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education (36)

Presenting: The Canadian Teachers!

 


These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of teaching, travelling, motorbiking, hiking, meeting new friends, and having a wonderful time. Recently we had beenasked to present to some students at the University of Education and Science here in Da Nang, Vietnam. The liaison we work with here is a wonderful lady who has been a great support during our time here in Da Nang. When she requested us to present to the students here, we were not given detail as to how long the presentation should be, how many students we would be presenting, or the English level of our audience. So, we were a little apprehensive but made a slide show containing our favourite customs, foods, and sights of Canada (and Calgary), as well as a presentation on our education practices and theories.

 

When we arrived to the presentation we were happy to see there was a modest gathering of about 50-60 students (one in our cohort had suggested it might be 200 people), all from the teaching, international, and/or English department(s). They first gave us a lovely and hilarious presentation on culture, history, and quirks of Vietnam. We then gave our presentation, discussing how one becomes a teacher in Alberta, our theory-based pedagogy, and classroom realities, as well as showcasing our beautiful home country.

 

 

After the presentation we took about 20 minutes to field questions from the audience, all of which were highly thought-provoking; to the point of one student asking us the meaning of our lives. Got a little side-tracked there, but the questions lead to a healthy discussion of teaching in Vietnam and how the students here felt about their education and opportunity. The students shared our views on many pedagogical theories and were asking for resources to read and discover more about certain topics we discussed. The biggest surprise was when the students told us they don’t get to step foot into a classroom until they graduate! Many students shared that they volunteer in churches, or other areas outside their school in order to get experience with children. I am very grateful that our University allows us to get experience with teaching prior to becoming teachers, I believe it is a relatively new part of Education training, so I hope that Vietnamese students will get this chance in the future also. The students we talked with after the seminar were delightful and friendly, I will be excited to give another presentation in our last week here! Oh and also the students asked us to sing to them; we sung the Canadian National Anthem, so that happened! (picture below)

 

 

 

 

 

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Insights in a Soba Shop

This week we had the opportunity to go on a 3-day excursion to the National Park of Lake Akan. This included visits to the local rural schools, many gorgeous sights, wildlife and my personal favourite, marimo - a super cute algae ball native to Lake Akan (as you can see in my marimo selfie). However, one aspect that stood out to me was unexpectedly on our visit to a local soba shop. 

During our dinner, a young girl walked into the restaurant and seemed very shocked at our presence. As it turns out she was a student of Shinya, the Hokkaido University of Education student that came on the excursion with us. She attended tutoring sessions with Shinya in Kushiro, about 1.5 hours away - so they were quite surprised to see each other - and I was quite surprised that she traveled that far for quality tutoring.

As the discussion continued, we learned that she was the daughter of the soba shop owners, and soon we were all in conversation about education and her upcoming exams. As it turns out, she is a junior high school student - but being a small community of around 6500, there was no high school in the area. As a result, students must live outside of their hometown for high school, moving at least 1.5 hours away to the nearest city of Kushiro. We also learned the importance of the entrance exams. Entrance exams taken in junior high determine eligibility for various qualities of high school, similar to the University application process in Canada. I was shocked by this competitive edge at such an early age, but it explained her traveling so far for tutoring.

 This all came together to highlight the importance of Akanko Elementary's focus as a community school.  In Akan, this has even higher stakes, as students have no high schools available in town. As students will leave Akan after Grade 9 to larger centres, it is important for the schools to build connections to the local community before they leave. This allows students to see the local career opportunities available, to be proud of their hometown, and to share this interest with students they meet in their travels. Akanko Elementary School hopes to maintain the spirit of their town and their population by developing this foundation of connections within their community, as many smaller communities in Japan are in decline or have had their unique, historical industries lost.

While this situation of population loss is unique to the rural locations in Japan, I believe that investing in a sense of community connections can have great value in all schools, from small towns like Creston, BC where I grew up, to larger centres such as Calgary, where students can easily feel disconnected from the larger community. I hope to develop these community connections within my own classroom through authentic projects that connect student's classroom experiences to their local community.

 

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Up, Up, and Away!

After almost a year in the making, the day has nearly come to cross the ocean bound for a world relatively unknown to me. As such, questions such as “why are humans inclined to travel?” have been forefront on my mind. Those are far too tough to tackle in one blog post, so I have opted instead to reflect on why I chose to pursue this educational opportunity in China. The Asian continent has been of interest to me since my early childhood. This is in part because of the stories my aunts and uncles, who participated in peacekeeping efforts abroad with the Canadian Armed Services, shared with me growing up. Perhaps, it was their stories that drew me to study history. From my prior experiences, I have grown to understand that various media, textbooks, and film can only provide a limited perspective on the history of a region. Experiencing a culture, visiting what it collectively values, conversating with individuals about their story; this is what I feel develops a greater understanding of the human condition.

Furthermore, it facilitates the opportunity to reflect on my worldviews and values critically. Of interest to me, because of my minor in history and specialization in social studies, is how China approaches incorporating social sciences into its curriculum. I look forward to being challenged by the substantial cultural differences China has from Canada and the United States. Although it can be tempting to only look for differences when traveling, I am also eager to examine the many similarities we share!

I am interested in learning about the variety of religious influences thousands of years of cross-continent trade has brought to China. My communication and culture courses exposed me to the religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, which are common in China. Even though the state’s official position is the embracement of atheism, I am eager to seek out and experience each belief system in practice. Furthermore, I also want to study the fusion that has occurred between them over time. I studied culinary arts during high school, so Chinese food is another aspect of the culture that I yearn to delve into. I have had limited exposure to non-north Americanized Asian food during my lifetime and welcome the introduction to a new culinary profile!

As I finish final preparations, my mind is filled with intense fluctuating emotions. At times, I felt flustered and overwhelmed, while at others I am filled with eagerness and excitement as I think about the unknown. I find it comforting to think back on why I chose to pursue my Bachelor of Education, the joy of experiencing a moment with a student when it all ‘clicks,’ and I hope I feel that way by the time I depart. I’ve learned that the journey preparing for this trip was an integral part of the experience, it has challenged me both personally and professionally, but has made me all the more prepared.

I look forward to developing friendships while travelling and experiencing a culture that is substantially different then my home nation!

“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it.”

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As discussed in my recent post “My TAB Goals & Rural Small-scale Schools“, Jenny and I had the opportunity to collaborate with University professors Koshikawa-sensei and Tomita-sensei when discussing rural, small-scale schools at the Hokkaido University of Education (HUE). These schools are interesting in that they are small and remote, but seem to be leading the change in the Japanese education system. Tomita-sensei explained that HUE seemed to train teachers to assimilate and become part of the pre-existing system, but in his course “Curriculum Redesign”, created 2 years ago and currently involving 5-6 professors, they were working towards breaking away from this uniformity. He discussed their interest in curriculum redesign and challenging the current traditional legacy of education in Japan to better suit the needs of today.

We had rich conversations about interdisciplinary learning and shared current examples of schools in Canada breaking these traditional norms, which really brought to light for me my passion for the subject. It took our classroom learning and put it in a very authentic context – how can we contribute to this knowledge building community for education development in Japan? This made me really consider: how do we, as teachers, communicate our philosophies effectively? How can we share what we have learned?  What information is most valuable to share in our short time? And which areas are we most passionate about?

This experience is providing us with a great opportunity to attend this new university course “Curriculum Redesign” with 3rd year HUE education students, and to present and hold discussions about key ideas in education today in Canada. We get to share our philosophies and collaborate with Japanese students, building and becoming a part of an international community of teachers. This task has been both hugely motivating for me in developing ideas, and it has offered a great reflective task for my own personal teaching philosophies and rationale as I navigate how I want to present my beliefs and professional development with this community.

Upon reflection, I believe the source of this motivation comes back to the authenticity piece of learning. This opportunity allows me to communicate my understanding of how students learn and frame interdisciplinary learning in a context that is meaningful and has the potential to affect widespread change - making it an incredibly powerful learning experience. This reflection only reinforced my understanding of the importance of creating authentic learning environments for our future students. I can’t wait to see what we will all come up with together, learn from one another, and to become part of this collaborative, developing, International community.

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My TAB Goals and Rural Small-scale Schools

      My motivation for applying to the TAB program, specifically Japan, revolved around my goals of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, increasing my understanding and experience with ELL education, learning from the unique culture of Japan, both in its school systems and day-to-day life, and collaborating with teachers internationally. TAB also provides the opportunity for me to build upon my personal interests of travel and gaining new experiences. In my Ning posts over the following weeks, I hope to share some of my insights I have gained in reflecting upon these goals.

     This past week, Jenny and I attended our first meeting at the Hokkaido University of Education, Kushiro campus with university professors Koshikawa-sensei and Tomita-sensei. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the rural small-scale schools we would visit, and to gain insight into their distinctive school cultures.

     We discussed several small-scale schools that we would be visiting, ranging in size from 19 students (grades 1-9 in 5 classrooms) to 65 students (grades 1-6 in 9 classrooms). In addition to their small size and rural environments, these schools were unique in their authentic approaches to education. Today, many of Japan’s schools educate students in a more traditional sense, continuing in Japan’s traditional legacy of education. Thus, these schools are an interesting focus for our volunteering in that despite being small and remote, they seem to be leading the change in the Japanese education system.

     Each school had a unique, community-driven focus on authentic learning. Tomita-sensei explained that Akanko Elementary is one of Japan’s “community schools”, meaning that the local community, including community partners and organizations (forestry & fishing companies, Indigenous Centre, local eco museums, hotel and tourism industry, etc.) all work together to create authentic curriculum for the students (see photo below). Komburi Elementary designs interdisciplinary curriculum connections around the local industry, kelp harvesting. Yamahana Elementary and Jr. High is a special-approval school, which (much like Canadian Charter schools) focuses on a niche teaching style to draw both local and commuting students. Yamahana’s design functions three-fold: to provide a niche environment for students struggling in traditional learning environments, to draw higher numbers from neighbouring communities, and to increase school prestige to draw families to move to the community.

     During our next month of school visits, I am excited to learn more about how educators navigate the unique challenges of multiple grades in a single classroom, small class sizes, building strong community connections, and applying the authentic learning philosophies of each school.

Image 1. Picture of Akanko Elementary School Community partnered events throughout the school year. Each row (blue arrow) represents a different community partner (Indigenous Centre, tourism organizations, fire department, etc.) involved in designing school events, and each column (red arrow) represents a month of the year.

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Teaching in Da Nang

After giving myself some personal time to get acquainted with Da Nang, It’s time to finally step into the classroom. Here are my initial notes, impressions and other miscellaneous thoughts over the past few days.

English class for both Primary and Secondary schools is devoted to covering a section of a mandatory English workbook. The workbook covers components of a language: grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc. Games/activities and songs are implemented to make the learning process more enjoyable. Many of the games are competition-based to up the ante and excitement! When answering a question, students are expected to stand up give their response.

Primary School

The classrooms are jam-packed. For each class, there is an average of 35-45 students. Like back home in Canada, primary school students respond well to high energy. If you are enthusiastic about the lesson, the students will be as well! Also, the primary school happens to be located in close proximity to the airport, which means that every 10-15 minutes your eardrums are greeted by the monstrous sound of commercial planes taking off a few kilometers away.

Secondary School

The secondary school is much better equipped than I had anticipated. The teacher owns a laptop with digital copy of the English Learning workbook the students have, which is connected to a flat-screen TV, allowing students in the class to easily follow along. The school is located in a richer area of the city, which would explain the funding of these resources.

 

Overall, the students are so energetic and the staff are incredibly welcoming. Last week the girls and I got invited by our liaison at the primary school to come to the school’s Mid-Autumn festival. There, we examined decorative food displays, story-telling, and several themed dances, including lion dancing!

 

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Lessons in Courage (and Capoeria)

Olá (hello) from Goiania!

These past couple weeks settling into our new environment have been a whirlwind of WhatsApp messages, new friends, mall trips, broken Portuguese, and plenty of giant avocadoes. I’m loving it here, and I’m so grateful for the beautiful people here in Goiania who are making this city feel like home.

There are 6 of us from the UofC here in Brazil, but the Pontificia Universidade Catolica (PUC) has split us into pairs with student teachers from History, Geography, and Physical Education. Jasmine and I have been hanging out with the Physical Education group, and despite the fact that we are both training as English teachers, we are absolutely loving our time with the PE crew. (Side note: the first thing we taught the PE boys was how to say PhysEd. It was a really surprising hit :P)

Today we were at the PE campus where we started by observing some student teachers leading a futebol (soccer) class for a group of neighbourhood kids.  PUC offers sports programs to the community, and this is where many of the PE student teachers get most of their practicum hours. After this, we had the privilege of sitting in on a very impactful presentation on Anxiety Disorders that was led by a girl who was sharing about how therapy, healthy habits, awareness, and exercise can all contribute to addressing these disorders.  It was so beautiful to see her step out in courage and share some very personal reflections on her own experiences with anxiety and the paths she is taking to heal. We could only understand approximately 5% of what she was saying, but with the help of our student translator and the obvious emotion that this student carried, we were able to get a good feel for her passion about the topic.

Some new buds! The beautiful Ranasha (in black) was the student presentor. 

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my own habits, and the ways that these instincts hinder and help me in my life as a foreigner, as a student, and as a teacher.  Courage can be a habit, and I’m determined to make it one of mine.  

These university students choose to be courageous in their warmth and acceptance towards us, even though they are just as nervous about their English as we are about our Portuguese.  They take a chance on us every day by allowing us to watch their personal presentations, observe their classrooms, and take part in their confusing capoeira classes. (Side note #2: Capoeira literally kicked my butt, but 10/10 will go again).  I am realizing more and more that this courage is so essential to the way that we invite new students, parents, and other staff into our classrooms. We have to be brave in the way that we present our passions to our students. We have to be willing to teach from a place of vulnerability because we will inevitably let a little bit (or a big bit, fingers crossed) of our hearts leak into the people that we are investing in. 

Canadians take on Capoeira.

 

For me, travelling is a really unique area to practise this courage because if I don’t try things now, then when? This is an attitude that I feel like I can generally tap into in very particular places and with very specific people, but I’m seeing the value more and more of choosing to bring this with specific intentionality into my role as a teacher.

I am very aware that I am a creature of habit.  I move around a lot, but I love to make safe spaces for myself.  I have a habit of bringing my little “home sparkers” to every new space that I’m in, and my roommates have to put up with all my little decorations that I’ve strewn around our apartment.  However, I’ve found that as I start to settle in my own head and heart here in Goiania, I have been able to be more courageous and truly enjoy the benefits of choosing to say yes more often than I say no.   

People who help me practise my courage:

  • The student teachers. WhatsApp + Google Translate = 3 new Instagram friends everyday.
  • Every Uber driver. Today I talked to a driver for 5 whole minutes in Portuguese. A new personal record.
  • My travel buds. They show me different ways to say yes everyday and I am so very grateful!

Até logo (see you later)!

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Aspirations

During the summer, I worked at a summer camp. In my last week of camp, I had a camper from Beijing that had only been in Canada for a month. Since my specialization was English Language Learners and I was going to China in a couple weeks, I thought perfect! What a wonderful opportunity!

The lucky thing is that a lot of summer camp is hands-on activities and group routines, so our camper was able to catch on quickly. The other lucky thing was that I had a volunteer who spoke mandarin who was able to offer a lot of translation most days.

The days that the volunteer was away though, I found that despite all the strategies learned in ELL classes, I struggled with getting meaning across since my mandarin was non-existent. I felt my frustration and the camper’s frustration sometimes to communicate our needs and wants.

I realized that even though I have traveled quite a bit, English has always been really easy to use to get by. As part of this TAB opportunity, I’m so excited and hope that when I come back, I understand what it feels like to be in a culture where I can’t speak my predominant language and also to have learned some mandarin.

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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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