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Final Reflection Part 1

As I write this, I have already finished the Teaching Across Borders program in Brisbane, and have arrived home. I fell behind with my blog, due to the busyness of finding a balance between work at St. Aidan’s, finishing final assignments, and trying to fit in as much sightseeing around Brisbane and then Sydney, before having to head back to Canada. Now that I am settled back in Calgary, I am going reflect back on my time at St. Aidan’s School and everything that Lauren and I got up to in Brisbane since I wrote last, and my next post will be a final reflection of the whole experience.

When I last wrote, we had just begun working at St. Aidan’s Anglican Girl’s School, and after spending a few more weeks at the school, I really can’t say enough good things about it. The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and genuinely wanted to know about Lauren and I, where we came from, and about our teaching program at the University of Calgary. We were each given a timetable and spent Mondays, Tuesdays, and a few Wednesdays between a few different classrooms. I found that in all classes I worked in, the teachers were happy to have me there, and made an effort discuss their teaching strategies, or to discuss aspects of the Australian curriculum with me that I wouldn’t have been familiar with. The girls were so lovely, and I loved to see how eager they were to be there and to learn. Similar to the staff, the girls were very curious about Canada and what our lives were like back home, and on a few occasions, I would be asked to say certain words which often resulted in a number of giggles because of my funny “accent”. I spent some afternoons in a Year 3 class while they did Geography, and had a lot of fun talking about Canada in comparison to Australia and answering their many creative questions. In the Year 2 class I was in, they were learning about stereotypes, so I was able to briefly talk about some of the misconceptions that people have about Canada and Canadians.

Often times I was amazed by the type of work I saw the students doing, particularly in the younger grades, as it was very academically focused and what I would consider to be a lot of high quality work given their age. Not to say that this isn’t also the case in schools back home, but what was different, was that I didn’t really observe any play-based learning, inquiry, or constructivism, which are really being pushed in the Canadian system. I realize that I’ve only been to two Australian schools, so I can’t say that this is the case across the nation, and maybe this was just the case at this point of the school year, but I definitely found that while I was there, for the most part, the pedagogical strategy was comparable to traditional styles of teaching.

The main differences that I noticed about the system in Australia compared to that in Canada had to do with curriculum, testing, and assessment. In Canada, the curriculum is provincially developed, whereas in Australia, they have a national curriculum that each school in the country teaches to. Each year in Australia, students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 write the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy) test, which is like the PAT here. What is different though, is that the results of these tests are published and then compared against similar schools all across the country, for educators and parents to look at on a site called “My School”. I’ve learned, that this can mean schools become competitive with each other, and the focus can sometimes gear towards achieving certain results in the data, and therefore “teaching to the test”, instead of focusing on the individual learners within each classroom and their specific learning needs. This would especially be the case in independent schools, like St. Aidan’s, where tuition isn’t cheap, and parents push to see the results that they want, given that they are paying so much money. The “My School” website says itself, that its aim “is to provide information that will support and drive improvement across the nation”, and “provide parents with information to make informed decisions about their child’s education”, and while these may be good intentions, I can see how this may become counterproductive.

In relation to this, because there is a focus on results, there is also a real focus on assessment, and on what is expected of the students. In each class, I noticed that students would be given an assessment breakdown of what was expected, as well as a checklist of what would need to be completed within the task, and what the teachers were looking for when grading. Back home in Canada, while assessment is definitely a key part of teaching, I’ve found that it isn’t as explicit, and it isn’t always the main focus of all tasks. One teacher at St. Aidan’s explained to me that because of this, she finds that some students become really anxious about their schoolwork, and stress about doing well and achieving the desired results. Not to say that student’s shouldn’t want to do well, but at this age especially, it saddens me to think of the pressure that some must be putting on themselves, when school shouldn’t always be focused on the academic content, but on the learning process itself and the development of skills beyond the academic realm, or sometimes, it’s all about just having some fun!

With all of this said, the teachers at St. Aidan’s were fantastic, and I saw a lot of great work within the wonderfully resourced classrooms. The girls were hard workers, seemed to get along well, and appeared to love being at school. It was definitely interesting though to make these observations and compare what I was seeing to what I know about school in Canada, or more specifically, in Alberta. Below are some photos from the beautiful St. Aidan's!

In between our days at St. Aidan's and working on our own coursework, Lauren and I had many opportunities to explore Brisbane and play tourist. We spent an afternoon at both the Queensland Science Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery, which was fantastic! I could have spent hours wandering the exhibits and checking out the unique artwork. We also had the opportunity to visit Stradbroke Island for the day with the International Students Association from QUT. It was a little bit disappointing at first because it did not stop raining, but it ended up being a lot of fun and the whale and kangaroo sightings were an absolute the highlight. We also got to experience an Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks rugby game, which was an experience to say the least - especially for me who had never seen a rugby game! The atmosphere was super fun and top it off, it was apparently a great game to see, because the Wallabies won against the All Blacks for the first time in years!

I have really enjoyed my experience in Brisbane between working at the two schools and sightseeing, and I can't believe that 10 weeks has already come and gone!

Here are some photos from my final days around Brisbane (otherwise known as Brissie or BrisVegas as I've come to learn)!

The Old Brisbane Treasury Building

King George Square 

The Queensland Art Gallery

Stradbroke Island

Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks

Exploring Brisbane City 

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Home time!

Hi everyone, this post is coming at you from 11887 m high! I am currently on hour 6 of my long journey home, not even halfway through and already bored…. Luckily for me, this 14 hour plane ride from Brisbane to Vancouver is very empty so I have a full row to myself! This experience has really been incredible and I don’t really know how to put my thoughts into words to be honest, but I will give it my best shot! Firstly, I think I will speak to my professional gain because that seems the most obvious. As I said many times before I began this program and continuously throughout, the professional gain was a huge influence as to why I chose to do TAB. Always having the intention of teaching overseas one day this program was very appealing to me from the get go. I now have the extra experience to not only put on my resume and into my portfolio, but also in life. Having that extra 120 hours (approximately) of experience really speaks for itself. I am now going back with confidence in the classroom ready to take on this practicum with everything I got!

Leading from this, I will now speak to my personal gain. On a personal level, I really can’t use enough adjectives to describe how my experience has been. I have grown into not only a much more confident teacher but also person. I moved away from home at 17 to live in Victoria to go to the University of Victoria, so I have always had that spark for adventure in me but it is now well and truly alight. Although I did move away, I have always been quite dependent. Not necessarily only my parents but more so on my friends as well when I got older. I never really enjoy being by myself or doing new challenges first. Yes, this is still somewhat true but I really feel like I have grown more into a truly independent person. I have very much always been a people pleaser. I have found that being so independent has allowed me to flourish into someone who has an opinion and who is not afraid to share that opinion. I think that being away from home for 3 months and doing lots of solo travelling really adds to someone’s character; and I think that it has only added positive attributes to mine.

Lastly, I speak to you future TAB student. If you are reading this, meaning that you are interested in this program, I have two words for you: DO IT. As I said before, it is really hard to put thoughts into words when thinking about my time over the past 3 months. I tried my best in this post, and it took me a while on my 14 hour flight home from down under. Irrespective of the professional and personal gain, it is truly a wonderful program to be a part of. I got the opportunity to do many things that I haven’t done before and see places I have never been before. Yes, teaching is primarily why someone is interested in this program but it is so much more than that. If you are given the opportunity to go, go and don’t hesitate; you will not be disappointed.

Well folks, the big finale. I have really enjoyed writing these posts and hope that someone has appreciated reading them! Thank you to my family and friends back home for being so supportive while I have been away. Thank you to Kelsey for being my own personal photographer and soul sister in Australia. To my fellow TAB 2017 students, thank you for being on this epic journey with me! I will leave you once and for all with some pictures of my adventures these past few weeks (I had the best day at the zoo and at the rugby game)! Over and out. 

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2 weeks to go!!!

Well, 2 weeks to go. Unbelievable. The past few weeks since my last post have been busy with our online classes as well as our placement here in Brisbane. It is so crazy that last time I wrote it was 4 weeks until I flew home, which seemed like quite a while. Now it seems like I’ve closed my eyes and I am flying home in 2 weeks. The weather here is getting very wet and although it is nice to get some relief from the constant (almost unbearable) heat, I need to work on my tan before I come home and rain is not going to help!! I am hoping for some last minute sunshine next week to help me.

Kelsey and I have been spending time at a school called St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School. It is an all girls school, which I have never seen before, so it has been an interesting experience. Compared to our previous school, I find that we are more useful here. ALL classrooms have a back room that is used for small group work, which is where I have been spending most of my time, helping particular groups in their rotations. I have been helping with Grade 1 English and Grade 5 math to name a few. One day last week, I was lucky enough to be in a Grade 6 English classroom where the students (and me) got to watch Zootopia! It was awesome. During the movie, the teacher shared with me all the projects that she intends to do with this movie and it was great to see! They will be creating their own podcast in groups as the final project. I have also been spending a great amount of time in a Grade 5 classroom while they are learning about Bushfires. I have had to learn lots about Australian Bushfires to help these students as they are writing a narrative about it! I have had to be quick on my feet and infer information from the novel they are reading but it has been great! The students love working with me and think it is hilarious when I have to ask them what common words in their vocabulary mean, and are really dedicated and willing to ask me for help when they need it. It is toward the end of the school year for the students here in Australia so they all understand their expectations and are getting ready for the intensity of the following year, or Secondary school. The staff at this school has been so accommodating and are overjoyed to have an extra set of hands in the classroom. The school is smaller than our previous one so the staff room is more intimate and all teachers have made an effort to introduce themselves to us and ask what we are doing. One teacher is visiting Canada in December and has been picking our brains about her preparations for her trip (for example, what clothes to bring). It has been great! The girls who attend the school are lovely as well. It is not overly obvious that they are high SES girls. Yes, many of them sport Apple watches and a few talk about how they got ponies for their birthday or own a bakery, but overall they are lovely girls who are eager to learn. I really love being at this school and it is opening my eyes at the different types of schools. As someone who attended public school my whole school career (minus one year), I am a huge advocate for public school. However, seeing this private school is showing me that there is a difference. All of the classes at St. Aidan’s have 16-18 girls, whereas I grew up with 25+ students in my class. I have no complaints, as I had an excellent education at a public school, but I think that had a lot to do with my work ethic and dedication to succeed. I think that private schools have a lot going for them, and lots of times you get what you pay for and I think you do at St. Aidan’s.

As for our adventures for the past few weeks, Kelsey and I have been doing some local exploring around Brisbane. We have been to a few museums as well as visited Stradbroke Island with other international students at QUT! Stradbroke, or Straddie as the locals call it, was incredible. We were both quite disappointed as it literally rained ALL DAY. However, on our walk around Stradbroke Island, through the rain, we were looking out into the ocean appreciating the sights and we saw whales!! It was incredible. Kelsey and I were in awe and stood and watched the ocean for 15 minutes while getting soaked. When we finally moved on along our walk, we saw a family of wild kangaroos cross our path in front of us. Overall, this day was one that I will definitely remember as a highlight from the past 3 months. Tomorrow we are going to see a rugby game, New Zealand All Blacks vs. Australian Wallabies and I am SO excited. I purchased these tickets back in June when they went on sale and have been looking forward to it since then. I love watching sports and follow international Rugby from back home so to be able to experience this event will be a great life moment for me. As far as rugby goes, this event is pinnacle for any rugby fan. It is on my bucket list to see the All Blacks perform the Hakka in real life, and I will see that tomorrow!!

Well that’s it for now! In the next few weeks we have 4 more days at St. Aidan’s, a QUT conference, I am going to visit the Australia zoo and then we leave so it will be a busy time! I will leave you with some pictures of the past few weeks! The next time I write I will be on my way home or already home! Crazy how time flies. 

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End of September Update

Hello again!

I have less than four weeks left here in Australia, and I know I’ve said it before...but I really can’t believe how fast the time has gone by!

Since my last post, Lauren and I spent a few days of our Spring Holiday on the Whitsunday Coast, where we got to visit the infamous Whitehaven Beach – the top rated beach in Australia – as well as Hamilton Island. We also went on a sea kayaking & snorkeling tour, and I made my way to Conway National Park to go on my first hike here in Australia!

We spent the remainder of our holidays here in Brisbane, taking in the Riverfire Festival firework show, and exploring the Botanical Gardens.

The week following holidays was our final week at Saints Peter and Paul’s School before starting our placement at Saint Aidan’s Anglican Girls School on October 9th. The students and staff at Saints Peter and Paul’s exceeded any expectations that we had, and our time there was definitely a valuable learning experience. While neither Lauren nor I took on any direct teaching or lesson planning (with the exception of one lesson that I was asked to “lead”), we were able to spend our time working with smaller groups of children who needed additional support in the various classrooms that we were placed in. I found that each teacher I was with was more than willing to share their knowledge, and would often stop to explain something about the curriculum, their teaching strategy, or a specific aspect of a lesson with me. The Year 6 teacher was even so kind as to put together an entire folder of resources for both Lauren and me to take home as a parting gift. Overall, we really enjoyed our time at Saints Peter and Paul’s, and we are now looking forward to the next few weeks we get to spend at Saint Aidan’s!

Saints Peter and Paul's Catholic School

Last week, we returned to QUT after being asked to speak about the University of Calgary, Teaching Across Borders, and other general info about our city with Bachelor of Education students who are interested in applying to a program that would bring them to Canada for three weeks in January. The eight accepted participants will spend these weeks at UofC (taking a block week course with the rest of us), visiting Calgary schools, and taking part in a program out in Kananaskis.

Following our presentation, we then had the opportunity to sit in on a class and take part in the discussion surrounding ‘Indigenous Education in Australia’, which I found quite interesting, considering we are also currently taking an ‘Indigenous Education’ course as part of our online studies through UofC. I found many of the critical thinking strategies discussed (though talked about in Australian context) valuable and I know that I will be able to apply these skills to the Canadian context when it comes to sourcing out authentic and valuable materials to use within my future classrooms.  

Lauren and I have now only spent two days at our new placement, Saint Aidan’s Anglican Girls School, so my plan is to write an update on this in my next blog once I have a better idea of what the school is like and when I have more to share. So far, both the staff and students have been overly friendly and welcoming, and I've noticed that the girls are incredibly well-behaved and eager to learn. I look forward to spending more time there over the next few weeks.

So until my next update, here is a collection of photos from my latest adventures in this amazing part of the world!

Whitehaven Beach 

Exploring Hamilton Island

Mount Rooper in Conway National Park

Riverfire Festival

Brisbane Botanic Gardens

 

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Halfway through my time is Brisbane!

Well, we are officially half way through our time here in Australia! I can’t believe it! It has been an amazing adventure so far and I am so excited to see what the next few weeks have in store! It is basically 4 weeks until I fly home and I just know that is going to fly by faster than the past 4 weeks have! Since I last wrote, Kelsey and I got the opportunity to visit the Whitsundays, complete our last week at the school we have been at since we started here, and do a presentation at QUT as well as attend a lecture!

Firstly, the weather here is amazing. It is slowly getting hotter and I cannot even imagine what it is like here in the height of summer (December-March). It must be unbearable because even now, in October, I have a layer of sweat on my face as soon as I leave our apartment. When we visited North Queensland and went to the Whitsunday islands during the spring holidays, it was even hotter up there! The Whitsundays were amazing; the bluest waters, the whitest sandy beaches and the most luscious green trees. The colours there were incredible and it was definitely a place that I will never forget. Kelsey and I had the opportunity to visit the beaches, meet some locals, visit the famous Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island, and go sea kayaking. Whitehaven beach’s sand is 98% silicon so no matter how long it is in the sun, it will never get too hot; it also squeaked a little when you walked on it and was the whitest sand I have ever seen. We also got to wear the very fashionable 'stinger suit'. These skin tight, iconic, basically wet suits, we were required to wear to protect us from the deadly jellyfish that inhabit the North Queensland oceans. It was definitely an experience to be in the water along with these (and who knows what else...!) creatures! It was a spectacular experience to visit this amazing part of the world and one that I will never forget. After our few days in the beautiful Whitsundays we returned back to Brisbane to catch up on schoolwork and do some local exploring. We also had the opportunity to meet up with Tracy as she was in town and we walked around the Botanical Gardens and got to hear all about her experiences! We are all having such a wonderful time away; it truly has been amazing so far. The end of September marked the end of the Brisbane festival, meaning there was a firework display. 20 minutes of fireworks accompanied by music and good times was an amazing way to end spring holidays. 

Before the students and teachers went on their spring holidays and for one week after, Kelsey and I were volunteering at St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School. We completed 4 weeks of teaching there before starting at a new school next week. We had great experiences and got the opportunity to sit in and help on a number of classes ranging from Grade 6 religion to Grade 1 music to Grade 3 PE. One thing that has struck me as particularly surprising in the school system here is that the children have PE for 30 mins, once a week. This is very different than it is back home as the students are required to do PE if not every day but at least every other. It was a lovely school and the staff were so welcoming and accommodating. One teacher gave us both a booklet of literacy resources and it is going to be amazingly helpful in my future career! I have found that their typical school day is very similar to what it would look like at home. They arrive at 8:40am to start their day, at 10:40-11 they go for 'morning tea' (we would call it recess), at 1-1:50 they have lunch (allocating the first 10 minutes to only eating to ensure all students eat their lunch instead of just play!) and then they go home at 3pm. This sort of structure is one that is seen throughout most schools in Calgary. They have a 'no hat, no play' policy at all schools in Queensland as the sun is so hot and the lack of ozone layer makes in dangerous for everyone, especially young children. Even teachers are required to wear a hat while they are on supervision! The physical school structure itself though is very different. As opposed to having one big building where all classrooms and learning spaces are located like schools are in Calgary; this school, like many other schools in Australia, has different buildings. The climate here allows the students to have that separation between buildings as they can walk outside year round without freezing like we would at home! I am definitely sad to be finished at this school but had the most wonderful experience and I am looking forward to having new experiences in the coming weeks. Next week we will be helping at one of the most expensive schools to send children to in Queensland. Should be an interesting experience with lots of amazing resources available to the teachers! We are looking forward to it, so stay tuned! Below are some pictures of St. Peter and Paul's school! 

Lastly, since my previous post Kelsey and I were asked to do a presentation about the University of Calgary, Calgary, and the Education program for prospective students completing a similar Professional Experience placement in Calgary next January! It was not a great turn out, as lots of the interested students were out on practicum, but it was nice to get to share some information on our programs and schools. We left our emails along with the PowerPoint so hopefully we can stay in touch and meet up with the students when they arrive in Calgary next year! We also had the opportunity to attend an Indigenous Education tutorial, which was fascinating. They were just finishing up their unit but it was interesting to see the parallels between our online class that we are completing and their one. 

In the coming weeks we have lots of fun adventures planned! I am lucky enough to have gained not only an adventure buddy but also a new bestie in Kelsey and we have so many things left we want to do, time permitting! I will leave you on edge for my next post and leave it at that for now!

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First Weeks in Brisbane

Hello again from beautiful Brisbane!

I was just about to say that I can’t believe how fast time is going by, and then I looked at a calendar and realized that TODAY is the halfway point of my journey! It’s insane to think that 45 days has come and gone, and the next 45 will probably only go by just as fast, if not faster!

Since my last post, Lauren and I have become even more settled in our lovely little apartment. We’ve located the nearest grocery store, coffee shop, bus station, and there’s even a Target across the street…so we’re pretty much set!

The Sunday after we arrived, we looked online and realized that there was a weekend market going on at South Bank – which we’ve learned to be the cultural “hub” of Brisbane. You can find art galleries, markets, lush green spaces, various forms of entertainment, cafes, shops, bars, and there’s even a man-made lagoon to cool off on those warm days (but that seems to be everyday here)! Lucky for us, South Bank is only about 10 minutes from our apartment, which we didn’t realize beforehand, but we’re definitely glad it worked out that way. We ended up spending that whole first day browsing the markets and exploring all that South Bank has to offer.

We began our first week on Monday September 4th, and as I mentioned in my last post, started off with school tours and orientation. It went far better than expected! The QUT staff, as well as the teaching staff and students at both schools were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and they seemed excited to have us – which was a good sign!

Queensland University of Technology Kelvin Grove Campus

The first school where we have begun our volunteer teaching is at Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic. I’ve spent the most amount of time in Year 1 and Year 6, but they have also given us the opportunity to see a range of other classes and subjects. We even got to go on a field trip with Kindergarten (or “Prep” as they call it here)! 

My first impressions of Saints Peter and Paul’s is that the classrooms are incredibly similar to classrooms I’ve seen back home in Canada, in terms of the layout, resources, and learning materials, etc., and the teaching styles are also quite similar. Even though Australia and Canada are so alike in many aspects, I don’t think I anticipated there to be so much commonality in the schools. Of course there are some differences, like the fact that all students wear uniform, which is not as common back home, and the general layout of the school is not something that we would see in Canada either. Instead of there being one large building, the school is made up of many smaller buildings that can be accessed through outdoor corridors – which just wouldn’t be logical in a place where temperatures can drop to -30C! The school is located in a lovely suburb, and we've been told that it has a very high SES rating. I've noticed a significant amount of classroom support, educational resources, and extra-curricular opportunity. 

In terms of curriculum, there are some differences, but the overall learning outcomes that are set in place closely align with the educational goals that are set forth for students back home, and as I mentioned, the methods of teaching, as well as the behavioural management strategies are comparable. 

Though we may not be experiencing the same kind of culture shock or language barrier that some of our peers may be adjusting to, this experience has still been valuable to me in that it’s given me added opportunity to work with students, to observe different educators in their teaching environments, and to develop a clearer sense of who I am in the classroom and as a future teacher. I’ve had to think on my feet – more specifically when I was asked to lead a lesson with 10 minutes preparation (on a topic that I am totally unfamiliar with) and with a class whose names I only knew half of, and the overall experience has helped to raise my confidence in the classroom - though I still have a LOT to learn!

Last week we also had the opportunity to return to the QUT campus and meet with the Dean of Education, Assistant Dean of International Engagement, and the International Engagement Coordinator, who we had been in touch with prior to arriving. Our contacts at QUT have been so wonderfully accommodating and they always want to hear about how we are doing. During our meeting we basically spoke about the Teaching Across Borders program, our BEd program, what we hope to get out of this experience, suggestions for their own program that they are trying to start that will be similar to TAB, and our travel plans while in Australia. We have also agreed to return next month to speak to the students who are interested in coming to Calgary through QUT, to tell them more about what we are doing here, and what they can expect in our city. In addition, we’ve discussed the possibility of sitting in on some Education courses at QUT, which would be very interesting. 

We were only at Saints Peter and Paul’s for two weeks before Spring Holidays began, so this past week we have been able to enjoy some free time while also working on our online studies. Lauren and I have been able to spend a weekend on the Gold Coast, Melbourne, and just yesterday we made arrangements to visit the Whitsunday Islands next week – which we are very excited about! 

I think that's all of the updates I have to share at this point...so until next time, I'll leave you with some photos from my last few weeks here in "The Land Down Under"!

Exploring The South Melbourne Market

Downtown Melbourne

Brighton Beach Huts


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Brisbane Update!

Lauren here checking in from Brisbane, Australia! Well, for starters the weather here is absolutely beautiful. An average of about 26 degrees Celsius everyday accompanied with sunshine and gradually increasing the longer we stay. After completing two weeks of volunteering in the schools I am finally starting to feel comfortable in our new temporary home and in the schools. Our apartment is so beautiful and in such a great location.

We started our volunteering our first week in Brisbane and have continued since. We are lucky enough to be on ‘spring holidays’ at the moment as the school term ended but we are currently looking at attending some classes at the Queensland University of Technology to see what sort of things they are learning about at the moment to fill the next few weeks as well as maybe doing some local exploring. We met with our liaison and the Dean of Education of QUT a few days ago for tea to discuss opportunities for us to build relationships in Australia. They were both so lovely and it was nice to start to discuss building those connections.

The school we are placed in at the moment is a great school located in a very high SES area so there are no serious behavioural needs within the classrooms. The children have just finished their 3rd term so this past week they were wrapping up what they had been learning before they have their holidays! In two weeks they start their final term of the school year before going on summer holidays in November. The only really noticeable difference in the school system I have found is obviously the flipped school year. The kids cannot seem to wrap their head around the fact that at home the school year starts in September, not February. Kelsey and I were lucky enough to be able to go to Sea World on an excursion with the prep (kindergarten) students last week. It was certainly a great experience! We arrived in the morning to find that two of the parent volunteers had backed out earlier that morning so they were so thankful to have us there to help. The teachers/parent volunteers were responsible for carrying the student’s lunch and waters etc. as well as obviously supervising the children and ensuring they did not go off wandering!

Overall I have spent the majority of my time in a Grade 1 class and have loved it. The teacher is more than willing to share her resources and answer all my questions as well as let me do some small group work with some students that require extra help. I am finding that the Grade 1 class is very heavily focused on academics other than play. I have seen next to no play-based learning and I am not sure if it is just because it was the end of term or whether it just is not present in the classrooms. Will keep you updated when we start back up again in a few weeks! I think it is important to track these sort of patterns as these ideas of inquiry and play based learning are very much drilled into us pre-service teachers in Canada and I am not sure if it is instilled in teachers in Australia. We will have to see in a few weeks!

I think that compared to other TABers our experience down under is comparably different. With English not being the main avenue for teaching, it has allowed us to open up to more subjects than just English as a second language. For example: I was able to sit in on a religion class in grade 1 and having not attending Catholic or a religious school at all throughout my education, it was so interesting. The teacher was very persistent on telling the students that these stories are not necessarily true, but the general idea is what they should focus on. The students were learning about Noah and his story and some of the ideas about creation they were saying were, I felt, truly insightful for their age. It has been, and will continue to be, an amazing experience and I am so excited about what the next weeks have in store.  I will leave you with some pictures of my adventures from the past couple of weeks! 

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I’ve been away from home for about three weeks now (travelling around Bali and then visiting family in Sydney), but just yesterday Lauren and I arrived in Brisbane and have been settling into our apartment! In the morning, we will begin our TAB journey with an orientation at our partner institution, Queensland University of Technology. Our liaisons have been wonderfully accommodating and have planned for two days of activities before we actually begin our work in the schools. Tomorrow we will tour the QUT campus, pick up our transit passes, meet with some of the Bachelor of Education staff and have the opportunity to observe a few classes, and go over some of our work experience responsibilities and expectations. On Tuesday, a QUT staff member will pick Lauren and I up from our place, and then take us to the two schools that we have been placed in, which are Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic School & St. Aiden’s Anglican Girl’s School. This will give us the opportunity to meet the teaching staff and administration, tour the schools, and once again go over the expectations and finalize our schedules.

This experience has been in the works for quite some time! From the early stages of attending the University of Calgary’s annual Teaching Across Borders Showcase last November, giving us the chance to hear about the experiences of past participants, to the application workshops, actual application process, group interviews, waiting period for acceptance/placement emails, pre-departure & safety workshops, and then having to get in contact with our liaisons abroad, and make transportation/living arrangements, etc., there has been no shortage of opportunity to reflect on what my goals and aspirations will be as I embark on my adventure with the TAB program.

On a personal note, I am simply looking forward to bringing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am a firm believer that the greatest area for personal growth is away from what an individual is familiar and comfortable with, and though this can be daunting, it is also exciting! By moving to Australia, not only will I be living in an unfamiliar city and leaving behind my family, friends, and usual daily routine, but this will also be the first time that I have ever lived away from home, possibly making the experience a little more challenging for me. With this said, I look forward to being more independent and learning more about myself in the process. I plan on entering TAB with an open-mind and very few expectations, so that I can make the most of the experience and take in each day as it comes.

Though Australia may be similar to Canada in multiple ways, it is also very different, and it is a culture that I am interested to learn more about. I have made my way "Down Under" to visit once before, and though I have not yet been to Brisbane, it is a place that I can see myself enjoying very much. Given that I love to travel, I am keen to explore Brisbane and other areas of Australia, while also having the opportunity to add additional educational experience to my professional portfolio at the same time.

With that said, on a professional note, I know that any time spent in a school or classroom as a pre-service teacher is experience gained, and that this time has the capacity to be a great opportunity for learning. Over the next few months, I hope to develop a greater understanding of the various teaching styles and classroom management strategies through observation, first hand experience, and conversations with my partner teachers. I am also interested to see how the education system in Australia compares or contrasts with what I know about the Canadian system and what I am familiar with from previous practicums. Lastly, I hope to also develop a firmer sense of who I want to be as a future educator, and the kind of learning environment that I hope to one day establish. 

All in all, I hope to be a valuable member to the school communities that I will become a part of, and that my time in Australia will benefit the partner teachers, the students, and myself all the same. I am entering the program with an open mind and a willingness to do whatever I can to make this a well-rounded experience for all those who are involved, and I am open to trying new things, sharing my existing knowledge in certain subjects or of Canada and Canadian schools, and I am eager to learn as much as I can in order to make this a positive experience. I hope to make a lasting impression on the people I will come to meet and work with here in Brisbane, and that I will be an exceptional representative of Canada and the University of Calgary.

Overall, I am most excited to challenge myself, explore new surroundings, and learn new things about who I am as an individual and as a future teacher. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be on this adventure!

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Brisbane, here I come!

As I sit here in Sydney getting ready to leave for Brisbane and start my TAB adventure I am so excited. Kelsey and I just booked our flights to Brisbane for Saturday and we are so excited to get started with this amazing opportunity. Australia is so beautiful and I love Sydney so much. The "winter" here consists of 20 degree weather and sunshine, what more could you ask for! I just spent the last 2 weeks travelling around Fiji and it was spectacular but I am looking forward to settling into Brisbane and starting in the schools. I am both excited and nervous as I start this adventure as I want to get the most out of this experience as possible. The first few days in the school I think will be both full of introduction and intimidating but this is what makes it exciting. Starting something new in a new place is always nerve-wracking but I am excited to feel uncomfortable and be put out of my comfort zone as this will make me a more confident person and teacher. 

One of the most important aspects that I value out of this opportunity is getting the international experience. Having travelled and moved around extensively in my childhood and adolescence I have always wanted to teach internationally and participating in TAB will assist me in completing this goal in the future. I one day hope to teach in the UK as that is where I spent the majority of my childhood and I believe that having international experience in my education will help me astronomically.  

Having the opportunity to have 10 weeks to explore this country is making me SO excited. The main reason we are here is to teach and learn but the explorer and adventurer in me is so excited to explore a new place and be able to have new unique experiences. I aspire to take full advantage of this experience I have been granted and learn new methods in the classrooms and also learn new Australian ways and have Australian adventures. 

To conclude I have attached some pictures of Sydney as well as my travels in Fiji!! 

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