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fall 2017 (141)

Hallo Hallo!

Guten tag blog readers!

I absolutely love my current reality here in Hamburg, Germany! I walk to school and when I can I take the route through the gardens. People who don’t have gardens can buy a piece of land and do gardening designated areas. It is beautiful and a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life. As for school I am placed at an English immersion school for students grades K-6. The school is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity and families from  various socioeconomic backgrounds. There are full time teachers however majority of the staff are part time. I was told that a few years ago children only needed to be in school till 1pm everyday. It wasn’t till recently hours have been extended to accommodate working families. Students are usually in school from 8am till 4pm. On certain days parents are allowed to pick up their child early if they disagree with the amount of hours their child spends at school. The other reason for why some students leave early is so that they can attend grammar schools. Unlike elementary schools in Calgary, teachers at this school are assigned to teach more than one grade. Although the schedule can get a bit messy and confusing, I can see how this can be beneficial for the teachers. The opportunity allows teachers from different experiences exchange teaching strategies and classroom management. I like this idea because not only are you no longer alone teaching a class, you also get a different perspective from someone else. This also benefits the students because they get more exposure to different adults and teaching styles. The other thing Jessica and I found interesting is the school has their own sub list. When a sub is needed they will call someone who is already familiar with the students, the staff, and the school culture. Sometimes there could be more than two adults in a classroom, it seems as though there could never be enough help for everyone. 

In the last couple of weeks I have been volunteering in classrooms grades 2,4 and tutoring two grade 3 ELL students. The opportunity to work with ELL students individually was an eye opening experience. My grandma use to teach English grammar to me as a child, the experience was textbook based and terribly dry. I don’t remember much content but I do remember waiting for her to doze off. Contrary to my experience I wanted to make sure my time spent with the two ELL students was as engaging as possible. One of the students can’t sit for very long so to accommodate we ended up doing a mix of charades, flash cards, and short stories. I used google translate throughout my time with them but I ran into problems where they couldn’t understand the word even though it was in German. For me this experience reveals how challenging it can be for both ELL students and teachers. Despite how hard acquiring a new language can be, more exposure and practice always helps.

My main partner teacher is inspiring, I’m lucky to be learning from her and since we have common interests that makes the experience even better. I originally wanted to see Kassel Documenta 14, an art exhibition that occurs every 5 years but I was on the fence about it. After hearing more reviews from her, I packed my things and took off  for the weekend to check it out myself. The event was larger than expected and the line ups for popular galleries was approximately 1-2 hrs. It wasn’t too bad of a wait mainly because I got to meet new people and artists along the way. I was fortunate enough to be there on the day artist Marta Minujín placed the last book on The Parthenon of Books. The redistribution of banned books began the following day. The Parthenon of Books is a sculpture made up of 100 000 forbidden books which stands on the exact site where the Nazi’s held book burnings in the past. It talks about censorship in literature and freedom of speech in relation to historic events and the present. I was lucky to have been a part of this and glad to have seen the works from artists all over the world. 

I have never lived on my own so roommates is a new thing to me and honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I’m living a WG lifestyle and that basically means shared accommodation for students and people who are working. My first roommate was from Pakistan we got to know each other well in two weeks. The roommate who replaced her is Russian but raised in Germany. He had to take off because

he got accepted to a public medical university. I truly miss both of them but I’m glad we met. My current roommates are from Russia and they don’t speak much English or German. It was funny because the two ladies tried to speak very slowly in Russian thinking that I would be able to understand them. It didn’t work haha but it made me realize what I sound like when I speak very slowly to my ELL students. Just because you’re slowing down it doesn’t mean it makes sense to them. My roommates are jolly happy people, I enjoy their company even though I can’t understand a single word. The other roommate that has been here since I got here is from India. He’s quiet and just recently opened up about his life. My personal experience with diverse individuals has so far been positive and eye opening. Oh and the cleaning lady! Alright so we have cleaning ladies that come in every Wednesday to vacuum and tidy up our flat. I'm not a complete slob but I leave things around sometimes. It's just funny because although they're the cleaning ladies I find myself frantically cleaning before they are here haha. 

They’re more like inspector ladies to me. As for living conditions, I am currently living without a microwave! It’s not too bad and probably better that way but it is an adjustment. I live in an apartment and use the communal washing machine in the basement. It’s also good to keep in mind laundry doesn’t dry the next day because it is more moist here. 

Anyways that’s all for now, thanks for reading!

 

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Week 7 in Spain!

Hola! 

Over the past couple of weeks, I really feel as though Spain has started to become like a second home. At last I am able to navigate the confusing streets of Barcelona without the help of a map or guidance. Other tourists often ask me for directions and I am happy to say that finally I can be of some help to them! I also feel as though I am now sharing fully the customs of Spanish life– the late dinners, the work-on-the-fly attitude, and the enjoyment of everyday life, such as the beach, the cafes, and the relaxing lifestyle. The Spanish way of life can often be fast paced– but relaxing and unwinding are a priority here too. Spain is all about the extremes. 

I have truly come to enjoy my teaching position in Sant Cugat. I have been tested in many aspects that I lacked experience in beforehand, such as behaviour management and thinking on my feet. Throughout most official U of C field experiences, you have a partner teacher with you to help control and calm down an unruly class. Here in Spain, I have the class all to myself. Therefore, I have learned some valuable lessons and techniques relating to behaviour management. I have found that positive reinforcement is an excellent tool, e.g. saying “thank-you” to students that are participating and listening to my instructions. I have also noticed that chatting loudly in class is a huge problem throughout our school. Sometimes I will have to wait more than 30 seconds before everyone in the class settles down to listen to me. Because of this, many times I have had to move “chatty” students away from their friends or have them engage with the lesson by asking them to read the instructions or examples out loud to the rest of the class. Furthermore, Spain has certainly taught me to think on my feet! Because it is the beginning of the year, the teacher schedules and class locations change often, and sometimes within a matter of days; this means that one day we may have access to a computer/projector, and the next day we may not! Because of this, I have had to learn to be well prepared and have a backup plan for my backup plans!

Wine Tasting in the Penedès
(with Montserrat in the background)

The past few weeks have also allowed me to participate in some further cultural exploration. I was lucky to attend a wine tour/tasting in Barcelona’s famous wine region: the Penedès. It is here that wonderful wines and cavas (champanges) are created. We visited 2 vineyards. One of them was an ancient castle from the 11th century, and had over 30 years of generations involved with the running of the winery. Another winery was a family run business, and we were introduced to the family themselves, who told us all about the process of becoming a wine expert. It was a day filled with yummy tapas, wine, and cava! 

I also had the opportunity to visit both Stiges (a costal town south of Barcelona, where many locals own a vacation home) and Terragona, which was the Roman capital of Spain during the 1st century. Here, I spent some time soaking up the sun at the beach (it is still a lovely 24 degrees here) and visiting some Roman ruins, such as an aqueduct and amphitheatre where gladiatorial battles took place. 



Roman aqueduct and Amphitheatre by the Sea 

Beach in Stiges 

Being in Barcelona for this extended period of time also means that I have time to visit the lesser known tourist attractions. Just outside of the main city is a royal monastery called the "Monsetir de Pedralbes" (on the left) dedicated to Santa Maria. It was founded in the early 1300's and still stands today as one of the best known and well preserved examples of Gothic architecture in a monastery anywhere in Europe! I found that it was such a peaceful experience to walk around the ancient monastery. There, the keepers of the monastery (the nuns no longer live there) have made efforts to replant a garden filed with the original herbs from the 14th century. The monastery was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. 

Lastly, the Spain TAB participants all came together to make a wonderful traditional Canadian thanksgiving. Somehow we were able to find most of the ingredients we needed to make mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables… the works! I have to say that I am very grateful to have made such wonderful friends throughout this experience. Overall, I am so thankful to have been selected to participate in this program, as it has truly given me SO much extra teaching experience I simply wouldn’t have had back home in a classroom. I feel like I have improved so much as a teacher over the past couple of months, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!  

Until next time, hasta luego!

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Spain in October

Wow! I can’t believe my time in Spain is almost to an end. These past 7 weeks have flown by. I have such a better understanding of how to work with ELL students. The teachers here in Rubí have given me so many great pointers that I can use in all my future classrooms.

Since last weekend was Thanksgiving, I taught my classes about Thanksgiving. Many of them had never heard about the holiday, so I was able to teach them a lot. For an activity, I put students in small groups and gave them a Thanksgiving scenario to write a script for and act out. I was really impressed with the scripts some students were able to create. Even students who seemed a bit young for the activity surprised me and were able to write and speak English very well. However, the activity was too difficult for some of the younger and lower level students, so I had to quickly think of a plan B. Now I know why teachers always say it’s important to have extra activities in mind in case things don’t work out as planned. It’s nice doing the same activity for each class throughout the week because I am able to see what works and what doesn’t work. From there I can make appropriate changes for the next class so that the activity is even better.

The Spain girls and I did our own Thanksgiving feast here in Barcelona. It was a struggle to find some of the traditional foods we wanted so we had to make a few modifications. Instead of turkey we had chicken, but thankfully I was able to find instant gravy in the grocery store. They don’t eat gravy here so I was very surprised (and relieved) to find it and not have to make it from scratch.

I also visited Mount Tibidabo last week. From the top you get beautiful views of Barcelona and the sea. The mountain has an amusement park and the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. The temple has stairs to the top which I reluctantly climbed. The views were amazing and I wanted the experience, but I’m terrified of heights. I took some pictures and got down quickly. The architecture of the temple is wonderful, as are all the churches and buildings here.

This week my students were given a treat. They were given M&M’s and told to answer the question that corresponds to the colour of M&M (ex. If you have a red M&M you would answer the question “What are your favourite hobbies?”). I was worried about bringing food into the classroom (because of allergies), so I made sure to ask if it was ok first. However, to my surprise the biggest issue I encountered was that a lot of the students didn’t even like M&M’s! I hadn’t even considered that. I assumed all kids love candy. Following the M&M activity they did a drawing activity. They described how to draw a simple picture (ex. house, cat, tree, etc.) to their partner using English (ex. “Draw a large square in the middle of your page.”).

The weather here in Spain is still so warm. I see that it’s much colder back in Canada, so I’m happy I’m able to wear shorts and go to the beach still. I’m sure my friends and family back home are jealous of the climate I’m in when looking at my pictures. I plan on spending these last two weeks soaking up as much sun and warmth as I can.

Parc del Laberint d'Horta - The maze is harder than it looks 

Vineyard outside of Barcelona

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Project Week in Germany

Last week was the last few days of classes before the two week holidays started for students in Hamburg. In my school, many students worked on what is called “Project Week”. The class that I helped out in spent the week working on their presentation skills with the end goal being - you guessed it - a presentation. The whole week was in German, and thus provided me with a wonderful opportunity to communicate with students in their language in a classroom setting.

Students split up into groups and for the first two days worked on their rhetoric skills, such as, oration, mimicking, and facial expressions. Within individual groups, I assisted students with their rhetoric - using my background in theater and drama - and they assisted me with my German when I would get stuck. Students enjoyed being able to teach me and were - somehow - more excited to try out my suggestions when sharing their mini-presentations with the class. I noticed, that to a student, it is important to not only be able to relate to the teacher, but also feel like they have something to teach and share with the teacher.

On the last day, students were presenting their final presentations to the whole class. Their teacher gave them the option to present in German or English, and most chose German because they wanted to “be able to communicate a lot more ideas and thoughts.” During these presentations, I worked together with one student on helping them (and others) assess the current presenters. It ended up being quite interesting because when I didn’t understand a section of the rubric, I would ask the student to clarify for me what it is and their reasoning for giving them the evaluation that they did. This made the student reflect on why they gave such a grade and sometimes they even changed it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience that provided me with an opportunity to not only work on my German, but also help students with peer assessment.

I am now visiting my friends in the south of Germany. I am in a very secluded village that is surrounded by three forests, sheep fields, and cow fields. A few days ago, I stumbled upon Kulning through a Swedish blogger that I follow. Kulning is a Scandinavian form of music that is used to call different animals (wild swans, cows, goats, geese, etc.). It originated in high mountain pastures and was most often used by women. Sometimes, this call is used to scare away wolves, bears, and other predators. It's very similar to Yodelling. I would like to learn how to do this (yodel and kuln), so tomorrow I am going out into the fields early in the morning and doing my best to call the cows and sheep! 

P.S. Last Friday, I ended up in Switzerland without realizing it. I took the train down to south of Germany. The night train was the most direct and cheapest way to get to my location. My only switchover was in Basel; when I first looked at my ticket at the beginning of my journey, it didn't register in my mind that Basel was not in Germany. When I arrived, I couldn’t figure out why I was not able to understand anyone’s German there (they speak Swiss German) and why there was so much French. I thought I was still in Germany. Looking on the map, I saw that I was in Switzerland, 10 minutes away from Germany, and 10 minutes away from France… By foot.

Photos: German WWI Monument ("Germany must live, even if we have to die.); Port of Hamburg. 

 

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Guten Tag!

Each time I sit down to write these blog posts I have 2 initial thoughts, 1) where do I start?! and 2) how has it been two weeks already?!

As I have mentioned in almost every blog post thus far and I will repeat again now, I cannot believe how fast this experience is flying by! It feels like just yesterday I was crying at the airport saying goodbye to my Fiance and best friend for the next three months.

In the past few weeks Alex and I have been doing a lot more teaching, which she mentioned in her post! We are so lucky to be working together to create lesson plans and see them through. I cannot imagine being in the classroom with anyone else, Alex and I have a great system going and I am sad we only have ONE DAY left in the classroom! That's right folks... one day! In Germany, it is Autumn break now, meaning the students have two weeks off and so do we. I am super excited to get to travel a bit more of Europe, I am off to Poland and Austria, but I am missing our classes already.

It is hard to believe that in just three weeks I will be back in Canada, fighting jet-lag and trying to do laundry (trying because its my least favourite chore).

As I reflect on my time spent abroad I can't help but think of how amazing it has been for me! For starters I have never lived on my own, I went from my parents house to a house at my university with 4 other roommates to living with my Fiance, this has given me the opportunity to find myself, completely independent from roommates or parents and it has been wonderful. I am quite a chatterbox at home, my Fiance and even my dog would probably tell you I never stop talking... I love being around people and have never been over great at being alone. However, throughout my time here I think I have grown in many ways. I now appreciate the silence of my own space, I love filling my alone time with reading, lesson planning and attempting to do homework! I also would never have dreamed of eating out at a restaurant on my own in Canada, and I will admit when I first got to Europe it was awkward for me, but now I love it! I bring a good book and order a beer and its the perfect night out.

For the next three weeks I am hoping to really just appreciate the small things before this time ends. When I think of returning to Canada this really feels like the calm before the storm and I want to enjoy as much of it as I can before I get back.

I am going to keep this post short and sweet and leave it at that! It is hard to believe the next time I post I will be back in Canada. Until next time readers...

Below are a few pictures of our classes

Grade 12 - creating their perfect society

Grade 6 - class photo

Grade 5 - classroom agreements to protect children's rights after a children's rights lesson

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Halo/Buon Giorno

Moin moin. Another two weeks have flown by in Hamburg! Steph and I have been teaching the grade 12 English bilingual class. Through the study of society, we have been building students’ skills in how to write a summary and characterization. We showed the film Into the Wild to discuss the concept of society and why an individual might reject society. Students then practiced writing a summary for the film and a characterization of the protagonist. One class we prepared an adjective worksheet related to the film to help build students’ vocabularies. We provided a word bank with words such as concerned, lonely, fearless, and selfish. We then provided a sentence with blanks such as “it was very blank when Chris did not contact his parents”. The worksheet seemed straightforward; however, students struggled to determine the ‘correct’ words to fill in the blanks.

We soon realized that the activity was straightforward to us because we knew the intent of each sentence. It was a great teachable moment because we were able to show students how fickle the English language is. It’s not incorrect to say “it was very lonely when Chris did not contact his parents”, but the word that best fits that sentence is selfish. I used to struggle with reading comprehension tests in school. All the answers are correct, but you have to choose the most correct answer from the perspective of the test writer. In English, the context, intent, and situation control the correct word choice.

One student made a sentence that involved calling the boy next to her smelly. The teacher disapproved and told her to make another one. The student then made a sentence calling the boy stupid. The teacher calmly told the student that we are a nice class and don’t speak that way before sending her to another room for a time out. I was incredibly surprised because the student in trouble is normally incredibly sweet. This seemed so out of character! When I asked the teacher after class where that came from, the teacher just laughed it off. She explained that the student just has a crush on the boy. This made me think back to our Individual Learning Theories course where we learned how behaviour, emotion, and cognition are inextricably connected. It’s so important to understand students’ emotions because it affects their behaviour when learning. In this case, the teacher did not need to escalate the situation because she understood the emotion behind the behaviour.

I prepared a lesson on Buddhism for the grade 6 religion class because the partner teacher found out that my Mother is from Myanmar (Burma). I struggled to prepare this lesson because Buddhism is such a complex topic. How do you engage grade 6 students in learning such abstract concepts? How do you teach grade 6 students the concept of suffering? I planned a short presentation explaining key concepts and included some personal pictures of me at Buddhist sites in Myanmar. However, most of the lesson involves a number of different activities. I planned a map activity for students to learn the countries where Buddhism is present, a breathing exercise for students to learn about meditation, and a matching activity for students to learn about different Buddhist symbols. The class is an hour and a half long, but I have no idea if we will be able to get through all the material planned. I also don’t know if the students will fly through everything. This is still something that I am working on in lesson planning; how do you gauge how long the lesson will take? Advice I’ve heard is that it’s better to over plan, so I’ve prepared a longer matching activity that could go into the next class.

Students have a two-week school break now, so that means we also have a break! I am currently in Italy and the warm weather and sun is amazing! Until next time!

Pictures: University of Hamburg, Pantheon, Colosseum and Constantine's Arch, Trevi Fountain 

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6 weeks on...

I sat down and counted the days I have left in China. The last 6 weeks in Xi'an have involved a myriad of challenges and triumphs. I am finally at the point where I feel like I can somewhat have basic conversations in Chinese with locals. The communication has been incredibly rewarding! Further, I can use the transit system and get around without having to think too hard about it! So, it is a little sad to think that my flight back to Calgary is just under 3 weeks away.

The last few weeks of teaching have been even more challenging than my previous practicums. For one, I am teaching grade 8 physics, despite having a social studies specialization. Further, it is my students' second year in English immersion, so their oral and reading comprehension is quite beginner level. I felt like I was teaching both English and physics in one lesson! Having no partner or supervising teacher, I was most often on my own in teaching my classes. So, my teaching method has changed dramatically since the first week, as I tweaked and adjusted my practices. After lots of trial and error, I established an interactive vocabulary routine at the beginning of each class. The vocabulary words were concepts that we would be covering during the day's lesson. Further, I used the "think-pair-share" method to get students to hypothesize about some of the inquiry questions posed at the beginning of our lessons. Finally, I was able to mix in some Bill Nye: The Science Guy during the classes! 

I have observed that the education system here seems to be quite standardized. I have not seen an emphasis on multimodality or any accommodations for different learners. There certainly aren't many resources to help each of the 50 students in the classroom. 

My Chinese classes have definitely picked up in pace. We have quizzes each day, and multiple pages of homework. Last week, we even wrote 200-character letters in Chinese! The Chinese we've learned so far has been very helpful in navigating the city and speaking with locals.

Finally, I have enjoyed exploring more of Xi'an. Last week, I traveled to Luoyang to visit the UNESCO world heritage site: the Longmen Grottoes! It was magnificent.

  

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China - the National Holiday

China has been a wonderful cultural experience so far. We have continued our Chinese language classes and now have many more words in our vocabulary. Although I can say many more things in Chinese, I still find it extremely difficult to understand what local people are saying. This is because they speak so fast! They often have their own local dialect with causes them to pronounce words slightly differently. Thankfully I have made a few Chinese friends who are very patient with me and help me learn/study. 

My teaching in China has been quite the experience so far. Having 50 grade 7 students in each class whose English level is very low is definitely challenging. I have been teaching them Geography, I would consider this to be like an Earth Sciences subject. As you can imagine the content can be quite complicated, especially for students who cannot speak very good English. For this reason, I have learned and tried many different strategies to help teach difficult content to English language learners.

A couple weeks ago was the National Holiday in China. My Dad flew all the way out here to visit me and stayed for just over a week. We had a chance to visit many famous cultural sites including the Terracotta Warriors. The history and culture is so fascinating! I also think I discovered my new favorite food…. Hotpot… It is absolutely delicious! 

Until next time...

Reggie

 

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Language Learning

It took a while for my teaching placement to be finalized, and then immediately after China had a 1 week break so I haven't done too much teaching yet. Instead of that I'd like to focus this post on language learning. China is not very English friendly; very few people speak English and many signs and menus are only in Chinese. While we were tourists in Beijing and Guilin we could get by without very much Chinese language ability, but the more time I spend here the more I feel a need to learn.  

Before coming to China I could only speak a handful of phrases. I could count, and say some useful things such as "hello" (你好), "sorry" (对不起), "thank you" (谢谢), and "it's okay" (没关系). As I spent time in China I was able to slowly learn more and more as I needed to. It was a lot easier to remember words when I needed to use them compared to when I tried to learn them in Canada. Learning words when there was a context associated with them was much more efficient than learning them from a book. For example, I kept forgetting the word for apple before I came to China, but it became much easier after I tried to buy one. 

I'm constantly surprised by how much I can understand even though I don't speak the language here. We've been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend a Chinese language class. Every class we learn about 5 new words. With each new word I feel as though the amount I am able to communicate increases exponentially. More useful than this however is body language. Often if someone cannot understand what I am trying to say, they can at least piece it together if I am also pointing or gesturing with my hands. Similarly I can often only understand a few words when someone speaks to me, but I am able to use context, facial expressions, and gestures to understand what they are trying to say. 

Being in China has given me a more authentic experience on what it would be like to be an ELL student. If I were to suddenly sit though a lecture in Chinese I would likely not pay attention, and I definitely would not understand what was going on. The amount I know does not match what I can communicate. In English I am able to write very long essays very quickly, but in Chinese it took me over 2 hours to write a 100 word paragraph about my life in China. In class we talk so much about the importance of engaging ELL students and incorporating their prior knowledge, however I didn't fully appreciate why that is important until now. 

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Post #3- DaNang, Vietnam

Xin Chao!

 

Hello again from DaNang, Vietnam. We are just over half way through and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. It has been an incredibly busy month with lesson planning and teaching. I have started to get the hang of the teaching style here. Things are much more standardized than in Canada and I have struggled with the lack of technological resources in the classroom. I didn’t even realize how much I relied on technology until I had to teach without it. As I have said before the class sizes are huge, this has also been a challenge for me. Keeping so many children engaged while also dealing with a language barrier. I have also learned to always have a backup plan. In one instance we had prepared a YouTube video to watch, only to realize the room didn't have speakers. You have to get creative in these situations.

We were invited to attend the primary school’s mid-autumn festival celebration. This was very exciting and new to us. We sat with the children and watched a performance put on by professional dancers. We also got the chance to take a look at some food displays created by the students. It was really fun to see how excited the kids got watching this performance and trying to imitate the dancers they admire so much.

Throughout the past few weeks we have explored the area a bit more and have met many new people. A few of us went on a hike with our Airbnb host and his hiking group. We hiked up and down Hai Van Pass which was about 21 km. Needless to say, it was an exhausting day. We are also beginning to realize that people will take any opportunity to practice speaking English. People who meet us are eager to speak with us and especially eager to make their children speak to us.  Speaking English here is a highly sought-after skill and can create many opportunities so parents are very adamant about their children learning. 

Goodbye for now! I look forward to posting more about this crazy adventure.

Sam

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Guten Tag!

It is crazy to realize that I am already just over the halfway mark of my TAB journey. I honestly can’t believe how fast time is flying, it seems like as soon as I started to feel settled here in Hamburg someone hit a fast forward button!

Over the past two weeks I have been enjoying the chance to interact more with the students in the classes I was placed in at Schule Vizelinstraße. Since I have settled in and am now feeling more comfortable in the classrooms, I have also had the opportunity to teach a few more lessons in the grade 2 and grade 3 classes. The grade 2 class is learning all about birds in their English ‘Topic’ class (which is similar to a science class). The teacher put me in charge of creating lessons and worksheets on different types of bird feet and different types/purposes of bird feathers. Although these sound like they would be fairly simple lessons, I have quickly come to learn that no lesson is as straightforward as you think it will be when you are teaching students who have a much lower level of English language skills than you are used to. I have realized the importance of speaking slowly and clearly, repeating myself A LOT, and checking for understanding often by asking students to explain a concept we just covered. My time in the classrooms has helped me realize that even though the majority of students in my classrooms back in Canada may not be English Language Learners, it is still necessary that I make the effort to ensure my ELL students understand the lesson or instructions because otherwise they will just get left behind. Even if you think your instructions were crystal clear, a lot of the time they likely weren’t to an ELL. It is interesting to see how some of the students in the class act as translators for others since their English skills are more advanced. This is very much appreciated by me since it is definitely awkward for me sometimes when I ask a student a question in English during an English lesson and they respond back in German – which I cannot understand. It has been exciting seeing many of the students warming up to me and being eager to try to talk to me in English and ask for help during classwork time. Some of the girls have even become determined to teach me one of their hand clapping games that they play during recess, which seems to be essentially a German version of Stella Ella Ola. The students are so sweet and friendly, which definitely helps to make my time spent in the classrooms even more enjoyable.

English wall in the Grade 2 classroom - everything they are learning about birds!

I have also had the opportunity to join a few of the grade 6 French classes. These have been interesting to see because it is an extremely small class, with only five students! Due to the small class size classroom management is really not an issue and the students are well-behaved to begin with because they are interested in being there. The teacher explained that at the grade 6 level French is one of the options they can choose from and can only be in the class if they already have high English skills. Assessment in these classes is much more prominent, as each class begins with the students writing a quiz on vocabulary that they learned the week before. The class is very much directed by a textbook, as the teacher tests the students on vocabulary page by page.

This week I was invited to join another English teacher for a smaller group English lesson with a group of 6 grade 3 students who have stronger English language skills. We went to the library and read through a story, each student taking turns reading. At the end of the lesson we worked through a worksheet of some basic reading comprehension questions. Afterwards the teacher asked me how I thought the lesson went and if I had ideas for improving the structure. I really enjoyed having the chance to discuss this type of small group learning structure with the teacher and bounce ideas off of each other!

These past two weeks have also involved some more traveling around Germany! I traveled to a town called Schwerin, which is about an hour and a half train ride from Hamburg. Here I explored the Schwerin Palace, which was very beautiful, and had a relaxing day wondering around the pretty streets and lakes in the sunshine. I also traveled to Munich for the last weekend of Oktoberfest! I really enjoyed Munich and it was interesting to see how different the southern part of Germany is from the north, including the way the accents sound! I had so much fun getting to experience the Bavarian cultural event that is Oktoberfest and it is definitely something I will never forget! While in Munich I also visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which was a sobering and eye opening experience. Having learnt about the events of World War II in high school social studies classes, it made everything feel much more real and emotional being at the site where some of those atrocities were carried out.

Schwerin Palace

Sitting around one of the many lakes in Schwerin

Marienplatz in Munich (New City Hall)

Oktoberfest tent

at Dachau Concentration Camp

Taking advantage of a sunny day in Hamburg!

Thanksgiving dinner with a few fellow TAB peers!

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Only 3 weeks to go...it can't be over yet!

Hello Readers!

I can't believe I will be teaching in a classroom in Calgary in one month already! The time is going to so fast and I was just starting to get to know my German students in the classes I've been a part of. In the last couple weeks, I have seen some small towns outside of Hamburg, such as Scherwin and Luneberg, and Munich for Oktoberfest. Tomorrow, my roommate and I will be embarking on our big trip over the German Autumn Holidays! We will be visiting Amsterdam, Croatia and I will be continuing on solo to see Rome before the holidays are over. We are so blessed in Germany to have this additional time to enjoy Europe! My partner teacher has also connected me with a great overseas contact here who works in Interdisciplinary Learning through STEM Science Experiments. I learned so much in our short afternoon together about teaching lower level Science students and fostering curiosity in students to pursue Science as a career. Our partner teacher has been so open to sharing her expertise and contacts with us, she has been a great role model to me on how to maintain and seek out professional relationships with colleagues in the future. I hope that down the road when I have a student teacher that I will be able to offer them this plethora of information and contacts she has blessed us with. 

It is becoming more real though that our time here is almost over and the whirlwind of events is something I will still be contemplating and processing after I return home. Something that has continued to make me feel secure here is even though I am an ocean and thousands of kilometers away from home, the students here, the classrooms and the atmosphere of a school has not changed that much. I never imagined myself teaching overseas because I was doubtful that the classroom culture would be the same---and for the most part I enjoy the cultures of classrooms at home very much! However, I have found here that the students get excited about the same things, still require you to connect and respect them, and still desire to share their interests and their dreams with you--even if you aren't from here yourself! Therefore, teaching overseas is now something I feel I should live out at some point in my career. Furthermore, their different social norms here have transferred into different teaching practises than I have witnessed at home---strategies I can't wait to try and adopt into my own practise. It stresses the fact that as a teacher we should always seek out opportunities to be a guest in someone else's classroom to witness new strategies, challenge our own assumptions, and be challenged to try new things in our own classroom. I will miss my German students here very much, but I am looking forward to putting my learning into practise during my Practicum at home starting in November!

I know this one has been short and sweet, but I will have more to inform you of upon my return from Rome! 

As always, I have included some travel photos below.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving YYC!

Karlynn Peltier

Sherwin Palace (Scherwin, Germany):

Rathaus Munich (Glockenspiel):

Oktoberfest (Munich):

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End of September Update

Hello again!

I have less than four weeks left here in Australia, and I know I’ve said it before...but I really can’t believe how fast the time has gone by!

Since my last post, Lauren and I spent a few days of our Spring Holiday on the Whitsunday Coast, where we got to visit the infamous Whitehaven Beach – the top rated beach in Australia – as well as Hamilton Island. We also went on a sea kayaking & snorkeling tour, and I made my way to Conway National Park to go on my first hike here in Australia!

We spent the remainder of our holidays here in Brisbane, taking in the Riverfire Festival firework show, and exploring the Botanical Gardens.

The week following holidays was our final week at Saints Peter and Paul’s School before starting our placement at Saint Aidan’s Anglican Girls School on October 9th. The students and staff at Saints Peter and Paul’s exceeded any expectations that we had, and our time there was definitely a valuable learning experience. While neither Lauren nor I took on any direct teaching or lesson planning (with the exception of one lesson that I was asked to “lead”), we were able to spend our time working with smaller groups of children who needed additional support in the various classrooms that we were placed in. I found that each teacher I was with was more than willing to share their knowledge, and would often stop to explain something about the curriculum, their teaching strategy, or a specific aspect of a lesson with me. The Year 6 teacher was even so kind as to put together an entire folder of resources for both Lauren and me to take home as a parting gift. Overall, we really enjoyed our time at Saints Peter and Paul’s, and we are now looking forward to the next few weeks we get to spend at Saint Aidan’s!

Saints Peter and Paul's Catholic School

Last week, we returned to QUT after being asked to speak about the University of Calgary, Teaching Across Borders, and other general info about our city with Bachelor of Education students who are interested in applying to a program that would bring them to Canada for three weeks in January. The eight accepted participants will spend these weeks at UofC (taking a block week course with the rest of us), visiting Calgary schools, and taking part in a program out in Kananaskis.

Following our presentation, we then had the opportunity to sit in on a class and take part in the discussion surrounding ‘Indigenous Education in Australia’, which I found quite interesting, considering we are also currently taking an ‘Indigenous Education’ course as part of our online studies through UofC. I found many of the critical thinking strategies discussed (though talked about in Australian context) valuable and I know that I will be able to apply these skills to the Canadian context when it comes to sourcing out authentic and valuable materials to use within my future classrooms.  

Lauren and I have now only spent two days at our new placement, Saint Aidan’s Anglican Girls School, so my plan is to write an update on this in my next blog once I have a better idea of what the school is like and when I have more to share. So far, both the staff and students have been overly friendly and welcoming, and I've noticed that the girls are incredibly well-behaved and eager to learn. I look forward to spending more time there over the next few weeks.

So until my next update, here is a collection of photos from my latest adventures in this amazing part of the world!

Whitehaven Beach 

Exploring Hamilton Island

Mount Rooper in Conway National Park

Riverfire Festival

Brisbane Botanic Gardens

 

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Sapporo to Iwamizawa

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

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

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

Rice Harvesting 

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

School Life

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

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

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

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

At the University 

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

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

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Hola de España!

Greetings from Spain!

I am settling into life here in Spain and have enjoyed immersing myself in the Spanish culture and their way of life. I feel truly privileged to be here and participating in the TAB program, which has been an invaluable experience for me. I have been lucky enough to volunteer in three different types of classrooms: middle school (ages 12-16), high school (ages 16-18; these classes are non-compulsory), and adult students. The adult classes are for students that have decided not to do the high school route which is geared towards university, or they could also be adults that are returning to school after a number of years. In addition to the English classes the adult students take, they also attend vocational classes such as office administration. I have really enjoyed

working with adult students, and it's an experience I never expected to have back in Calgary.

As previously mentioned, formalities within the education system here are a lot more relaxed than back in Canada. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner by one of my adult students and her family. I have been told that in Spain, it is more common to meet with people outside of the home since people usually live in small flats, and so it is more of a "big deal" if someone invites you to your house! Needless to say, I was extremely honoured to have been invited, and I could not believe how much time and effort went into the dinner that she prepared for me. She cooked many types of traditional Spanish, mainly Andalucian, food such as salmorejo, which is a type of cold soup consisting of tomatoes and garlic, topped with bacon (or ham) and egg. One of my favourite dishes was called tortillitas de bacalao (little tortilla, or omelette, made with cod). She gave me the recipe and I attempted to make the dish the next day!

The hospitality that she and her family extended to me is something that I will never forget. I learned a lot about the Spanish culture and how they are both different and similar to us Canadians. For example, siestas used to be very common within the Spanish culture, but due to many factors such as globalization, they have become increasingly uncommon within the bigger Spanish cities since people generally work through the entire day.

Another thing that I have learned more about over the past couple of weeks is the Catalan independence movement. It has caused a lot of tension here, not only for politicians and pro-independence supporters, but even for the people who wish to remain neutral. Just a few days ago, many people rallied in Barcelona and Madrid urging for both sides to "sit down and talk" about the situation at hand. Yesterday, there was a huge rally of pro-Spain people in Barcelona that do not want Catalonia to separate. The situation is very unpredictable and nobody knows what is going to happen, which has been causing stress for the teachers and students. Regardless of where people stand on the issue, everybody here is hoping for a peaceful solution. 

 

Hasta Luego!

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こんばんわ! Konbanwa!
(Good Evening) 

I can't believe that there is only 3 more weekends left in this incredible experiences that I sometimes can't believe I'm a part of. Some days I will be walking down the street and just think in my head "I'm in Japan!!!" I absolutely love it here and I have learned so much from my host families and our new Japanese friends. 

Some cool learning experiences at this point in time:

September 30th

I got the opportunity to go rice harvesting with the girls, our host families and some other international students! It was such a fun experience and really rewarding because we got to eat the rice right after! We also got a go at making mochi which involved a huge mallet smacking down on the dough. One of the greatest things about Sapporo is how fresh the food is. We also had the opportunity to wear traditional rice harvesting wear for the ceremony that takes place before. The morning was fun but a bittersweet day for me as it was my last day with my first host family. The Kouno family made me feel welcome since day one and they have spoiled me to death. My host mother cried and I couldn't help but choke up while thanking her for everything she did for me. Osewani Narimashita. With their family, I learned how collective Japanese culture is compared to North American culture. It is common for Japanese children to sleep in the same bed as their parents even until they're 10, 11 or even 12. They had everyday timed to a T and had a schedule laid out for me so I knew what time I should come home for dinner and what time I should take a shower so nobody would clash with me. I personally love routines and schedules so it worked out great! I had so much fun with them and I would recommend staying with a host family to anyone who is interested! 

My new host family is very nice but it was a taste of reverse culture shock for me. My previous family ate traditional Japanese meals, had rice and miso soup for breakfast everyday and we spent every night after dinner together while my new family is more westernized, meaning we eat cereal for breakfast every day and everyone has their own schedule and does their own thing. I think when I get back to Canada, there will be a lot of Japanese mannerisms that I will carry on with me and it'll take some time to adjust. I face timed my parents for the first time since I have been here the other day and realized how unnatural it was for me to speak Chinese after (attempting) to speak Japanese for the past month. 

October 2nd - 6th 

Mandy and I started our school visits at the affiliated elementary school and it has been a very enriching week for us. On the first day, the school had a welcoming ceremony and children sang songs for us and had speeches. We introduced ourselves in both Japanese and English in front of the whole school. Each day, we were with a different grade and teacher. The students at the school love us and say hi to Mandy and I in the hallway. We've never felt so famous!

Some key differences between Canadian Schooling and Japanese Schooling:

The student-teacher relationships in Japan are much closer and students interact closely with teachers and students from other grades.

Older students automatically take care of younger ones. The community is more collectively based rather than independently based. A whole school field trip to start the year is very important to build a sense of school community. 

Every single day in every single class, one student start off the class with a greeting that gets all the students settled. The greeting usually consists of stating what the class is and to do our best. At the end of the class, dismissal is done in the same way. They end off with stating what the class is again and thanking everyone for their hard work. Again, no time is wasted on classroom management but more on the learning. 
 
Classrooms have lunch together and the teacher sits in a desk with the students. The students serve their own food to the class and put away their own dishes and supplies.I love the idea of having school lunch with kids. It really allows you a chance to get to know them and be a closer community. I have noticed in Japanese classrooms, children are not afraid to speak out and they are encouraged to make mistakes because they can learn from them. Mistakes aren't something to be ashamed of and the classroom community is so nurturing that it doesn't matter if you do make a mistake. Students are able to be their best self around their teacher and it really fosters a productive classroom. Teachers in Japan spend almost no time on classroom management, instead the whole class is dedicated to the learning experience and in turn, students seem to really enjoy school.

Students are excited about everything they do. I almost feel as if children in Canada are afraid to speak out or give it their all in a school performance, in fear of what their peers might think but here every single student gives it their all. It inspires you to do your best at everything you do and not to care what other people think.

A thought about school visits thus far:

My initial thought about schools in Japan was that they were incredibly standardized, focused on the grades and focused on going into post-secondary but what I have realized is while all the above may be true, students love school. They have so much fun at school every day because their teachers have a great relationship with them and the community is strong. They also have many extracurricular activities that allows them to pursue their interests at a young age. It is hard for me to put into words but the energy of the school is just incredible. 

October 8

Today, the girls and I went to a school festival hosted at the University and there was lots of food, games and performances. We had a chance to see our Japanese friends perform and my host sister who plays trombone is her school's brass band. My sister did an amazing job in her performance. What amazed me the most was they played everything without sheet music, they played the songs based on memory. It goes to show how much hard work these students put into their craft and how much they value mastery of a skill. We also had a chance to see our HUE friend, Mayu perform in a dance. It was inspiring to watch. I was also able to see my friend, Shuhei, who I met in Calgary 6 months ago when HUE students visited us! It was awesome to see him. 

October 10-13

Two more days at the elementary school then Mandy and I will be off to the affiliated Junior High School for the rest of the month! We also have some university lectures planned for us and a school excursion near the end of the month. I am ready to make these the best last couple of weeks ever!

Ja mata ne! (See you) 

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Halfway through my time is Brisbane!

Well, we are officially half way through our time here in Australia! I can’t believe it! It has been an amazing adventure so far and I am so excited to see what the next few weeks have in store! It is basically 4 weeks until I fly home and I just know that is going to fly by faster than the past 4 weeks have! Since I last wrote, Kelsey and I got the opportunity to visit the Whitsundays, complete our last week at the school we have been at since we started here, and do a presentation at QUT as well as attend a lecture!

Firstly, the weather here is amazing. It is slowly getting hotter and I cannot even imagine what it is like here in the height of summer (December-March). It must be unbearable because even now, in October, I have a layer of sweat on my face as soon as I leave our apartment. When we visited North Queensland and went to the Whitsunday islands during the spring holidays, it was even hotter up there! The Whitsundays were amazing; the bluest waters, the whitest sandy beaches and the most luscious green trees. The colours there were incredible and it was definitely a place that I will never forget. Kelsey and I had the opportunity to visit the beaches, meet some locals, visit the famous Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island, and go sea kayaking. Whitehaven beach’s sand is 98% silicon so no matter how long it is in the sun, it will never get too hot; it also squeaked a little when you walked on it and was the whitest sand I have ever seen. We also got to wear the very fashionable 'stinger suit'. These skin tight, iconic, basically wet suits, we were required to wear to protect us from the deadly jellyfish that inhabit the North Queensland oceans. It was definitely an experience to be in the water along with these (and who knows what else...!) creatures! It was a spectacular experience to visit this amazing part of the world and one that I will never forget. After our few days in the beautiful Whitsundays we returned back to Brisbane to catch up on schoolwork and do some local exploring. We also had the opportunity to meet up with Tracy as she was in town and we walked around the Botanical Gardens and got to hear all about her experiences! We are all having such a wonderful time away; it truly has been amazing so far. The end of September marked the end of the Brisbane festival, meaning there was a firework display. 20 minutes of fireworks accompanied by music and good times was an amazing way to end spring holidays. 

Before the students and teachers went on their spring holidays and for one week after, Kelsey and I were volunteering at St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School. We completed 4 weeks of teaching there before starting at a new school next week. We had great experiences and got the opportunity to sit in and help on a number of classes ranging from Grade 6 religion to Grade 1 music to Grade 3 PE. One thing that has struck me as particularly surprising in the school system here is that the children have PE for 30 mins, once a week. This is very different than it is back home as the students are required to do PE if not every day but at least every other. It was a lovely school and the staff were so welcoming and accommodating. One teacher gave us both a booklet of literacy resources and it is going to be amazingly helpful in my future career! I have found that their typical school day is very similar to what it would look like at home. They arrive at 8:40am to start their day, at 10:40-11 they go for 'morning tea' (we would call it recess), at 1-1:50 they have lunch (allocating the first 10 minutes to only eating to ensure all students eat their lunch instead of just play!) and then they go home at 3pm. This sort of structure is one that is seen throughout most schools in Calgary. They have a 'no hat, no play' policy at all schools in Queensland as the sun is so hot and the lack of ozone layer makes in dangerous for everyone, especially young children. Even teachers are required to wear a hat while they are on supervision! The physical school structure itself though is very different. As opposed to having one big building where all classrooms and learning spaces are located like schools are in Calgary; this school, like many other schools in Australia, has different buildings. The climate here allows the students to have that separation between buildings as they can walk outside year round without freezing like we would at home! I am definitely sad to be finished at this school but had the most wonderful experience and I am looking forward to having new experiences in the coming weeks. Next week we will be helping at one of the most expensive schools to send children to in Queensland. Should be an interesting experience with lots of amazing resources available to the teachers! We are looking forward to it, so stay tuned! Below are some pictures of St. Peter and Paul's school! 

Lastly, since my previous post Kelsey and I were asked to do a presentation about the University of Calgary, Calgary, and the Education program for prospective students completing a similar Professional Experience placement in Calgary next January! It was not a great turn out, as lots of the interested students were out on practicum, but it was nice to get to share some information on our programs and schools. We left our emails along with the PowerPoint so hopefully we can stay in touch and meet up with the students when they arrive in Calgary next year! We also had the opportunity to attend an Indigenous Education tutorial, which was fascinating. They were just finishing up their unit but it was interesting to see the parallels between our online class that we are completing and their one. 

In the coming weeks we have lots of fun adventures planned! I am lucky enough to have gained not only an adventure buddy but also a new bestie in Kelsey and we have so many things left we want to do, time permitting! I will leave you on edge for my next post and leave it at that for now!

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A Typical Day in Spain

We have been in Spain for nearly a month and as predicted, time is going by quite quickly! 

I am really enjoying my placement in Sant Cugat. If you are a prospective TAB student looking for some real, hands on teaching experience, Spain may just be the place for you! For this blog post, I am going to go through a typical teaching day for us here in Spain. 

School begins at 8 am each day. Instead of living in Sant Cugat for the duration of our placement, we decided we would rather live in the heart of Barcelona. Because of this choice, however, we have about a 45 minute commute each day, and so we typically need to be ready and on the train by 7 am. After arriving to our train stop, we have about a 10 minute walk before reaching the school. 

Each class at our school is one hour in length, and contains anywhere from 25-37 students. As a result of this, my partner teacher secured 2 separate rooms so we can split the class in half. Each day I take one half of the students (about 15 students) into my own “classroom” and she takes the other half. After half an hour of instruction, we switch groups so that each of us has the chance to see every student that day. While the idea of being all by myself was quite daunting at first, I quickly settled into my role. Having the students to myself means that I can plan related activities/games to their current topics with my own creativity. Additionally, I can have my own “class rules” and set my own expectations with students. Typically, my partner teacher will go over the homework and textbook work, and I will plan an entertaining activity related to what they have learned. Thus far I have found success using several sources, such as Kahoot quizzes and Pinterest resources. I have also found success utilizing several activities from a TAB workshop earlier this year, as well as other sources online.I have observed that throughout the day students are often bogged down with so much coursework that they don’t have any opportunities (besides gym class) to be active in the classroom. As a result, I have attempted to include activities which involve moving around as much as possible. In general, I have found great success in transforming many drama games into ELL games based on the topics (such as irregular verbs, job applications, family descriptions, etc) that the students are learning. 


                Above: the streets of Sant Cugat

“Lunch” time is around 11 am. I use the term “lunch” because many students actually eat their breakfast during this time, and lunch after school ends, which is at 2:30 pm. During the lunch break I typically go and sit with the other teachers in the canteen, where they serve coffees and other snacks. If not, I work on some preparations in the humanities lounge. 

One interesting experience I have had so far in relation to this “lunch” period happened this week. It is a tradition at my school that each faculty plans a beautiful lunch for the rest of the staff once a month. This month they served traditional dry-cured Spanish ham sandwiches, cheese and tomato sandwiches, chips, sweets, and beverages. I will be vague to say that I was surprised at some of the beverages the teachers are allowed to have during school hours, but nonetheless it was a lovely experience. I think monthly staff lunches could enhance any school’s faculty back home! 

Monthly faculty lunch tradition 

After the break I usually have another class or two, and then I walk to the train station back to Barcelona. Typically I work 4 days a week from about 8-12:30, but I will get into why this has not always been the case below. 

As some of you i’m sure are aware, at the time of this blog post there has been immense political strife and conflict happening in not only Barcelona but all across the area of Catalonia. Last week, the Catalan population attempted to peacefully vote either for or against independence from Spain. Because the Spanish government declared the vote illegal, there was a great deal of violence and police brutality on the day of the vote. We were shocked to see images of police forcibly throwing people out of polling stations, while confiscating all of their votes. Throughout October 1st, many innocent people were hit with police batons and rubber bullets as the Spanish police cracked down on those trying to vote. While being here, it has been impossible not to notice the tension rising. It is very easy to find oneself turning a corner here in Barcelona and seeing or finding yourself stuck in the middle of a protest. Of course these protests are very peaceful, but the political situation here is extremely prevalent. 

One interesting thing that has occurred as a result of this political strife is related to my students. Twice now the students have actually gotten permission slips from their parents to “strike” away from school. Essentially, the entire school’s student population will not show up occasionally to school to protest the way the Spanish government has conducted their affairs. I find this extremely interesting because back home, it is much more likely and accepted for a teacher to go on strike than a student. 

So not only does this political situation affect life in Barcelona, but life in Sant Cugat too. I have also learned a variety of new phrases because of the protests, such as a “Cacerolazo” which means “a typical protest done by making noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call for attention.” Almost every single night here in Barcelona at 10 pm, people run out to their balconies and bang pots and pans against each other and cause as much noise as possible. This is in response to their calls for independence, and while it can be quite loud I find it extremely interesting. 

           

  A typical protest in Barcelona             

Finally, I will speak a little about something called La Merce festival, and the infamous “Carrefoc” or “fire run.” La Merce is Barcelona’s most popular festival, and while you are here you can see parades, dancers, concerts, and other events happening all weekend. However, by far the most interesting aspect of this festival is the Carrefoc that occurs. Essentially one of the main streets in Barcelona closes down, and all the “devils” are released. Each one of these devils carries a giant sparkler that fizzles and cracks and sprays fire everywhere. For the most part the sparklers are harmless, but if they hit your scalp they can definitely hurt (I know first hand)! Locals and visitors run quickly through the streets and through the sparklers. It was a truly amazing and unique tradition to participate in!

The chaos of the Carrefoc

A fire breathing devil at the Carrefoc

And that is all for now, adios! 

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Cultural Learning - Post #3

Xin chào!

We have now been in Vietnam for over a month and have been teaching at both the elementary and high school for several weeks now! This week we had the opportunity to celebrate the mid-Autumn festival with the elementary students! We had the chance to see dragon dances and students perform! It was quite the show! There is also apparently a contest where students and their parents create a display, which is made completely out of food! Some of the students gave us moon cakes to try!

A few things that I forgot to mention in my previous posts about the teaching here is that I feel as though it is extremely standardized, I realized how blessed we are to have access to resources to be able to do arts and crafts with the kids, and even spice up their learning by providing them with different activities, whether it be on the smart board or a computer. We have constantly been asked to come up with different and unique games for the kids to play. However, with the number of kids each classroom, the lack of space and the whether being extremely hard to work in, it is hard to come up with new games each time. I also have noticed the difference in students' ability. In both the elementary school, some students seem to be fluent in English and some students struggle immensely. With one teacher a classroom of about 40+ children, I am wondering how the teacher can attend to some of the struggling students.

It is definitely much harder not knowing Vietnamese, because when students don't understand something or are misbehaving it is hard to get them back on track without knowing the language. However, the kids are typically well-behaved. I feel like for those kids that know English well have a harder time paying attention and goof off! But how can we blame them!

Fun Fact: did you know children in Vietnam, up until the fifth grade, take 4 hour naps everyday!

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