Blog

fall 2017 (141)

Reflection

It strange that everything seems so normal, like nothing has changed, except for the weather. The reverse culture shock is setting in and it’s almost like the experience was a dream. It’s bizarre and I already miss so many aspects of Brazilian life and culture. Now that I am back in Canada, I wanted to reflect on my aspirations I wrote about before leaving for Brazil.

My main aspirations for this journey:

1. Practice Portuguese everyday in order to become more fluent and comfortable with speaking and communicating.

While this was a very practical goal at the time, I believe that language learning is a more rigorous process that I was not prepared for. I felt very stuck in the main phrases I was comfortable with and really struggled to pick up daily conversations. I did use Portuguese everyday, very basic Portuguese while ordering food, talking with the Uber drivers and communicating during my everyday routine, but I wish I put more effort in daily to ensure that I improved by the end of the 10 weeks. I was very dependant on others and it’s tough when you know that your friends speak English, so you feel like you don’t have to speak Portuguese all the time. I was almost embarrassed to say that I had been in Brazil for 2 months, while our other international friends where at a much higher fluency then I was. I understand it’s not about comparing, but I believe that for another international journey I will take more initiative to learn before and during the journey. For an educator’s perspective, I can really understand the difficulty with ELL students and how they learn English. The emotions and stress when communicating in a new language is extremely difficult and I have so much respect for our students learning a new language. I see how the main goal can be clouded with complications and will ensure that I can use my language learning problems to touch base with my students who many be experiencing the same struggles. It is such a great experience to be in the shoes of our future students while learning a new language.

2. Compare and contrast the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while examining their history.

There are stark differences between the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while many of the teachers on the front lines are fighting hard for equality and student rights, what is being said in the government is not always accomplished. While we didn’t focus too much on the historical aspects of the Brazilian school system, there were many political aspects that contribute to the downfall in many areas of the education system. The private and public school systems sadly are not equal and if you have money, you are set up to be more successful in life. That is the sad reality, but we have met so many inspiring teachers and students who believe that with the corrupt system, education and learning are the most important aspects in life and they have hopes for change and a better future.

3.Learning from challenges and mistakes in a new culture/environment and how they relate to becoming an educator.

This TAB experience has been life changing on both a personal and professional front. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have as a Canadian and realize the importance we have on our students, communities and society. Although this journey did not involve too much teaching, there is an aspect beyond teaching that I think is critical and very important to realize for my professional practice. Being relatable to my students is one way that I can build strong, impactful relationships. To have the same feelings, emotions, and experiences as our students will help my teaching practice and connect and create a greater classroom environment.  I have learned so much about communication and the difficulties that my student may have in the classroom beyond the curriculum.  I believe that every personal experience we have, will impact how we are as educators, like many say, we can’t come home from a day of teaching and forget about it, we are constantly thinking, reflecting and adapting how we are as educators. Our personal experiences affect how we relate and grow with our students. Being immersed in a new culture has taught me to be open and adaptable with circumstances that are not always in my control, while thinking creative ways and taking challenges head on, not to dwelling on the negative. Brazil was challenging, but also an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a learner and teacher. I want to thank PUC for setting up school visits, letting us be apart of their English classes and for having amazing tutors/organizers to help us experience Brazil from a different lens. I love Brazil and I cannot wait to go back!



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Back in YYC...

Hello Readers!

I am safely back in YYC and freezing (haha!). It was interesting returning because I felt like my time in Germany was over so quickly that it was only a dream. Obviously, many people have asked me about my trip and if it was worth it, etc. I have found that actually discussing my learnings and the experiences I had in my school actually helped me realize how valuable the experience was. I have realized that I learned even more about myself and about teaching than I had originally articulated or thought. It's very evident now that I am also a slightly different person than I was when I left. I feel more confident about my abilities and my strengths and more eager to learn more. I am so excited to start my Practicum now as I feel I have been thoroughly prepared, both mentally and emotionally. 

As I reflect back on my experiences in Hamburg, I feel as though my time with the people and the students has made me a better person and this will be the most lasting impact from this journey. I have become more open-minded, more self-aware, and more appreciative of the people around me. I learned a lot from the German people, including how to be plainly honest without being rude, and how to accept each person as they are, regardless of their appearance. I miss a lot of parts about Germany already---the green landscape, walking everywhere, the cheese croissants for breakfast (of course!) and it will be hard to return to the same routine that I had here before I left. The one thing I have enjoyed about being home is seeing everyone again and having them tell me how much they missed me. I've never been the type of person to think that people aside from my close family will miss me if I leave so it's nice to return to such encouragement. It makes you appreciate the people that surround you that much more when they express how much your presence makes a difference in their life. 

I am excited to utilize some of the new teaching strategies I've observed in Hamburg in my upcoming Practicum. I'm most curious to see the difference between how Canadian students perceive Germany and if they are curious about my experience there. My students in Germany were extremely excited and curious to know anything and everything about Calgary and how school is here, so I am curious to see if Canadian students are the same or not. I really hope I can do my German students justice in describing their country and their culture as their main wish in their goodbye notes to me was: "Don't forget about us and come back soon!" A part of me does want to go back because I've never felt so accepted or appreciated by a group of students in such a small amount of time. I wonder if I'll ever experience that same level of connection with my students in my upcoming Practicums...

One thing is for sure though, Germany is a beautiful country and the people inside it are impossible to forget!

Thanks for reading my posts and stay warm this winter! (I'm already bundled up twice the regular amount trying to adjust to the 25 degree temperature change!)

Tschüß!

Karlynn Peltier 

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See You

Third day being back in winter and I am still in disbelief that I'm already home. Thankfully I don't have jetlag but that is because I arrived in Calgary at 11 am in the morning on Sunday and stayed up for a whole 28 hours before going to bed (I had woken up in Tokyo on the same day at 8:00 am).

Sapporo was my second home and I am still unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to spend 2 months there, being immersed into another culture and deepening my knowledge. 

I can't believe it's all over and I am still getting readjusted to things back home such as my friends, my significant other and just life in general. It's almost a strange feeling to be back in my own room, it seems familiar and unfamiliar to me at the same time

Some things I miss about Sapporo

  • The beautiful weather, the vibrant colours of the trees and all the peaceful walking I was able to do. The 20 minute walk to the university was something that I grew to enjoy doing every day so it is a bit weird not having to walk anywhere anymore. 
  • The endless amount of delicious Japanese cuisine readily available anywhere I go 
  • The students and my host siblings. I miss them so much because they were so welcoming, loving and embracing of me. I will miss the elementary student's enthusiasm and eagerness to say hi and see you whenever they bump into us outside of school. They are taught to say see you instead of bye and I think that is so sweet. I find it to be really optimistic when they say it, even though if I won't see those students ever again, there's still a chance we will meet one day.
  • The peace of mind and focus on myself. I found that in Japan, I was away from my responsibilities in Canada and I was able to just focus on school, myself and having fun. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and throw myself into something without any distractions. I learned a lot from even just navigating around the city by myself and it is a different kind of freedom that I will miss. 
  • Having new adventures with the girls every day is something I'll miss. We definitely had a lot of fun together in Sapporo!

Some things I am looking forward to at home:

  • Spending time with my family, friends, my significant other and my dog, Chewy
  • Continuing to learn Japanese in my free time
  • Practicum even though it is nerve racking 
  • Taking what I have learned in Japan schools and incorporating it into my teaching 

I still need time to process all that I have learned and everything I will miss but I do know that is experience was one of a kind and I am so excited to share my experience with all of my peers!

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Once university officially started for Hamburg, Markus our liaison invited us out for coffee and a historical tour around the University of Hamburg. In the following week we received invitations to university seminars and brunch with members from the faculty.The monthly brunch designates time for students completing their Phd and members from the department to take a small break from their individual research. The brunch provided an opportunity for me to exchange learning experiences and meet other students in the field. I wasn’t able to make it to all of the things our liaison had arranged, but Jessica and I were lucky enough to visit Professor Bonnet’s seminar on Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms. 

The course was about English learning and language acquisition in a multilingual diverse classroom. Interestingly, the seminar was facilitated by four members of the faculty. For each session they alternated between two facilitators to engage with the class. Although only one spoke at a time, the others contributed their perspectives and knowledge throughout the session. I thought it was valuable and good to see collaboration and discussion among people delivering the course. The seminar started with defining and differentiating multilingualism and plurilingualism. That was followed by an activity that required us to think about whether or not languages we speak are a part of our personality and identity. We each got two minutes to think to ourselves and then we were asked to share with someone new. 

Lastly we were asked to summarize what we learned from our buddies and share that information with two other students. Our classroom was very rich in diversity, the people in my group spoke more than two languages! In my group we had students from Poland, Spain, and Nigeria. It was pretty exciting to meet individuals from different parts of the world. To end the activity we went around the room and had each group share their discussion with the rest of the class. One student shared her current experience of learning Vietnamese. She explained how she had to address her boyfriend’s grandma appropriately and use specific terminology for each members of his family. This experience enabled her to appreciate and understand respect for elders and others by learning the language. Her experience made me realize how obedience and respect for elders is deeply embedded in the Chinese language as well. In the Chinese language it is important to address people accordingly, this includes consideration of the individual’s age, gender, generation, relation by blood, and paternal or maternal sides of the family. I completely agree that respect is important in social interactions within a community. However, from personal experience it is also important to remember to speak up as well. Overall it was fascinating to see how language goes hand in hand with culture, personality, and identity. I’m glad we visited this class and wished there was more time to go to the other ones.

My last few days in Hamburg included Dim Sum with our TAB members and dinner with one of the student I met from the brunch. The Dim Sum was pretty good, I can't read Chinese nor can I read German, I was thankful that there were visuals in the menu and that my broken Cantonese was comprehensible! For dinner our group was also quite diverse, one girl was from Greece, another from Mexico, my buddy was from the Netherlands and her friend was born and raised in Germany with Turkish roots. We exchanged personal experiences of life in Germany, learning experiences, the crap economy, embarrassing stories, and what we plan to do with our lives. I was moved by the passion and determination this one girl had on being an educator in low socioeconomic areas. As cheesy as it sounds, it is about making a difference even it means changing one or two lives at a time. The Mexican dishes were great but the night just went by too fast!

In addition to Markus’s tour of the University, our liaison also arranged a day trip to visit Lübeck his home town. By day you are in the present and by night the cobblestone streets takes you back in time. I enjoyed the Brick Gothic architecture and the background stories that came along with it. The few things that stuck out the most for me from this trip is even though the area is protected by UNESCO an organization that protects world heritage sites. Modern design shopping centers and hotels were being constructed in the old city anyway. Another thing that I found shocking is the amount of flooding this place gets. Markus told us that he had to take off his shoes and roll up his pants to walk through water in order to visit his friend one time. And that residents have to slide panels into these grooves to prevent water from getting into the house. One of the worst floods from the Baltic sea occurred in 1872 the water level was almost the same as my height!

In the afternoon we headed over to Heiligen-Geist-Hospital which use to house seniors who had no families and individuals who need to be cared for. For lunch we went around to the back of the building and walked into a place which use to be an underground potato cellar, the main ingredient they use is potatoes and goodness it was delicious! I worked on my plate but I wasn’t making any progress there was so much food! When Jessica cleaned her plate Markus said that the sun will come out tomorrow. Haha he explained that it was something his mother would say to encourage them to clean their plates. Afterwards Markus shared how Germans celebrate the Christmas holidays. I absolutely need to come back to experience Christmas! Christmas use to magical when I was younger and we use to put up the tree. With everyone being so caught up with their lives we use the holidays to just relax and by relax I mean no Christmas dinner and large parties.

This trip was memorable and Markus makes a great tour guide, he would lower his voice to match the context of his stories so we could have the full experience. I appreciate everything the people here have done to make this experience that much more. I have been waiting for symptoms of homesickness but I got nothing. I think this simply means I would like to stay a bit longer!

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Being Back

I’m writing this at 4 am because I am super jetlagged and can’t fall back asleep haha. I got back on Nov 4th and right now it’s the morning the 7th so I’ve been back for about 3 days. As I unpacked my suitcase I began to reminisce about all the places I had been while I was in China. I saw my Beijing souvie and laughed because now I’ll forever be reminded of the time I got poisoned at the Great Wall. I saw the ticket from the Forbidden City and remembered how excited I was that the little bit of Kanji I can read translated over as Hanzi, and I could read a little bit in Chinese, and then immediately panicking when I realized it was counting down how many people were allowed in, and that number was dropping FAST. I saw my Yangshuo souvie and remembered the time we rode e-bikes through the mountains, which is straight up one of the best experiences of my entire life. I saw my Guilin souvie and remembered when Reggie and Sherin had the biggest spider I’ve ever seen chilling above their toilet. I saw how worn out my HSK1 book was compared to my HSK 2 book and I got excited to wear that one out too. I didn’t realize how many resources I had been given by my partner teacher in Xi’an until I started taking them all out of my bag and man there is a lot.

Being back is kind of strange. Xi’an was the first time I had lived on my own and relearning how to live with other people is taking some getting used to. There’s now all these responsibilities I didn’t have to worry about in Xi’an like working and preparing for field 3. The day I left Xi’an it was ~25 degrees and the day I got back to Calgary it was -15 and unsurprisingly I got sick from the sudden 40 degree drop in temperature. I thought I would be sad about how cold it is here but I got really happy once I started seeing snow from the airplane. I keep saying things to people in Mandarin and then reminding myself I don't need to do that anymore haha.

I’m glad to be back. I definitely took for granted how easy it is to find things in Canada. I once tried to find a book in Xi’an, and when I asked my friend about a bookstore she said to order it online because there weren’t very many bookstores in Xi’an. I can get food from any country in the world by walking maybe 10 minutes from house but in China foreign food was fairly hard to come by, with the exception of fast food like KFC or Mcdonalds. Also, cold water. China didn’t have cold water and I’m glad there is no shortage of that here. It’s a heck of a lot easier to use the internet now that I don’t have to wait for the VPN to reconnect every 5 minutes haha.

China was an amazing experience and I’m super grateful I had the opportunity to go. I definitely want to keep learning Mandarin. My classmates will be writing the HSK 4 exam next spring and I would like to keep learning at their pace and write it as well. Hopefully I’m not too bombarded by field that I cant take an hour of my day aside to learn a few new words. I was not expecting to like China as much as I did but I've come back feeling homesick. I miss China. I want to go back to Xi’an one day and also explore different parts of the country, like Chengdu and Shanghai.  

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Saying Goodbye

I wrote this on my last day of classes (Nov 3) but because the VPN wouldn’t connect I wasn’t able to upload it then.

Today is my last day in Xi’an. Well technically tomorrow is but I leave early so I got all my goodbyes done today. One of our Chinese teachers was sick so I did not get to say goodbye to her which sucks, especially because she was a really influential teacher for me. I got to say goodbye to the other teacher and my classmates though which I’m glad about. They’re so cute they recorded a video saying goodbye and each took turns saying something in Mandarin to us. It was kind of funny because I was in the room watching it happen. Later Reggie, Sherin, and I recorded a response.

I didn’t have class today because labs were cancelled so I had said my goodbyes to the students and staff earlier in the week. Instead, there was a closing ceremony today which I thought was really nice of Aegean to arrange. The principal from the school I was teaching at, our Chinese teacher, and a few of the international department staff were there. It was small but it was a nice gesture that brought a lot of closure to the end of the trip.

I was grabbing some last minute souvies for my family from the Muslim market and I found a little thing with my Chinese name on it which I’m really happy about. It’s silly but I think I’m going to miss being called Ning Li haha. After that I went to dinner with Sherin, Reggie, his girlfriend, and the boys from our class. It was a really nice way to end off the trip. We all walked back to the campus together and it was really nice to walk the street of Xi’an one last time. I got to see Zhonglou and Dayanta one last time too and it’s silly but those buildings became something I identified with as much as I would a maple leaf or the Saddledome, so it was almost cathartic to say goodbye to them too haha. The only people I didn’t get to say goodbye to were my Chinese teacher and the lady who owned the restaurant I went to a lot because I loved her potato and rice dish.

Goodbyes are really sad but I got a lot of closure today. I kept thinking about how I really don’t want to come back to Canada, and how I’d much rather stay in Xi’an and keep studying Mandarin, but unfortunately I don’t think the university would let me do field 3 in China.  After today though, I feel like I’m ready to go home. 

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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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Home time!

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

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

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

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

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Tchau Tchau Brazil

The time has come to say goodbye to Brazil. Goodbye to flip flops everyday, plus 30 weather, sweating all the time, coconut water straight from a coconut and acai, just to name a few things.

The past 10 weeks have flown by and have been filled with lots of fun, adventure, challenges, experiences, memories and learning. We have met some amazing people and had an incredible trip.

Fun

-Rio

-Pirenópolis

-São Paulo

-everyday with Megan

-sitting by the pool.

Adventure

-hiking to the Christ Redeemer

-camping near waterfalls.

-hiking to many different waterfalls.

-jumping from too high into the pools beside the waterfalls

Experiences

-backpack stolen while on the beach in Rio (lost $, clothes, phones) trying to get help, stuck in our bathing suits all day.

-driving in Brazil and up one of the craziest bumpy sandy roads I have ever driven on.

-staying in the most beautiful open concept inside/outside space house.

-spending time in hammocks

-Paddle boarding in the ocean at Copacabana

-stumbling on to a night market with food and craft beer in Rio.

-sitting outside a bar while it poured rain harder than I have seen (getting wet because it was also windy, but laughing and loving it the whole time)

Challenges

-communicating

-finding help after our backpack was stolen

-getting used to 'Brazilian time', we were often referred to the prompt Canadians.

-traffic (pedestrians have little to no right of way)

-having no phone for most of the trip (challenge at the beginning, but a blessing really. I learned to disconnect and that I don't have to take pictures of everything, it's okay if it is just a memory.)

Memories

-Hostel owner picking us up, taking us for beer and pizza (still in our bathing suits..)

-watching the sunset up at Sugar loaf in Rio.

-swimming in the waterfall pools and underneath the waterfalls.

-interacting with the school children and all the schools we visited. (many drew us heart pictures) Children are children everywhere you go and laughter is universal.

-all the inside jokes with our new friend Matilde, the exchange student from Belgium.

-trying to learn how to dance to the funky music with our Brazilian friends.

Learning

-spending time in different public schools in Goiania. Seeing first hand what public education is like in Brazil, and how education is very political and far from standard.

-observing how English is taught as a second language and having the opportunity to teach a few lessons.

-Portuguese (according to Memorize I am up to about 70 words).

-Being in a place where I don't speak the language is very frustrating, but I learned a lot while struggling to order food, drinks, give directions ect. So many basic daily interactions I took for granted back home.

Special shout out to Rafael who was our main tutor and point of contact. He helped us get settled at the beginning and at the end of the trip invited us all out to his mother's house for a home cooked Brazilian lunch We spent one of our last days in Goiania hanging out in Andreza's backyard, eating delicious arroz com galinha and feijao tropeiro, drinking cerveja and visiting.

All in all, these past 10 weeks have been unforgettable and I am so thankful to have been apart of TAB -Brazil.

Tchau Tchau.

Our selfie with Andreza (she's the blonde in the light blue tank - can you believe she's is Rafael's mom (he's the one in the front)

Christ the Redeemer - worth the hike!

Me and my menina's

Sunset from Sugarloaf mountain in Rio

One of the many cachoeiras we visited.

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Tạm biệt!

It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that I will be leaving Vietnam in just a few hours. As I am preparing for my flight, I inevitably have to think back and remember how I felt when I packed this bag to come here so many weeks ago. I remember I was incredibly nervous, to the point where I could hardly sleep. I was worried about what life would look like here in Vietnam, and I had read books and done research to prepare myself as best as I could. I have to say some of the things I read came in handy along the way! I was especially worried about my performance in the local schools, since I had no idea what the expectations would be and if I would be able to fulfill them. When I look back now, I realize how far I have come. I can confidently say that I am comfortable in this environment now. I have learned so much about the culture and way of live and many things that seemed difficult or foreign at the beginning are now a normal part of my life.  

Looking out of my window right now makes me sad, because it shows me what I am leaving behind. While I am excited to go home and see my family, there are many things here that I will miss. I have fallen in love with all the little coffee shops, the beach, the sunshine, and the palm trees. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I think I will miss driving my scooter through the local traffic chaos! I will miss the simple and unstructured lifestyle; the many busy, but happy and friendly people everywhere. Most importantly though, I have formed genuine relationships with many of the people here, especially with my students and partner teachers. Saying goodbye was not easy, but I am taking a lot of fond memories home with me.

Through my stay here, I have gained many valuable insights that will influence me as a teacher going forward. The most important realization I had was that forming genuine relationships with my students was making all the difference to our learning experience in the classroom. For several different reasons it took me over two weeks to truly connect with my grade 10 class, and the impact this had on my teaching was truly shocking to me. The quality and relevance of my lessons, the students' engagement, and my ability to gage their needs in the moment changed drastically once I was able to form genuine relationships with them. My time in Vietnam has also given me some perspective on how fortunate we are in Canada when it comes to the space and resources we have available to us. I have also become much more comfortable with going with the flow, improvising, and adjusting to the needs of my students in the moment. The experiences I have had here will certainly influence my teaching in the future.

It will be interesting to see how I readjust to daily life in Canada - the weather, the traffic rules, and the structure in life in general. What I know for sure is that I will miss Vietnam, and I am determined to come back for a visit!Until then - Tạm biệt Vietnam! See you again!

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Reflecting on my last week in China

My last week in China has been kind of emotional compared to the rest of my trip. I have been very happy because my girlfriend came all the way from Calgary to visit me during my last week in China. But I have also been a little sad because I have had to say goodbye to so many amazing people I have met over the last few months. Yesterday the University where we are staying at arranged a closing ceremony for us, it was very nice and thoughtful. We each were given 5 minutes to say a few things and reflect on our experience in China. After the ceremony, it really hit me that our TAB experience was at its end. I can’t believe 2.5 months can fly by so fast, this has been such an amazing learning experience personally and professionally. 

We have had some amazing weather over this last week in Xian, 20 degrees and sunny... wow! It hasn't been this nice since early September. My girlfriend is very lucky to experience this wonderful weather haha, when my Father came to visit it was freezing cold and raining everyday. I hear that it is -20 degrees in Calgary right now, I must admit I am not looking forward to coming home haha.

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Reflecting on Spain...

As my time in Spain comes to an end, I have to admit that I am very sad to be leaving so soon! My reluctance in coming back home stems from the wonderful students, teachers, and experiences that I have been exposed to here in Sant Cugat. This last week has been emotional and heartwarming for a variety of reasons, but I will begin with where I left off last time! 

Luckily, I have been able to do a bit of traveling over the past couple of weeks. It was a privilege to visit the wonderful cities of Paris and Madrid on the weekends. My time in Paris was filled with a completely different yet equally interesting culture; it was so wonderful to see the art and community of an entirely different nation. Going to Madrid was a very interesting experience as well! I have to say that the differences between Barcelona and Madrid are extremely vast, though I cannot say one is better than another. Madrid is a much newer city, yet it holds a distinct history as well. Either way, I was very happy to have been able to visit Spain´s capital while I was here. I think traveling inside Spain was an important and worthwhile experience in order to get a full conceptualization of what this country truly consists of (especially in the wake of various political happenings!). 

 The French Pantheon & Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Plaza Mayor, Chocolate con Churros, and the Royal Palace in Madrid

The last week of teaching has been very touching! I have to say that the kindness of my students has completely surprised me and warmed my heart. Throughout the last few days of classes, my students presented me with a very kind letter "to their favorite teacher" along with a wonderful hat and scarf to help me brave the cold when I return home. Another set of students thanked me and gave me a set of lavender bath bombs and chocolates among other gifts. Another set of students gave me a painted heart that reads "good luck" (on the left is me opening one of these). These thank-you's made me feel so special! Being here has made me realize that above all I truly love working with young adults, and my support for them is completely the inspiration behind my teaching. This experience has helped solidify my goal as a future educator to be ultimately supportive and caring towards each and every student in my class. I have such appreciation for these students and their abilities. I think that they are kind, thoughtful individuals and I believe each of them will find success in the future. Hopefully I will be able to check up on their progress from back home! 

The educators here at my school have also been completely welcoming and kind from the start. I have learned much about teaching because of them, and having their trust to lead and experiment within the classroom has really made me grow as a person. I am extremely excited to return home and begin my field experience, and yet it is extremely bittersweet. I think one of the most difficult parts about being a student teacher (and a permanent teacher too!) is that you must move forwards and leave behind the relationships with students and colleagues you have developed at the end of your term. I get a sad feeling in my gut when I think about not knowing all of the amazing things these students will accomplish after I go! 

Happiness & Silliness! 

 
However, all of these feelings confirm that I am in the right program for the right career. And while I am hesitant to leave, I am excited to start again with a new group of Canadian students next week.  
 
Adios, Spain!  

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Field trips and lessons

Before the autumn break, I was invited to go on a class trip to watch a film from Hamburg’s film festival. I have noticed groups of children use the transit with their teachers and it just seems tremendously stressful! The students I was with were around nine years old and although they were an older age group, I was still sweating bullets every time we crossed the road. Throughout the commute I couldn’t help but to think of the worst, that’s why I did headcounts multiple times just to make sure we were all together. I realized it was my first trip off school grounds in which I would be in a different role. This gave me a glimpse into what it’s like to be in this role out in the public community and placed things into perspective. The feeling was almost comparable to that “I am not a student and not yet a teacher” idea. Overall the trip to the theatre was a success, minus one washroom emergency.

My teacher loved class trips to the theatre as a child and she wanted her students to also have that experience. She felt that it was important for students diversify their experience and gain exposure to films other than those released in movie theatres. She pre ordered tickets for The Ballad of Tibet a foreign film directed by Zhang Wei with English subtitles. As we waited outside the students were showing concerns of the age recommendation from the posters. The recommended age for the film we were about to see was ten. The pamphlet showed specific age recommendations for ages eight, nine, and ten.  I couldn’t understand why it mattered but it was interesting to see how concerned the students were. Perhaps their parents closely monitor what they’re exposed to? On the other hand, the student translating the whole commotion was telling me how he just watched American Horror Story so I guess it just depends. Once we were seated, my teacher explained to me that we were sitting behind the translator for the movie. Her role in the theatre was to read out the script for each character in German, so that young audiences who couldn’t read English can also experience foreign films. I wasn’t too sure how this would work out but it did! After the film the our students talked about cinematic elements they picked up. The amount of details they picked up and the level of comprehension they expressed was impressive. 

As for teaching experiences, I’ve learned that the ability to be flexible with your lesson plans is crucial when you’re working in any classroom. Scheduled plans shift, things come up, know that they may need you to teach a few days earlier or a day later. And sometimes they may not need you at all because they’re writing a test. I was suppose to teach on a Thursday, due to school events I was notified on the day of if I could teach after my first period.

Since the topic was in my field of interests it was easy to whip up a sample during break time and teach the next period. I decided to get all interdisciplinary and combined previous science lessons with the film we had just watched. During the lesson we revisited characteristics of oil and water, scenes from the film, and created visuals depicting their experience using oil pastel and watercolor. Once finished the students shared their work and discussed their thoughts on the film and their artwork. I was once again blown away by their insightful thoughts on obstacles and challenges a person may encounter and the concept of perseverance. 

Yesterday was my last day of classes and the day came too soon! I enjoyed being at the school and teachers were genuinely supportive and welcoming. Even though I couldn’t comprehend the language I truly appreciated the efforts students and staff made to communicate with me. On my last day the class paused and sang a traditional German song farewell. I wish I could stay just a bit longer! Anyhow I should sleep soon, our trip to Lübeck is tomorrow! I’ll have to share the rest in the next post. 

Tschüss!

 

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Adventures!

I can’t believe our adventures are coming to an end! It’s been such an incredible experience. To be honest, I’m kind of sad to be leaving such a beautiful place!

In the past few weeks we’ve had the opportunity to explore some interesting places around Vietnam! We all went to a place called Ba Na Hills, which has the worlds longest gondola ever! Once you got to the top of the mountain, there is a bunch of places to visit, such as a French Village, an indoor amusement park, a beautiful garden, temples and much more! It was such a unique place, it almost felt like a mini Disneyland! The amusement park was awesome full of fun rides and games! I definitely felt like a kid again!

We also had a chance to go to Son Tra mountain, which is also known as monkey mountain. We spent a whole day on the look out for monkeys! It is safe to say that we were extremely successful. We had a chance to see the cutest and most frightening monkeys on that mountain. The viewpoints were beautiful and everything about this place was just so serene. It was so nice to enjoy some quiet and relaxation time away from all the hustle and bustle. After enjoying a beautiful day exploring, we stopped at a temple on our way

home. It was so beautiful full of lush gardens and the most beautiful architecture ever. On our way home from the temple, we passed the intercontinental hotel where we discovered the APEC summit will be held. We also learned that both Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump will be attending the summit here in Vietnam!

We also visited a place called Hoi An Ancient Town, which was full of lanterns and beautiful lights! That is also where I tried egg coffee for the first time and loved it! We took a boat ride in Hoi An, the entire river was full of candles and the entire town was lit up. We also had a chance to tour the night markets and make friends with tourists from all over the world!

A few days go we were honoured to be invited to an authentic Vietnamese lunch by one of the locals who we made friends with down the street. This was definitely an

experience never to be forgotten. We had the chance to bond with some of the locals and enjoy their home-cooked food (to be fair we didn’t really know exactly what we were eating, but it was delicious nonetheless!). No matter how much of a struggle it was to communicate throughout the lunch we always ended up resorting to laughing. That being said, the lunch was full of smiles and laughter!

Apart from all the exploring we have had a lot of time teaching in the classroom. Teaching has been both incredible and difficult at times. I am constantly learning a lot despite the language barrier. Sometimes I think that it is so important to embrace the uncertainty and learn to be flexible and enjoy these moments. 

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Bye Bye Barcelona - Until we meet again...

So, it’s my final week in Barcelona and I cannot believe that it has already been two months since I arrived. This trip met all of my expectations and provided me with an opportunity to grow. It was hard, at times, to realize that the safety net that I have grown accustomed to at home was not available here. Being a Muslim woman means that I have never had the chance to live on my own and so up until this trip, the longest that I had ever been away from home was four weeks. Being here for nine weeks was a struggle and it provided me with an experience that I will never forget. Not only did I get the chance to work on my ELL teaching methods, but I also learned a few things about myself like my ability to persevere through hard situations. In the first eight weeks, I had to deal with an illness that threatened my experience in Spain. While it kept me from exploring the country in the way I had hoped I would, I was able to push through the pain, see most of Barcelona, and gain valuable experience at a rural school.

 

One thing that I will never forget is the sincerity and love that exuded from all of the teachers that I worked with here. Each member of the English department is caring and loving to each other and their students. I was lucky enough to feel some of that care and love. Our welcome was just as warm as our farewell and while I did not get a chance to work with every teacher, I developed a close relationship with all of them.

 

Of all the relationships that I developed, the strongest was with our liaison, Arancha. She worked hard to make sure that we felt welcome and a part of the team. When my illness kept me from work, she personally contacted me to make sure that I was doing okay. Her genuine concern really shocked me, as I have never had a supervisor care so much for the well being of a worker. It warmed my heart. Her care was also shown in the classroom as she supported my professional growth through a mentorship that she took on seamlessly. It was like there was no need for formalities; I became one of her colleagues immediately and she made sure that she supported me in any way that she could. The entire staff exuded the same qualities which leads me to believe that, culturally, colleagues are much more supportive and close with one another than they are in Canada. That’s not to say that our colleagues in Canada are not supportive, but having worked for much of my life, I can firmly say that the work environment in this school was much more warm and welcoming than any place I have ever worked in before.


 

I will definitely miss Barcelona and the lifestyle that comes with it. It is so incredibly different than living in Canada and I am so grateful to have had this experience. In the last week, I decided to explore Barcelona at night in an unorthodox way. In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to embark upon a “Ghost Walk” through the old neighbourhoods of Barcelona. It was probably the most “touristy” activity I had taken part in since being here. A tour guide took a group of tourists around the streets of Barcelona and shared ghost stories about certain locations. Some of the stories included the tale of young lovers, an onion farmer, and a lost traveller who narrowly escaped a brutal death. While the stories were not too scary, it was nice to explore Barcelona at night.

 

 

These last nine weeks have been interesting to say the very least. I lived away from home in a country that I had never been to and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It was stressful many times having to adjust to a new culture, complete course work, and teach through each week but it was worth it. I feel that I have grown in a way that I never would have if I did not take on this experience. Sure, it can be frustrating to be in a place that you know nothing about but I made it through. I contemplated coming home early because of the illness that I endured, but I am so glad that I stayed. That being said, I look forward to coming home and sharing my experiences with my loved ones. I’m not sure when, but I’ll be back in Barcelona at some point in my life. Perhaps when I’m married and have children to share the experience with. But I’ll definitely be back.

 

Xoxo,

 

Hana Kadri

 

P.S. If you’re reading this because you’re interested in taking part in the TAB program, let me tell you right now that you should. Just do it. You won’t regret it. =)

 

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10 Thoughts for 10 Weeks in Brazil

As my time wraps up in Brazil and my emotions come in waves and flutters, here are 10 thoughts for 10 weeks in Brazil.

  1. Language learning never stops; you constantly pick up nuances, idioms, slangs, accents and dialects.
  2. Humour and sarcasm are a true indicator for fluency of a language, its funny how things can go over your head.
  3. A hug and a kiss on the cheek are essential in almost all social situations.
  4. Time is a bit more relaxed here and it can be wonderful if you’re late, but you’ll be waiting if you’re early.
  5. Brazil is a country of extremes that always contradict one another.
  6. Food brings people together and Brazilian food is unlike anything i've had before.
  7. Students regardless of culture, language, and age are precious. They are truly curious and want to learn, below the surface and what may seem like a rough exterior they are kind, aware and have huge hearts.
  8. You truly learn the most valuable lessons when you are extremely uncomfortable.
  9. Tell the people who are important to you that you love and care about them constantly.
  10. Goodbyes never get easier.

I want to end with one of my favourite quotes from The Office, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days, before you've actually left them." It's a small reminder for myself to be active and present, to take a moment to not worry about the past or future, but to think about and appreciate the moment I'm in right now.

Hope everyone has an amazing last week in their respective countries! 

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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Hallo from Hamburg for one last time! I can’t believe that I will be heading home in 3 days. Time has gone by so quickly! While I am excited to go home, see my family, sleep in my own bed, and squish my cat and dog, I feel incredibly sad to be leaving. This has been such an amazing experience, and I have taken so much away that has helped me grow as a person and a future teacher. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach at a school in Germany. Thank you Gyula Trebitsch Schule; it was so hard to say goodbye. I learned more about how to design engaging lessons, building relationships, and teaching ELL students that I will consider in my future teaching. The students really enjoyed lessons with a lot of varied activities as well as lots of pictures. The biggest feedback from students was the need for us to speak slowly. Positive feedback from students was how happy and energetic Steph and I are. During my last practicum, I wasn’t partnered with another student teacher. However, team teaching is on the rise in Calgary, and being able to collaborate with another teacher to plan and teach is another amazing experience that I gained from my time in Germany. It was such a pleasure to be placed at the same school as Steph. I really enjoyed planning lessons and team teaching together.

Living in another country has been incredible! It’s been eye opening coming to Germany as I have spent time in countries where the culture shock is obvious: Israel, Turkey, Jordan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Burma for example. It was definitely an adjustment when I first moved here, but it wasn’t obvious culture shock, as Hamburg is similar to Calgary in many ways. The difference in culture is a lot subtler. People are less/not friendly and don’t openly display emotions. Grocery shopping was really stressful the first couple of times because you have to pack your groceries and pay at the same time, but people behind you start immediately moving into your space even when you haven’t finished packing your groceries! I have never experienced this kind of stress at a grocery store in Canada. Also, people are often completely silent on transit. An entire crowded bus full of people in Hamburg; you could drop a pin and hear it. It took me a couple weeks to adjust to this, but I am definitely looking forward to the friendliness and happiness of people in Calgary. (Although I heard that there is a snowfall warning – so we will see how happy and friendly people are). I was informed that the weather in Hamburg is similar to Vancouver. In my mind I had an idea of what that would be like, but I was not mentally prepared for this much rain! I grew up in Calgary where most days are sunny with the odd couple of days of cloud. In Hamburg, it rains ALL THE TIME with the odd 1-day of sun. My trip to Italy was definitely needed to recharge and feel the sun again! I didn’t realize how much the rain would affect me, but I am looking forward to coming back to Calgary to get away from this rain. (Again – snowfall warning so maybe not mentally prepared for that either).

I have travelled alone a lot, but prior to TAB I had never lived abroad. Before coming to Germany, I was worried about how to go grocery shopping? What will I cook for myself? Where will I get my face cream and shower gel? I lived alone for 5 years in Calgary and Edmonton, and living in Hamburg hasn’t been that much different. I can cook, clean, and look after myself. I love being alone in my flat, staying in, and watching Netflix with my dinner. Also, I absolutely love my flat in Winterhude. It’s close to everything but quiet at the same time. I will definitely miss this place that I’ve called home for the past couple of months! I am incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity. I learned so much and will be a better person and teacher because of this experience. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye. Vielen dank Hamburg! Auf wiedersehen! Tschüss! 

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii - a dream of mine to see since taking Archeology 101 in my undergrad. 

Positano, Amalfi Coast - an absolutely magical place. 

Sentiero degli dei, 'The Path of the Gods', Amalfi Coast - breathtaking scenery along this hike. 

The Elbphilarmonie, Hamburg - one of the largest and acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. Also, 700 million euro over budget! 

One last sunset on the Alster close to my flat, Hamburg

Grade 12's working on their 'society' poster.  

Grade 6 silly pic. 

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Saying Goodbyes

Xin Chao!

 

                Coming up on my departure from wonderful Danang, I have so many fond memories and experiences in this city. I really want to share one experience in particular that happened today. There is a pho restaurant around the corner from our house that makes the best pho I have ever had! We eat there frequently (and we would go multiple times a day if it weren’t for it only being open for dinner time). Of course, being western tourists, we stick out like a sore thumb when we eat there. The owners (who can just barely communicate with) have gotten to know us and invited us for lunch at their home before we leave.

                Arriving, we learned that they also own and run a piano and guitar store out of their home (it is very common here for your home and business to be under one roof. I initially assumed they lived at the pho restaurant). The couple, their son and his wife and a family friend (or nephew we still aren’t sure) prepared for us an authentic Vietnamese meal of plenty of seafood, soup, pork and fresh spring rolls. This was a hilarious, fun and confusing experience, filled with laughter and poor communication. This week as been incredibly busy, and I had considered not going to this lunch but I’m so glad I made the time for it. It reminded me of why travelling and meeting all kinds of people is so amazing and was a perfect wrap up to my time in Danang.

 

Teaching

                Our last days of teaching have past and I am sad to have to say goodbye to the students here. For our last days at the elementary school we taught the grade 3s and 4s about Halloween in Canada. We taught Halloween vocabulary and explained trick or treating. We had them line up outside the classroom and then they got to trick or treat for candy.

                The grade 11 English class that I teach for two periods a week, planned a surprise Halloween party for my last day of teaching. We shared candy, pop and chips and made Halloween masks. Instead of having a lesson we just hung out and had fun together and took plenty of photos. I wish I had more time with them and am sad to leave so quickly but I have made many lasting memories and connections in the schools here.

 

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My time here in Spain is quickly coming to an end and I only have a couple more days in the classroom! I couldn’t be more grateful for

my experience here and I think it has ultimately helped me to become a better teacher. For my last week here in Spain, I am trying to soak up as much as I can before I head back home to Calgary. That includes getting as much beach and sun time as possible!

Today, November 1st, is All Saint’s Day (Todos los Santos) and a holiday here in Barcelona. Cemeteries are traditionally open for longer as it is a time for people to visit and remember their lost loved ones. It is also tradition to attend church services on this day. Schools are closed, as well as many other public services and stores.

I will definitely miss the food here, and I’ve been trying as many different restaurants as I can before I leave. There’s almost 10,000 restaurants in Barcelona, so that’s no small feat! Even though I have spent two months here, I feel as if there is so much still left to see and experience. Just the other day I learned that Creme Brulees (called Crema Catalana here, which are slightly different than the French version) most likely originated in Catalonia in the 14th century. The culture and history of Barcelona is very rich and vast, and it’s sometimes overwhelming to take it all in! There are still conflicts here regarding the independence movement, but for the most part, things have settled down (at least for now). There is still much uncertainty in the region, but new elections have been called for in Catalonia next month.


I am looking forward to my last couple days in the school here, although I am sure it will be bittersweet. 

 

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Sad Goodbyes

We said goodbye to the students this week and I am saddened to leave them. The language barrier at times has been difficult and just when we have seemed to make authentic connections with students we are forced to say goodbye. Many of the students have requested our emails which we happily provided and especially in my secondary school classroom many students have already contacted me for advice about post-secondary education. The students and teachers have more than grateful for our time here in Vietnam not realizing that I am the one who should be thanking them.

Deep into the rainy season in Vietnam our weather is reflecting our mood. As more rain comes we are relived from the hot weather but saddened by the dampness of outside. Just as we feel both excited and saddened to return back home. This week I have been reflecting on how to bring what I have learned here in Vietnam back to my practicums in Canada.

I have really learned a lot about the importance of engagement here in Vietnam. It is wonderful what adding in an extra activity break into the classroom can do for overall energy levels. I think it is important to pose discussion questions that are controversial or provide opportunities for miniature debates to force students into exploring multiple perspectives. Here in Vietnam there doesn’t appear to be any kind of differentiation that occurs in lesson planning. This is difficult to work with – because those students who excel feel bored and those who struggle can’t keep up when teaching to the “average” individual. I look forward to being back home and practicing a more student-based approach.

The emphasis on games in Vietnam is something I will definitely be bringing back with me to Canada. Students enjoy anything competitive and they seem to forget they are even learning when competing against one another for points. The games keep students engaged during lectures especially when they know the content of the game will be based within the content of the previous lecture. I like the idea of handing out worksheets during these instructional periods to engage students to follow along however the additional element of points with worksheets adds more layers of engagement for the students.

Furthermore as time progressed here in Vietnam the student became much more open and more willing to take risks in the classroom. This stemmed from their comfort level with me and their peers progressing as time went on. I want to try to establish this level of comfort earlier on with my Canadian classroom. My practicum teacher at home has informed me the unit I will be designing will revolve around poetry. My aim is to include an ‘About Me’ lesson plan right away so both the students and I can get to know each other and become comfortable with the classroom. I look forward to implementing many of the strategies I have learned here in Vietnam back home.

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