Since Melbourne has such a high population of Greek and Italian people, they also have fantastic coffee! So, I made it my mission to drink as much coffee as I possibly could while we were there (it lived up to the hype). I was also lucky enough to catch a Japanese art instillation by a group called TeamLab whose main headquarters are in Tokyo. TeamLab utilizes technology in its art to create beautiful displays. 

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3699550782?profile=RESIZE_710xAfter Melbourne, we flew up to the Whitsunday Islands for a sailing (i.e. small yacht) trip where I met so many lovely people! Despite the seasickness I experienced while in our tiny cabin below deck, this was hands down one of the best things I got to do in Australia. The most notable part of this trip was the opportunity to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. As I’ve mentioned very briefly before, I’m terrified of fish; however, I’ve also had an obsession with the Barrier Reef ever since I was a kid (I couldn’t tell you how those two things add up), and so it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on. The coral was unreal in person, and I saw so much beautiful marine life, including a reef shark. I thought this trip was the perfect way to end our adventures outside of Brisbane.

Switching gears to the most important part of my trip, I'll now discuss my final thoughts regarding public vs. state schools in Australia. The biggest thing I learned here is that students from both systems can come out in the end with the same documents that lead to similar opportunities after their K-12 education. I would never deny that socioeconomic status (and the schools that are financially viable to attend because of SES) doesn’t affect these opportunities drastically, and that state school students may have to work much harder to achieve the same end, but the notion that state school kids are getting less than their private school counterparts in regard to what can be achieved after graduation is just not true. The reality is that state schools are unable to be as selective in their admission process, and for some of the ‘lower’ performing ones, have much less money to invest in both non-academic and academic resources. The selectivity that private schools are granted creates environments where academic rigor is the norm, and participation in non-academic activities is expected. As a result, you get schools that come out on top when they are assessed using these standards. It can definitely be harder for state school students to access the same number of resources during their K-12 education and can give the appearance that you must send your kid to an expensive private school in order for them to be successful. If anything, though, my experiences have instilled my faith in the state school system, and have made me grateful for how robust it is in Canada. Teachers work tirelessly, sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion and oftentimes in challenging behavioural environments, to ensure that the next generation is getting the education that all kids deserve.

Regarding my first-hand experiences in the schools I visited, the biggest takeaway I have is that the single most important thing you can do to be an effective educator is to build meaningful relationships with your students. This takeaway, while obvious, was highlighted even more when I found myself asking what it was about the teachers I observed that made them so effective. This question is especially true when their teaching styles couldn't be any different. Really, the only thing these teachers had in common was the mutual understanding of respect and openness that they shared with their students. It was this element that made their classrooms productive learning environments.

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I’m so happy to say that I’ve grown tremendously as a person and an educator. I came out with new friends, a sense of how uncomfortable life can be in a country that isn’t super different than your own, and a myriad of experiences that I’ll carry with me for a lifetime. I’m grateful to those I got to travel with and the friendships that we’ve built over the past two months, and I’m thankful for the teachers and students I met while abroad. I can’t deny that I experienced moments of discomfort as a visitor in the schools I was at, but it was at these times that I was most thankful for my experience. Participating in this opportunity pushed me well out of my comfort zone, and as a result I feel that I'll be a better educator to my future students. Ultimately, I did this for me so I could do that for them. 

I was warned prior to visiting that I’d fall in love with Australia. I had a surprisingly difficult time adjusting to life there, but after getting used to the country and my home in Brisbane I have to say I miss it quite a bit. While I’m happy to be home, I definitely have plans to go back one day. With those final thoughts, it’s bittersweet for me to say goodbye. If you’re reading this and considering doing TAB, or even just contemplating visiting this beautiful country for the sake of tourism, I couldn’t recommend it more.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my posts. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures over the last two months! 

G’day and goodbye,

Nancy

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Reflections on Hamburg

There are many things I will miss about Hamburg now I am back in Calgary. The experience of living in a German city and observing the differences in culture and life style is something I will always have as I move forward in life. I will miss the architecture of the apartment buildings in Hamburg, the walkability of the city, the views of the canals, the Alster and the Elbe, the mini-Oktoberfest and Christmas markets, German foods like currywurst, the street art, and most importantly the amazing students from my school placement.

Some things I would recommend for next year’s Germany TAB students:

  • Accept a home stay if they are available. The one host family that was available this year was incredible and so welcoming when we visited. Accommodation is also very difficult to find in Hamburg, can be quite expensive, and takes a lot of patience to find but have perseverance in your search!
  • Not everyone speaks English in Hamburg so learning German phrases before coming will help a lot.
  • Your accommodation might ask you to get personal liability insurance.
  • It rains nearly everyday so bring an umbrella.
  • Take advantage of your free time in Hamburg and explore the city!

A few things to do and see in Hamburg: visit the museum Miniatur Wunderland, the Kunsthalle art museum, the neighbourhood Speicherstadt, St. Pauli, and Sternschanze, take a water taxi across the river Elbe for a view of the harbor, go to the Fish Market once, take the elevator to the top of the St. Nikolai Memorial, explore Stadt park, travel to other nearby Germany cities and towns like Lubeck and Schwerin. 3699577898?profile=RESIZE_710x

 

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