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education (28)

Let's Review

Hello from Calgary, 

I am back from Hamburg, and as comforting the snow may be... I would like to go back to Germany! Yes, really, my time there has transformed and moved me enough that I would like to stay. However, it is time to focus on the aspirations I had at the beginning and how they were met - or not! 

The aspirations were: language development, school leadership research, further education research.

Language Development:

My language has definitely improved. I speak with greater confidence than before, and do not find it as stressful or exhausting to speak, listen, and follow in German. Depending on the topic, I do still search for words sometimes; however, I am more fluent than before. I was able to observe a few lessons led in German, and students got to hear me speak it when I was helping them - we had great moments of teaching. As in, they would teach me certain words that I didn't know, and I helped them with the assignments. The students enjoyed being able to teach me and were more open to feedback and help from my side. 

School Leadership Research:

This is still in progress. I am awaiting a response from the vice-principal to my questions about student leadership within the school and community. Although, I did learn about how leadership is understood for teachers in the school that I was at. For them, it meant Professional Development and increasing their education and experience to reach new government recognition in terms of the pay scale. At my schools, teachers are required to complete a minimum of forty hours a year of Professional Development. 

In terms of incorporating leadership in my lessons there, I was able to do so a few times. I had students focus on the language they use to describe their life and become reflective of it - in German and English. Describing your life through active words and actively changing and reflecting on the language that you use is one of the first steps to leading and controlling your life into a positive direction. The students quite enjoyed that - at the end of my time there many of them said that saying "I will do this" instead of "I will try this" has made a big difference in their everyday life and their outlook on it. A few students said that they feel more in control of what they do and what happens around them. 

Further Education Research:

As for further research into possibly going to Law School in Germany - interesting, to say the least. To make a long story short, instead of Law School I would like to focus on furthering my education in a second teachable subject. I have learned, that in Germany, teachers are required to have two teachable subjects in their portfolio (so to say). Perhaps, I may write an exam to get a certificate for my Russian and that can be my other subject. I am still contemplating what exactly I would like to do for this second subject. 

Overall, I look forward to finding out more information on leadership for students and taking what I learned in my German classes into my Canadian practicum. 

P.S. I couldn't resist the baked goods. I had some every day. 

 

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Japan is incredible!

Konnichiwa!

I can’t believe my trip here in Sapporo has come to an end. Someone needs to build a time machine quickly because I want to rewind and do it all again. 

My trip has been an experience beyond words because…

Of everyone that I met:

  • The coordinators in Japan are the friendliest people who will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and help you so that you are set in every situation. Because of them my adventure started and ended super smoothly because they are always on top of their game.
  • The students at HUE have given me the wonderful opportunity to call them friends across the world. We have shared so many memories together, like sight-seeing, school visits, HUE school festival, Halloween party and so much more. I am sad that our time was short here but I know this isn’t the end of our friendship.
  • The teachers and students at my practicum placement welcomed us with open arms and made sure all our inquiries are answered to the best of their abilities. There is a language barrier but we were able to overcome that together because we are both willing parties to get along with everything that we can do.
  • The host families. They have gone out of their way to include us in their daily lives and welcome us to become part of their family. I feel like I can really say that I feel like I have even more relatives overseas and I am very excited to see them again!

Of everything that I have done:

  • I have gone on so many trips to see the amazing wonders of Hokkaido: Mt. Moiwa, Hell’s Valley, Lake Toya just to name a few. These are all amazing places that I know I will never forget because they are all so unique. 
  • Rice harvesting. I love to eat rice and now I know how hard it is to cut the rice by hand. I got to be dressed in a traditional outfit and eat the 'fresh' rice.
  • Making udon. This was such an enjoyable and delicious experience that I know I want to try it again.
  • Winning at the claw machines. The prizes are super cute and it’s fun to try… but beware of how much fun it can be to keep trying!
  • Eating so many different kinds of Hokkaido food and specialities.

And so much much more! (The picture of the left is the famous statue of William Clark and his famous phrase: Boys Be Ambitious) 

 

Of everything that I have learned:

  • Teachers and students in Japan have special relationships with each other, where they genuinely care for each other. The teacher sets up the student so they will succeed and the students aim for the best. I was lucky to be placed within a school that has such a strong community and had the opportunity to meet teachers that have become my role model.
  • If you have a strong relationship with your students, classroom management is not a big issue. It is how you interact with others that define how they will react towards you. Give support but also be firm in what you do.
  • Scissor – Rock – Paper (or as we Canadians call it Rock- Paper- Scissors) can be used as a decision making game in any instance. It is super handy!

I have learned so much here that I can't put into words, but I will never forget anything I have learned.  

Of who I am now: I started this trip supremely nervous because it is my first time being away from home for such a long time by myself. I did not see myself as independent and the challenges that I would have to face scared me. Now, I know that I am capable of overcoming any challenge (no matter how cheesy it is to say that). I have made friends and connections with people through language barriers, cultural differences and differences in backgrounds. I have reached my goal of being more confident in myself and I am excited to see where my teaching path will take me. 

For all this I would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way and made this possible for me. Arigatoo gozaimashita!

 This is not a goodbye but only a see you again later!

Jaa matane!!! 

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Japan is awesome!

Konnichiwa! Genki desu ka? (Hello! How are you?)

I can’t believe that there is only about one more week in Japan before I go home to Calgary. The experience has been amazing and was full of adventures. I got to go to an onsen, attend the 38th Sapporo English Speech competition and go to Hell’s Valley (Noboribetsu). I am constantly eating amazing food (that I will surely miss when I go back to Calgary). 

The junior high experience has continued to change my view about Japanese education. While the original appearance looks to be that of a Traditional Learning Center in which all the students are paired boy-girl arrangement in rows, the process of table configuration is easily changed because the students know when and how to do this efficiently. This might be because when they clean the classroom and when they eat lunch they must move all the tables and chairs. The students are always actively learning and the teacher provides hands on experience in many of the classes. For instance, I had the opportunity to observe a chemistry, physics and biology class. In each class, the students are doing hands on science. In chemistry the students are mixing chemicals together to learn about endothermic and exothermic reactions; in physics, students are sliding cars off ramps/ dropping objects to learn about forces; in biology, students got to dissect a squid. The teacher provides minimal information, with the students having to figure and answer the questions themselves, which must greatly improve their critical mindset.

The class community is amazing as students come in early, give up their breaks during classes and stay after school to practice together for their Choir Competition within the school. Students conduct the music themselves and a classmate will be on the piano. The school is decorated with classwork and each class has a banner and/or pictures of the entire class as decoration. In English class, the teacher encourages the students to help each other if they are struggling. 

Japan’s educating style has provided me with new techniques and insight about how to approach a topic. I find myself thinking of how to integrate students greeting at the start of the class and the end of the class. 

I am only here in Japan for a few more days, but I will take advantage of this time and have more wonderful experiences here! 

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Sapporo to Iwamizawa

In the past few weeks I have finished Japanese language class, moved cities and started volunteering in an elementary school. I was excited to move to a new city but leaving my host family in Sapporo made the process really difficult. I had never done a home stay before so I was a little nervous before I met them. I was nervous because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or be disrespectful because I didn’t know the culture well. It turns out I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay during my time in Sapporo. The family I was with made me feel so welcomed and comfortable I never expected to get so close to them. Goodbyes are always hard especially when chances you will see them again are low. Along with living with a great family Sapporo is a great city, Sapporo has a lot to offer, amazing food, good shopping and beautiful surrounding mountains. I enjoyed going to Japanese language classes everyday and trying to speak Japanese. Are Sensai was very kind and I am happy we could make her laugh with our broken Japanese. So, after a month in Sapporo I packed my bags and headed to a small city called Iwamizawa. It is about 40 minutes outside of Sapporo and has a University that specializes in sports and art. It been refreshing being in a new place with new people, Iwamizawa is a lot smaller and is surrounded by a lot of beautiful nature. My new host family is equally as awesome as my first and have been very kind to take me on adventures every weekend.

Along with a new city and a new host family came the opportunity to volunteer in an elementary and junior high school. This past week I have been at the elementary school helping with some English classes and observing other classes. I have learnt so much in the 6 days I have been at the elementary school, the Japanese education system is very different from Calgary’s. The are very standardized and there is a lot of pressure on students to do well in school. We were told that if students do not find their place in school they will have a very hard 12 years. The use of technology is also lacking. Every school we have been in uses chalkboards there has been no sign of technology in the classrooms besides a TVs. There also aren’t any janitors at the school, the student and the teachers clean the whole school everyday. The teachers in Japan are the hardest working people I have ever met. The are so passionate about teaching and making a difference in the student life. The call it the 7-11 job here because the teachers are often working from 7am to 11pm. The don’t have prep periods like we do and they even spend their lunch period with the kids.  It is really inspiring being in a country that hold education on such a high pedestal, I can’t wait to see what junior high has in store for me.

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Kon'nichiwa!! I have done so much these past two weeks and here are some of the highlights!

Rice Harvesting 

We had the opportunity to go rice harvesting as part of a traditional Japanese excursion. They dressed us up in kimonos and we had to harvest the rice wearing that outfit. Earlier in the year, students from the HUE affiliated elementary school planted the seeds and now it was time for it to be harvested. Before we harvest the rice, we got to take part in a traditional ceremony that thanks and pray for a successful seasonal harvest. This was a fun activity that we got to do with our host families and other children. I did not realize how much work it was to harvest the rice and i understand why it is so important to finish every last piece of my rice in my bowl. 

School Life

As the first week of my placement comes to an end, I can not express how appreciative I am for the students and teacher at Ainosato Nishi Elementary. Everyone is so kind and welcoming. The students at the school were really excited to meet us and they would say "hello, nice to meet you" any chance they get. One of the first things we did was an introduction that was broadcasted on TV to the entire school. We had to speak in both Japanese and English. I can understand how hard it must be for students to speak English to us. It is very nerve racking to go up and speak in a language that you barely know. Even though I have done many presentations and this was a simple self introduction, I found myself forgetting everything that I practiced. 

Teachers at the school encourages students to use English where possible. For example, our homeroom teacher would go through the weekly schedule in both Japanese and English. Students in the class really try their best to communicate with us. Even though there is a big language barrier, they use gestures

or pictures to try to get their point across. Students would also help each other out by figuring out the translation together. We are still able to play games with the children and try our best to use our broken Japanese to communicate with them. Unfortunately, students only get one English class a week. In these classes, often students play games and these games allow students to practice everyday phrases. Our liaison mentioned that next year, students will have two English classes a week because of the 2020 Olympics in Japan. There is a big push for everyone to improve their English skills. 

Another thing that I found interesting was students are so well behaved and respectful in class. They are really serious about their education and they have so much respect for the teacher, other classmates and the school. For example students serve their own lunches. There will be a few students who are selected to distribute the food, nobody eats until food is served to everyone. Once everyone has their food, one student will go to the front of the class to say "itadakimasu", which means "thanks for the food/let's eat". After lunch, all students are required to clean the classroom and surrounding areas everyday. Each student has their own responsibilities. 

At the University 

This weekend I got to check out the university's school festival. This was a festival that was put on by students. They consist of of food vendors in which students prepared all the food, different kinds of activities and performances. There was a band performance that consisted of members of the band club and students at the affiliated junior high/elementary school. The performance was unreal and the students from the affiliated school did not need their music sheet and played all their songs by memory. I was really impressed with the amount of dedication these students have. Another performance I saw was a traditional Japanese dance. The dance was fun and I have never seen anything like it before. The university seems to have great spirit and a strong sense of community. 

Sapporo is really beautiful especially when I get to see the leaves change colour as each day goes by. Though I do not get to be home with my family for Thanksgiving, I have my own family here. I am really thankful to have this opportunity to be here and grateful for all the people I have met. Happy Thanksgiving from Japan! 

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Japan is amazing!

Konnichiwa!

Time has really flown by and it’s already the middle of the TAB experience! Japan continues to be amazing (although starting to get a tad cold) and contains new knowledge and information every day.

 School Festival

I had the opportunity to see a Junior High School festival and it was quite frankly, amazing. Students get two weeks to prepare entire skits, musicals and videos, in which the entire school must participate. Each student is invested because they get to choose what position they want to be in for the festival (i.e. lunchroom decoration, which performance, announcements, etc.). I was very shocked about the high quality and the effort that all the students put into everything, from the costumes to the dances, to the decorations to the food. Moreover, I appreciate how they help each other through switching off doing the lighting for certain scenes.

My most memorable experience was the Aladdin musical.  Although I cannot understand the language I believe even if I never saw the story before, I would still understand the story! The students' dances were synchronized, costumes were authentic and the singing was amazing.

The school cheers on everybody and this helped create a sense of community. 

School Visit

I have had the opportunity to visit three very different schools: a rural school (Shippu Elementary and Junior High school), Affiliated Junior high school, and Sapporo Asahigaoka high school (which is very prestigious). While all the visits contained pleasant surprises, the Asahigaoka high school was the most memorable for me because it was so different. Here, almost all the students will advance to post-secondary education, so the students design their own schedules (just like in University) to take courses they are interested in.

I struggle with the language barrier, as there are some many questions that I would like to ask the teachers but couldn’t. During this visit, I got to witness a Biology lab, a Chemistry lab, English class and Biology class. English class is a struggle, as students only take it for their University placement exam but they don’t actually see the application of what they are learning. The terminology they learn is difficult and in my opinion meant to impress instead of common day use. On the other hand, I got to meet a passionate Biology teacher, who is also in charge of the Biology club. In order to allow students to visualize the process of gestation and growth, they grew their own chickens from eggs (and I got to hold one!) Moreover, the classroom is full of alive and dead specimens and covered with student presentations about what they are learning/ investigating in Biology. Because of what he does, all the students love the subject and find use in what they are learning, which is the type of teacher I aspire to be! 

School Placement

For this week, I am placed at the Affiliated Elementary School. On our first day, there was a school assembly for the students, where we (Heather and I) were introduced as University students from Calgary. We were expected to do a speech about ourselves, which we gave in Japanese and English. I think this was the right thing to do because the students and teachers really appreciated our effort to speak in Japanese. Moreover, they have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, especially all the students who will say hello and good-bye whenever they see us.

I especially like how we get to eat lunch with the students. Students actually serve lunches to their own classmates by working as a class. During lunch, all the students wear an apron and hat, and then they rearrange the classroom to sit in groups for lunch. While some students hand out utensils, others are in charge of handing out various food items. At every meal we get a carton of milk (Sapporo is famous for their milk!) Students have a unique way of folding their milk cartons to conserve space, which I found interesting. What I really enjoyed is the scissors, rock, paper game (our version is known as rock, paper, scissors) to see who gets the last morsel of the school lunch. This is very entertaining! Then everyone helps clean the room before they are allowed to go play.

My experience has been absolutely amazing at the elementary school. I am excited to see what junior high school will be like! 

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Three weeks in Barcelona

I've been living in Barcelona for about three weeks now and it has been an immensely enjoyable experience. I'm trying to immerse myself in the Catalan culture and have enjoyed doing things that local people do. The Spanish cuisine is amazing and I have enjoyed trying to recreate some of the dishes I've tried in restaurants at home! This past weekend was La Merce, a Catalan festival that is celebrated by all of Barcelona. There are a variety of activities which include concerts, dancing, human towers, parades, fire runs, fireworks, and to top it off, all of the festivities are free! A number of museums are also free to the public as well on Sunday and Monday. I have to say that La Merce is probably my favourite festival and I hope to come back and experience it again. If anyone plans on visiting Barcelona in the future, I would highly recommend to do so during this festival!

   

I have only spent a short amount of time in the school here thus far as school did not begin for students until the third week of September. However, during my short time here, the students and teachers alike have been warm and welcoming to me and my fellow TAB cohorts. The school itself is relatively small for Calgary standards and has about 500 students from junior high and high school. The school system here is a bit different than in Canada as most students will "graduate" at the age of 16. However, there are then two more years of studies for students who wish to attend university. Those who do not wish to attend university can attend vocational training which is geared towards a specific job, or cease studying altogether. This is similar to other systems throughout Europe. There is also a larger emphasis on exams here than in Alberta, and most students I have talked to here do not enjoy the amount of exams that they have to complete. Desks are mainly in singular rows or in pairs. Students also tend to have a lot of homework, but in general they like going to school to see and hang out with their friends, similar to students in Canada. I am told that everyone in Spain studies English, so most studies have a fairly good grasp of what I'm talking about, although I think they have to get used to my accent! I think it's very beneficial for them to speak in English with me, as they don't get a lot of that conversational practice. I studied Spanish for two years in university, and although I understand much of the grammar, I have very little practice actually speaking the language. And so I think the situation is similar for them in that they have a lot of knowledge about English, but aren't entirely confident about how to go about using it in conversation. I am enjoying planning activities in which they can engage with their classmates in English!

All in all, I am enjoying my time here, and I am looking forward to spending more time in the school here!

The soccer field. All of the students were shocked that I didn't know who Messi was!

The computer lab

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Three Weeks in Germany

Hallo from Hamburg!

Wow, I can't believe that I have already been living in Hamburg for three weeks now - the time has just flown by!  These first few weeks have been spent exploring the city and the neighborhood I am living in, figuring out the transit system here, eating way too many pretzels, learning to ALWAYS bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, getting used to actually needing to use an umbrella, learning to always make sure I am not standing on the bike lane half of the sidewalk (the bikers here are not too forgiving!), and getting to know some of the teachers and students at the elementary school I was lucky to be placed at.  So far I am loving Hamburg!  The city has so many different areas that are all quite unique, which make it fun to explore.  A few days after arriving I went on a walking tour of the city along with some of my fellow TAB peers, which was a great way to see many of the main sights such as the Rathaus (city hall), Speicherstadt (warehouse district), St. Nikolai church, and St. Michaelis church.  It was interesting to learn about some of the history of Hamburg from our tour guide, such as the Great Fire of Hamburg in 1842 and the bombing raids during World War 2.  Due to these events many of the old, historical buildings in Hamburg have been destroyed, resulting in many areas of the city having much more modern architecture. I have also had the chance to explore the harbour area of Hamburg (the Port of Hamburg is the second-busiest port in Europe!) and even found a beach!  The people have been very friendly for the most part as well, despite the fact that there is sometimes a slight language barrier.  I am finding myself wishing I could speak more German, but hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to pick up on more words.

In terms of teaching, I have been placed at an elementary school for the duration of my time in Hamburg.  Everyone on the staff has been extremely friendly and welcoming, making it much easier for me to feel comfortable in a foreign environment. I am mostly spending my time in grade 2 and grade 3 English, Science, and Art classes, although I also have the opportunity to sit in on a German class each week as well as a grade 6 French class!  Something I found really interesting is that the teachers here tend to move up with their class of students each year, rather than teaching the same grade and getting a new class of students.  This means that the teacher I have been placed with has been teaching her students for 2 or 3 years already!  She explained to me that this definitely has its pros and cons.  On the plus side the students really get to know you and your expectations, and you get to develop even deeper relationships with your students.  However, she also expressed the feeling of frustration and disappointment that can sometimes come from trying to reach a student year after year with no success.  I also found it surprising to learn how many breaks the elementary students have here during the day!  They have 2 half hour recesses in the morning and an hour lunch in the early afternoon - although I suppose this makes sense considering their longer school hours of 8 am - 4 pm each day.  I spent the first week or so in my school just getting to know the teacher and students and getting an idea of what the school days look like here in Hamburg.  It has been a little bit of a challenge engaging in a lot of conversation with the students thus far, especially those in Grade 2, just because they are still in the early stages of their English language learning.  Some students are more open and excited to speak with me in English, while others try and talk to me in German everyday and look disappointed when I remind them I can only speak English.  I have definitely already learned some important things to keep in mind when teaching ELL students such as speaking slowly and clearly, and utilizing actions, hand gestures, and pointing to sometimes get the meaning of a word across.  The majority of the day-to-day conversations in the classrooms, outside of English and Science class, are carried out in German.  The experience of being in a classroom and a school where the language you speak is not the predominant language has definitely been eye-opening to me in terms of how many ELL students must feel when they are in our classrooms back home.  This week I got the chance to teach my first two lessons - one on different types of bird feet to the grade 2 class and one on Alessandro Volta (the inventor of the battery) to the grade 3 class.  I was admittedly quite nervous going into teach these lessons just because I was still trying to feel out the comprehension level of the students and I wasn't sure if everything I said would just go right over their heads.  However the lessons went pretty well and, especially in the grade 3 class, many students were eager to share their ideas and attempt to engage in the conversations in English.  It was a great feeling to be back in the teaching position and I am hoping that through conversations with the teacher I am placed with and self-reflection I will continue to learn how to better teach these ELL students.  Over the next few weeks I am curious to see if I will witness more methods of assessment in the classroom, specifically summative assessment, since that has been entirely absent during my time here so far.

Having Friday's off from the school every week means that long weekends sometimes allow for travel to other German cities.  This past weekend Karlynn and I travelled to Berlin and got the chance to experience the culture, history, and landmarks of the city.  The highlights of the weekend for me included a 4 hour bike tour through the city to all of the famous landmarks that ended with dinner at a beer garden, as well as spending Sunday afternoon exploring the very popular flea market at Mauerpark (complete with shopping, live music, beer, and food trucks!).  Overall it was a very enjoyable weekend and it was great to explore a city different from the one we are now calling our temporary home.  Next weekend I, along with a few of my fellow TAB peers, am off to Munich to experience the last weekend of Oktoberfest celebrations.  I am looking forward to traveling further south and getting to explore Munich!

I am happy to finally feel settled into my home here in Hamburg and am looking forward to what the rest of my time in this city will bring!

Rathaus on the left    

Speicherstadt

Port of Hamburg

Planten un Blomen

Binnenaslter (Inner Alster Lake)

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

Street food in Hamburg - Currywurst and bratwurst

Exploring Hamburg!

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Schools in Perth!

Hello Ning Blog readers!

I have been in Perth for nearly a month now! It is hard to believe - time has been flying. I spent these past two weeks at two different schools, an independent public primary school and a private boys' schools for both junior and secondary school (both have been open for 120 years!!). In Australia, this is the end of Term 3 out of 4 (the end of their winter term), so the students are now on a two week holiday. This meant that not only did I get to observe two awesome sporting events, but I also got to observe what student (and teacher) behaviour looks like at the end of what is arguably the most draining term (as one teacher put it- “Term 3 is like the Wednesday of your week - you can just barely see the light at the end”). Hint: as some year seven students frantically tried to wrap up their “water inquiry” project reports, others were quite literally bouncing off the walls.

The first school I attended was Cottesloe primary school, an independent public school. It was an absolute pleasure to interact with the staff and students at this school. In addition to observing and assisting in classrooms, I had the privilege of accompanying the year 3-5 students to their annual sports carnival, where various schools gather to compete in sporting events. Spoiler alert: Cottesloe won by a (moderate) landslide!

The second school I attended was Scotch College. If that sounds prestigious to you, I dare say you are correct, but “Scotch” is the farthest thing from pretentious. The staff and students are all genuinely kind and passionate about learning. I will admit I was more than a little curious to find out what a boys only school would look like, and I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly and respectful atmosphere. I spent the majority of my time with year 7 students. The boys were nothing but courteous to me and had many questions to ask about Canada, including: “Are there heaps of bears?” “Do you ski lots?” And, my favourite (but also maybe least favourite), “Is Trump your president?”

Scotch College wrapped up Term 3 with a “Highland Games” event, which included bagpipes, traditional games, and a lot of fun. Despite the temperamental wind and rain, the school persisted in their active endeavors. For the teachers, the day ended with a drink and an optional serving of haggis in the staff room (I chickened out, much to the dismay of my distant Scottish ancestors).

I feel like I have seen some of the best of Perth’s education system these past two weeks, and I am more grateful than ever to be here. Since the students have a two week break now, so thus do I, so I am venturing to Brisbane to visit one of my best friends. She is completing her master’s degree in speech pathology, so we will undoubtedly swap amusing stories about the youth we interact with. I will also get to meet up with my two fellow Australia TABers Lauren and Kelsey!

I love teaching. Til next time,

Tracy

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Boa tarde,

The first three weeks here in Goiânia have sure flown by! So far, my first impressions of Goiânia are: it’s hot (but we are acclimatizing well I think – mainly getting used to the sweat haha), the people here are very friendly (even if we have very little idea of what they are saying to us – we are getting use to the hugs/kisses hello’s and goodbyes), and the traffic and driving here are crazy (the pedestrians have little to no right of way so looking both ways twice is crucial!).

Our time here in Goiânia has been filled with school visits, Portuguese classes, parties with some of the exchange students, formal meetings with the President and other officials of the partner university, PUC, and day to day adventures of getting groceries, doing laundry, and exploring our neighbourhood (in the daylight of course).

We have now visited four different schools, all public and all very different. We have had a different tutor/student from the education program come along with us each time and therefore different explanations of how the school system works and it seems to be slightly different for each school. We visited three elementary schools and one high school. In Brazil, the primary schools are the responsibility of the city, the high schools are the responsibility of the state and universities are federal. Most directors (principals) are elected into their positions. Teachers are not paid very well, although high school teachers are paid slightly better, and teaching is not seen as a good job. At most schools, the students are fed at least lunch and sometimes breakfast and a snack and for some of the students it may be their only meal of the day. After all our visits and chats with different people my very basic understanding is that education is very political. The day to day at the schools seems to be very similar to Canada – students are split into cycles instead of grades, there are about 25 students in a class, and they have a break to play and run around outside. The average length of a school day seems to vary school to school and depends are what cycle. After our visit at the first school, we sat with the director and asked her questions. She told us to one thing to takeaway from our visit to her school was that education was for the individual student not the masses – this reminded me of one of the mandates for Alberta Education being for the individual student and making sure learning was personalized. I am not sure how much personalized instruction happens overall in Brazil, but at this one school it was a focus and that was good to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting different schools, we were able to get a taste of what education looks like here and with the help of our tutors/interpreters were able to answer questions for the students and ask some of our own. Children are children you go and I loved their enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder about us and Canada. I do wish our Portuguese was a bit better but hopefully that will come. We have been attending Portuguese class once a week and our instructor Pedro has us counting to at least 200, introducing ourselves and others including name, age, nationality, and profession. We also practice as much as we can when we go out and mostly when we visit Francesca, the friendly lady at the store below our apartment.

This week we also started at the PUC language center where we will rotate through three classes and eventually help teach a few lessons. Our first visit we just observed how they teach their lessons. I observed two classes, a per-intermediate 3 (adults) and a teen 6. There are three age groups and then up to 6 levels within each age group. The lessons seem to be based on three main methods: a workbook with activities, group conversation exercises and listening to a CD. I m excited to get to know the students and the teachers better over the next few weeks.

Everyone we have met so far from the tutors, teachers, students, exchange students, professors and the university president have been so welcoming and friendly. The time is going by so fast and I hope to make the most the remaining time we have here in this fabulous city. We are looking forward to exploring some more of the culture, food, nightlife and outdoor activities the city and state have to offer.

 

Tchau!

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The Adventure Begins: TAB Japan

Hello everyone!

When I learned of the Teaching Across Borders program, and that Japan happened to be one of the many placement offered by the program, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. Japan has been a country that I’ve always longed to visit. From its bustling cities and quirky cafés, the lush mountainous landscapes, to the deep and long history of culture and tradition, Japan seemed like a traveller’s dream destination. I began my journey in peaceful Hiroshima, and worked through way up through Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo before finally reaching Sapporo in Hokkaido. During my two weeks of travel, I’ve been lucky enough to hike mountains, visit (and take shelter from the rain in) temple grounds, and learned much about history and culture in museums. I've been able to easily observe the country's collectivist culture in the way people wait patiently before getting on trains during rush hour, and in general, in the way that people readily help those who seem to be lost, or having trouble. I’ve also discovered that two weeks of travelling a country barely scratches the surface of Japan’s rich, and deeply embedded  history and culture.

Another reason for wanting to participate in TAB are for the skill and strategies that will improve both my pedagogy and everyday life, that I will gain through a studying and teaching abroad. I chose Japan in particular because I am very interested in being able to observe that similarities and differences between the educational systems of North America and Japan. After having the opportunity to observe an elementary school sports day, as well as having learned about the Japanese educational system in class, I have learned many things about what has made education in this country so unique. For example, morality, respect for parents, and how to be a good citizen are explicitly taught in schools  at the elementary school level. Throughout this program, I hope to learn more about class structure, student-teacher interactions, and class management.

Also, as someone who has always identified as an introvert, I believed that being placed in a completely new culture would push me beyond my comfort zone, and encourage me to learn how to navigate through unfamiliar environments more comfortably. Through this experience, I hope to deepen my appreciation of diversity, as well as become more mindful of the cultural practices and traditions that take place in the lives of my future students. Overall, I believe that I will leave Japan with improved communication and collaboration skills, which will allow me to create more meaningful connections both inside and outside the classroom.


Until my next post, mata ne!

 

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Introduction to beautiful Perth!

Hello again, Ning blog readers!

I am coming up on two weeks here in Perth, Australia! These weeks I’ve spent meeting my liaison and other faculty members at Murdoch University as well as sitting in on Master of Teaching courses (the equivalent teaching program to our after-degree program), an Education faculty meeting, and a PD session titled Future Steps: Future Classrooms. I was also lucky enough to attend an event at a school in the city where a group of students from two different rural Indigenous schools were visiting. This group of students were part of a larger group that had written, illustrated, and published a book as part of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s Community Literacy Project. (More info here: https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/community-literacy-programs). We had the pleasure of reading their book and others published by Indigenous students, watch some music videos the students made, and visit the school’s excellent STEM center (complete with laser cutters and a 3D printer).

I could talk for a very long time about these first two weeks, as they have made me think very hard about what I’m looking forward to these next two months, but I will try to summarize some main thoughts I’ve had. Early on in my visit, I made a point to visit the Education building at Murdoch University. I was intrigued to find this set of values displayed along the walkway. Many of these values will be familiar to us from Canada, but I found this list to be quite an eloquent summary. They are:

-        Leading the curriculum - motivating and engaging learners creatively

-        Linking cultures, learning together

-        Innovating with new teaching technologies

-        Diversified teaching experiences: local and international

-        Elite athlete program for health and physical education

-        Growing minds, changing lives

-        Education, the foundation of wellbeing

Stay tuned for how these values might play out in schools here!

Switching gears a bit, my liaison gave me a copy of an article titled 3rd Culture Schools: International Schools as Creative Catalysts for a New Global Education System (Hallgarten, Tabberer, & McCarthy, 2015). This piece explores how international schools have changed over the past century, and what this means for the future of the Education system. They suggest that in a world that is increasingly globalized and technological, international schools may be the key to bridging the gaps in our current global Education system in order to improve learning outcomes for everyone. They say international schools “have the potential to become a powerful creative community with a cause; a cause that goes beyond any individual institution, but supports system-wide educational transformation” (Hallgarten, Tabberer, & McCarthy, 2015, p. 13). They have some excellent suggestions as to how this may be done, but I will leave it to yourselves to read if you are interested via the following link: https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/third-culture-schools-international-schools-as-creative-catalysts-for-a-new-global-education-system

How does this relate to TAB? I think in this day and age, having an experience with education on an international level, whether as a student or a teacher (or, in our lucky cases, both) opens your eyes to just how interconnected a world we have become, and may help prepare you for it. A globalized world presents us with unlimited potential, but it also brings us a myriad of challenges. Never before have we experienced so much change so quickly, and it is up to us as educators to prepare our students for the complex world they will be thrown into. The values of resilience, adaptability, creativity, lifelong learning and citizenship have always been important, but even more so now in an international context. Education today is less about teaching things, and more about teaching students the values, skills and competencies they will need to be socially and environmentally conscious, successful citizens of the world. As we know, the students of today will create the future of tomorrow, so a big part of our job is to challenge them to consider what kind of a world they’d like to live in, and how they can make it happen.

If you’d like, let me know what you think in the comments! That’s all for now. This week, I will enter into my first public primary school classroom in Perth. The week after that will be spent at a private school for boys, where they are finishing up their term with their annual Highland Games event.

I will conclude this post with a few photos from Perth, just for fun! This city is beautiful, diverse, and rich in art and culture. 

 

- Perth Cultural Centre, complete with Western Australia's State Library, two art museums, a performing arts theater, and a developing museum, among many other things. (Government of Western Australia, 2017)

- Garden within Perth Cultural Centre

- Fremantle's cappuccino street- a place for history, chocolate, and- you guessed it- cappuccinos. 

- Fremantle ocean views

References: 

Government of Western Australia. (2017). Perth Cultural Centre. Retrieved from https://www.mra.wa.gov.au/projects-and-places/perth-cultural-centre

Hallgarten, J., Tabberer, R., & McCarthy, K. (2015). 3rd Culture Schools: International Schools as Creative Catalysts for a New Global Education System. Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Retrieved from https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/third-culture-schools-international-schools-as-creative-catalysts-for-a-new-global-education-system

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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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Ola Brazil!

Traveling to Brazil for 11 weeks had me feeling both excited and nervous. I arrived at the airport five days ago in Calgary at 4 am sleepy, nervous, and excited to start my journey to Brazil – first stop Rio de Janeiro!

Our 'trio in Rio' has had so much fun exploring - hiking to the Christ Redeemer, going hang gliding, stand up paddle boarding and finding the tiled stairs in St. Teresa made famous by Snoop Dog. We haven’t let our language barrier slow us down, we have tried to use as much Portuguese as we can. So far almost everyone we meet has been nice and some even try and help us with our terrible pronunciation. I myself have mastered a few Portuguese words – ‘obrigado, olá/oi, tchau, de nada, agua, por favor, chope and frango’/ thank you, hello/hi, bye, you’re welcome, water, please, draft beer and chicken.’ The essentials haha.

As we finish off our week here in Rio I am looking forward to the experience that lays ahead of us once we arrive in Goiania.  I hope this experience pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps me grow both professionally and personally. I hope to gain a new perspective on teaching and learning. I hope to relate with my future students by learning more about a different culture/language and by experiencing being in a different culture surrounded by a language I don’t understand. I think I will be able relate by having gone through something similar. I think knowing your students is so important and I hope this experience with help in the future. I plan to integrate everything I learn and experience into my future teaching.Specifically I am interested to see how early childhood education in Brazil differs from Canada.

I haven’t done a lot of traveling and grew up in a small town so this experience will be pushing me in every aspect. I love a challenge and I think this just that – a new country, culture, and language on top of online classes and the TAB program. I think you can learn so much from the people around you and by having an open mind the possibilities are endless. I really see this an opportunity to learn from people whose background and educational values may be different from my own.

 

 

 

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Introduction to Amazing Australia!

Greetings, Ning blog readers!

My name is Tracy and I will be participating in the Teaching Across Borders 2017 program in Perth, Australia! I am beginning this very special first blog post as I fly to Perth from Cairns, the tropical Northern tip of Queensland, Australia. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the past five weeks touring around New Zealand and up the East Coast of Australia with my best friend, a fellow Elementary school teacher. As she reluctantly boards her flight back to the Great White North, I continue my adventure to Murdoch University, where I will be staying for the duration of the program. The pilot has informed us that the temperature in Perth is a cool 22 degrees. Not bad for the end of Australia’s winter season, if you ask me.

I could not be more excited to begin the Teaching Across Borders program. I have met so many amazing people and seen so many amazing things on this trip already, and I know Perth will bring so much more. Though I’ve had a blast these past few weeks, the TAB program is the whole reason I’m “Downunder”, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I applied for the TAB program because I believe in the value of international experiences for every career path, and for education in particular. I believe nothing influences a society more than education, and thus as teachers we have the power to shape the future as well as the responsibility to ensure we do so from an open and informed perspective. The importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and being exposed to other countries, cultures and education systems is crucial to mastering the art of diversified and inclusive education.

In Perth, I may not be exposed to culture shock or a language barrier as some others in the TAB program will be, but there will be no shortage of diverse experiences for me. Included in my placements in Western Australia are Indigenous schools (with the option of travelling quite far from Perth - details to come), a private school with a Highland Games experience, an inclusive education school, and a school with an intensive language centre that prepares students in exceptional circumstances (e.g., refugees) for integration into the school system. I will also have the privilege of sitting in on Murdoch University Education courses and professional development sessions. I look forward to sharing as much as I possibly can about my experiences on this blog, and to reading about everyone else’s experiences!

To conclude this post, I would like to share some highlights of my trip thus far (classroom-friendly fun facts included). I hope you enjoy them, and get a chance to experience them yourselves one day!

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Sydney, Australia! Did you know the Sydney Opera House exceeded their original 7 million dollar estimate by 95 million dollars!? 

Whale watching at Gold Coast, Australia! These humpback whales travel all the way from the Arctic Ocean to mate and have their babies in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean on Australia’s Eastern coast.

Fraser Island: the world’s largest island made entirely of sand! The SS Maheno shipwreck has been there since 1935 when it was hit by a cyclone. 

Magnetic Island: the perfect place to spot koalas and echidnas in the wild. Echidnas make up 4/5 species of mammals that lay eggs! (Can you guess the other?) 

Hiking in the Taranaki region of New Zealand, where the mountains are active volcanoes!! Also the perfect place for Lord of the Rings fans to get a view of Mount Doom. 

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That's all, folks! Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more from Perth.

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Till next time Australia!

2 months. I’m still so often in disbelief that I had the wonderful opportunity to call this place home for 2 months. Moreover, it astonishes me how quickly this place felt like home. During my time here I’ve learned an enormous amount of what it means to be a teacher and a life-long learner. Coming here and taking a leap of faith was a big step for me and I can confidently say it’s ignited a fire for teaching abroad. I’ve appreciated the challenge for my professional life as a teacher but also the challenge to my personal life. Moving in with people you barely know is a daunting task but I am so thankful my roommates made my time here full of adventure and laughter (to the point where we would be gasping for breath).

Our coordinator worked very hard to give us a taste of the wide variety of schools that Perth has to offer. I’m thankful that she took the time to make us feel so welcome! This truly is a wonderful and life-changing program. I would encourage any student to seriously consider taking part!

Looking back I remember how full of anxiety I was to leave home, but now I’m full of the same anxiety to leave my new home. There are hundreds of things I will miss about this place, from the trendy Fremantle Markets to the stylish Perth CBD, and everything authentically Australian in between. I know I’ve only just scratched the surface on what this beautiful place has to offer and I look forward to the day I can return and share this place with loved ones. I’ve made a lifetime of memories here and am looking forward to sharing all the funny, embarrassing and down-right cringe-worthy stories from our travels. 

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釧路市よろしくおねがいします!

Kushiro! Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu!

Kushiro! Please take care of me! 

It has been about eleven weeks since I have been in Japan and about a month since I have arrived in Kushiro. It has definitely been quite an adventure and I have really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture. In my time in Kushiro, I have felt incredibly blessed with all the wonderful activities that I have been allowed to partake in. Visiting Japanese elementary and junior high schools were always exciting as I had really enjoyed interacting with all the students and learning about the Japanese educational system. I also really enjoyed participating in sumo wrestling, calligraphy classes, Noh theatre workshops, art discussions, and many other cultural activities. Without a doubt, I will never forget these wonderful Japanese experiences.

Last time in my blog, I talked about how I observed the expression of respect and gratitude in students during my school visits. This time I would like to talk about how different teacher training is in Japan in comparison to Calgary. In Kushiro, we have had ample opportunities getting to know fellow aspiring educators and from those opportunities many conversations have occurred. One of those conversations that have stood out in particular to me so far was about teacher training in Japan.

When I asked the Japanese elementary student teachers what they were learning in their courses, it came to me as a surprise that they were all taking courses in English, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, etc. From there, the students then told me that in order to become an educator in Japan, all students are required to pass a teacher certification examination. In this examination, students must demonstrate a certain level of knowledge in all the disciplines and teaching strategies. Student-teachers are even tested on their personal fitness as part of their examinations. I found it incredibly surprising that in Japan, teachers are tested on their knowledge on the disciplines that they would one day teach.  If the student teachers are unable to pass this examination, they must then wait a year before they can take it again.

Clearly, in Canada we have an entirely different process in order to become an educator. To become an educator, we do not have to complete a knowledge test in order to to get our certification. I recall from most of my courses in University, that it was more important for us was to learn how to teach rather than what we were teaching. This was due to the idea that the knowledge that our future students need to know is constantly changing with respect to our shifting world. Right now, the jobs that we are preparing our future students for are currently non-existent. Thus, there is more importance placed in teaching them how to problem solve and critically think.

 

During the university festival, I was invited to talk about the educational system in Canada, in which the international club at the University held a conversational forum. As I shared what we were being taught in our program for education, I could tell that the students were all shocked that we weren’t tested on our subject knowledge. I explained our approach to teacher training but I also explained that our educational system isn’t perfect either. For this forum, rather than focusing on whose educational system was better I wanted to create discourse. I believe that conversation was important to understand both Canada’s and Japan’s approach to education. In fact, I felt that I had learned a lot about the Japanese educational system, in which there are many components that I would love to incorporate in my future classroom and school. I personally don’t believe there is a perfect approach to teaching yet, but rather I hope to look at the positives and negatives of various educational system and learn from them in order to further improve my teaching practice.  Learning should never stop. 

またね!

Mata ne!

See you later!

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Monoculturalism Versus Multiculturalism

For the most part and surprisingly, Canadian and Japanese life are extremely similar. The big difference that I have witness are some of the core values of peace between people and, in schools specifically, the monocultural versus multicultural foundations. Canada is a multicultural based country which is clearly shown in our school systems. We as teachers walk into classrooms with the knowledge that we will have students from different countries, cultures, and often languages. Japan however, does not have this type of system and instead has classrooms that are clearly Japanese only, especially in smaller cities like Kushiro. This creates both advantages and disadvantages in schools, as multiculturalism does in Canada, that we have discussed at length with teachers and professors here. 

 

Some of the advantages of monoculturalism in the classroom is the freedom for teachers to go deeper into subjects like history, geography, politics, because they are uniquely Japanese. In general, almost everyone comes from the same style of upbringing, the same values, traditions, and experiences as far as society go. This makes it easier for a teacher to not worry about coming to a topic from many perspectives as everyone has similar understanding. Teachers can do deeper into cultural activities because they are common to everyone and hold meaning
for everyone. For example the opportunity the Grade 6's, 2nd year education students, and Michelle and I had to experience traditional iron making. This tradition is only continued in southern Japan today and was and still is used to make true Katana's, or Samurai swords. The iron is special because it is so pure that it does not rust. This event was planned and executed by the university students, and the grade 6's and their teachers - without fear of danger or liability - were able to participate. Not only was it so special to me to learn how to make iron from scratch, it was impressive to see how the lesson taught social students through history, science through iron, and also morals through the value of patience and 'breath of life' tranquility that it takes to make the iron. This was an important part of traditional iron making and carries today. Monocultural classrooms make classes such as moral education possible because across Japan you will find similar if not identical values of peace, hard-work, dedication, and this desire for tranquility. Therefore morals can be taught from one common set of values and perspectives. Lastly, these common values and notions of a good life mean that the government can set a national education curriculum for all students and teachers to adhere to. 

 

The disadvantages though also stem from these shared values and especially shared perspectives because it means little to no questioning of social constructs and behaviours. There are professors at the Hokkaido University of Education that we spoke too who are wary of this because they fear students becoming complacent. There is a strong sense from the teachers here that while some nationalism is good, too much could lead to the same subservient behaviour exhibited for the emperor before WW2. Which they see now when students do not question what the government is doing or what social constructs they are following. In Canada this lack of scrutiny is not possible because we have so many different expectations from the many cultures who share in the creation of social constructs and government. This is not to say that Japan is doing badly or wrong in any way, only interesting that teachers see this and want to try and create more world-based thinking and values through widening curriculum, questioning society, and exchanges like these. 

 

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A little bit different, but much the same

The time I have spent teaching in Rubi has been a very rewarding and enriching experience. Throughout the experience we have worked closely with the English department to develop and implement speaking activities and games which would enrich their conversational abilities and confidence in English. Overall I have been impressed with their English abilities and knowledge, and have focused primarily on building confidence to find the words they know and make mistakes, but be able to learn from those mistakes. I admire the students language abilities, most of them speak two languages fluently and are now learning their third. I only wish my language program throughout high school had been extensive enough for me to retain more of the language which I chose to study.

Over the course of my time teaching in Rubi, I have had the great opportunity of teaching three days a week to eleven different classes weekly. Each class has varying levels of language abilities which has allowed me to greatly deepen my ability to differentiate lessons within and across classes. I see each level of students ranging from 12 years old to 18 years old, and have gained some understanding of the school system in Spain. While I see a great variety of classes and age groups, I cannot say my observations are representative of secondary schools in Spain, but throughout by experiences I have been able to catch a glimpse into the similarities and differences between Canadian and Spanish classrooms.


The biggest difference I have noticed, and one aspect I will probably miss the most is the relationships between students and teachers. In Spain, students call their teachers by their first name which differs from Canada where we use our surnames as teacher to establish that role of authority. I feel that using first names establishes a more relaxed relationship from the start, I feel the students are able to feel that they know their teacher as a person more than as a figure at the front of the classroom, which allows them the freedom to reach out to teachers with issues related to school and their personal life. Students and teachers are also more affectionate toward each other, often reaching out for a touch of the arm or even a hug to demonstrate their attention and care for each other. I think as a teacher it is more than just a professional relationship, we need to establish a loving and caring relationship with our students and be another example of what that looks like. When I speak to the teachers about their relationships they often speak of how important these relationships are for the students, especially those who do not have positive relationships at home and often all those students need is that act of affection and love to show that somebody cares and is there to listen to them.

Another difference in the school is that teachers move from classroom to classroom, and students remain in their classrooms. Students have assigned classrooms which they spend most of their day in, aside from a choice class. The schedule of the day is also set out in a way which minimizes movement, unlike in Canada there are no breaks in between classes and a short half an hour second breakfast break in the morning. As teachers move from class to class, the students have a few minutes to prepare their things for the upcoming class. Having students remain in the classrooms and minimal time between classes, minimizes crowdedness and misbehaviour in the hallways throughout the day. It also eliminates the need for student lockers, because if and when students need to leave their classrooms they leave their items in their primary classroom which is locked during their second breakfast break. I do appreciate the reasoning behind students remaining in the classrooms, but I do miss the personal touches and personalities which teachers often add to their classroom back in Canada. I find having your own classroom allows the teacher to share their personality with students as well as gives a space to allow the students to share each others work through displays. In Rubi, most classrooms have no work displayed on them, but there are some display cases in the hallways which hold student work and changes every so often to share new projects.

A third difference in schools which I have noticed is that students can be completely done with school at the age of 16. In order to complete their last two years of secondary education they must write an exam to qualify to enter into the Bachillerato program which is compared to the A-Levels in the United Kingdom. If students are looking to enter into university or a more technical vocation they need to do well on their fourth year exams to enter into bachillerato. If they do not make it into bachillerato they are either graduates of the ESO (Spanish School Leaving Certificate) or move into vocational training specific to a career path. Students in third and fourth year are highly concerned with these exams and have a lot of pressure to do well on them for their future education and career paths.

 

Apart from these differences which I have observed throughout my experience, schools are much the same and students are much the same in Spain and Canada. Students feel the pressure and anxiety of succeeding in school to prepare for their future. However, they are also just kids, they get into trouble, they laugh and joke with each other and teachers. Students can be loud and disruptive at times, and sometimes I feel the construction of the building (mainly bricks and tiled floor) exaggerates the noise level of students, making the teachers feel insecure of how noisy the students are. Similar to in Canada, teachers find their own ways of getting the attention of the class and lowering the noise levels, such as clapping, asking for noise levels to drop, raising a hand to signal attention. It is always a tricky line to walk when the aim of the class is conversation and noise levels become high because the students are so engaged with their conversation.

The school itself feels like a school, there is student art displayed in the hallways, a large courtyard where students play during second breakfast break and classrooms are set up similarly. Rows of two or three desks, so students are able to share and chat with each other, but the teachers are able to maintain attention and implement individual work when necessary. There is a computer in every classroom, with a projector or a smart board and we are able to create interactive presentations and games for our classes.

Overall I have to say my experience has demonstrated that although there are some differences between Canadian and Spanish schools, they are very similar. Students learn about similar topics, teachers prepare their lessons and always have a backup prepared for when technology fails. Teachers are always planning and thinking of what is next, preparing an exam, marking an exam and just ensuring they are getting the most out of every lesson. The teachers I have encountered back in Calgary and here in Spain all care very deeply for their students and I believe that is a core value a teacher must hold in order to allow their students to succeed. When we care deeply we engage deeper and the students recognize this and will do the same.

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Inclusive Education in Japan

In the past few weeks in Kushiro we have visited 3 different elementary schools and two different Jr high schools. We have been able to experience the difference between rural and urban public, and urban charter for both levels of school in the area. Through all of these visits I have been struck by the impressive level of care and education prepared for students needing extra support. Every child who would be considered severely disabled cognitively and/or physically has 1:1 or in some cases 2:1 care for the child. That is, one or two care takers in the form of an assistant and an educator per child. For students who are coded with emotional behaviour issues or learning troubles there are also educational assistants for each child or an extra assistant in the classroom to support the teacher. It is incredible to see the extra staff and care these students are given to make sure they are getting the education they deserve. I have really appreciated seeing the relationship that has been built between the teacher and students in every school we’ve visited because they stay with the child throughout their time at the school.

One elementary in particular stood out for me, which was a public urban elementary here in Kushiro. It has impressive facilities to care for three students who are confined to a wheelchair and unable to perform some basic functions without assistance. The school had a series of four large rooms each with a specific purpose to aid in helping the child with all areas of learning and functioning. There was a physiotherapy room equipped with special bathroom and shower facilities, there was an eating room that also had physiotherapy materials, there was a mini gym room, and then there was a classroom that was open with no desks but rather with lots of space to move and interact with the teacher and class materials. The rooms were open, bright, and attached to the main school with lots of pictures and posters outside showing the students in their extra activities. Many of the mainstream children came to the area at break to hangout and play in what felt like a very inclusive and happy place to be. 


This same elementary also had an assistant teacher in almost every classroom to aid students with emotional or cognitive issues, or in some cases just to aid the teacher in general. This meant that the class we saw that was struggling in an area like math was able to have two 

teachers walking around spending 1:1 time with students. The principle told us that this system worked for helping students understand, as well as helped bring the stress level of performing in the class down because there was so much more support.

While not every school has been equipped the facilities that this particular building has, every school has had the extra support and staff. It was wonderful to experience this level of care, the extra innovative materials used for students who need assistance, and the teaching practices used.  It helped me to learn some new techniques to bring back to Canada, as well as interact with students in a semi-inclusive setting that I haven’t had the chance to experience yet back home. It was both eye-opening and heartwarming. 

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