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From Perth to Calgary!

As I am currently writing this, I am in Guangzhou, China on the longest 17-hour layover ever from Perth to Calgary. It’s crazy to think how quickly the past two months have gone, but I could not be any more excited to finally get home into my own bed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of being in Australia! Big thanks to the the three girls whom I’ve basically spent 24/7 with while in Perth and travelling around Western Australia and Bali. I couldn’t have asked for better roommates who made living away from home for the first time such a great experience. 

From driving both north and south along the W.A. coast, to driving six hours east to Kalgoorlie, here’s a bunch of things that I’ve noticed while in Oz.

  1. Spiders. Everyone warned me about finding spiders everywhere I go, most significantly – the toilet! I’m glad to report back that this was not true, or at least in my case, and I am most definitely happy to say that.
  2. Ravens. No one told me about those huge black birds! They’ve got freaky, beady eyes and are always around. They swoop and make the most obnoxious sounds ever… yet surprisingly, I might actually miss that once I’m back home and thinking of my home in Perth. Click the audio link to hear them! (you may have to turn the volume up a bit) - Birds.mp3
  3. Roadkill. It didn’t even cross my mind that I might actually see a dead kangaroo or emu on the side of the road. Don’t worry, it’s not in the city, but our drive out to different towns made for an interesting view every so often. All I wanted to see was a kangaroo jumping in the wild, but unfortunately, my time with them at the wildlife conservatory will have to do.
  4. Quokkas. These animals have got to be my new favourite. They were the cutest things to see when visiting Rottnest Island, and are so photogenic. They don’t have many natural predators on the island and have become so accustomed to the tourists that visit, that they don’t mind getting close to people and taking photos! 
  5. Sheila. This made my list because funnily enough, people actually know how to spell my name over here. It’s common back home to have it misspelled, but seeing as Sheila is slang for woman over here, it’s usually spelled right.
  6. The people. Australian’s have got to be one of the friendliest people out there. I never felt unsafe being out by myself and I am so thankful for that. Also, big shout out to some of our Uber drivers, especially the lovely lady who drove me on my way to the airport. It’s not often that we get a female driver, especially one who made such nice conversation on my last night in Australia.
  7. Frozen Coke. Macca’s (McDonald’s) equivalent to a slurpee, except it’s a little carbonated. Add in the fact that it was only $1 for any size, came in Vanilla Coke flavour and was such a refresher on those (few) long, hot days we had, I’m going to miss this one.
  8. Breadtop. This probably isn’t the most Australian thing ever on this list, but I am going to miss this place a lot. It’s an Asian bakery where the girls and I (most notably, Maya and I) found ourselves buying treats from. Also worth mentioning is bubbletea, something I love back home, but found extremely popular over here! In the main CBD (or downtown as we call it), there’s a street with probably 5 different stores selling it right next to each other. Special mention to Nicole, whom Maya and I have officially converted to loving it!
  9. Last, but definitely not least: The schools. If not for the experiences of visiting schools, this whole list would seize to exist. The people in the seven schools I got to visit were welcoming, and always very excited to hear about the Canadian students coming into their classrooms. It was so great being able to see how the different schools run, from the School of the Air and it’s unique online environment, East Kalgoorlie’s Indigenous presence, Scotch College and participating in their Highland Games, as well as my extended stay at Bannister Creek Primary with my year twos, I am so thankful!

So, what did I learn while here? A lot actually! I got to see different school environments and how they run, which for the most part, I think was pretty similar to back home, despite some of the unique schools we got to visit. I learned that the idea of travelling on my own isn’t that scary, but such a great time since I love my alone time (though, visiting places with less of an English language presence might be a different story for me… that’s a challenge for another time).  I can’t wait for the next adventure I’ll be able to go on. I’m itching to travel again already, though with what money?

It feels like just last week I was preparing myself to come over to Australia, and now it’s almost over! I am so glad to have been able to participate in TAB. If you’re having any doubts about it… don’t! I know I was a bit hesitant to join at first, but I’m so glad I did. I was able to travel, complete my classes, and do something I’m passionate about – teaching!

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#5: Bittersweet Goodbyes

I am writing this last blog post on my flight from Melbourne to Vancouver. This is the second or 3 flights, and this is the 15-hour flight! It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to be headed home. Teaching Across Borders has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. Being able to live in another country, see their school systems, and travel has been a really great. In the 2 months, us girls in Perth visited 7 schools, which I think it the most schools for any of the TAB placements. Most of the schools we visited in Western Australia seemed to run very similarly to Canadian schools, so that wasn’t too much of a culture shock (you can read about some of these schools in my previous blog posts). I am excited to return home with more experiences in the classroom!

Since my first degree, I’ve always wanted to do an exchange and live in a new country and I was finally able to do that. Perth was an interesting city to live in because it was so spread out. We didn’t have a car so we had to transit or Uber everywhere, and most places were at least a 20 minute drive or 1 hour transit ride away so we really had to plan out our days and excursions. Thankfully, MacKenzi and I were comfortable enough to drive so we were able to rent a car to visit areas around Perth. The one thing that surprised me about living in another country is how much I missed the Rocky Mountains. I spend a lot of time in the Rockies and I really missed and craved them while I was away. This made me really think about whether or not I could live long term in another country. The jury is still out on that decision.

I can definitely say that I have grown a lot as a person. Living in a whole new country is definitely different than just travelling. One moment that stuck out for me was when Sheila and I were waiting for the bus and someone came and asked us a question regarding a bus route, and we were actually able to give him the information he needed. That's when I knew that we had been taking transit long enough to be familiar with it! This trip definitely took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me mentally, however it was worth it!

The best thing that has come out of this experience is the friendships I made with Nicole, Sheila and MacKenzi! We lived together, travelled together, did school projects together… basically everything together. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through without them! Thanks for being the most amazing roommates, friends and group members.

As I sit here on the plane, I am bracing myself for the cold weather back home. I am so excited to see my people back home, my dogs, and my car. Thanks TAB for being such an amazing experience!

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Rambling Thoughts of a Very Jetlagged Traveller

Well, I’m typing this final blog installment from the Vancouver airport as I wait (im)patiently to hop on my last flight of the day back to Calgary! I’ve already walked into a few people by walking on the Aussie (left) side, and I even felt a jolt of confusion when the customs man spoke to me in Canadian English… but I’m not all the way Aussie yet! I’m very happy to be sipping a Tims while I type!

I’m mostly feeling eager to get back home, but my emotions have definitely been very mixed over the past few days. I can’t wait to see my people again, but Brisbane truly became my home over the last two months! I shed a few tears watching our last sunset over the Kangaroo Point cliffs last night, walking through our “dinky little home” for the last time this morning, and taking our last drive across the Story Bridge on our way to the airport this morning (was that really this morning??).

To anyone reading this and considering applying for TAB 2019, my advice is to take the risk! I feel this experience has helped me grow so much as an educator, but also as a person. TAB allows you the perfect opportunity for creating overseas connections, immersing yourself in different perspectives, and learning about your values as a teacher. It is simultaneously challenging, inspiring, and endlessly rewarding. For me, TAB perfectly combined the two greatest loves of my life: teaching and travel. If I could do it again next year, I absolutely would! If none of that persuades you, perhaps this will: on my last day at St Aidan’s, our girls threw us a huge disco dance party to say farewell! The relationships I built with my year two girls were enough, alone, to make this whole experience overwhelmingly worthwhile. All of our coursework talks again and again about the importance of relationships with your students, but this experience made me realize just how universal this really is!

Thank you so much to…

  • Werklund for offering this amazing opportunity
  • My friends and family back home for supporting me from the moment I started the application last fall
  • Melinda & Dallas at QUT for being our international mother (and father) hens
  • All the staff and students at Earnshaw & St. Aidan’s for welcoming us so warmly and making us part of their daily routine

But most of all, I would like to thank my amazing Brisbane roommates, Brianne, Carolyn, Danielle, and Kennedy (and our occasional roommate, Matilda the Cockroach). You ladies pulled me through everything that Brisbane had to throw at us: from sticky humidity to broken GoCards, and from lobster red sunburns to unpredictable plumbing!  Not a day went by that I didn’t laugh until tears came to my eyes. Living with five girls in one “cozy” little house was definitely an adventure, but I will remember it fondly forever.

I now have a week of downtime to try to convince my brain that I’m no longer 16 hours in the future, and then I begin my third practicum! If you’ve made it this far, thank you for keeping up with all of us while we’ve been abroad! See you all soon back in Calgary!

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Cheers Australia!

I can’t believe it is finally time for my Australian adventure to come to an end. It’s been nearly eleven weeks since I first left home, but it feels like yesterday I was hugging my mom goodbye. In the past two and a half months I have gotten to tour Hobbiton, cheer on the All Blacks, climb a Fijian mountain at sunrise, drive the Great Ocean Road, visit the Sydney Opera House, Sail the Whitsundays and frolic in Noosa’s Fairy Pools all while keeping up with my classes and volunteering in schools. My time with TAB has been nothing short of amazing, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to travel while earning my degree.

In the weeks since my last post, Danielle, Brianne and I have been visiting classrooms of all ages at Earnshaw. This has been an incredible experience for me, as back home I am so focused on my secondary specialization that I almost never get the chance to observe and help out in an elementary classroom. It seems every day at Earnshaw I learn something new about Elementary education, which has me going back and forth between deciding if I would teach in the younger years or not, something I would have never before considered.

Throughout my time on TAB I have grown immensely as an educator. Initially when I received my notice that I was placed in Australia I was disappointed, I wanted to have an authentic cultural experience and I did not think I would receive that in Australia. Before leaving, I imagined it to be all beaches and desert and creepy crawlies, However, upon arriving in Australia, I found the country to be culturally complex, with amazing food, live music on every block, museums full of beautiful art and the loveliest people. The other benefit of being placed in an English-speaking country is that I got to full immerse myself within the classroom and was able to participate in a wide variety of classrooms, which was something I would not have been able to do anywhere else.

This weekend, I am coming home with so much more than what I left with. Each and every moment in Australia will be kept with me for the rest of my life. Not only have I learned so many teaching skills, but I have also made friends that I will keep for the rest of my life. Living in a house with five girls is not easy, but I am thankful I was placed with four other girls who were so open, thoughtful and ambitious. As a house we grew together in ways that we weren’t expecting, and I can’t wait for us to reflect on our shared memories in the years to come.

 

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Catch ya Later Australia

Hello Readers!

As the tab program comes to end I am both sad to be leaving but am grateful for my experience. I have decided to compose a list of things I have learned while here in Australia. Hope you enjoy.

1. The weather in September and October is not the sunshine paradise I expected and packed for, but rather quite cloudy and cold. This brings me to another thing I have learned, homes in Australia do not have central heating but instead little space heaters.

2. Australians LOVE 90’s music. It plays at the grocery store, on the radio in the uber, and on the beach. As a lover of all things 90’s this was one of my favorite things here.

3. The Australian go with the flow attitude is a real thing. Some of the teachers explained they follow a 10 step policy for their lesson planning… 10 steps from the staff room to their classroom to plan their lessons. This laidback attitude also means that Australians have a great sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.

4. Australians love their slang, this means shortening words and sometimes adding a ‘y’ or an ‘ie’. Here are some examples:
                    Avo - avocado
                    Pracy – student teacher doing their practicum
                    Brolly – umbrella
                    Lollies – candy
                    Chuck a u-ey – make a U-turn
                   Maccas – McDonalds
The list could go on and on, I hear new slang everyday.

5. I learned a lot about Australian’s Indigenous history after the 6 and half hour road trip to Kalgoorlie where we visited a school with a primarily Indigenous population.

6. If your friend gets scratched by a monkey in Bali you need to take her to the doctor to get some vaccines.

7. Australians are very friendly and welcoming. I was never afraid to talk to someone, whether it be for directions or where to find the best deal to rent a sand board.

8. I don’t like vegemite.

9. I could not have asked for a better group of people to have been on this journey with. I cannot wait to reminisce with the other girls about all of the fun times and shared experiences.

And lastly…

10. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and trying new things may be scary, but is totally worth it.

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Wrapping up on Life Here in Brisbane!

One final farewell!

Wow, hard to believe but here we are with a 5 day countdown until we head back home to Calgary. Back to friends, family, routines and unfortunately much colder weather! Time here in Brisbane has been a fantastic experience, with so many new explorations every day, the time truly has flown by. Just this last week, we ventured to an outdoor food market called Eat Street, rode the Wheel of Brisbane, spent a full day at the Irwin Australia Zoo, and took a trip out to Byron Bay for one last day enjoying the beautiful surf and pristine sandy white beaches. I must say, Byron Bay takes the cake! We made it to the most Eastern point in Australia where we spent a good amount of time watching humpback whales splash around and a pod of dolphins jumping in the surf. Quite the perfect wildlife weekend to end an all around fantastic trip!

However, this also means that our time in our school is also winding down. I’m not looking forward to saying  goodbye to my students, or the friendships I’ve made with the teachers at the school. I’ve learned so much from my time here at St. Aidan’s that I’m excited to bring into my own classroom in the future. My favourite teacher moment that I’ve had thus far was working with a little girl on her word search sheet. She had found about half of the required words and came up to me with a sad look on her face. On the bottom of her sheet she had written in big capital letters “I can’t do it.” We sat down together and worked on a strategy for finding the words in the search. After testing out the strategy and finding one word together, I sent her back to her desk to try and find the remaining words on her own. It was so uplifting when she came running back to show that she had found all the words on her sheet and loudly proclaimed that she could do it! I pointed out what she had previously written on her sheet and she realized it was no longer true so quickly erased the negative statement from her sheet. It was such a small moment in the day, but it really made all the difference to me. Seeing her immediate mood swing and her change in confidence when she realized she could do it, made my day! It really reinforced why I have chosen this profession. I know I’ll look back on this moment, as well as all my time spent teaching and assisting here in schools in Brisbane. The welcome Melissa and I were given at both our schools was overwhelming. We could not have been more lucky with our placements and the support we have been given. Thursday will be a sad day when we have to say goodbye. However, I already know we are going to have a little disco dance party in the classroom on the final day, so I can’t wait for a few more moments of fun with the class.

I’m really grateful that I’ve had the chance to explore another country, as well as having been given the opportunity to become a part of the two school communities while here. A big thank you for all the support from my family and friends back home! See you all soon!

Carolyn

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Final School Experiences in Perth!

For the final three weeks of TAB, I will be at Bannister Creek Primary in a year two class. I was so excited at this opportunity because ever since I knew I wanted to be a teacher, grade two seemed like the perfect age group that I wanted to teach! Students at this age no longer need their hand held doing every little activity, they can write and form sentences on their own, their spelling is improving, they are quicker with their simple math skills and they get so excited to come to school and learn. These are some little things that I have always been told by other family and friends who are teachers, and I’m starting to see it in these students.

After the first day of being in the classroom, I was already able to make connections with the students, as they were so excited and open to the idea of someone new being there, especially someone from another country! My two days a week in the classroom has allowed me to work with students one on one, in small groups and even as a whole class. I was a bit worried at first as I didn’t want to become a distraction or give the teacher an extra thing to think about, but luckily I’ve been able to help the teacher out a lot in the classroom and give her a helping hand. My teacher actually lived in Lake Louise for a bit while she was in her undergrad, so she loved the idea of having a Canadian in her classroom. She often reminisces about her time in Alberta, and this has been making me a bit homesick, as we’re only a week away from coming home!

Since the students were so interested in learning about Canada, my teacher asked if I could teach the class a little bit about home. I prepared a presentation on where Canada was on the map and what continent it was on in order to relate to their geography lessons, and was then able to show them some pictures of the mountains, the snow, the animals and different foods we have back at home. The students here in Australia are always amazed when I talk about the snow and how much we get of it back in Calgary!

 

Here is a quick activity we did showing Calgary and Perth on the world map, and some fun colouring activities the students got to do afterwards.

 

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Structure and Play

Hello Readers!

One of the big differences I have noticed from the schools here in Australia to the schools back in Alberta are the structures themselves. All the campuses I have visited seem to integrate their indoor and outdoor spaces and they all become part of the school environment. The schools are composed of many smaller buildings that are fairly close together, they are connected by paved pathways, green spaces, and overhead awnings to protect people from the rain and sun. This differs from the large, contained, brick structures I am familiar with at home. Rather than having multiple large gyms, a lot of the physical education happens outdoors on many grass fields, playgrounds, and even sand beach volleyball courts. I would imagine the reason for this integration of outdoors spaces is because of the weather here. In Alberta people prefer to stay where its warm indoors during cold months, but here the temperature remains pleasant year round. Another difference I have noticed is that students rarely have lockers, instead they carry around their materials from class to class in their backpacks. I suppose this is due to the sprawl of their campuses limiting their transition time between classes. Overall the idea of breaking up the day by spending a few minutes outside sounds very refreshing.

This week I had the opportunity to attend a seminar about play in schools and communities. The guest speaker was Jonathon Neen and he calls himself a play consultant, I know… every child’s dream job. He spoke about the steps the Welsh government has taken to increase play in both schools and communities. One of my big take aways was the limitations on children’s’ play. Some examples are: structure of communities, busy schedules of young children in organized activities, and playground designs too heavily based in safety while ignoring creativity. One of his solutions was ‘adventure playgrounds’. Adventure playgrounds embody the spirit of unrestricted play under the supervision of a trained adult in the absence of rigid play structures. An example of this is ‘The Land’, located in Wrexham, Wales. It is a fenced, one acre play area with a brook running through it. All of the play structures were created by children using old pallets, wheelbarrows, ladders, ropes, fishing nets, and many other materials, their safety and stability is then checked by one of the trained play workers. These adventure playgrounds really contrast the current societal idea of overprotective parents who have excessive interest in their child’s safety.

As the last couple weeks of Tab are approaching I am feeling slightly sad to be leaving but also looking forward to the comforts of family and friends at home. Over the next couple weeks we plan to finish the last of our sight seeing by visiting some more beaches, sand dunes, and Rottnest Island. 

 

Here is a nice beach picture as the weather begins to get colder back home!

 

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Taming the Monkey Mind!

How ya going? It’s hard to believe there’s less than two weeks until I head home! I’m looking forward to seeing all the people (and bunnies) I love back in Calgary, but I am SO not ready to see the snow again!

Carolyn and I have spent the past two weeks at St Aidan’s, a private all-girls school in one of the southern suburbs of Brisbane. I am fortunate enough to be placed in a wonderful year two class with an amazing partner teacher and 21 intelligent, polite, and sweet girls! Having always found my niche in the earliest of early years (preschool and kindy, or, as it’s known here, kindy and prep), I’m a bit surprised by how much I am absolutely adoring working with the year twos! It’s a wonderful age, where the students are still adorable and loving, but are also starting to get used to the routine of school and have so many delightful questions, ideas, and insights.

I am also surprised by how comfortable it is to work in an all-girls school. I don’t know if I would advocate female-only schooling right through grade twelve, but I can certainly see the benefit in elementary! It’s fascinating to see what a softer, more “feminine” touch looks like on a school: emotions are acknowledged and valued, encouragement is given freely, learning is collaborative, introspection and reflection are encouraged, opportunities are given for every voice to be heard, and teaching approaches are somehow gentler and more fluid. This is not to say that boys are a bad influence or negatively change the environment. It’s also not to say that ALL girls learn in the same manner. But it is interesting to see the difference in contrast to the mixed-gender classrooms I’ve become accustomed to!

I wanted to make mention of one of the great emergent initiatives currently being rolled out at St Aidan’s.  Right now, they’re undergoing a huge push for mindfulness. If you know me, you might know that I can be a bit of a ball of anxiety, so, over the past decade or so, I have adopted mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises as ways to find presence and calm in my daily life. Not only has this been exceedingly useful in the past 10 weeks I’ve been abroad, but I’m also now getting to see how well it can work in a classroom setting. My partner teacher encourages the girls to be mindful about almost everything they do during the day. Aside from our daily (or sometimes twice daily, depending on energy levels) meditation time, we engage in mindful reading, mindful walking, mindful colouring and drawing, mindful handwriting, mindful listening, mindful singing, and even mindful maths! They talk extensively about calming the Monkey Mind, recognizing and releasing distractions, and holding space for themselves.  

While I’m sure mindfulness practices are equally as prevalent in schools in Canada, this is the first time I’ve been exposed to a thorough school-wide approach, and I’m very impressed! This is definitely something I will be carrying into my future classrooms. I might even try to incorporate it into my upcoming practicum!

Anyway, enough from me - here’s a picture of me being mindful on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk!

 

Thanks for reading!

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Slip, Slop, Slap

Wow has time ever flown by! Since I have last posted, I have experienced the absolute highlight of my trip. Kennedy and I traveled to the Whitsundays for a short 48 hours. Luckily, we had the opportunity to snorkel The Great Barrier Reef and explore Whitehaven Beach. The entire day start to finish was beyond amazing and luckily no sharks! I felt extremely lucky to know that I was snorkeling in a very healthy part of The Reef experiencing the beautiful colours of coral and even swam right next to a sea turtle who resembled Crush from Nemo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since returning to Brisbane, I have started at Earnshaw State College that is a prep-12 coed school public school. Earnshaw has been extremely welcoming, and both administration and teachers are eager to discuss their roles and perceptions of the Australian public system. I have found that Earnshaw has a strong commitment to their students’ academic needs, wellbeing, and cultural needs. Concerning academic needs, I was extremely impressed with their comprehensive reading program that is both presents in the junior and senior school. This program tracks students’ reading levels based on their National Assessment Program (NAT) against their in-classroom progression throughout the term. It was clear that the English coaches were committed to ensuring that all students were furthering their reading capabilities and if they were not they were able to adjust appropriately. For students’ wellbeing, I was able to attend the Wellbeing Wednesday Welfare hub that invites years seven to nine to participate in activities and games after school following a theme each week. In relation to cultural needs, the school has a Yarning Circle club that meets over the lunch hour in which students partake in learning about Indigenous culture through performing arts. I am looking forward to my remaining two weeks at Earnshaw!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for life in Brisbane, the days are becoming jampacked as I am making sure everything on my bucket list has been checked off while balancing the end of semester approaches! I and the Brisbane girls took a study break to visit Moreton Island for a day in the sun and some more snorkeling through some shipwrecks! The next two weeks I am sure will be whirlwind, but I am excited to keep exploring my amazing city!

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#4: Spot the Differences

After being in Australia for 2 months now, I have noticed some things that are very different from Canada in the schools, and in general. The first thing I noticed is the school bells here. They sound like air raid sirens, and I’m not even exaggerating that. The very first day that I visited a school, I was sitting in the office with Sheila waiting to speak to our contact person and the bell went off. We both looked at each other like “what was that?”, thinking that there was some kind of emergency. It is the most obnoxiously loud siren and even though I’ve heard it for a month and a half now, it still startles me every time.

Another thing I have noticed is that majority of the primary schools here have multiple one-story buildings on the school grounds, instead of one big building like in Canada. So, there will be a bunch of buildings that contain 4 classrooms, with a common area in the middle. Each of these classrooms have a door that goes to the common area, and door that goes outside. The students keep their backpacks outside of the classroom on hooks or benches. Even though they are covered by an awning, I’m curious as to what happens when they have extreme storms. They also each have a building for administration and a building for the library. Their ‘gymnasiums’ are not closed buildings though… they are like a big garage that has no door. All the students eat their lunches outside, and when we first got here in September and it was quite cold out (12 degrees at most), they were still eating outside. Definitely not something I am used to.

The teachers here call recess, morning tea and take it very seriously here. In every school, recess/morning tea is about 20 minutes. If the teachers aren’t on supervision, they take this time to relax and socialize with their colleagues. The all boys private school had catered snacks every day for morning tea, so over the course of three days we got muffins, sausage rolls, and cake. At the school that I am currently in, each Wednesday a group of teachers creates a spread for the other teachers. This week there were plates of meat pies, cupcakes, brownies and fruit. I could definitely get used to something like this!

A couple of random things that I have also noticed is that their standard paper size is a couple of inches long than ours. This is frustrating because any paper or documents we get, don’t fit into our folders/ binders. Another thing is that perogies and canned pumpkin do not exist in regular grocery stores here. Apparently, you have to visit Polish/Ukrainian specialty stores for perogies, and American speciality stores for canned pumpkin. Lastly, and the worst thing is the flies. If you think the flies in Canada are annoying with their buzzing around and constant flying into the windows, well try coming here. The flies here fly straight at your eyes, nose and mouth!! It is actually disgusting and 100x more annoying than flies back home. The hotter it gets, the more flies there are, and summer is approaching which means more flies every day. This fact alone makes me ready to come home to Canada ASAP!

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The most Australian sign 

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Private Schools vs. Public Schools

It feels like a lifetime since the last time I wrote a blog post! In the past three weeks, Danielle and I have seen the Sydney Opera House, drove Great Ocean Road, watched the AFL grand finale, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and walked the shores of the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Australia is really starting to steal a special place in my heart! Now, we are back from all our adventures, and well into our second placement. This term, Brianne, Danielle and I have been placed at Earnshaw State College in the suburb of Banyo. The school is a public Prep to Twelve co-ed school, split by the Jr. Campus and the Sr. Campus. The school has been overwhelmingly welcoming and supportive of us during our time here, and we cannot wait to continue exploring the school and all it has to offer.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Observing the classrooms and culture at Earnshaw, I have been surprised at the similarities and differences that exist between public and private education in Queensland. Before coming to Australia, I was under the impression that the quality of teaching would be much higher at St. Aidan’s than at Earnshaw, but throughout our observations I have come to realize that the differences between the school have nothing to do with the teaching quality, and everything to do with the schools resources. At St. Aidan’s the school is filled with interactive STEM spaces, each student in the secondary school has their own laptop, and there are a multitude of co-curricular activities and school trips that the students may participate in. Although I would argue that methods of teaching, classroom management and pedagogies were the same at both schools, there was a definite imbalance when it comes to student resources and supports.

What I have found most interesting about our time in the Australian education system is that even the teachers struggle to decide which system of education is best for their children. The private school teachers had students in public schools, and the public-school teachers had students in private schools. There is a definite stereotype in Australia that a private education is a better education. This stereotype runs so deep that even teachers within the public system do not believe that the work they are doing is good enough for their own children. Personally, I always have and always will be a strong advocate for public education. I have always struggled to understand why Canadian parents would spend so much money on a private education, when our public-school system is so highly regarded. Coming to Australia, I thought my perception of private schools would change, as I would be amazed by the quality of education they are producing. After visiting both a public and a private school in Australia I do not believe this is the case. Both school systems are committed to ensuring that their students are receiving the best education that they can supply, and I would argue that both are succeeding.

 Moving forward with this placement, I am hopeful that I will continue to be amazed by the quality of education offered at Earnshaw. So far, our experience has been extremely rewarding, and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store!

 

Kennedy

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#3: New Cultures & Experiences

The past two weeks have been very busy for us girls in Perth! Since the students here were on Spring break, we took the opportunity to head to Bali for a week. Some highlights of the trip were visiting Hindu temples, hiking a volcano at 3:45am to catch the sunrise, and being attacked by a monkey!! Thank goodness it only scratched me… I only had to get a tetanus and rabies vaccine. I’d definitely love to go back to Indonesia one day!

Once we got back to Perth, we had one day of rest, and then we headed off to Kalgoorlie (a small mining town located 6.5 hours east of Perth… basically the Fort Mac of Western Australia). We opted to rent a car so MacKenzi and I experienced driving on the left side of the road in a right-side drive car for the first time! It was a bit stressful to begin with and I accidentally kept flicking the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal (they are opposite of ours). Thankfully it didn’t take too long to get used to it.

The schools we visited in Kalgoorlie have definitely been my favourite school experiences by far during this TAB program. The first was a School of the Air base, which you can read more about in Nicole and Sheila’s posts! The other school was an Indigenous centred school. The deputy principal explained that they focus on creating strong relationships with the students and their families to help the students succeed. The programs and supports they had at this school were really amazing. They have a speech pathologist and OT that come in a couple times a semester to diagnose and create programs for the students who need it. Then they have a teacher at the school who takes those programs and makes sure they are being implemented and utilized, and works with those students. They have a breakfast program for all the students, as well as a room with extra clothes and shoes for students to just take from if they need it. They also started gaining funding for students to enroll in after school sports programs, to give students more opportunities as well as to socialize with other students in the communities. The deputy principal herself drives some of the students to and from sports practices. We were fortunate enough to sit in on a language class where the students were learning different Indigenous languages. Two Elders had agreed to help run this program once a week, and the students all seemed very engaged and excited to learn more about their culture.

The past two weeks have definitely been the busiest and most exciting weeks we have had here, but I am excited for the next 3 weeks because will be in the same school for the duration. I’m hoping this will give us time to connect with the students and teachers, as well as get a better idea of their day-to-day routines.

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The four of us at a Temple in Bali

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From Perth to Kalgoorlie!

After a quick two-week spring break in Perth and getting the chance to visit Bali (which was so great btw! The views were nice and the weather was warm, reminding me a lot of being back in The Philippines where my family is from), we had the opportunity to drive out east of Perth to Kalgoorlie.

Kalgoorlie is a small town and something completely different than what I am used to. It is a six-hour drive to get to, and when you’re in town, it only takes about 10-15 minutes to drive across it. While here, we had the chance to visit a few different schools. The first school we visited was Kalgoorlie School of the Air, a school that allows for students from different parts of Western Australia to attend, all while staying in the comfort of their own homes. A lot of the students that attend are from remote areas, therefore making it extremely hard to complete an education in person without having to leave their families. I found that the School of the Air seemed similar to home schooling, though they still receive support and materials from teachers at the school. Materials are sent out every two weeks or by term, depending on the age group, and there are daily sessions similar to our Adobe connect sessions we are using in our online classes.

Below is a picture of the set up for the online sessions teachers have with their students at Kalgoorlie School of the Air.

Another school we were able to visit was O’Connor Primary and though we were only here for a very short while, I learned that the school was named after the man who designed a pipeline that brings fresh water from Perth all the way to remote locations far away such as Kalgoorlie. Throughout our long drive, we kept noticing this pipeline above ground that kept following the road, and to our surprise, it was bringing water over 600km away!

The last school that we were able to visit was East Kalgoorlie Primary, a very small school that consists of almost all Indigenous students. It was an interesting experience to see a setting in which Aboriginal students were the majority and the practices that are put in place to help the students succeed. It was nice to see some of the methods talked about in our Indigenous Education class used in the classrooms at this school.

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Switching Schools in Brisbane

Back to School!

Well we’ve just had Spring Break (called Term Break here) in Queensland, Australia. We’re pretty lucky because it gave us all the chance to jet off and explore a bit of Australia! I took off first to Melbourne and got to take in sights such as the Great Ocean Road. It was a beautiful drive all along the coast, worth seeing! Following that I was over in Sydney to see the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach. It was so fun to see such iconic sights in person! To finish up the break, I went up the coast to a little sleepy town called Noosa, it’s a place I would say is similar to Canmore, only instead of mountains it has beautiful beaches! I was able to cross off a bucket list item as I tried surfing for the first time and I was able to get up on my board and surf in to the beach! I think I’m hooked on the sport which may be problematic living in Alberta.

As I said, though, school break is over and we’re back in classrooms here. For the next four weeks I’ll be with Melissa at St. Aidans’s Anglican Girls School. Today was our first day and we both had exceptional experiences! With our last school (which we also both thoroughly enjoyed) we had the opportunity to move around to different classes throughout the day and see a variety of different grade levels, teaching styles and subjects. This school we’ve each been paired with our own teacher for our whole stay. I’m looking forward to this as my partner teacher is fantastic and I’m enjoying getting to know the kids. My hope is to have all the names down by my third full day! I’m in a grade one class and it’s really different being in an all girls school. You can definitely feel there is a calmer energy about the place as well. I already got to spend some time today working with smaller groups on their spelling and grammar and circling the class to help with various assignments throughout the day.

I really enjoyed how their library time was spent. They had a few minutes to sign out some books and then they were lead through a 5 minute meditation of sorts to calm what they called their ‘monkey brain’. Monkey brain is where you have so much on the go that you’re thinking about a million things at once; I’m sure we all can relate! After their meditation they were given a full 20 minutes to read their books in silence and every single girl in the library was focused on their reading! It was really impressive; even the teachers got to enjoy quiet reading! I must say I loved my 20 minute reading break midday, my monkey brain appreciated it!

From there we jumped right into gym class and due to odd numbers I got to partake in the games with the girls. It was a really fun joining the girls but running around in humid 33 degree weather is something I am not used to! You might say us Canadian girls are starting to notice the heat, and we’ve been told it isn’t even hot yet!

All in all it was a fantastic day and I’m really looking forward to getting to know this classroom of girls as they’re absolute sweethearts to work with! We finished the day with story time and they were so excited about it that I think I get to read to them story at the end of every day for the rest of my visit. I must say I enjoy it almost as much as they do!

Time to cook up some dinner, we’re having Greek tonight! Also looks like we have a wicked thunder storm rolling in so should be an exciting evening!

Thank you for reading!

Carolyn

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Overcoming Distance in Kalgoorlie

Hi Readers,

This week I had the pleasure of visiting Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie is a small town of 30, 000 people located 600 km east of Perth, my first time visiting the Australian Outback. To get there we rented a vehicle and set out driving on the left side of the road. The drive was straight and flat with many kangaroos and emus who had met unfortunate ends on such a busy highway. The view was of low brush and shrubs mixed in with taller trees, all growing from red dirt.

The first school we visited was the School of the Air. This is a base station to connect students from K-6 who live in very remote areas of the Australian Outback to teachers and learning staff. Students receive term packages with all the resources they will need for that term, this includes novels, booklets, art supplies, math manipulatives, and even science equipment, the students then return the package along with their completed work at the end of the term. Every morning students ‘attend’ an online meeting that begins with the school’s catchy and official song. Students and teachers interact through microphones and by digitally raising their hands to indicate they would like to speak. All comments conclude with a cheeky “over!”. Throughout the morning students attend lessons with their teachers, whether this be social studies or even music. The afternoon is spent working on assignments.

I was very curious about life for the students who live so remotely, I quickly learned how they create fun learning spaces and communities in their homes. Most students live at base camps, which are large farms, someone described them as similar to North American Ranches. The distances from Kalgoorlie range from 2 hours to over 14 hours away. Students often have school rooms located within their homes and wear school uniforms (a polo shirt) on the weekdays to help separate their home and school life. A live-in tutor, sometimes one of their parents, attend a week-long training session at the beginning of each term to learn how to support students and stay in contact with teachers. To build community students still participate in dress up days and attend camp. Camp happens at the end of the term where all students stay in dorms in Kalgoorlie and spend time interacting and learning with their peers and teachers. Teachers also spend week long visits at students’ homes where they check in and support learning as well as build relationships and start to understand each student's unique world. The School of the Air and it’s students have found the key to overcoming distance.

 

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Halfway Already!?

Hello from the other side!!

Well, our time here is flying by!! One school and three weeks down!! What a three weeks it has been! Where do I begin?! My first prac* was at a high achieving all-girls private school, with afocus on the Maths and Sciences. I was coming in to this school with limited experience. I had never been in single-sex schooling, nor do I claim to be an expert in the Maths and Sciences. Being as we were placed in the upper years, during their exam prep, much of our placement was observation. As a beginner teacher, I find myself, chomping at the bit wanting to teach every time I get into a classroom. However, I found having the opportunity to just sit and observe different teachers, styles, and students to be extremely beneficial.


As I could go on and on about my experience at St. Aidan’s I will give you the highlight reel instead...

  • Throughout the school, I was impressed with their ability to integrate multiple discipline together. We observed a Physics class that developed English skills and an Art class that considered Geography during their application, to name a few. Their ability to teach in an interdisciplinary fashion with such fluidity was something I had limited experience with.
  • The rollout of the new curriculum. Although we had limited opportunity to observe this curriculum in the classroom, it seemed as though they are approaching it largely through an inquiry-based model. In a discussion with one of the Maths teachers, she explained how students will be graded out of 20, but only 7 of those marks will be for the right answer. The other 13 will be for explaining ones thought process and giving alternative ways of achieving the outcome.
  • On a final note, classroom management seemed to be a thing of the past in this school. Not to say it was good, bad, or otherwise, but it seemed as if the students were given ownership of their own behaviour and if they chose not to pay attention that was their fault. Over the three weeks, this seemed to fluctuate in some classrooms but overall seemed to be relatively similar across most of the school.

 

 

Prac*  the term Australian teachers and preservice teacher use when referring to their practicum

 

Now for a Beyond the Classroom Update!

Well, you know what they say, When in Australia do as the Australians!! So, we tried the TimTam Slam! And just when I thought I couldn’t like those biscuits anymore!! It turns them into warm chocolate cake!! And if the cookies did not sell me on this country, I had the opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef and it was beyond beautiful. There is something about diving and being underwater that is both terrifying and beautiful at the same time. The reef reminded me of how small I am in this world and just why I love diving! Oh and hanging out with the sharks did not hurt either!! Next up, Vegemite and Surfing 

What am I looking forward to? 

In the weeks to come my parents are coming and we are road tripping the East Coast of Australia. It will be really nice to get away from the city and explore some of rural Australia. On this trip, we will have the opportunity to explore more about Indigenous peoples of Australia and their relationship to the land. So far it has been interesting to see the parallels one can draw between Canada and Australia, and Indigenous relations within each country.

 

 

Till Next Time,

Bri in Brissy! 

 

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Surfing the Waves of Inclusion!

G’day again mates! Today is a rainy day in Brisbane, so I’m using this opportunity to catch up on some homework, drink a few lattes, and reflect on my experiences in another blog post. The past week has been chockablock full of exploration: from the famous Sydney Opera House, to the gorgeous Blue Mountains, to the warm and wonderful Bondi and Byron Bay beaches! My favourite experience so far has definitely been last Thursday, when I got to toss out the shakas and catch some gnarly waves on a surfboard in Byron Bay! Sweet as!

I’ve finally figured out how to share pictures in my post, so here’s one of me hamming it up in the sunshine!

 

In my last post, I talked about mental health - this time around, I'm going to venture into a topic that's even closer to my heart: inclusive education!

In my first school placement in Brisbane (which is now unfortunately over!), I had the amazing opportunity to spend many mornings with a wonderful prep (kindergarten) teacher and her loving, intelligent, and adorable students. I was continually amazed by her patience and skillful implementation of differentiated, engaging, and meaningful learning experiences. As someone who hopes to teach early elementary in the future, I thoroughly enjoyed my mornings with the “preppies”! One student in particular stood out for me, though; to protect his identity, I’ll refer to him as Max. I first took notice of him when, at morning circle, the teacher asked him, “And who are you today?” I carried my curiousity about Max over all three weeks at Earnshaw, and, fortunately, everyone I encountered was equally as eager to discuss the situation with me. After some questioning, I found out that, alongside diagnoses of ASD and ADHD, he exhibits multiple personalities, all of which are well-developed and entirely separate from one another. His “bad” personality was called Max, but he also had many “good” personalities, such as Toad, Mario, and Tails.

Even more fascinating than my first experience with multiple personalities was the teacher’s handling of the issue. Though he clearly exhibited additional needs, he was never “othered”: she respectfully used the name of whichever personality he was exhibiting that day and never brought special attention to his behaviour. For example, one day when “Bad Max” was causing a disturbance in the classroom, she privately conferred with him, addressing him as Max, and invited him to “go have a look outside for Toad”. He was frustrated, but took her advice and went outside, running around the (fenced) schoolyard (still within eyesight). He came back into the classroom a few minutes later with a completely different expression and in a completely different voice announced, “I’ve found Toad!”, sat down at a table, and continued his work peacefully.

To say I was blown away by this teacher and student relationship is an understatement! It was incredibly meaningful for me to bear witness to the inclusive practices that made this prep class run smoothly, despite the diverse students with so many different needs, abilities, and personalities. I could really talk all day about the amazing inclusion I saw in many classes at Earnshaw, but I would be writing for pages! I am eager to see how large of a role inclusivity plays in my next placement at St Aidan’s, starting next week. For now, I’m looking forward to a few sunny days in Noosa, followed by a long-awaited trek to Melbourne before all the Brisbane girls are back together again!

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Indigenous Education in Australia

Hi everyone! It has almost been a month now since I have landed in Australia, and I can’t believe how fast time if flying by. Us Brisbane girls have now finished our first placements and are currently on spring break. I will now be enjoying some time south of Brisbane, visiting friends in both Sydney and Melbourne, and in a few weeks avoiding sharks in the Whitsundays. For the past month us Brisbane girls have been very busy becoming acquainted with our new city, visiting schools, attending QUT lectures and keeping up with our online classes, so it is nice to have some time to ourselves to explore this beautiful country!

Before we left on break, we had the chance to attend a meeting on Indigenous education at St. Aidan’s with their school Chaplain and Dean of Innovation and Engagement. Brianne, Danielle and I requested this meeting in order to gain some perspective on how Indigenous ways of knowing and learning are being introduced within Australian classrooms. As it turns out, the State of Queensland is miles ahead of Canada when it comes to integration of Indigenous culture and knowledge into their schools. Within Queensland including Indigenous perspectives is a cross-curricular priority. Indigenous ways of knowing must be integrated into each subject area, as mandated within the curriculum. Queensland schools are also working hard to organize staff PD’s on Indigenous education, and St. Aidan’s itself participates in an Indigenous learning circle with other school leaders and Indigenous elders.  

Although St. Aidan’s is very proud of the work they have done to pay respect to Australia’s Indigenous people, they also admit they still have a long way to go when it comes to supporting Indigenous populations. In our discussion, the Chaplain spoke of a student within the school who was of Indigenous heritage but did not wish to identify herself as an Indigenous at St. Aidan's. The Chaplain acknowledges that after this came to light, the school faced the harsh realization that it might not be an inviting environment for Indigenous students to feel respected and accepted. Moving forward, the Chaplain spoke that St. Aidan’s is committed to creating an environment where Indigenous education can flourish, and Indigenous success stories can be celebrated.

Both the Chaplain and the Dean of Innovation and Engagement agreed that Canada was a country Australia looked up to when it comes to Indigenous relations. It is very interesting as a Canadian to hear this, as I know Canada has a far from perfect relationship with its Indigenous people. Although we may have treaties, we don’t have comprehensive educational programs aimed at educating Canadians on Indigenous ways of knowing that span all curricular areas. I do believe that there is a lot that both Canada and Australia can learn from each other when it comes to Indigenous education.

I am looking forward to beginning my next placement within the Queensland public school system. Hopefully I can gain some more insight into the curricular aims of Indigenous education, and how schools across the State of Queensland are integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning within their classrooms!

 

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Mid-term Reflection

So, I have about reached the half-way point of my trip thus far and what a whirlwind it has been! My time spent at St. Aidan’s school was something that I will always treasure, and I have learned a tremendous amount from both students and teachers. One of the most significant teaching experiences I will take away from St. Aidan’s was from the Religious Values class in which the year eights were participating in a community outreach program. The group of girls I was assigned to were going to a nearby school called Milpera.

Milpera is an entry school for new immigrants and refugee students who do not yet reach English proficiency. I, and three year eight students went to a beginner class that held a various age of students, with one who just emigrated from Syria the day before. All students spoke at a very low level of English, many could speak some English but struggled with reading and writing. It was very interesting to observe the St. Aidan’s students work one-on-one with the Milpera students and at times I found that the girls struggled relating to students who were older than themselves. Nevertheless, the girls seemed more than enthused about getting to know the Milpera students in which they asked them several questions about themselves while attempting to help them practice their English. At the end of the class, the Milpera students had the chance to ask the St. Aidan’s girls questions about their schooling, what their favorite sports are, what they do in their spare time etc. I anticipate that the St. Aidan’s girls will develop strong relationships with the students of Milpera and aid them in their transition into the Australian Educational System. As well, I hope that the students of St. Aidan’s develop a greater appreciation for their own privileges.

Lucky for me, the mid-term break does not just apply to my students! I have since traveled to Sydney and I am currently in Melbourne! Next up, the Whitsundays! I am looking forward to the other half of my time here, starting at Earnshaw State College after the mid-term break!

  

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