brisbane (51)

The One Where Rachel Cried

The final blog post, HELLO! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you, TAB for providing me with this opportunity.

Thank you, Nancy, Nathan and Tina.

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

My heart is full.

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The One Where No One's Ready

Hi again! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

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An ode to the land of sunshine

Hello again! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G’day and goodbye,

Nancy

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Back Home At Last!

It has been two days since I returned home, and it already feels as if my Teaching Across Borders experience was a lifetime ago. On the other hand, I am still very much sleep deprived and trying my best to combat the jetlag. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed about reorganizing my life, adjusting to a new routine, and starting to teach in a new school next week. That being said, I am excited to meet my Field III students. Grade 5 here I come!

I am very happy to be surrounded once again by my family and friends, and to resume my involvement in community and on-campus organizations. I am back in my element! Being away for two months has reaffirmed my appreciation for the city that I call home. As much as we complain about the weather in Calgary, I missed the brisk, dry, winter air, and watching the snow fall outside my window.

Now that my time in Australia has come to an end, I want to share lessons I have learned during my first trip outside of North America, and my first solo travelling experience.

The importance of building a community. It can be very isolating to be half way across the world. During my second month abroad, I started attending free fitness classes offered by Brisbane city, and met people while doing salsa, Zumba, and yoga. Another great way to immerse yourself in Australian culture, is to strike up a chat with a local at a coffee shop, a restaurant, or on a morning walk. Lastly, one of the most interesting parts of travelling is being able to connect with other tourists from all over the world. Specifically when staying in hostels or on sightseeing weekends, I was able to meet other travelers, hear their stories, and ask for travel advice. Don’t be afraid to exchange social media and reach out, most people are looking to make connections equally as much as you are. Remember you have plenty of people who care about you back home, and you are never as alone as you may feel during a difficult day. While you are here to explore and learn about a different culture and schooling system, make sure to maintain connections back home and to check in with your network regularly.

Getting comfortable being on your own. As much as you can build a temporary community for yourself in the span of two months, you will spend a lot of time on your own. The wonderful thing about being on your own is the ability to dictate your own schedule and make autonomous decisions. You can choose a day filled with new experiences and adventure, or a day filled with self-care and relaxation.

Taking advantage of being a student. In Australia in particular, nearly every business will offer a student discount called “concession” pricing, offering you substantial savings. Additionally, take advantage of the student mindset. Absorb all that you can from the teachers, as your sole purpose in the Australian schools is to learn new techniques and strategies that you can apply to your own future lessons! Ask as many questions as possible, and make an effort to visit a huge diversity of classrooms and school facilities.

Through TAB, I had the opportunity to experience the Australian school system and to become immersed in the culture, through observing lessons, working with small groups of students, and attending assemblies and school-wide events. I gained an appreciation for the nuanced similarities and differences to Canadian classrooms, and I was exposed to new ideas and approaches that I can use to supplement my ever-growing repertoire of resources and enrich my future teaching.

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Penultimate hello from Brisbane... sort of?

Hi again!

I’m sad to report that I'm writing this on my last full day in Brisbane (I say as if I didn't forget to submit this blog post before I left and as if I'm totally not sitting in my bedroom in Calgary... it's cold, send help).

In this blog post I'll be discussing my placement in the second school I was at, which is Queensland’s top girl’s private school (it’s unclear whether it's preferred I don't mention the name, so I’ll stray on the safe side and refrain from doing so). The school has approximately 1300 students from Years 7-12, all of which are assigned homegroups that they stay in until graduation. The core courses offered are similar to that of Earnshaw; however, this school has a wider range of options courses, clubs, and teams which can be directly attributed to the funding it receives through tuition. In my time here, I had the opportunity to be apart of a wide variety of math, music, and science courses. Nathan and I even got to help supervise two science field trips in our time here. The first was a Year 11 Biology ecological field study at a place called North Stradbroke Island. The methods used for the study (e.g. measuring pH of soil and water; N, P, K tests; environmental observations) were similar to what you would see in a Canadian science classroom, with really the difference being the adaption to Australian ecosystems (i.e. it taking place on a beautiful, sunny beach rather than a cold forest). One of the coolest things about getting to supervise this field trip is that I was learning along with the students! Together we got to tread through water to closely observe mangrove populations, and assess the differences in ecosystems between different areas on a beach. The next field trip was to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium with the Year 8 students. Here they got to explore the museum before watching a show put on in the planetarium. 

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Putting it simply, I had a wonderful time in my second placement here. Our coordinator at the school was beyond welcoming and provided us with many opportunities to be a part of the school environment. She set both Nathan and I up with school emails where we would receive daily updates, tickets to school events, and other notifications such as field trip invitations. This did wonders in regards to making me feel that I was a valued member of the school community.  The teachers in both the math and science departments welcomed me into their classrooms, invited me to their meetings, and said hello to me every time I’d see them on campus; it was very clear to me that this school emphasized relationship building. Many of the teachers I met told me that I was welcome to visit their classes whenever I liked! The biggest thing that surprised me was that there is still a noticeable gap between the top and lowest performers at the school. Classes are streamed into low, middle, and high performing sections; however, due to the selectivity process when admitting students, which I will discuss the significance of later, this gap is far less drastic than the one I saw at Earnshaw. Another huge difference here is that between the level of classes, the biggest behavioural challenge I witnessed (which was confirmed by every teacher I brought it up to) was that some days the girls could be quite chatty. Unsurprisingly, this was also huge shock to me because I feel that it's quite normal to find a diverse array of behavioural challenges in schools. 

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To summarize my experience at the second school I was in, I have to say that I was completely blown away by its commitment to providing an exceptional learning environment. It was not uncommon to hear about teachers who worked around the clock to ensure that the various clubs, activities, teams, etc., had the coverage they needed. This is not an anomaly by any stretch, but based off of my personal experiences a lot of teachers are understandably exhausted as a result. There is no denying that teaching is a career that requires a lot of work, sometimes to the point of teachers feeling burnt out; however, this was one of the first schools I’ve been to where this was not something that I observed. It could be that I didn’t spend enough time here to witness what I unfortunately feel is not uncommon in a school, but it was still something that stood out to me. 

In my next (and final) blog post I'll be discussing my final thoughts about my experience in Australia.

Until then,

Nancy

 

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Final School Placement

I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by! We only have two days left in the ever increasingly hot and humid Brisbane city. For our second school placement, Rachel and I have been at Earnshaw State College, which is located in the community of Banyo. Earnshaw is a K-12 with over 700 students, and it is the result of a merger between a local junior and senior school. In contrast to our last practicum, the students do not pay an annual tuition to attend, and consequently, the school has a significantly smaller operating budget. However, there are many more similarities than differences. For instance, the students wear uniforms, the children participate in sports such as swimming, rugby, touch, and skipping, and they are taught Japanese. The school schedule was the same, with each of the four periods being slightly over an hour in length, and including two lunches! The classrooms at Earnshaw are highly diverse, with many students who have learning needs and who are supported by Teaching Aids. Therefore, many of the classes had under 15 students to ensure that students received the necessary support.

On the last day at Earnshaw I got to attend a sports assembly. It was interesting hearing all of the sports that students participate in, which do not include those typically offered in Canadian schools, such as football, soccer, and basketball. All of the students have swimming lessons weekly in the school pool, and the Prep students are all better swimmers than me! I also got to hear the students sing the national anthem of Australia. I am so accustomed to the Canadian national anthem that I forgot that I did not know the words and couldn’t sing along!

I continued to learn about Australian history, sitting in on lessons about the gold rush, convict colonization, and Indigenous relations. There is also a heightened focus on lessons regarding literacy and numeracy. Throughout the week, I worked with many small groups on their reading comprehension and writing skills. Additionally, I taught a couple of lessons on time telling and multiplication. All in all, Australian schools are very similar to Canadian schools. We teach the same subjects, have similar curriculums, and have equally as diverse classrooms and students.

Last week, I was able to experience the process of voting abroad, casting my ballot for the Canadian federal election. If you need to cast a vote internationally, you can request a ballot on the elections Canada website. Amazingly, my ballot arrived within a few days. It includes instructions on how to seal your vote inside not one, not two, but three envelopes to ensure confidentiality! Then, I had to decide who to vote for. In Calgary, it is much easier to stay up to date on election issues. One of the parts of exchange that I did not anticipate, was the lack of Canadian news channels, Facebook posts, and social media ads. Even the search results on Google pull up Australian websites without clarification. Despite having to dig a little harder to do my research, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to vote and remain connected while living abroad. Additionally, I learned about the Australian electoral process from the teachers and administrators at QUT. It is mandatory by law for every citizen to vote, and if an individual does not comply, they may be subject to fees, and even jail time. Secondly, when they cast their ballot, they vote by ranking the potential elected officials, rather than selecting simply the best candidate.

We attended our final meeting at QUT and had the pleasure of meeting the eight students who will be travelling to Calgary for three weeks in January. They shared their excitement in experiencing “real” cold, trying to ski/snowboard, and attending a Battle of Alberta hockey game. The students in previous years have participated in UofC classes, and volunteered with the Calgary Stampede and Jubilee Auditorium School programs. Studying abroad has been a wonderful learning experience and I have too many memories to list. As my trip concludes, I am very excited to be reunited with my family and friends. It is time to catch up on all the fall festivities and embrace the sweater weather. Stay tuned for my final blog posts after I return!

 

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East Coast Adventures

We are officially halfway done our time in Australia. In some ways, the time has flown by, and it seems as if yesterday I was sitting at the same café sleep deprived after 48 hours of travel, but ready to embark on this adventure. On the contrary, I feel fully settled in and mostly adjusted to life in Australia. I can walk around the entire city center without getting lost, I can recommend my favorite eateries, and I know where to watch the best sunsets with views of the Story Bridge. As time slips away, I want to take advantage of every last second in Australia to take in as much as I possibly can. I need to constantly remind myself to take breaks, and to have slower days in order to recharge. It certainly is strange knowing that I may never be back in this amazing country and it makes every memory that much more special!

We have been on school holidays for the past 2-3 weeks, and it has been amazing getting to travel around Eastern Australia! The first three days of our holiday we headed on a 4x4 tour of Fraser Island with a group of 30+ fellow travellers. We camped on the island, hiked to several of the island’s freshwater lakes, floated down a river, climbed sand dunes, and swam in oceanic rock pools. We drove along the beach singing our favorite songs, and discovering some of Australia’s current hits. The song I have heard by far the most during our time abroad is “Dance Monkey" by Tonnes and I, a local artist. Above all, one of the highlights of our trip was getting to stargaze on the beach. I had never seen the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere, and we even saw a shooting star!3652940582?profile=RESIZE_710x

Immediately following our Fraser Island excursion, we spent a day in Noosa Heads and Noosa National Park, which was my favorite place thus far! We walked along the coast from the main beach to the Fairy Pools, two natural tidal pools which host colorful patches of coral and several species of fish, including “old wives” (Enoplosus armatus). The long, rocky trek was worth it, as we had a blast swimming in the Pools, sheltered from the crashing waves. On the coastal walk, we saw our first koala high up in the trees, and we spotted dolphins jumping and whales surfacing in the distance. We saw a huge diversity of flora and fauna, including kookaburras, tea trees, and gum trees. On the way back, we spent some time on the beach, a popular surfing spot, which was scattered with salps and cuttlefish bones. This trip was also my first experience staying in hostels, which reminded me of sleep-away camp. I enjoyed the communal living, and sharing travel experiences and recommendations with other tourists.

Upon returning to Brisbane, I immediately took off to Sydney for three days, which was my first attempt ever at solo travelling. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to dictate my itinerary each day, and it was a much needed break from being around people 24/7. However, I do love travelling with others, as you can share in the experience, and always look back on your memories together. Therefore, a short trip away was ideal for me. The first day, I did the Coogee to Bondi Beach Coastal Walk with my friend and a group of her Canadian classmates. The weather in Southern Australia is much cooler and less humid than in Brisbane, and while I did not go for a swim, the scenery was beautiful! The next day, I did ALL the stereotypical Australian tourist sightseeing. I took a million pictures of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and wandered around Circular Quay. On the last day, I took the ferry to Manly beach, where I visited Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected aquatic reserve, and saw numerous porcupine fish. I then returned to see “West Side Story” at the Opera House, which was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I stayed in an amazing hostel in “The Rocks,” one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sydney, which borders the harbour. The hostel was built to incorporate an archeological dig site, featuring artifacts and stories from Sydney’s earlier days. Finally, I capped off my trip by waking early to see the sunrise on the hostel’s rooftop terrace, flying back in time for RiverFire, an annual fireworks display over the harbour as the official finale to the Brisbane Festival, which occurs throughout September.

3652943032?profile=RESIZE_710xFor the second week of school holidays, I did sight-seeing in central Brisbane, and made an effort to become well acquainted with the city. We went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where we learned about local wildlife, and finally saw kangaroos! We also visited the Mt. Coot-tha Look-Out and the Botanical Gardens. I spent many 10+ hour days wandering around the various suburbs, shops, and city parks, travelling down the river in the free CityHopper ferries. I visited the Queensland Museum and Gallery of Modern Art, took a tour of the City Hall clock tower, rode the Wheel of Brisbane, and biked around the City Botanical Gardens. Additionally, I spent time shopping at Queen Street, walking Kangaroo Cliffs, swimming at Southbank, and visiting the night markets. In the evenings, I attended the free, outdoor yoga and Zumba classes in the city. It was a much needed way to wind down at the end of the day, and to find a community to be part of. Through all of this, I had numerous conversations with locals, and scouted out study spots with the best scenery.

Nancy and I organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for the education students at the Queensland University of Technology, who travelled abroad to Calgary last year. It proved very challenging, as staples such as frozen turkey and canned pumpkin are hard to come by. In Australia, “western pumpkins” are not sold, and traditionally, pumpkin is prepared solely as part of a savory dish. In the end, we managed to prepare sweet potato, garlic mash, Brussel sprouts, and stuffing, alongside store-bought cooked chicken, apple pie, and cranberry sauce, all without an oven! Needless to say, we will be eating leftovers for days.

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Note to self: don't pet the dingoes

How ya going? 

It's spring here in Australia and schools have been out for a few weeks now. A few days after we ended at our respective prac schools, we rented a car and drove north to Rainbow Beach for a 3-day tour of Fraser Island (where we also got to celebrate Rache’s birthday!!!). Fraser is a sand island with freshwater lakes in its centre, and is the home of what is believed to be Australia's only genetically pure dingoes. Due to their ability to mate with domestic dogs, purebred dingoes are protected on the island because of the high possibility of extinction. Our tour guide was as Aussie as they come and was exactly the type of person that you’d want around to scare off starving, scavenging pups who think that sandwich wraps are a luxury (shoutout to Aido). On the tour we got to drive Land Cruisers on the beach, climb a sand dune to watch the sunset, and stand on a cliff that overlooked an area where you could watch whales, turtles, and manta rays swimming around. I left Fraser feeling blessed to have experienced what I did, and was feeling optimistic about going back to the land of dogs that I could pet. 

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On our way home from Fraser we stopped in an incredible beach town called Noosa. We swam in an area called the Fairy Pools, where I’m happy to report that although I could clearly see fish swimming in the water, I still jumped in anyways (I have a hilarious and pathetically intense fear of fish). We were even lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins swimming in the ocean! As cheesy as it is, being next to the ocean in a beautiful beach town watching dolphins swim by was a truly magical experience.

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After Noosa, I took advantage of the time left in the break to not only squeeze in a few activities within Brisbane, but to also (somewhat excessively) indulge in my version of R&R (ie. napping, eating, watching Netflix, and listening to Frank Ocean). September 28 was Brisbane Day and to celebrate the occasion the city set off an incredible display of fireworks at an event called 'Riverfire,' which we got to watch up close with some of the new friends we made in Fraser Island. A few days after that we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where I got to pet/feed kangaroos, and hold a koala (!!!!). Finally, right before the end of our holidays we hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner for a few of the girls who travelled to Canada from QUT for their own TAB-like experience earlier this year. Making friends in a new city is something that I could not recommend more to anyone who plans on travelling in the future! Whether it be on an excursion where you're forced into close quarters together, or whether it be befriending your cashier at a local grocery store (we shamelessly did that), some of the best memories I've had in Australia have been with the new people we've met here.

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After a ton of amazing adventures, I'm feeling very ready to start being a productive member of society again. Tomorrow I'll be starting a new prac at one of the highest rated private schools in Queensland. The campus itself is unreal in its beauty and endless in its resources. Quite honestly, I would like to figure out why the private system is so huge here. While I would love to believe that the only difference between the private schools and the modest state schools is their access to resources, it would not be unrealistic to assume that there may be more to it than that. After all, it's not uncommon for parents here to invest upwards of $20,000/year in their child's education. So while I'm incredibly excited to further my pedagogical knowledge, I'm also really looking forward to learning more about the private school system, and have no doubts that I'll be granted another wonderful experience to share with you all! 

Until next time,

Nancy

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First School Placement!

Our first school placement is already at an end! We spent the past three weeks at a private, all-girls, Anglican school in the suburbs of Brisbane. The school and staff were very welcoming and excited to have us in their classrooms.

 I learned a lot about the nuanced differences in the Australian school system and day to day life in St. Aidan’s specifically.

  • The school day has two breaks, morning tea and lunch, which are both 20-30 minutes long. It is a great opportunity to connect with other teachers and for the students to come back into class refreshed and ready to focus again.
  • The school has a ton of support staff and awesome facilities, such as a technology lab, where students learn to code, construct robotics, and even engage with virtual reality!
  • Students eat their meals at the central tuck shop, where they can buy everything from Vegemite and toast to fresh sushi.
  • The girls participate in choir, band, and music classes, and are heavily immersed in the arts. The students are even pulled out of class regularly for individual music lessons for their respective instruments!
  • The schools in Australia teach languages such as Japanese and Chinese, due to Australia’s proximity to Asia. Additionally, St. Aidan’s participates in an exchange program annually, which sends its students to study in Japan, and in turn hosts Japanese students.
  • Both the public and private schools are laid out more like college campuses, as all of the classrooms open to the outdoors, and the gymnasium, theatre, and office are often located in different buildings. Due to the weather, the “hallways” and cafeterias are open to the outdoors.
  • Students participate in different sports, with skipping teams, swimming pools in each school, and they love playing handball at recess.

The students are equally curious about Canada - although they are convinced that we all sound like we are from the United States. They ask us questions about snow, the cold weather, winter sports, and Canadian wildlife. It has been a treat to discuss the contrasts between our schooling and everyday life with the students and staff alike.

We also learned about the state and private school split here in Australia. Admittance to private schools are highly sought after, and consequently, families often select their neighborhood and relocate in order to have their child enrolled in the best school. In many cases, international students will live with one of their parents in Brisbane, while the other parent continues to work abroad, simply to secure a spot at a highly ranked school. The families are highly involved at St. Aidan’s, with the principal interviewing each family before they are accepted to attend. The private schools are known for smaller class sizes, greater support for individual learning needs, and high university acceptance rates. Due to the student tuition and extra funding at private schools, the students are supported by many subject specialists, relief teachers, and educational assistants. The school even offers a paid internship for a current education student, who taught in our classroom once a week.

 In other news, I came down with a wicked cold/flu during my second week here, and it has been difficult being so sick away from home. Afterwards, I placed even more of an emphasis on getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising while abroad. It has been challenging balancing school work, volunteering in schools, and trying to take in the sights while in Australia. Therefore, I am very excited about our upcoming school holidays and the chance to explore Brisbane!

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Land Cruisin'

Hello again! Thank you to anyone that has stuck out reading these, especially if you’re in Calgary and braving the snow. Appreciate you.

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I am just over halfway through my time in Brisbane (okay, what?!) and I have a funny feeling the next few weeks are going to absolutely fly by! We were lucky enough to get some time off for Queensland “Term Break,” equivalent to Spring Break in Canada, but its back to reality and a teaching routine in a new school now. I am feeling so grateful to have had this break because although the teaching has been so insightful and rewarding, it has given us a chance to explore a little bit of Australia’s beautiful East Coast.

We first took off to Rainbow Beach, about three hours north of Brisbane to do a camping tour around Fraser Island. Fraser Island is famous for being the world’s largest sand island with freshwater lakes scattered throughout. If anyone knows Fraser please send me their way, I just have some questions. But in all seriousness, this trip was an absolute dream. We embarked on the morning of September 20th (which also happened to be my birthday, eek!) in four 4x4 Land Cruisers and onto a barge to take us on to the island. The first day consisted of Lake Mckenzie, one of the freshwater lakes on the island with what seemed like the whitest sand and clearest blue waters. Our tour guide, Ado, explained that the water in the lake is mostly rain water and the reason it stays so clear is due to the high acidity, making it unable to support any plant and animal life and having the only real pollutant be sunscreen from visitors. We moved on from Lake Mckenzie and drove down a 70 mile 3651260359?profile=RESIZE_710xstretch of beach to the campsite we called home for the next 3 days. The campground backed on to the most magical sand dunes where the group walked up and settled in to wait for the sun to go down. Watching the sun creep below the massive dunes was truly an outstanding experience in itself. The beginning of day two consisted of a trip to some small natural pools just off the ocean, named “Champagne Pools” due to the way they bubble when the waves crash over the rocks. The Champagne Pools are sheltered from the big waves, intense rip tides, scary poison jellies and sharks that make swimming in the ocean off of Fraser not recommended to tourists. Although there are some little fish and bits of coral that thrive in the pools, the swimming and beach made for some time exploring the ocean waters without any uneasiness or testing of lifeguarding skills from our tour guide. From the Champagne Pools we headed to Indian Head lookout, giving a spectacular view of the long stretches of beach Fraser has to offer. On Indian Head we were also lucky enough to spot some dolphins, whales, manta rays, and turtles! Plus, the little lizards and exotic birds on the hike up. We travelled back down the beach in the 4x4s to Eli Creek, another freshwater tourist site where you can float from the top of the creek to the mouth of the ocean. The float itself isn’t very long but takes you through some lush greenery that has been preserved by the installation of boardwalks up to the top of the float.

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Our last stop for day two was the shipwreck! The shipwreck is washed right up on the beach, and although it has been deteriorated over the years by weather, ocean waters, and bombing practice during WWII, is still mostly intact. The conclusion of day two consisted of a group dinner at the campground and a walk down to the beach to sit under the stars, not without keeping watch for a dingo, spider or snake. What is a dingo, you may ask? They are dogs (but not the cute and cuddly kind) that are native to Australia that have been said to be a relative to Asian wolves. Anyone that knows me knows that I will happily pet any dog that approaches me, but these dogs are very vicious and consider you to be their dinner. This was a very hard time for me. On our last day on Fraser we took a 45-minute hike inland to Lake Wabby, another fresh water lake surrounded by lush jungle and massive sand dunes. Lake Wabby is known for its beautiful bright green water and the little fish that eat dead skin off of your feet, if you aren’t ticklish or Nancy (she is VERY scared of fish). On the boat ride back to the island, I found myself reflecting on how grateful I am to have started my 23rd trip around the sun in such a magical place. Fraser Island has left me with so many great memories, new friends from all over the world, and a greater appreciation for friendly dogs.

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Next stop: Noosa! Noosa is a gorgeous little beach town just north of Brisbane. Walking around you can’t help but fall in love with the laidback, surfer vibe this town radiates. During my time spent in Noosa with my fellow TABers, we walked up the ocean boardwalk to the Fairy Pools, spent time sunning on a more secluded little beach, explored the cute little cafes and boutiques in town, and found Nancy all the ice cream her heart desired. At the Fairy Pools, we were lucky enough to spot some pods of dolphins and a couple whales. While Nancy, Nathan and Tina drove back to the bustling city life, I decided I wasn’t done with the beach just yet. I met up with an English girl from our Fraser Island trip and decided to extend my stay a couple days. We spent a couple more days on the beach, went back to the Fairy Pools (name doesn’t do it justice, this place is enchanting), and hiked up to a lookout that overlooks Noosa Heads and all the way to the Glass House Mountains. Katy, my previously mentioned English friend, and I then hopped on a Greyhound back to city life and a bed that isn’t one of eight in a room.

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 Back in Brisbane, Nancy and I showed Katy around the city and took her to some of our favourite shops, coffee spots, and restaurants. It was so fun to show someone around the city we have been living in for a month and made us feel more connected to Brisbane than ever. We were lucky enough to be in Brisbane for their Riverfire event! This is a big day during the Brisbane Festival where there are fireworks released along the river all over the city at the same time. We are living right byStory Bridge, where there was a massive fireworks display planned for our area of the city! Nancy and I spent the day at the green space just under the bridge with Katy and another Fraser friend. We enjoyed the sun and waited out for the evening firework display. The firework show itself was just over 20 minutes long and such a beautiful experience! We ended our night hanging out in the apartment watching the bustling streets below. On our last planned day in the city, we headed out to the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary to pet a dingo, feed some kangaroos, watch a Tasmanian devil feast on a possum, and cuddle a koala. It was amazing to see all the native Australian animals up close and unlike a traditional zoo, how well they were treated and nurtured in the sanctuary.

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To end the break I headed south of Brisbane to Byron Bay, NSW, for a few days of surf, sand, and sun. I rented a bike and rode down to some nearby more secluded beaches, spent a few days hanging out on Byron Main Beach, checked out the local produce at a farmers market as well as some local artisan vendors in the town, and watched the sunset almost every night on Main Beach with a drumming circle playing in the background. Through all these amazing experiences, my highlight of the trip was a 4am wake-up call and making it up to the Byron Bay Lighthouse for sunrise, which also happens to be the most eastern mainland point in Australia.

 

 

 

 

To conclude the amazing 2 weeks off, we had the QUT Teaching Across Borders girls over for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner featuring chicken (no turkeys at this time of year, other than the ones from the bush), stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, apple pie, and all the fixings! It was so beautiful to share this with our QUT friends and express our gratitude for what this program has given us in a more traditional Canadian way. After a few days of catching up on school work, fighting off post-break blues, and catching up with my fellow TABers, we decided we were ready to get back to a teaching routine.

One more month to go and I am so excited to see what the next couple weeks hold in a new school, new classrooms, and new travel experiences.

 

Until next post, cheers!

 

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(Driving a 4x4 on the beach)

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(Champagne Pools)

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(Feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine)

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(Indian Head lookout point)

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Brisbane School #1

For my first placement at Earnshaw State College, I have been able to work with students in Year 7-11 in subjects such as Humanities, Social Studies, English, Ancient History and Drama. The school is compromised of about 800 students spread out from P-12. The class sizes are very small. Class streaming for students begins in Year 7 unlike Alberta where streaming begins in Year 10. There is a vast difference between the streams which are reflected in the content they discuss and the amount of work they are expected to produce. Lower streams in my opinion do very little academic work and much of the class is focused on behaviour issues and classroom management. In the higher stream classes in Year 8 and 9, the students are usually strong independent workers who are able to stay on task for the whole lesson. I believe streaming classes this early is a good idea if students are able to easily transition between the levels. It will give them more time to work towards the higher stream class. The classrooms I visited all varied depending on the teaching style of the teacher. Some were very relaxed while a few others were strict. I was able to observe the same students in different classes and it was interesting to see how they behaved differently based on the class they were in.

 

The Australian education system does vary widely by state. Some states put more emphasis on final exams while others focus on assessments during the term. In Queensland, the government is implementing a new Year 12 exam. This year is the first year it is being used. The anxiety from students and teachers was very evident as they were undergoing preparations and administration of the exam. At first, being exposed to the school structure felt confusing since I am so use to the Albertan system. However, after spending several days at this school I began to grow accustomed to the Australian system. Even though there are several differences there is still the overarching issue of how to present grades and show academic performance.

 

I am looking forward to the school break when I will be able to visit Fraser Island and Melbourne.

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I was swooped and lived to tell the tale

Hello/hola/hallo/etc.,

It’s been a month since I’ve left home (!!!) and I can’t believe how fast my time here is flying by. Since my last blog post I’ve had a wonderful experience volunteering at Earnshaw State College. Earnshaw is a P-12 school with an enrolment of ~780 students, meaning that class sizes for the streamed senior level courses were quite small. The largest class I was in couldn't be more than 15 students. I had the opportunity to be in Physics, Biology, and Chemistry 11; Science 8-10; Maths 8-10; and a Design Studies class. The teachers in all of these classes were incredibly welcoming. Not only did they answer my questions about Australia and its schools, but they were also very interested in hearing about Canada as well! (I’ve learned that I really love talking about Canada). The students had 4 periods a day with two lunches (!¡¿¿¡¿!!¡¡¡) in between periods 3 and 4. I found that the two lunch breaks were super helpful in keeping both students and teachers focused throughout the afternoon.

Unlike private schools, which can refuse entry to prospective students without listing a reason, state schools can only refuse entry if there's no room for a student at the school. As a result, each class that I visited was vastly different in student abilities and behaviours, leading to a bunch of funny, enjoyable, and occasionally uncomfortable moments. My overall experience was very positive, and I’m so grateful to the teachers for welcoming me into their school, and to the students for warming up to me. I’m a concurrent student doing the old program structure, meaning it has been over a year since I've been in a preservice role. Part of the reason I'm so thankful for my experience at Earnshaw is that it reminded me how rewarding it is to interact with students in that capacity! 
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Queensland is undergoing a major change that will be implemented for all Year 12 students next year. Queensland currently uses the Overall Position (OP) system as an admission tool for all QLD students wishing to attend university. The system uses percentile ranks for all students who are OP-eligible, and assigns them an OP score from 1 (the highest score) to 25 (the lowest). The diffculty with this is that most of the other states in Australia use a system known as the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) system. While this is still a percentile rank, it scores from 0 (the lowest) to 99.95 (the highest). A few of the teachers I talked to mentioned the difficulties that QLD students face when applying to study out-of-state because of the differences between the systems. It’s challenging for admissions officers to convert an OP score to an ATAR score because an OP score is considered a 'broad-ranking', while an ATAR is 'fine-grained,' ie. more specific. Additionally, since the scores depend on how students performed relative to one another, it is difficult to grant admission to one student over another when they are from systems where they were not assigned a rank relative to each other. The teachers I discussed this with agreed that it was a necessary change because it makes it easier for QLD students to apply to universities out-of-state, but that it has also been difficult to navigate because with this change comes a complete upheaval in the external (government-administered) and internal (school/teacher-adminstered) assessment. One of my mentor teachers said that Queensland had quite the victory regarding the type of assessment they are allowed to use. She said that in one state there was a point in recent history where 100% of a Year 12 student’s grade was determined by external examinations, a situation that I imagine would be a massive stressor for every student involved. The Australian government tried to push this into Queensland as well, but as my mentor teacher put it, ‘the little man won’ and all Year 12 students currently have 3 internal and 1 external assessment. The reason that I found this entire situation to be fascinating is that although the Australian system is different from the Canadian one, the struggle to navigate the ever-changing intricacies between a government and its schools is something that all teachers know well.

3637600323?profile=RESIZE_710xRegarding the title of my blog post, I am happy to report that I’ve survived not one, but two near death experiences. During mating season, new magpie mothers uphold the Australian tradition of 'swooping' by dive-bombing you from the sky in order to protect their eggs (because apparently me walking down the street in my pyjamas after I rolled out of bed not even 20 minutes prior was a real threat). This sounds hilarious, and it kind of is, but it’s actually serious enough that warning signs need to be posted around the city. Cyclists put zip ties and wigs on their helmets to prevent it from happening, and there's an actual website dedicated to reporting swooping attacks (https://www.magpiealert.com/). While I am being slightly dramatic and know that I was in no real danger from my swooping experience, I have to say that it was probably the most Aussie experience I’ve had so far. So thank you, magpies, for welcoming me into your country. 

Cheers for now,

Nancy

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-16/magpie-swooping-attack--man-dies-near-woonona/11515246

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/what-in-the-world/australia-magpie-season.html

https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/goodliving/posts/2017/08/magpie-swooping-season

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Brisbane Intro

It has been well over a week now since I landed in Brisbane. Adjusting to life in Australia has been somewhat straightforward and easy. There are countless similarities between Canada and Australia, seeing that they are both Commonwealth countries. At first, watching cars drive on the opposite side of the road was confusing. However not even a week into the trip, I was able to rent a car and drive for three days without any issue so I can confidently say I am adjusting.

Since our arrival, we have been able to see various spots around Brisbane including Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island. The beaches in this area are amazing and we also spent time at a local market on the island as well. Currently there are bush fires burning in the areas surrounding Brisbane and Sunshine Coast so there are several air quality advisories. Overall, the weather has been awesome even though there were a couple extremely hot days. The weather here is extremely humid. At night, it can get extremely cold after 6 pm especially if there is wind as the temperature tends to drop about fifteen degrees from the daytime high. Sunset is always around 6 pm throughout the year. I prefer this consistent daylight schedule compared to the fluctuating sun cycle throughout the year in Calgary.

 

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The first week of September we were provided with a tour of the QUT campus where we were shown and given access to a wide array of resources for teachers. We got a chance to meet the local coordinator for international engagement as well as one of the Education deans. We also got to visit the schools we will be working at over the next few weeks. The first school, Earnshaw State College, is a P-12 prep school that has just under 800 students. I have spent several days at this school so far and it has been an awesome experience which I will discuss about in another post. For our next school, Nancy and I will be at the Brisbane Girls Grammar School for four weeks and I am looking forward to that one as well.

To wrap it up, two key things that have stuck with me since arrival in Brisbane:

  1. Restaurants do not have servers, you line up and order your food (you also do not tip)
  2. Vegemite is not tasty

 

NateDawgg

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Glue, Girls, and Grade 1s, oh my!

 

Hi again, blog readers!

We are coming up on the halfway mark here in Brisbane! It’s been absolutely wild how the time is flying by. I have finished at St. Aidan’s and will be picking “prac” back up on October 8th.  St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School was such an unreal experience! For a small background, St. Aidan’s is a prep-twelve all-girls school with a co-ed kindergarten program, established in 1929. It is located in a wealthier suburb outside of Brisbane, holds about 850 students and is split into two separate buildings with different administration in each. The junior school is from kindergarten to grade 6, and the senior school holds grades 7-12. The schooling system here goes kindergarten, prep, then grades 1-12 so kindergarten is the equivalent to preschool, then prep is essentially kindergarten, the only difference being prep is a full school day. I was placed in a grade one classroom in the Junior School with a very knowledgeable and helpful partner teacher, who is actually a St. Aidan’s graduate. The staff itself was made up of a number of accomplished women who had gone to and graduated from St. Aidan’s, then come back in their adult lives to work for the school! Very cool to see the love that they held for the school and to see it come full circle. All of the staff and students at St. Aidan's were so welcoming, making Tina and I feel right at home. I was very sad to leave at the end of the three weeks, but so grateful for the opportunity to spend some time in the wonderful school.

Throughout my short time at St. Aidan’s I was able to explore some of the resources that the school made available to the junior and senior students. There were heightened literacy programs, interactive STEM spaces where the students learned coding and so many clubs and extra-curriculars made available to the students such as speech and drama club, coding club, wasabi club (Japanese), and gymnastics, just to name a few. Some of the girls were taken from regularly scheduled classes a couple times a week for private piano, violin and voice lessons and the senior school had 8 music studios (including a recording studio). The students were taught Languages, Music, Physical Education, and Library by specialized educators and there were relief teachers for literacy and ELL sessions. Not to say that there were not challenges in the school itself, but it was made very evident that the teachers had ample support throughout the school day. 

During my time in the grade 1 classroom, I was lucky enough to be able to give a small lesson on my life in Canada. I gave a short presentation on the city of Calgary, including the similarities to Brisbane (with a river running through both cities), the Rocky Mountains, snow, and animals in close proximity to the mountains. The content of the lesson was supported by pictures and videos I have taken myself or by people close to me (shout-out to Mum’s photography skills) which thrilled the girls! It was amazing to see how inquisitive my students were about life in Canada, including questions like , “do you have Christmas,” “how cold does it REALLY get,” “how do you get from place to place with all that stuff on the ground,” and “what’s your dog’s name, how old is she, WOW SHE IS SO CUTE!”

 There were two things that really stood out to me during my time in St. Aidan’s, the first being an emphasis on literacy and creating a love for reading, the second being a focus on social interaction, emotional regulation, and mindfulness. The school carried out SEL lessons, standing for Social and Emotional learning. During this lesson, the girls practiced different emotional regulation and social interaction techniques to assist them in working through any frustrations they may have in their own work or with each other. One of the lessons I had the opportunity to witness was the girls identifying “Rock Brain” and how to overcome it with “Superflex.” Rock Brain was a state of being where you are stuck in your own ideas or frustrations. Superflex was a superhero that lives in your mind that helps you to use strategies to promote self-regulation and social-thinking. Throughout the lesson the students were asked to identify a couple ways that you could move from Rock Brain to Superflex, a few examples being taking a drink of water, counting to ten, or clenching your fists. The girls used drama techniques and acted out different scenarios depicting Rock Brain responses and Superflex responses. This seemed like a very cool incorporation of these regulatory strategies into the curriculum in a fun and authentic way. The library seemed to be the heart of the Junior school. The library teacher herself was a published author of a book that explains ways to promote a love for reading within your child. The girls loved their block at the library. During this time, the librarian would read to them (while I was there it was typically a book regarding mindfulness, gratitude, etc.) then let them browse for books to take home and explore for themselves. It was very inspiring to see how excited the girls got for their library block and how eager they were to share their library picks with you.

I am wishing the staff and students all the best getting through Term 4, and my grade ones and partner teacher good luck getting through their paper mache projects (so. much. glue). 

All in all, I cannot say enough good things about St. Aidan’s School and the time spent there. I am leaving with a better understanding of the Australian school culture and curriculum, a quick look into the private system, and a very full heart. I am pleased to say I am getting more and more used to being called “Miss B,” even with the Aussie accent.


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Adjusting to Life in Brisbane

As I departed for Brisbane, I was frantically packing until the last minute and ensuring that I had said all my goodbyes, froze my phone plan, and checked everything off my never-ending to do list. I barely had time to process having left until a couple of days into our trip, when we had located our Airbnb, navigated the transit system, unpacked, and purchased groceries. After slowing down and exploring the surrounding neighborhoods, I started to become excited about discovering all of the local spots Brisbane has to offer.

At first glance, Brisbane is very similar to Calgary, and it really didn’t feel like we had left North America. Similar shops scatter the streets, recognizable brands fill the shelves, and the weather is surprisingly dry. It was more humid at the Vancouver airport! The east coast has been experiencing bush fires, and filling the air with smoke, making Brisbane even more congruous to Augusts in Calgary.

The first few days we walked a ton! We explored several of the nearby districts by foot, and even walked to Queensland University of Technology to meet our liaison, which was over an hour away. We explored the city centre, which hosts an inner city beach, botanical gardens, a university campus, and several eateries and street markets. We took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Australian customs and traditions, collectively trying a Kangaroo burger and sampling some vegemite – with mixed reviews. We are slowly learning some Australian slang, such as “It’s right,” “How you going?,” and “tuck-shop.” Additionally, all of the locals have been super welcoming thus far, and are excited to learn about the weather, culture, and tourist hotspots in Canada.

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 It was great meeting with the exchange students who travelled to Calgary last January, as it made me excited hearing about their adventures. They provided a plethora of advice for sightseeing and navigating Australian culture. Meeting with the QUT education faculty members, helped ease any anxiety I was feeling about visiting the schools, as we learned about our schedules and overall expectations. I want to share some of the things we have learned about surviving in Brisbane so far:

  1. Pack reusable shopping bags. Brisbane has cut back on single-use plastics, and you will need them to carry your groceries all the way back to your apartment.
  2. Swim between the flags. You want to make sure you are aware of the tide and it is best to enter the water where lifeguards are present.
  3. Don’t go into the bush alone. The paths are often not marked, there are various flora and fauna to look out for, and travellers can get easily lost.
  4. Restaurants do not typically provide table service. You have to go up to the counter to order food, otherwise you will spend a long time waiting! Oh – and you are not expected to tip.
  5. Even though we may think 25 degrees is pool weather, we got some questionable reactions from locals for wanting to go swimming in their “winter.”
  6. "Swooping season" is real. The birds here are quite vicious and locals wear zip ties and wigs on their bicycle helmets to deter birds.

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 On the first weekend after settling in, we took two day trips to the Sunshine Coast, and spent our day at Mooloolaba beach! It was beautiful to visit the coast and to enjoy swimming in the ocean and soaking up the sunshine.

 All in all, I am looking forward to getting accustomed to the routine in our first school, and exploring more of Brisbane! We are busy making plans for Spring Break, and I cannot wait to travel through the rest of Australia.

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If you're reading this, it's tomorrow

Hey, hi, hello from beautiful Brisbane!


It has been about a week and a half since first stepping foot “down under” and day by day I am settling into this new Aussie lifestyle.

The first couple days I’ve spent exploring our temporary new home which included, but is not limited to:

  • Unpacking into our lovely apartment in New Farm. Our apartment has the most beautiful view of the river, Story Bridge and the city. Phones and cameras have been out every single night to document the light peeping through the buildings while the sun sets behind the city, accentuating the colourful bridge lights. I don’t think the view will ever get old.

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  • Stopping to smell the flowers at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.

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  • Window shopping (and admittedly, real shopping) closer to the city centre.
  • Travelling up the “Sunny Coast” to snag a couple early spring beach days. Thirty-degree days in East Coast Australia’s spring had us itching for the ocean so we rented a car and drove up to Mooloolaba and Bribie Island! We were all blown away by the treasures that the beaches held. The sand was so white and fine, and absolutely littered with the most beautiful shells. There are plenty of fish swimming alongside you in the ocean and low tides allowed for peering into so many little ecosystems in pools on the rocks. On Bribie Island closer to the end of the day, yabbies’ (a small, burrowing Australian crayfish) and small squids started washing up on shore!3549513122?profile=RESIZE_710x3549507054?profile=RESIZE_710x

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  • Browsing through a few local markets. One of my favourite things to do when in a new place is exploring the locally made goods, food, trinkets, and clothing.
  • Trying some of the favourite foods among the Aussies! We have tried vegemite on toast (you would not believe the number of girls in the primary school that bring Vegemite sandwiches for lunch) and done a TimTam Slam. Finally, agreeing we couldn’t commit to a full one by ourselves, we even shared a kangaroo burger!

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  • Running on the Brisbane River Walk.
  • Receiving the warmest of welcomes at both QUT and our first “prac” school! I am so grateful to have Melinda as our liaison at QUT. She has been so helpful in ensuring our transition into Australia is as easy and as comfortable as possible. Tina and I are starting in St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, a K-12 school in a wealthier suburb outside of Brisbane. I have been placed in a Year 1 classroom. The staff and students at St. Aidan’s have been so welcoming which has made my first two weeks in the school seamless and so much fun. I have attached a picture of the hats that are a part of the uniform the girls wear. Hats are mandatory during morning tea, lunch, and Phys Ed to avoid the hot Australian sun!

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There have also been major bushfires along the East Coast of Australia due to droughts and high winds. This has made it feel a little more like late Calgarian summer than a humid and sunny Australian adventure! The Australian schools have a mid-term spring break coming up meaning we have 2 weeks off prac and it seems like our travel plans are just about complete! We will be going up north to camp on Fraser Island and sail the Whitsundays.

The first (almost) two weeks in Brissy have flown by. I am feeling so lucky to be on this journey with Nancy, Nathan, and Tina and I am so grateful to have been presented with this opportunity. I cannot wait to continue learning all about the education system in Queensland, Australia and I am excited to see what the next 8 weeks hold.  

 

Thanks for checking in! Until next time, 

 

Rachel

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Intro + First Impressions

Hello from Brisbane!

It has been a pretty jampacked week and a half since we’ve arrived. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about Australia and its school system so far:

Australia itself: 3549259848?profile=RESIZE_710x

  • Everyone knows this about Australia but despite the fact that it’s winter and despite the fact that this is unusual for this time of the year, Brisbane needs to cool it with the heat 
  • Regardless of this, it’s cold during the night. We complain about wearing jackets in the morning and then having to suffer with being hot midday. Brisbane does this but like, x100
  • The birds are weird, fearless, and make funny noises – on our walk home yesterday Nathan and I mistook a baby crying for a bird because they sound so similar
  • Vegemite is interesting and I’m definitely making everyone back home try it
  • The city and country are both completely lovely! We have the most incredible views of the city from our apartment that I don’t think will ever grow old 

 

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The school system/the schools:

  • The private system is huge in Australia. A quick google search to get state (public) vs. private enrollment stats show that in 2015, 58% and 41% of primary and secondary students, respectively, were enrolled in the private school system
  • That being said, there are tiers that both state and private schools belong to. These tiers are heavily correlated with their yearly income and the public perception (the latter of which is very important in Australian society). The private school we will be attending in the second half of our time here is supposedly in a very high tier
  • Parents may preemptively move to areas with better schools in order to ensure their child has a higher chance of being accepted due to their location. Some families plan these things in advance of their children being born
  • Overall: for a lot of families in Australia, their children’s education is a big decision and investment. Where they attend is really important.3549249718?profile=RESIZE_710x

Most of the things I’ve learned are based on what I’ve been told by those who live/work here, and some other things are based on my own observations. Perhaps someone who has lived in Australia their whole lives might not agree with what I have to say; however, these are my impressions so far. In general, I think it’s a beautiful place and it’s much different than I thought it would be. I’m currently volunteering in a state school and will be until spring break commences at the end of next week. I’ll discuss this experience in greater detail in a later post. One of my mentor teachers showed me an article that highlights the discrepancies between state and private schools here. For comparison, the state school I’m at has a capital expenditure of ~$250k, while the private school I will be at sits around the $6 million mark. I feel lucky in that I’ll be able to observe the similarities and differences between the two. Here's a link to the article if you're interested: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-13/rich-school-poor-school-australias-great-education-divide/11383384

 

Cheers for now,

Nancy

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Final Hurrah

Well, Australia it has been a slice!!


 As I prepare to begin my journey home, I reflect back on what the past 80+ days away has taught me. At this point what I have recognized is that my role as an educator goes far beyond just teaching content. Here are three learning opportunities I am carrying with me as I move forward.

               1) The separate state and private school system have me questioning the effects and the lasting legacy they have on student’s success in future years. In a conversation with one of the teachers, it was interesting to hear about how student’s elementary education follows them throughout life. As she discussed her daughter, a state school graduate, she explained how in university people will ask what school you attended in your elementary years and pass judgement based on the answer you give. Although there are schools seen as “good” schools and “bad” schools in Calgary this defined separation seemed to be a foreign concept to me. The class structure of this system seems to be overtly limiting students before they even have a chance. Private schools can cost upwards of $20,000 and in such limiting students based on their parent’s ability to finance their future instead of the student’s abilities. Now, in saying this, I do not mean to point fingers at any one school or say that I did not enjoy my experience. Both schools were amazing and have helped me develop as a teacher. What this did teach me was that although I cannot influence the unequal distribution of resources, I can work to minimize the effect it has in my classroom. Being placed in a state school with obviously fewer resources, it was inspiring to see how as teachers we can be creative to help reduce the effects of financial inequality. I recognize that this will require creativity on my part, but I am excited for the challenge.  

               2) On a more personal note, this trip has given me the opportunity to better develop my self-awareness. Living away, outside of my routine and comfort zone, I found my confidence in my own abilities wavering at times. Within my house, everyone strived to be the best. Although that is not a bad thing, I do not consider myself a confident enough person to be in constant competition with others.  With such, I found myself struggling at times to feel able or qualified to express my voice.  If I am to help my students find confidence within themselves, I believe it is important to recognize my own struggles. They only make me human. However, as I continue to reflect on this semester abroad I believe my lack of confidence stems not from my lack of ability but from my fondness for learning more and exploring other views.

               3) Another learning opportunity I had while in Brisbane was to be a part of middle school and secondary classes. Although elementary is my specialization, I have become very fond of the upper years. The complex social environment and developing personalities present a wonderful foundation for an actively engaged classroom. It has been interesting to watch student explore their own ideas and critically examine the content they are presented with. Although I am extremely nervous about beginning my journey back to middle school next week, I am excited to see if similar engagement will occur. Wish me luck!! 

 

 


Now moving on from the sappy self-reflection, leaving Australia is truly a bittersweet goodbye. I am looking forward to seeing everyone back home but what I have learned here is irreplaceable.

Besides my amazing experience in the classrooms, Brisbane and Australia as a whole have been a wonderful place to call home.

So here is one final highlight reel!  What I am going to miss about Australia??

  • Southbank. Within just walking distance of our house was Australia’s largest man-made metropolitan beach. It was beautiful, with the boutique shopping and the weekend markets! The beach is complemented with beautiful public art display and a communal garden. This place became our sanctuary.
  • The Beaches. Byron Bay, Morton Island, Jervis Bay and the many more. There isn’t anything quite as relaxing as sitting in the sand, staring out at the ocean while listening to the waves crash up against the rocks.
  • The Weather. There is nothing wrong with “Hitting the beach” after a long week in September and October!
  • My Australian Family. From my amazing support team at QUT, it was great knowing that we always had somewhere to go if anything occurred. To the teachers and staff at Earnshaw and St. Aiden’s, thank you for allowing us into your schools. It was great to participate in and observe your classes.
  • And Finally, My Roommates. Thank you! I know I can be a pain but without you all I am sure my experience would not have been half as eventful. I am looking forward to reuniting over some Timtam slams and reminiscing our experiences together. I truly believe each one of you has left a lasting impact on me and for that I am thankful.

 

In closing, my advice for future TABers...

Just do it!! Yes, Australia is expensive, but it is possible to do it on a relatively modest budget just be aware of what you are spending your money on. However, in saying that you are on the other side of the world, remember to enjoy yourself!! You most likely will not always get along with your roommates, it is ok to disagree but do not let it consume your trip. Communication is key to mitigating those disagreements. And while school is still the priority, do not forget to enjoy the city you are in! Often it has lessons to teach you that are applicable both inside and outside of the classroom. Oh, and from my time here I have learned that every experience can be a good one, it just depends on what you make of it. Even those times you get caught in a tropical storm without an umbrella can have their moments!

 

Anyways! My time here has come to an end and as I begin my 40+ hour plane ride home I am excited about my next adventure. Grade 8 humanities here I come!

 

 Cheers blog readers!!

 

Brianne

 

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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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