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fall 2017 (141)

Now that it's over...

Having been home for a little bit now, I am beginning to experience many different feelings in regards to our experience in Vietnam. One of my fears was that I would revert back to my old ways when I come back to Canada, and so far I have noticed this concern's relevance. It is easy here - where we have all our needs met - to get wrapped up in things that in Vietnam seemed incredibly trivial. For example, the concept of "public image" is different. In Vietnam, I was looked up to by many. Whether this be due to mislead views of white people, or just an appreciation of foreigners, I found it incredibly shocking that we were such objects of awe in Eastern Asia. It makes me sad, because when back in Canada I interpret most attention or interactions as negative ones, most likely judging the sad state I feel I am in, or trying to tell me how I should better myself for next time. But in Vietnam, this never happened. No one made me feel bad for being myself, and no one made me feel judged - and on the rare occasions where I was judged, I welcomed it with open arms, which usually resulted in some sort of bonding between myself and those who were questioning my actions! Most moments where judgement was occurring towards us, it was delivered with a naive honesty that was based on a concern or compassion of something. Our new found friends were not racist towards our diverse group because they are bad people, but because they didn't know it is considered rude to act that way.

Now do not get me wrong, racism is awful and we should actively work to prevent it. However I realized how sensitive we have become in Canada. We are so scared of offending people in North America now, that everything we say must be filtered. I think this brings up an important notion, because if we are filtering all we say, are we able to be truly honest? Now I do not want people to confuse honesty with cruelty, rudeness. etc. Being honest can be done in a caring way that is evident of the compassion that backs it up. I think a lot of my anxieties are because of all the filtering I am aware is needed before I speak or do anything! Without these concerns in Vietnam I felt I could be more myself. I felt I could express myself genuinely because I knew these people came from a caring place. I don't always feel that back home, but I hope I can continue to feel this way here in Canada. In Vietnam, no one wanted to hurt us. I guarantee our ethnic background had something to do with this, but it also reminded me that this is an option in regards to how we lives our lives. It makes me wonder if Vietnam will grow to become more like Canada's culture as the country develops. Will Asian countries remain collectivist or drift towards the individualist nature of North America? 

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. Ultimately this experience taught me the benefit of taking risks. The missed opportunities that go by when you live in your own little bubble, letting strangers pass you by with regard only for what is on your to do list for that day. We are so wrapped up in our own lives that many of us forget that life isn't anything without having a passion for life itself, for the people, for the world. I have been helped and accommodated so much here, arguably more than I would have been back home. Experiences make life worth living. You might have to do things that feel uncomfortable to get these experiences, but it will not be something you regret. Go with the flow, and don't be hard on yourself when things don't go as planned. There isn't enough love in this world, so let's decide to embody it and enjoy the life we have.

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(in English: Goodbye, see you again! )

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Adios Barcelona

It is bittersweet to be writing this final blog post because it means that I am back home in Calgary. My time participating in the TAB program has been very unique and I believe I have developed skills that will be invaluable to me as a future teacher. My last day at my TAB placement school, Leonardo da Vinci, was very emotional for me as all of the students and teachers were so kind and appreciative of my time there. A few tears were definitely shed! I one day hope to return to Barcelona and Sant Cugat and see mi familia español once again! I really enjoyed teaching ELL students and I will keep learning techniques that will help me to engage with ELLs effectively. Given the rate of ELL students in our city, the TAB program is excellent in developing these types of skills. I learned to be more multi-modal in my teaching, and also that you can never explain directions too carefully! I am beginning my practicum on Monday in a school with a high ELL population and so I am eager to utilize what I have learned.                                                                               

My home away from home                            

Some things that I will miss about Barcelona:                  

Living by the beach and going swimming all the time

Being able to go to a bunch of amazing restaurants just steps away from my front door

Menu del día! From Monday - Friday you can get a 3 course meal for between 10-18 euros (including a drink)

+20 weather!

Exploring rural towns and other cities just as little as an hour away from Barcelona

Beautiful and unique European architecture

Practicing Spanish every day

Rambunctious students!

That being said, there are many things that I have missed about Calgary and I am happy to be home to see my friends and family. Teaching abroad has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience and I highly recommend it to pre-service teachers. I have learned a lot, and developed relationships, which I wouldn't have been able to do had it not been for this program. 

                 

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Final Reflections!

I can’t believe I’ve been home for 5 days now! It’s definitely been bittersweet, I was incredibly excited to see my family and friends, however, I can’t stop talking about my experiences in Vietnam. From teaching the adorable elementary students to creating bonds with the high school students to the authentic Vietnamese lunches and dinners we’ve had the honour of being invited to. To exploring places such as Ba Na Hills, Marble mountain, Hai Van Pass, Son Tra mountain, etc.

I absolutely miss everything about Vietnam! When we weren’t in the classrooms or working on course work, we would take advantage of the beautiful beaches or opportunity to explore the different areas around Danang! I remember scouting out different restaurants depending on what we were in the mood for that day! I’m going to miss waking up in the morning knowing that everyday would be a new adventure full of confusion and excitement! We would embrace the confusion and take in the excitement that every single day had to offer.

Throughout my stay in Vietnam I have gained a lot of experience, which I believe will help me during my practicum here in Calgary. Although nervous, I am excited to start teaching and applying everything that I learned in Vietnam to my grade 2/3 practicum class!

I am incredibly sad to have left Vietnam but I am very excited to soon return to such an incredible place full of memories and long lasting friendships!

Ps. The jetlag is unreal!

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(Good Bye - See you again!)

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Before my adventure ends...

As our time here is coming to and end, the list of things I am grateful for has become larger than expected! I am grateful that Sunaira stayed in a homestay, because we got to experience a family cooked meal to celebrate National women's day here. It was a very interesting time, with lots of rice wine and very good Vietnamese food! We have tried so many new things here, I cannot begin to imagine how it will feel to be back at home. We literally remember thinking about how much time we have to do so many things, but here we are now hearing the end and I feel panicky, as if I can't possibly do everything I want to before we leave. It is a shocking feeling that I didn't expect. Of course I am eager to go home now, but a big part of me wants to stay here!
Today I almost drowned trying to surf. But with some tips from the locals I was successful a handful of times at least! I am constantly shocked at how accommodating and welcoming the people here are. It makes me think that if I saw someone in Canada struggling, would I be willing to throw my own day away to lend a helping hand?
We have been treated so well here. Some of the best experiences I have had here were thanks to people that we connected to by visiting local restaurants. My favourite Pho place ( pronounced 'fa' despite how most Canadians say it!) was somewhere I frequented quite often. I got to know the owner who speaks English only minimally, but enough to become someone I would call a friend. He recently invited my friends and I to his home, where we got to experience a very authentic seafood meal. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. His family treated us like we were their own, and my last day with Phuong at the restaurant was full of brimming tears. I have added him on Facebook, and hope to maintain a relationship in the future.
The last few weeks have been full of everyone saying how much they will miss us, even students we did not get to teach! It humbles you to know how highly these people see you, when we are only just pre-service teachers hoping to help. My decision here was a bold one, as I was incredibly nervous about my abilities to adapt to a different culture and be able to prosper. But the people here, the learning experiences we have gone through, will change my life for the better. I am looking forward to practicum more than I had before, as I feel more strongly about my ability to adapt and be creative. I hope that I am able to carry this back with me to Canada. I am nervous still, but it has turned from an anxiety ridden nervous, to an excited anticipation, which is an important distinction in a life where I have struggled to see the positives out of past challenges. 
I finally know how to speak a few things in Vietnamese, and am devastated that we are leaving just as I feel comfortable here. It is a strange feeling, but one that I will treasure. In the last week we have gotten to celebrate Halloween with both the high school and primary school students, and it was amazing to see the joy they got in celebrating something that isn't even a typical holiday on this side of the world. Sometimes it made me sad however, as I feel they have many relevant celebrations of their own culture, that I think Canada would benefit in from sharing. For example, we learned on November 25th (my birthday!) it is National Teacher's Day in Vietnam. We were told that typically there is no teaching done on this day, as it is devoted to the students celebrating and doing things for the teachers who guide them. This country also celebrated National women's Day, while in Canada we just have the one International Women's Day, which is hardly celebrated as much as it was here! In Canada I fear we are forgetting many values, like gratitude, appreciation, and an overall sense of love. Their lives here are busy like ours, but filled with different concerns, and thus different ways to obtain and see joyful moments. 
I am feeling such bittersweet emotions at the thought of leaving. I will miss my friends here, but I will not forget how they have influenced my life. We were lucky enough to be able to go see a beautiful Buddha statue prior to it's closing (as Donald Trump is staying at the Intercontinental and it is now currently closed down to all public and even the Vietnamese people that worked there!). It was a wonderful way to wrap up our time here in Vietnam, reminding us of the appreciation these people have for their beliefs, their land, and their people. 
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Otsukaresama Deshita! / Back in Canada

Hello Everyone!

And so, my journey through the Teaching Across Border program has come to an end! I can’t believe how quickly these last ten weeks in Sapporo flew by, and I can’t believe the amount of precious experiences and memories that I have gained throughout this journey. Now that I am back home in Calgary, I feel like I've only really begun to deeply reflect on my experience. I think back on my time and Japan, and both my mind and heart explode when I try to recall all the amazing things I have learned, and when I think about all the kind and supportive people I've grown to deeply care for.

Through TAB I was able to fully immerse myself and grow to deeply appreciate another culture by living through and learning through it. Yes, due to language barriers, I struggled to communicate with teachers, peers, students, my host family, and other people I just happened to encounter. But I feel that through that struggle, I could work hard to develop my skills beyond verbal communication, as well as experience first hand what it’s like to learn another language. I feel like I have grown to appreciate the value of literacy more deeply, and of what it means to really comprehend and engage with the learning material. Through my experiences at Ainosato Nishi Elementary school, I feel like I have gained much in terms of teaching strategies, especially when it comes to formative assessment and in knowing your students well. Most of all, I think this experience has reminded me of the importance of community, in the family, in schools, and beyond.

As a future teacher, my ultimate goals are to inspire lifelong learning, and help my students to develop 21st century competencies, as well as grow in a way that allows them to live fully and happily. And I think that one of the ways in which teachers can accomplish this is through knowing and collaborating with your students, creating meaningful engagement, and establishing community. Although I am sad to be leaving Sapporo and all the wonderful people I have met her, I am excited to go back to Calgary and take what I have learned in Japan and use it in my future teaching practices!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this entire journey!

Arigato gozaimashita!

Until next time! Mata ne!

 

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Goodbye Ainosato Nishi Shogakko!

Hello Everyone!

I hope that everyone in TAB is having a great time at their respective countries! And for everyone else reading this blog, I hope you are doing awesome as well!

Even though this was my last week at Ainosato Nishi Elementary School, I was still able to learn so much about Japanese school culture, as well as observe some very useful teaching strategies. Something that I didn’t expect prior to arriving in Japan, was the amount of formative assessment. After each activity, from cleaning up, to practicing a song for the cultural festival, to participating in an English learning task, both students and teachers actively participated in formative assessment. For example, after playing a game of dodgeball for club activities, students would raise their hands and share their thoughts about their own, as well their classmates’, performance and participation. Teachers would also provide their thoughts about what happened in the previous activity. After each student would provide their assessment and feelings, the students would applause. I found this to be a great way for students to practice introspection, public speaking, explore their own learning, as well as have their own thoughts and feelings be acknowledged and validated by their peers.  Another example would be after a learning task in English class. After the activity, students would rate their own performance, as well as write down some of the things that they had learned in the class. The same as an exit slip, this practice allows students to think about their own learning, as well as provides teachers an opportunity to formatively assess their students. In some activities, students would also assess the performance of their peers on a simple rubric.

I feel like I can’t write about my experience at Ainosato Nishi without discussing the preparations surrounding the upcoming school cultural festival. During the cultural festival, students are divided into their grade levels. Each grade level performs a musical performance, and/or drama performance first for the school, and then for the school and family members. Preparation for this cultural festival starts months in advance, and requires the full cooperation of all teachers at the school. In my assigned grade four class, students were to perform a modified version of a play called Neverland. Every morning, both grade four classes would gather and sing at least one song from the play. Usually before lunch time, the students would also practice the lines and actions of the play for two periods. It never ceased to amaze me, the incredible enthusiasm of both the students and teachers as they prepared for this performance. Despite the rigorous and strict guidance of the teachers, everyone seemed to be having fun, and were all equally motivated to do their best.

(Practice for School Cultural Festival: Neverland)

Our last day at Ainosato Nishi Elementary School was a lot more heartbreaking than I had expected it to be. It was amazing to see the learners grow and mature, even in the short span of time I was able to spend with them. I felt that I learned a lot through teaching them English, and through the observation of the excellent teachers at the school. Everyone, both staff and students, were incredibly welcoming, therefore it didn’t take long for me to feel a part of the community that I first observed and admired when I first stepped in to the school. I am sad to be leaving such an amazing community behind, but I know that I have gained invaluable memories and experiences that I will forever take with me in both my future teaching practices, as well as everyday life.

After my school volunteering was done, Hokkaido University of Education set up an two-day excursion for international students, as well as four of the Teaching Across Borders students in Japan. During this excursion, we had the opportunity to explore nature outside of Hokkaido, learn about a dormant volcano near Sapporo, make udon, as well as visit an Ainu museum. Like Calgary, Sapporo is close to some very impressive mountains, and beautiful nature. It is great to see how treasured nature is in Hokkaido, and the efforts made in order to conserve and protect the wildlife present. For me, I think the most valuable part of the excursion was learning about the Ainu people of Hokkaido. Like Canada, the prefecture Hokkaido is approximately 150 years old. Like the indigenous people of Canada, the Ainu people were forced to give up their culture and language, and their traditional ways of living and thinking were seen as savage. In recent years, Hokkaido has been making an effort to bring back Ainu culture, as well as acknowledge both the validity and complexity of Ainu ways. Through visual displays, and through the stories of our tour guide, we were able to learn a lot about the rich culture of the Ainu people.

(Fall Nature Excursion ... Thank you for the picture Christine!)

During my last week in Sapporo, I was given the opportunity to sit in on multiple classes and the Hokkaido University of Education. One of the classes I joined was an English class, where students worked through a textbook and listen to audio clips related to their future plans and aspirations. In the second class, students presented through PowerPoints, something interesting about Japan. This included badminton, general differences between Japanese and Western culture (ex. Food and beauty standards), as well as the process of gift giving. The third class was an Art and Music class, where we were given the opportunity to present a PowerPoint about Canada as well as chat with the students. It was interesting to see how English was taught to university students, compared to how it was taught to elementary students.  It was also particularly interesting to see how the Arts and Music professor incorporated English in to his class, despite the class itself not having to do much with the English language. For example, tasks and assignments would be given to the students in English. Also, due to the generally smaller class sizes, teachers knew their students well, and a sense of community was established.

Until next time! Mata ne!

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Japanese Culture: Changing Conceptions

Hello Everyone!

These past few weeks have been full of excitement and learning!  I feel as though I’ve become more comfortable living with my new host family and navigating through the city. But at the same time, so many things have been happening that I feel like I can hardly catch my breath!

My new host family consists of my host father and mother, as well as two sons, aged 9 and 13. With an additional host sibling to the mix, life at home is quite a bit more hectic. Yes, the household is busy, but like my last host family, everyone is eager to discuss our lifestyles, and the similarities and differences between Japanese and Canadian culture. Through our conversations, I have learned a lot about Japanese culture, from traditions and holidays, Japanese cuisine, to the most popular sports in Japan. In these past few weeks with my host family, I have watched more baseball than I have ever watched in my life previously! It’s great to see the differences in familial dynamics, and everyday routines between my two host families. But at the heart of both family environments, I can see that a love for one another, as well as a love for their country’s history and culture.

The other topic I would like to talk about in this blog post is my developing conception of the Japanese school environment. Before coming to Japan, my perceptions of education in the country was one that was extremely standardized and strict. And although standardized testing certainly plays a large role in student examinations, especially when going in to junior high and high school, and throughout high school, everyday learning tasks were not. For example, teachers often used the process of inquiry to get their students engaged. A question would be posed to the entire class, and students would be free to discuss with their peers the issue posed, as well as the solution. Most desks in classrooms were arranged so that students were able to work with their classmates. During some learning tasks, students were also welcome to move around the classroom to ask each other, and their teacher questions, or find a more comfortable working space. The process of scaffolding, especially in mathematics classes, were very important in the classroom. Every week, student schedules would differ because the staff would come together and adapt their lessons and schedules to fit the needs of the students.

Another interesting thing to note is the different courses offered by Japanese schools. Probably the two most interesting classes are moral studies, and integrated studies. In moral studies, students would explore themes such as appropriate behavior, right or wrong, as well as duty and responsibility. Students would discuss and explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding an issue, which was often presented in the form of a story. Through these stories, students were exposed to more mature themes, such as death. It was interesting to see how teachers approached these subject with their students, as well see how students reacted to these topics. Through storytelling, and active listening, I felt as though the teacher did and excellent job of modifying her lesson and guiding the class in a way that made the material accessible to students. In integrated studies, students would explore multiple subjects simultaneously. I hope to be given more opportunities to observe this class, as I feel it will be valuable in my learning journey through my interdisciplinary education class.

At Ainosato Nishi Elementary School, I have also been given the opportunity to share information about myself and about various things in Canada with another TAB student. Through a PowerPoint presentation I shared information about my family, hobbies, and likes. We also discussed food, sports, and animals in Canada. With the English teacher, we worked to adapt and modify our presentation to fit the English comprehension levels of the class. I felt that through each presentation, I learned techniques and strategies to better engage with the students in my class. Modifying the words, using large gestures and comparison, as well as asking simple questions are some of the things that we did to help our students understand, and be more interested in our presentation. We also taught the game Stella Ella Ola to some grades. I really enjoyed being actively involved in the classes, and for having the opportunity to develop my communication skills when a language barrier exists.  I felt like these tasks were especially valuable in helping me to formatively assess student understanding and engagement through their expressions and participation.

Every lunch period, I eat my meal with the students, and rotate between different desk groups. After lunch, I am also able to help the students clean up, and then play with the students. I feel that this has really allowed be to get to know the students better, as we are given the opportunity to communicate freely. It is also during these moments where their individual personalities shine, and when I can make meaningful connections with the learners. It is easy to see how natural it is for a genuine community of care to develop, especially when teachers spend time with their students in sharing classroom tasks, and in daily, simple discussion and play.

I feel as though I have only scratched the surface of everything I wish to write about my experiences so far, and I know that I’ll be learning and experiencing so much more in the upcoming weeks. I feel as though I have developed a much deeper connection to everyone at school, as well as my host family, and am already dreading the day I will have to separate from them!

(Special education classroom at Ainosato Nishi. Other classrooms often had desks groups together)

I look forward with sharing my thoughts in the next blog!

Until then! Mata ne!

 

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Elementary Schools in Japan

Hello Everyone!

For this Ning Blog, I’d like to focus on my initial thoughts of the elementary school that I was place in as part of this program.

After having completed my Japanese lessons at the university, as well having visited three different schools in Sapporo, I was assigned to an average sized elementary school nearby the university. Growing up and going to school in Calgary for all of my life, I had little knowledge about how the school environment would be like in Japan. In the month prior, I had the opportunity to attend a rural elementary school, and then visited fairly prestigious, and junior high and elementary schools.  Because I had only visited each of these schools for one day, I was only able to get a glimpse of what daily school life would be.  After one week at Ainosato Elementary School, I feel that through deeper engagement with school staff and students, I’ve been able to gain much more knowledge.

One of the most striking aspects that I noticed of the school that I was placed in is the sense of community present within the school. It was clear in the classroom, that students knew and demonstrated their shared responsibility in keeping classroom activities and transitions in order. For example, at the beginning of the class, students would take attendance while asking each individual how they are feeling. Another group of students would go over the class schedule, as well as what the school lunch that day would be. During school lunches, students would rotate between different responsibilities, such as cleaning the floor, putting the food in the bowls/plates, and distributing utensils. Students would do their responsibilities with little coercion from their teachers, and students would also wait patiently for their peers to be quietly seated before changing activities. The staff too, seemed to have a strong sense of community. Staff meetings, where everyone discussed and formed the schedules of the students, seemed to occur every morning. Teachers would also meet to practice a specific subject. For example, because all teachers were required to be knowledgeable about music education, teachers would often meet to practice playing or singing songs that they had to later teach their students.

After asking the teachers at Ainosato Nishi elementary school, I learned that this type of environment of shared responsibility, and in a way, class independence from the teacher, was standard to most elementary schools. This type of school environment made me wonder about why this is the case. I wondered if strong cultural influence and upbringing, especially in relation to collectivity, played a major role in the development of this school system. Overall, Ainosato Nishi seemed to be a school in which both students and staff truly cared for each other. Everyone appeared to be invested in the well-being, and/or learning of others.

My first week at the elementary school also provided me with the opportunity to practice my Japanese skills. On different days, my partner TAB student and I were required to introduce ourselves to each class, as well as the whole school in both English and Japanese. It was an interesting experience, trying to juggle between two aspects of my speech: to speak simply and clearly in English, and speak clearly and correctly in Japanese. I found this experience to be incredibly nerve-wracking, but also incredibly valuable. It made me think about how to enunciate and speak English in such a way that ELL students in my future classrooms can understand. At the same time, I got to experience what it was like to speak in an unfamiliar language in front of a large group of people. I hope that as I go on in my future teaching practice, I will never forget these moments because I feel like they will be valuable to me when thinking about how to interact with ELL students, as well as provide me with the slightest glimpse of what they might be experiencing.

Overall, my first week at Ainosato Nishi has been a great one! I am blown away by how kind and welcoming both the staff and students are at this school. I am incredibly excited to develop a deeper relationship with everyone at the school, as well as learn more about the everyday school environment,

Until next time! Mata ne!

 

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Final Reflection Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Old Brisbane Treasury Building

King George Square 

The Queensland Art Gallery

Stradbroke Island

Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks

Exploring Brisbane City 

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Garbage in Germany

A riveting topic for many, I'm sure. However, the observations and conclusions made in this simple topic are interesting enough for me to share. This topic directly relates to how well we take care of our surrounding environment and what kind of Earth we are leaving for the future - which I think is relevant for everyone around the world. 

Garbage, Recycling, Bio-Garbage

Germans are efficient and pro-active with their garbage, more than we are here in Canada. People categorize their garbage to up to six categories! Recycling (plastic and such), compost, paper, glass, metal, and just garbage (anything that doesn't fit into any of the categories). When I visited the south, the family I lived with told me that one could face a fine for up to 120 Euros (177 CAD) if they place garbage in the wrong category more than twice. This varies area to area. There is also a special recycling category for items such as mattresses, wood, and other odd items. Germans take their waste seriously and are reflective of where everything should go - making sure that what is left behind is not damaging to the surrounding environment. 

When I stayed with my friends during the Autumn holidays, I kept asking them in which bin the garbage goes. Usually, the conversation would be composed of me asking where each piece of garbage went and why. Sometimes, my friends would say, "that one goes into the special garbage, let me take that outside".  Such conversations showed to me that Germans are more knowledgable of what materials things are made from and how they should be taken care of. 

Even though we, in Calgary, have recently introduced compost bins, not everyone is using them, and not everyone wants to use them. We do have - almost - consistent recycling in our schools and homes, but Germans are still ahead of that compared to us. In schools, they have three categories of garbage that students actually use willingly and properly! Recycling, paper, and garbage. Some areas of the school had compost too. 

I've noted that Germans are a whole lot more aware of the waste they produce that is a consequence of consumption. This reflects directly into how much they consume - or how little - and, if they do consume, they maximize the potential of that consumed item in order to reduce potential waste. After speaking with a few Germans, many expressed that they enjoy having Sundays as "no-consuming" days, because everything is closed. They were concerned with how we are going to keep up with keeping our environment clean while overproducing items for consumptions. They would like as clean as possible environment, but predict that we won't be able to keep up with waste-management if we continue to consume they way we do as a society.

In conclusion, I observed Germans being pro-active with waste reduction and prevention. From my experience in Canada, it would seem that Germans are a bit more reflective and aware of their consumption and waste - and we can definitely learn from them. 

To end this post, I would like to place a video of a song by a famous rapper in Germany. His name is Alligatoah, and he raps about certain social issues to bring attention to them through a popular medium. Now, I know not everyone understands German, therefore the English lyrics are here. The video is also a great watch for it shows the trail we leave as individuals - something to think about. 

One thing I can say for sure, after Germany I am much more aware about what I consume and what waste comes from that consumption.

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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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Final Post: Home from Perth, Australia!

Hello Ning blog readers,

I am writing from Canada! It is crazy to think that only a few days ago I was across the world. The jet lag has been more intense than I was anticipating, but I am slowly adjusting. It is difficult to articulate exactly what this experience has meant for me, but I can say with confidence that I’m glad I decided to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s amazing to think how much I did in the span of three months, both in regards to teaching and traveling.

My final two weeks in Australia were amazing. I traveled to a small town south of Perth to visit an exclusively Indigenous school, and it was an eye-opening experience. Most of the students do not live in the town, but get bussed in for days or weeks at a time. Many of them come from a difficult home life and enter the formal education system with little or no preparation. Though there were behavioural issues with some of the students, the majority of them were well-behaved and thrilled to have a visitor in the class. Many of them have physical delays so they start their morning with a half hour physical routine that includes stretching, balance, strength and meditation. The teacher said that the difference she’s seen over a couple of months from using that program have been phenomenal. I definitely intend to incorporate physical breaks into my classroom time, because that type of activity is just as important as traditional school work.

My final week in Australia was spent at a small independent school in a small surf town three hours south of Perth (Margaret River). They have classes for pre-school to grade 7, and there are less than 100 students attending. I found this school fascinating because of their focus on “virtues”- things like compassion, assertiveness, diligence, and truthfulness (there is a list of over 50 virtues; I will attach a picture). They focus on one of these per week. They also do not use a typical reward/punishment system, instead using a “natural consequences” system. E.g., if you draw on the wall, the natural consequence is that you have to clean it up. The school is also surrounded by nature, as it is ten minutes outside of the town. They have class-tended flowers and vegetables growing throughout the school grounds, and they have a designated nature trail where they do plant and insect studies. I can’t exaggerate how much I enjoyed my time at this school. I have filed away many of the practices I saw here for future use in my classroom.

Overall, my experience abroad in Perth was amazing. I got to observe and teach in many different schools, each with their own unique approach to education. I learned something at every stop I made, and have made sure to record every piece that I want to take forward with me in my career. Although I had an incredible experience, I am relieved to be back home with my family and friends. The time difference between Canada and Australia was large, so it feels good to be in the same place and time zone as everyone again (even though there’s approximately a 40 degree drop in temperature between Perth and Calgary). I am excited to start my practicum with grade 2, and am looking forward to the holidays as well.

I will miss Australia, and can’t wait to go back someday. The value of studying and teaching abroad cannot be overstated, and I encourage anyone considering it to go for it. It is an experience that you will remember forever, and you will learn so much about yourself and gain so much knowledge that will help you in your future career. For me, it is on to the next chapter, but I know this will not be my last teaching exchange. Now that I have the confidence to travel on my own and put myself in new situations, I can look forward to a future full of more opportunities like TAB.

That’s all for now. Thanks to anyone who has been keeping up with my blog! I look forward to reading everyone’s posts from this year and from future years! As promised, a few pictures from the small independent school in Margaret River: 

Class-tended gardens:

Nature trail: 

List of virtues: 

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Obrigada for eveything Brazil

 Now that the TAB experience is over, I'm looking ahead to my practicum. I am so excited to take what I have learned and experienced in Brazil and share my new perspective and realizations in my teaching. I have been making connections between my experiences in Brazil and what I have learned in Interdisciplinary and Indigenous classes and I am excited to put it all into practice with my partner teacher in my kindergarten classes. Stories, indigenous perspectives, building relationships and being able to relate to ELL students are just some of my main takeaways from my combined online courses/TAB experience. Brazil has more than one story or narrative and I was able to experience many different parts of Brazil – the flashy tourist beaches of Rio, everyday life in Goiania, homeless villages in Sao Paulo and many parts in between. Brazil has a very negative stigma attached to it because people tell one story, instead I am coming home with many stories of Brazil – some bad, but more so good. I met amazing people, traveled to different towns/cities, and learned some of the history. I learned about how the education system is working for the students and in the ways that it doesn’t. There is always room for improvement, even in Canada.

I came home with exactly what I set out to get – a new and different perspective to teaching and life in general.

As much as I miss Brazil, it is good to be home. Even with the snow and cold.

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Hamburg Germany TAB experience in a nutshell



I’m slowly adjusting to Calgary life, I just finished switching out my summer stuff with winter clothes. It feels strange sitting in my room reflecting back on what is now a memory. The TAB opportunity definitely provided me an incredible experience which supported my growth professionally and personally. My time in school allowed me to build relationships, understand difficulties ELL students face, and what I need to include in my future lesson designs in order to reach them as well.

The students were very sweet and although I couldn’t speak German, I felt well connected with them. I don’t know how that happened…Maybe it was because I wasn’t distracted by what they said, instead focused on body language and on what they did. I had the same experience with my roommate who couldn’t speak English. We connected well even though we couldn’t verbally understand each other. This just goes to show that I shouldn’t limit my interactions due to language barriers. It can be frustrating but it isn’t the only factor when it comes to connecting and building relationships. Plus, majority of our communication is made up of non-verbal body language. That brings me to my second highlight of this experience. The length of this program allowed me to get to know my roommates and the people I met along the way. It also gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different country and experience daily life in a different way. I enjoy travelling and have backpacked Europe and South East Asia but after this experience I’m considering living in one place for a longer period of time. Teaching aboard is also an option I’m considering after this experience. 

Danke für alles!
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Back home

I have been back in Calgary for two days now and have spent some time reflecting on my time in Vietnam and the things that have left the biggest impressions on me.  

In these first few days I realized once again how different life is between Canada and Vietnam. One of the first things I noticed once I was back home was the amount of structure and order our lives have in Canada. Everything - the traffic, the streets and houses, even they way people dress - is so incredibly orderly. It almost seems overdone to me now. I noticed I am suddenly more concerned with how I look when I leave the house. I am more self-conscious because I somehow feel it matters more and that people here will judge me. At the same time, this seems paradoxical since what struck me the most about Canada so far is how 'impersonal' my surroundings feel now. Nobody here cares when I walk down the street, whereas in Vietnam I always drew attention and everyone was excited to talk to me. Some people even insisted on taking pictures with me. Even among the locals, there seemed to be more of a connection between the people in Vietnam. The feeling is hard to explain. While I appreciate the privacy and anonymity I have here in Canada, it does feel odd. As a whole, it seems everyone here is operating inside a personal bubble, inside their own private world, even when outside in public. I too feel like I am disconnected and removed from the people around me. I almost feel a bit lonely. It is fascinating to me how different the experiences can be from one place to the next.

My practicum placement here in Canada will start in only a few days and I am curious to see how it will compare to my time in the classrooms in Vietnam. I wonder what new differences I will notice once I am back in a Canadian school. The classroom is where I think my time in Vietnam has affected me the most. Teaching in Vietnam, and living there in general, has been an unpredictable roller coaster and I have constantly been thrown into unexpected situations. This has helped me learn to relax, to not be as stressed as I used to be, and to simply go with the flow. I really hope that I can hang on to this newfound confidence and calm in the future. I have also been forced to work without many of the basic resources that we tend to take for granted here in Canada such as books, space to work in groups, or any sort of technology. I am now much more aware and appreciative of the resources we have here and I hope that I will be more mindful of how I use them to improve my teaching going forward. Most importantly, as mentioned in previous posts, Vietnam has helped me to truly understand the importance of building genuine relationships with my students.

As I think back on my time in Vietnam, I am incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of the Teaching Across Borders Program. This experience has had a significant impact on who I am as a teacher and has helped me grow as a person as well. Vietnam has been amazing!!

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Home Sweet Home

Finally back in Calgary...

Still kind of adjusting to the time difference... and the snow. I have woken up at 4:00am every day since I got back to Calgary, for those of you who don't know me, you won't know that I am NOT a morning person so this is extremely odd for me and I am not sure I like it. However, it will make getting ready for practicum a whole lot easier next week since I wake up wide awake at 4:00am! I am definitely not a fan of the snow, nor was I ready for it... Hamburg rains a lot, and it got to me sometimes, I got a bit down when the weather was bad for a long time and I didn't think I would actually miss the rain, but the rain was definitely much more manageable than snow already. Obviously this is something I will just have to get used to, since I chose to live in Alberta on my own accord! 

As I think back to the last 12 weeks I spent abroad I honestly cannot believe it is already over. Besides missing an entire season in Calgary, nothing has changed! I don't know exactly what I was expecting to change, but I definitely thought I'd come home to a new Calgary for some reason. But I didn't its home sweet home! My dog was super excited to see me, I think she thought my Fiance had gotten rid of me for good, she kept looking at him and the look on his face was "oh my goodness I can't believe you brought her back" as she would run back and forth between the two of us not sure if she was more excited to see me or thankful he allowed me to come home.

Now that I've been home for a few days I have had some time to reflect on my time abroad. I learned a lot in a variety of ways, I learned how to work more with ELL students, I learned from some amazing teachers how to engage students in great lessons, I learned a lot about being independent and living and traveling on my own, I learned a tiny bit of German and so many other amazing things. This opportunity taught me a lot about being in the classroom, and I have a lot of new valuable skills I wouldn't have gained any other way. I am really looking forward to using these new skills on the classroom next week and in the future.

To finish off my time abroad I went to Scotland, this was amazing! Edinburgh has a rich history and I learned a lot about the cities past, the royal family, different battled against England and much more. The time in Edinburgh was yet another reminder of how much one can learn while abroad and solidified to me the importance of learning and traveling. As a teacher I think it is so important to be a life long learner and what better way to learn about the history of a nation or a new culture than fully immersing yourself into one?

Everyone keeps asking me to tell them about my time away, or what my favourite part was and honestly, it is so hard to even begin telling them! I don't know where to start... the beginning of my time abroad feels like so long ago, but also feels like it was only yesterday. Instead of telling you my favourite parts I will share with you some of my favourite photos of my most impactful moments.

Thanks for following me through my adventures! I hope you enjoyed tagging along for my journey :)

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Final Thoughts

I arrived back in Calgary on Sunday, so I have now been home for 3 days. Although I didn't experience any really intense reverse-culture shock coming from Germany, it has still definitely taken a bit of time to get used to being back in Calgary. For one thing the snow and negative temperatures were definitely a shock to my system, although admittedly I am glad to be back in a city that experiences way more sunny days than grey cloudy days. One thing I didn't expect to find challenging about moving to Hamburg was the weather, however I quickly learned that I much prefer to live somewhere with more sunshine than rain (even if that means it's -20 degrees!). It was really nice being able to experience fall for a bit longer than I am used to in Hamburg though and I was sure to spend my last few days appreciating the pretty fall colours before coming home to the snow. I am slowing getting used to the fact that people in grocery stores and coffee shops (and everywhere else) in Calgary aren't going to speak to me in German and that I won't need to try and respond to them in the very little German that I know. Language learning was something that I found difficult during my time abroad since we had no structured formal German language lessons that really pushed us to learn the language. Teaching lessons for the students' English classes at the elementary school also meant that most of my interactions with the students and teachers were in English. I was thankful that most places I went in Hamburg (and other cities in Germany) had at least one person who spoke English so I never felt too trapped in not understanding the language very well. However, I also feel that because of this I wasn't necessarily pushed to learn the German language to the extent that I had hoped. Being so busy with university coursework, spending time in the classrooms, and exploring Germany unfortunately left little time for me to really focus on learning the language. This has made me realize that the next time I travel abroad I definitely want to push myself more to develop better language skills in the language of the country I am in. Surprisingly another big adjustment has been getting used to driving everywhere again, since I was only getting around by public transportation (buses, trains, and trams) for the past 10 weeks. It feels oddly strange to be able to get into my car and drive to exactly where I need to be and not worry about having the correct transit ticket for the length of my journey! I have also been struggling to stay up past 6 pm, so hopefully the jet lag wears off soon...

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on my time spent in Hamburg and all that I learned from my TAB experience. While it is difficult to put into words everything that I have taken away from this experience, I know that it has truly been an invaluable one. Having the opportunity to get additional hands-on experience in the classroom in a different country than Canada was an eye-opening experience that helped me feel more prepared to handle any uncomfortable situation I may find myself in in future classrooms. As I mentioned in a previous post, I truly think one of the most valuable lessons I took away from my time in the classrooms was how it feels to be an individual in a classroom who does not understand the language that the majority of teaching is being done in. Even though I was teaching mostly English classes I also sat in on some classes taught in German. In addition, the majority of teacher-student and teacher-teacher communication was done in German. I believe that being in this type of environment really helped me better understand how many ELL students feel in our classrooms at home and how I can help them feel more comfortable, just as the staff and students did for me. While I was a bit intimidated at first about being put into a classroom in a foreign country where the main language spoken was not English, I surprised myself at how easily and willingly I took on the challenge and made the most of my time there. I am coming away from this experience more confident in my abilities as a teacher and in what I have to offer to my students. I am also coming away more aware of the ways in which I can constantly learn from my students and better my teaching. Working alongside a few very supportive English teachers at my school in Hamburg helped me develop some improved teaching strategies for working with ELL students that I know I will be able to take forward with me into my last two practicums and my teaching career. I am very thankful for how friendly, welcoming, and supportive the staff at my school were throughout my time there. They truly made my experience so much better. My last day at the school was filled with goodbyes from the students of the grade 2 and grade 3 classes that I had the pleasure of teaching. Both classes made me a big card with their names, drawings, and little notes on it and presented it to me while sharing things they enjoyed about our time together, along with well wishes for the future. It meant so much to me to see that I had made an impact on the students even in the short time I had been there, and it was so great to hear about their favourite things I had done with them (making a lemon battery was at the top of the list for many students!). Although I was sad to leave them, the bittersweet goodbyes reminded me of the importance of building relationships with your students and the impact that teachers can have on their students.

My TAB experience was also a huge personal growth opportunity for me. It was my first time living away from home and my first time sharing an apartment with a roommate. On top of all that, I was in a foreign country! This experience really helped show me that I am capable of being a much more independent person than I originally thought. Living abroad, traveling, and exploring a new city taught me that I am more open to adventure and new experiences than I once thought I was. I am happy to say that I came home feeling proud of the fact that I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and made memories that will last me the rest of my life. I wouldn't change my experience for anything!

Thank you TAB, the Werklund School of Education, and the University of Calgary for the truly once in a lifetime opportunity! I know this experience and all that I have learned from it will be something I look back on frequently throughout my career. I will miss Hamburg but feel comforted by the fact that I have such fond memories to look back on from my time spent there.

View from St. Michaelis church tower

Grade 2 class

Goodbye card from the students

Enjoying the city lights of Hamburg one last time

Home Sweet Home!

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Canada, home sweet home!

It's good to be home,

As I write this it is 5:30 am and minus 15 degrees in Calgary. I arrived home from Vietnam 3 days ago, thankful to have just barely flown out before a Typhoon hit the area. It’s bittersweet to be home. First of all, it’s freezing! I’ve barely worn socks in the past 5 months let alone winter wear. Secondly, I almost had a heart attack grocery shopping in this country again, I can see why people go to South East Asia and never leave. But overall, I am relieved and happy to be home. My first stop on the way home from the airport was Tim Horton's. I sent a picture of my coffee and a picture of the roads covered in snow to my new friends in Vietnam (two Canadian staples: timmies and snowy road conditions). I've been periodically checking updates on the typhoon that hit Vietnam shorty after I left. I was saddened to learn that it caused flooding in Hoi An, a magical town only 40 minutes from where we were staying. Hoi An is a touristy area that left a lasting impression on us. We returned multiple times to enjoy the shops, lanterns and relaxing atmosphere. It is disheartening to think of the damage caused by the flood.

            Being home still doesn’t feel completely real so I haven’t really begun to deeply reflect on the entire experience. I am still trying to catch my bearings in this winter situation. In Vietnam we joked about all the things that would feel weird about being back in Canada, such as the open spaces, the silence and using crosswalks. I haven’t really noticed that anything about Canadian culture feels weird though. It feels as though I never left (apart from the weather and the atrocious price of food). But I suppose that is because Canada is home, it will always feel just right.

As happy as I am to be back in Calgary, I am sad about leaving Vietnam. We met so many wonderful people who helped us along our journey. It’s funny how just as we are getting used to the culture we have to leave. I am so grateful for this trip. I think it's still too soon to fully grasp exactly how valuable this experience has been but I know It will be something that I look back on often.

 Since returning home, I have been thinking a lot about practicum and to be honest I am a little nervous. I had finally gotten used to teaching in Vietnamese schools and now it’s time to teach in Calgary again. The schools we taught at in DaNang were very standardized and simple. Teaching entailed a lot of lecturing and textbook reading, something I find very different from teaching in Calgary. It will also be very different and refreshing to have access to technology in the classroom again. Something that I really missed in Vietnam. 

I can't wait to see how this experience has affected my confidence and creativity as a teacher. I'm hoping I get the chance to share some of my photos and stories with my grade 2/3 practicum class, because it's really all I want to talk about right now. 

cảm ơn và tạm biệt!! 

(Thank you and Goodbye) 

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Finally home.

I'm not sure how to begin speaking about my reflections on China now that I'm home... First, I definitely miss the familiar faces from the SNNU campus. The shopkeepers, canteen workers, and students became my friends, and I would speak to them everyday in Xi'an... Walking back on campus today was weird. I don't feel that same familiarity or friendliness from my fellow UofC community. I realized how essential the friendships were to my experience in China. I didn't think I'd be shedding tears during goodbyes... But alas, I was bawling just a few days ago.

I begin student-teaching grade 7 social studies and English next week, and I am certain that my experience teaching in China has prepped me for it. In China, I taught classes of 50 grade 8 ELL students, and I was teaching physics. While I am trying not to be too confident going into practicum, I know that it cannot be as challenging as the teaching in China was. I definitely hammered down ELL and classroom management skills in Xi'an.

I realized what I am grateful for. I briefly visited the Field of Crosses on Memorial the other night, and thought about how lucky we are to be living in Canada. Where everyone, regardless of their race, culture, religion, ideology, sexual and gender orientation; are welcome to live and lead dignified lives. I reflect on my experience in China and how censored information and speech were. I could not imagine the stress of living with the burden of being unable to speak your mind in your own country... Frankly, it's not the familiarity I'm most thankful for now at home... It's the freedom and the opportunity.

Overall, my experience was invaluable. I still need time to reflect on exactly what I have learned from my time there... But already, I know that the experience has made me a better (student) teacher and a more informed citizen. I'm grateful for everyone who made this experience possible- from the Werklund faculty, my family and friends, and the organizers in China. I am so, so lucky.

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Final Reflections

I arrived home a couple days ago, and it is really difficult adjusting back to my old life. Not only because the weather is 35 degrees colder, but it just seems so strange being home. I am so thankful that we have this week to rest up before we start our practicum, I think this is much needed to time to prepare and adjust. It feels so strange to only speak English in my everyday life, I miss trying to speak broken Chinese to store clerks, servers, and random people alike. I have decided that I want to put the effort in to continue learning Chinese. We finished our HSK 1 while we were in China and I want to keep progressing on my own. It is still hard for me to believe I am home, and my TAB experience is over.

 

Looking back on my experience, I have nothing but amazing things to say. It’s so funny to think that 3 months ago I was very nervous to move to China, and had no idea what to expect. I must say all, China exceeded my expectations in every way. The people were absolutely amazing, they were always so helpful and welcoming, it made me realize how we should be more welcoming to foreigners in Canada. The country itself is so beautiful and rich in history, I am so happy I was able to immerse myself in their culture for a few months.

 

Teaching in China was a great learning experience. I think that being thrown into a classroom with 50 grade 7 students who can barely speak English, really helped my classroom management skills. It also helped learn different strategies for teaching ELL students difficult content. Having the opportunity to also teach at the high school level was another great experience. I also really enjoyed tutoring many of my friends in English, it helped me realize that I really do have a passion for teaching.

 

This was such a wonderful learning experience professionally and personally. I would strongly recommend other students get involved with TAB because it is such a unique opportunity. I know it seems like a lot of work to uproot yourself from your comfortable lifestyle and move away for 2.5 months…. but it is an amazing experience you will never forget. 

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