fall 2017 (141)

Japan is amazing!



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

 School Festival

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

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

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

School Visit

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

2039852?profile=RESIZE_180x180I struggle with the language barrier, as there are some many questions that I would like to ask the teachers but couldn’t. During this visit, I got to witness a Biology lab, a Chemistry lab, English class and Biology class. English class is a struggle, as students only take it for their University placement exam but they don’t actually see the application of what they are learning. The terminology they learn is difficult and in my opinion meant to impress instead of common day use. On the other hand, I got to meet a passionate Biology teacher, who is also in charge of the Biology club. In order to allow students to visualize the process of gestation and growth, they grew their own chickens from eggs (and I got to hold one!) Moreover, the classroom is full of alive and dead specimens and covered with student presentations about what they are learning/ investigating in Biology. Because of what he does, all the students love the subject and find use in what they are learning, which is the type of teacher I aspire to be! 


School Placement

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

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

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

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Life in Iwamizawa City


Somehow, seven weeks in this country has slipped by me without me even getting the chance to blink. I have traveled, made new friends, eaten half the supply of food in the country, and am now on to my second host family. 

I have to start with my Sapporo host family this week. I’m going to be super raw with you all this week, so power through the sappy parts if you have to. They tell you homestay is a great experience but until you’re living it you have no clue just what that means. I thought I could go in and out of my first family’s home with little attachment, but no such luck. After the four weeks were up and I was ready to move out, I thought everything would be okay. The day had come for Stephanie and I to leave the other girls and head for Iwamizawa. And everything was okay, until I was walking out the door with my bags and looked back to see my host mother crying. My plan to not be emotional went straight out the window. From the house all the way to the train, I cried like I would if I knew I was never going to see my own family again. And then I cried off and on for the remainder of the day, in between an orientation at Hokkaido University of Education Iwamizawa, a school visit, and the move-in to my new host family’s home. I have truly gained a Japanese mother, father, and sisters with my Sapporo family. And I can easily say that this was my hardest day in the entire seven weeks I’ve been here. I slept more than fifteen hours that night, as I had worn myself completely dry.

As a side note, I am eternally grateful for Stephanie putting up with my emotional outbursts that day. For future tab students reading this, don’t be afraid to lean on your travel mates, it makes getting through your hard days exponentially easier! 

Now that I have decompressed and moved into my new homestay in Iwamizawa, all my positive energy has been revived, and I am now alive and well again. We are the first University of Calgary students that HUE Iwamizawa has taken on, and we are so excited to make our mark. Today was our first full day acting as stand in ALTs (assistant language teachers), and I enjoyed it so much. We were placed in Daiichi Elementary School in Iwamizawa, and are getting the chance to assist in grade one through six classes. The children’s love and energy was exactly what I needed to cure any of the remaining blues I’ve been feeling. I was reminded immediately why I am going into this profession. Schools are my happy place, without a doubt. The children at Daiichi were so excited to have us there, Stephanie and I felt like celebrities. Everywhere we go at school the children greet us, and want to share the english they know with us in conversation. We have even remembered some Japanese from our lessons to try and communicate back with them. We also spent the second half of our lunch signing autographs (for real), so when I say felt like celebrities, I mean literally. 



(Stephanie signing autographs for the kids at Daiichi Elementary)


As for my new city and new family, I am loving it. Sapporo is very Calgary-like, but Iwamizawa feels even more like home for me. I find it very similar to Okotoks (which is where I grew up), as it is about 40 minutes outside Sapporo, and is a much smaller and tighter-knit town. The pace here is also 100% different than Sapporo. My new host family consists of my Mother (Megumi), and my Father (Hajime). I am very well taken care of once again, and feel so lucky to have their support.



(Dinner with my new host father, Hajime)



This weekend they took Stephanie and I on a road trip out to Otaru, which is a town about two hours from Iwamizawa right beside the ocean. We did lots of shopping, ate their world famous sushi, and I had the ice-cream of my dreams. See below!


(Everything Maccha, all the time)



(Enjoying my 7 flavour ice-cream, there is ice cream shops on every corner in Japan!)




(Otaru world famous sushi)



Class work is picking up, and with full days and weeks in the schools, things are about to get crazy. But I am ready to take on the next four weeks head first, and make the most of this crazy, wonderful trip. The next time you hear from me, we will already be nearing the end! Unbelievable. 



(Loving it here in Hokkaido!)

Ja mata sugi! (see you soon)


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Teaching, teaching, teaching!

Hi everyone!

We have been teaching here in Vietnam for several weeks now and while I am getting used to the way things work in this country, the heat continues to be just as overwhelming as our workload. While our stay here is at times exhausting, we have learned to go with the flow and are enjoying our times in the school. I immediately felt welcomed by both students and staff at both of the schools we are attending and everyone seems to have a genuine interest in us and wants us to be there. The children take every opportunity they get to talk to us and at times we find it difficult to cross the schoolyard since we are immediately surrounded by a group of elementary students who will refuse to let us leave! :)

During my time in the classrooms here so far, I have noticed a lot of differences and learned a lot about myself as a teacher as well. Something that I noticed immediately upon visiting the schools for the first time and still appreciate every time I walk in is how bright and green the schools are in comparison to most Canadian schools. There are lush plants, ponds, and natural light everywhere you look. It might sound odd, but I strongly believe that this is something that can significantly influence the students' enjoyment of school and ability to learn. At the most basic level, natural light and fresh air help keep you awake and focused, not to mention the mental health benefits such an environment has. It is quite simply a very inviting environment.

Something that continues to be difficult is working with the limited space and resources available to us in the local classrooms. The rooms themselves are quiet small and lack many of the resources we often take for granted in Canada such as books, a computer, a projector, or even a space to sit as a group. There are usually about 40 students in each class. The space tends to be cramped, so there is not much room for students to move and group work is not often possible. As teachers, we are usually limited to a book, a cassette/CD player and a blackboard as resources. I have found that this environment severely limits the amount of differentiation we can include in our lessons and the amount of individual attention we can give each student. I have noticed significant gaps in student abilities within any given classroom and am wondering if this is due to the limited amount of individual support students are able to receive.

While we are very caught up in our lesson planning and university assignments, we are still taking to time to experience Vietnam whenever we can. We recently visited the local markets and were able to attend the schools 'mid autumn festival', where we were able to watch dragon dancers perform for the students. We have also been to a tailor and are now proud owners of ao dai, Vietnam's traditional dress, which is still worn by female teachers on a daily basis.

In the next few weeks, I will need to work on finding a better routine when it comes to my university assignments and my lesson planning. I look forward to continuing my work with the students and teachers here and hope to find some more time to explore more of Da Nang and the surrounding areas. I have gotten lots of recommendations for places I need to see and I hope I can visit them all!

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Sapporo wa Subarashii Desu!

The City & Homestay Experience

Sapporo is wonderful! It’s been several weeks since I’ve arrived in Sapporo, and although I feel like I’ve begun to settle in, I continue to learn and be surprised by new things everyday. Spending time with my lovely host family has been one of the most fun, educational experiences thus far. With my host family, I was able to experience first-hand some of the everyday routines of the Japanese lifestyle. From eating delicious Japanese-style breakfasts and dinner as a family, to taking public transportation, playing games, and attending after-school lessons with my host sister, everything (including the apparently ‘mundane’ activities), have been so interesting. My host family (and their friends) have gone above and beyond what I imagined homestay hospitality entailed, and have brought me to various places within and around Sapporo city. Below are some examples (Top to bottom: A view of Sapporo City from Mt. Misen & Rice Harvest)!




Japanese Language Classes

Nihongo wa omoshiroi desu, demo muzukashi desu (Japanese language is interesting/fun, but hard)! Most weekdays, I went to the Hokkaido University of Education with my fellow TAB Japan students and studies Japanese language for three hours a day. As expected, learning a new language from scratch is incredibly challenging. But with the help of our very kind and patient language teacher, Yoshida Sensei, she has made the experience incredibly engaging and fun. It also helps to be with my classmates, whom I practice Japanese conversation with, and do active language role playing. From this experience, I feel like I have gained two very important things: the ability to use and understand some simple Japanese phrases and terms, and being able to know what it is like to struggle with an unfamiliar language. I find the second point to be of particular value to my future teaching, as I will inevitably have students in my class whom are English language learners. I feel as though my experience learning simple Japanese, and through attempting to navigate Sapporo city as a language learner, I have become more aware what it might be like to struggle communicating with those who speak a different language. 

School Visits

One of the main reasons I chose Japan as my TAB placement option was because I was interested in being able to observe, and participate in the Japanese education system. The first school I had the opportunity to visit was a rural elementary school with a population in the mid-twenties. The second was a junior high school that was affiliated with the Hokkaido University of Education, and the third was a very large, prestigious high school at the end of the city.

Although the schools varied in population and school area size, as well as age of students, I was able to see some very strong similarities. For example, all Japanese students that I’ve encountered so far seem to be incredibly motivated to work hard at their learning. In part, motivation came from wanting to prepare for entrance examinations at their next school. However, students also seem to be genuinely interested in the course material, and in doing well for themselves. It appears Japanese culture, particularly in relation to collectivism, plays a critical role in how the students interact with their teachers and peers. When it comes to class management, transitions between classes, and lunch duties, all students have a vital role in ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Contrary to what I had believed the student-teacher relationship to be in Japan, both parties formed a close, but respectful partnership of reciprocal learning and care. In general, high levels of school spirit and a genuine interest to pursue club activities also seems to be present in all schools.


What’s Next

Now that Japanese classes are finished, we have begun the process of getting more involved in the school environment. I am excited to continue to practice my Japanese language skills, as well learn more about the Japanese school environment!

Until next time! Mata ne!

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The excitement never ends...

Hola mi amigos!

The La Mercé festival is unlike anything that I have ever experienced. The festivities were all over the city of Barcelona and people were everywhere. There were concerts, plays, and evening parades for 3 nights. The only other festival that I’ve ever really experienced was the Calgary Stampede and both festivals bring out an innate culture within the city and invite thousands of visitors to take part. The annual festival has taken place since 1687 and is a celebration of the Virgin of Grace otherwise known as Mare de Déu de la Mercè, patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona, and co-patroness—along with Saint Eulàlia—of the city. Some of the most amazing pieces of art that I have ever seen came in the form of paper maché giants. These giants were quite massive and were a part of the opening parade. Thousands of locals and tourists lined the streets to watch the procession of giants make their way through the city.



The most exciting element of the La Mercé festivities was the Carrefoc also known as the Fire Run. Hundreds of festival volunteers light up giant sparklers and those who dare run under these sparklers. It was exhilarating and beautiful at the same time. Initially I was worried that I would get burned but as I continued down the road and through the different sparklers, all I could think of was how beautiful it looked. People were laughing and dancing and I couldn’t help but catch their contagious attitudes. All the while, drumming squads were keeping the crowds going with amazing beats for hours on end. The skills that these drummers had were absolutely amazing and something that I’ve never heard before. Mind you, with the drumming and the sounds of the sparklers my hearing may have been compromised for a few hours but it was worth it.



School has been amazing. The students are so incredibly receptive and willing to learn in a way that I’ve never seen before. As the teacher, you are the expert in the room no matter who you’re teaching. When you’re teaching a language, there is a different level of attention that you receive from the students. You have a skill that the students are very interested in learning and so far they haven’t disappointed. I am really surprised with the level of English of each class I teach. Our liaison explained that some students have very low English skills, but even though students exceeded my expectations. By no means would I consider their English skills to be low. Perhaps the standard of expectations here is much higher than our own in Canada.



I cannot believe that we are almost half way through our time here. In no time, I’ll be done and heading back home for the start of practicum. It’s hard to sometimes break out of the fantasy that is Barcelona and remind myself that I have other duties back home. This last weekend my friends and I had the chance to meet the Associate Dean International at the Werklund School of Education, Dr. Colleen Kawalilak. Learning about the origins of TAB and the desired growth of the program really warms my heart. I can truly say that I have never experienced anything like this before. Being in another part of the world and using my skills to the help students learn English is something I never thought I’d ever have the chance to do. Teaching Across Borders has provided me with a life-changing opportunity, one that I hope that many other students can experience also. If you, the person reading this, happens to be someone looking for a worthy cause to support, Teaching Across Borders is it. Not only are you giving our students a chance to gain invaluable experience, but you are affording students across the globe a chance to learn from Canadian pre-service teachers. And if you are a student looking to make up your mind about applying to the program, DO IT. You will not regret it.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today, October 1st, was a historic day for the people of Catalonia and of Spain. The Referendum for Independence was held today and the Spanish government was not happy about it. I hope that a peaceful solution can be made for the people in this area.


That’s all for now! Adios =)


Much Love,


Hana K.



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1 Month in Germany

Hallo from Hamburg!

Moin moin! Another incredible two weeks has flown by in Germany! I visited Munich one weekend and saw the magnificent Neuschwnstein Castle. Built by Ludwig II in 1869, this fairytale palace inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Continuing with visiting Disney landmarks, I also saw ‘The Little Mermaid’ statue in Copenhagen. Something that I found really interesting about visiting Bavaria compared to Hamburg is how incredibly different they are! When I was in Berlin, I went to the German History Museum and was really surprised to learn that Germany only unified in 1871. United Germany is younger than Canada! Prior to German unification, many different German-speaking kingdoms existed such as Prussia and Bavaria. Hamburg was a sovereign city-state. Understanding that separate kingdoms and city-states existed for much longer than unified Germany helped me to understand that regionalism exists despite Germany being a smaller country than the province of Alberta!

These past two weeks I have been very fortunate to be able to lesson plan and team-teach with my fellow TAB student. One of our partner teachers asked us to prepare a lesson on the Palace of Versailles for the grade 8 Social Studies class. I was extremely excited because as a future secondary Social Studies teacher, this is a lesson that I would potentially teach to future students. I also visited Versailles 7 years ago and am really fascinated by the palace and its ‘Sun King’. However, I was a little nervous to prepare and teach the lesson because I’ve only taught grade 10. I was unsure how complicated and in-depth we could go with a younger age group. As well, this grade 8 class has behaviour problems such as trouble staying on task and being disrespectful to the teacher. It was intimidating trying to plan a lesson bearing these in mind.

We kept the ‘lecture’ portion of the lesson to less than 10 minutes, and the rest of the class students worked on different activities. We decided to include many activities in our lesson that would keep the students busy. I included pictures from my trip to Versailles, and I’m always surprised that students actually like it when you bring personal connections to the lesson. The main activity of the lesson was students working in pairs to read an information packet that we had prepared on different aspects of life at Versailles. Each pair was given a number that corresponded to a specific aspect such as food or palace hygiene. Students made a mini poster and presented to the class to teach their class.

It was incredibly difficult finding information on the different aspects about life in Versailles that was suitable for ELLs. We had to simplify and change a lot of wording as we anticipated that students would struggle with words such as extravagant and sovereign. When we handed out the information packet, we made it very clear that students should ask us for help if they didn’t understand words or phrases. I was really pleased that students were comfortable asking us for help, and it was great practice explaining concepts such as ‘etiquette’ to ELLs. We also tried to use information that would be interesting to grade 8 students such as how people at Versailles would go to the bathroom on the lawn because there weren’t enough chamber pots at the palace. We wanted the students to be able to connect with the material and find it interesting and funny.

Overall, I was really pleased with how the lesson went because students were more on task than I anticipated. We received positive feedback from our partner teacher, and she particularly liked that we included many activities to keep the students engaged. However, it was very tiring preparing this lesson because we had to do so much preparation and research. I can see how each lesson you teach cannot possibly include this many activities because you do not have the time to prepare this much for every class you teach everyday!

Until next time!


Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen 

Nyhavn, Copenhagen  


 Rare sunny day in Hamburg on the Goldbekkanal, around the corner from my flat 

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My First Two Weeks in the Classroom

I have officially been teaching here in Spain for two weeks now. It’s been interesting to see the variation of English ability throughout the students. There’s always a few students in each class who seem to have a really strong grasp on the language, a few others who need assistance, and everyone else in between. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am teaching at a high school. This is very different for me since my specialization is elementary, however I’m enjoying the opportunity to work with an older grade level for once.

Last week was my first week teaching and I spent my classes introducing myself to the students with a PowerPoint presentation about who I am and what Canada is like. Many students seemed fascinated with how cold it gets in Canada, the different activities we often do there (snowboarding, skiing, etc.), and the wild animals in our region.

This week I played English Jeopardy with the students. I made three different versions of the game to account for their varying English levels. The students were very engaged during the activity and got quite competitive with their classmates. I heard from a lot of the students and teachers afterwards that they enjoyed the activity because it brought a little more energy into the classroom.

Some differences I have noticed so far between schools in Canada and the school in Rubi are the relationship between the teacher and the students. In Spain, they have a much closer personal relationship with their students than we do in Canada. I would say our personal relationship with students in Canada is a lot more formal than here in Spain. For example, the students in Spain address the teachers by their first name and they discuss aspects of their lives outside of school openly to an extent.

One thing that has struck me while working with the students is how well most of them can speak English. The classes that are considered “lower level English speakers” would be considered “higher level second language speakers” in Canada. In Spain, I have found it’s rare to encounter someone who doesn’t speak more than one language. At times their second language isn’t fluent, but they are able to engage in a conversation or answer a question posed to them.  I think this is why I find the students’ English as a second language skills so impressive. In Canada, being able to speak a second language is considered impressive because not many citizens born and raised in Canada can do that. However, in Spain it appears that it is the norm to speak more than one language, so perhaps there is more of a push for students to work on their second language skills. Furthermore, the students take English in every grade, elementary to secondary. During my time as a student, I took French in elementary school, but was only required to take it once during my time in high school.

Lastly, one more point of interest from this week is the student strike. Catalonia is the region in Spain where Barcelona (and Rubi) is located. They have been trying to become an independent country for many years. They were scheduled to hold a referendum on October 1 for the citizens of Catalonia to vote yes or no to becoming independent from Spain.  Last week the Spanish government informed Catalonia that they would not be allowed to hold the referendum. In response to this cancellation, the students decided to have a strike. This week during Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the students planned on not coming to school as a sign of their protest against the decision made by the Spanish government. In my Wednesday morning class, there were only 3 students who attended. It will be interesting to see how this political situation plays out in the region.  

I’m excited to work with the students more and see how the next couple weeks unfold. I’m starting to get to know them better and am interested to learn more about the differences between school in Canada and school in Spain. 

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Teaching in Vietnam!


We have now been teaching in Vietnam for an entire month! It’s been both incredible and nerve wracking all at the same time! We definitely have to be creative when explaining ourselves sometimes and vice versa. I feel like sometimes it’s tougher because teacher’s in Vietnam don’t really have a scheduler or planner, they kind of just write things down on paper and then forget about it so we tend to get at least a few revised schedule before it is finalized. It’s stressful at times, but I feel like we’ve learned to just go with the flow and have fun with it. It definitely takes getting used to. I remember one time one of the teachers was ill, so we couldn’t meet with her ahead of time to review the topic of the class we were required to teach the next day. We had to consistently think on our feet and be extremely creative in the way we taught the lesson that day. This was extremely valuable, because in Education, we are constantly taught to be flexible in everything we do and teaching in Vietnam is about being flexible all the time!

Teaching at the high school is especially interesting, because half the time I don’t know if they understand me or not, or if I’m talking too fast or not. I use my hands a lot in order to get my instructions across. Today, one of my students made fun of me because I was using my hands too much! It was quite hilarious I must say. Teaching here has been incredible and difficult. There are so many things that I would like to do in a lesson, however I don’t have much space or time, the classes are typically 45 minutes. I don’t want to stand up in front of the class and lecture the entire time because I don’t want students to get bored, however, students seem to be at different levels. Some of the students aren’t being challenged at all, while other’s don’t know very much English, so they end up shutting down. I also can’t play any games that require movement because it is way too hot and student’s end up getting tired and too hot to learn.

In conclusion, teaching in Vietnam so far has been so much fun! It’s been quite the adventure with the communication, but it has also taught us a number of things, including being flexible, patient, having fun no matter what situation you’re in and just rolling with the punches! I am definitely learning new things everyday and most of all enjoying every minute of this experience!

Ps. With the little time we do have, we usually spend it relaxing at the beach, which is beautiful!

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Week 3

It is Week 3, actually, scratch that, Week 4 of TAB for us Vietnam girls. I saw this because we started a week before everyone else, therefore it is Week 3 of our ed studies starting again, but Week 4 of us working our butts off trying to lesson plan and keep up with classes! Regardless I am still having a blast!

Life here is different in so many ways. One of the other girls here was asked by her class to talk about some taboo topics from Canada. This got us discussing over lunch one day about the differences in what we would call taboo stuff back home versus here.

One of the biggest things that stand out to me is that the physical way that people communicate here. This can be seen in interactions at the mall with other people and at the school between different students, both at the elementary and high school levels. Whether it be a pat on the back, or a (not always so gentle) grab of the arm, there is (not surprisingly) no sense of personal space! Though we were prepared for this having researched Vietnam and eastern cultures prior to coming, it is never quite fathomable until it has been experienced. Not only do the elementary children seem to be almost always play fighting, smacking, etc., the high school students also demonstrate it; as I witnessed today when a group presenting slapped his partner on the back of his head to imply he needed to switch the slideshow presentation to the next slide. They do not seem to take offence to this like people back home would, and never do they react in shock, in fact they usually just slap right back! Apart from roughhousing, anytime we try to find something, a grab of the arm resulting in us being dragged towards what we are hopefully looking for is the end result. It’s hilarious to me, as I know they don’t mean negatively. However, if you tried this back home you would likely be assaulted or the cops called for some sort of physical abuse charge! :P Some of my fellow pre-teachers here remarked that if a child is slapped in a class at elementary school in Canada, the rest of the children are often upset about it, and in no time the teacher will hear about it and have to deal with it. I must admit, I do miss much of the order that we have in Canada. Here they truly live as if it is every man for themselves; no regard for waiting in line, or for saying excuse me to get by (unless of course it is to get the annoying tourist teachers from Canada to move because they misinterpreted your incredibly close proximity as just wanting to be friendly!)

I am feeling overwhelmed with the work load here, and will have to work harder to assert to the schools that I need some more time to work on my university projects. Nevertheless, I do enjoy my time with the students, and love chatting with the teachers who are interested to get to know us and support us. One of my high school teachers is incredibly welcoming, and I hope to visit her home soon to meet her family!

Finally, we had quite a rough past weekend, when we (okay, it was my fault) disturbed an apparent cockroach nest within our home. This resulted in more cockroaches than I could ever imagine basically pouring out of multiple places in our home. It was both traumatizing and eye opening, and after two nights out of the house we returned, hoping the cockroaches would agree to call a truce. As life should have taught me by now, attacking is never a good method! We will move forward and attempt to share our home in peace, hopefully resulting in the night creatures only venturing out when our eyes are closed, and we can pretend to remain naïve to their existence at all! Evidence is below.

Ps. I have not yet acclimatized. I am starting to lose hope! Though I did notice I felt chilly in my airconditioned room the other day, and was shocked to see it was only set to 22 degrees Celsius!

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Where has the time gone?!

I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by!

In Germany, we have a Holiday next week and there is no school Monday to Tuesday, so I have a half week... and then two weeks from now it is Autumn break and we are off for two weeks! I am starting to realize that I only have roughly three weeks left in the classroom!! I have really been getting to know the students and the routine and after a few weeks I am feeling a lot more confident and comfortable in the classroom. Alex and I have had the pleasure of being able to teach a few lessons, since I am an elementary specialization, it was hard for me at first to find my place in the grade 6-12 classes. However, I have worked through my nerves and it has proven to be amazing! I am starting to thoroughly enjoy being in a classroom with the older students. It is much easier to relate, have conversations and explain connections between their schooling and the world around them. And not to mention, much easier to speak to them because they actually know a bit of English...

I have been continuing to work on my German, although I still cannot speak much, I am starting to understand a lot more. For example, when my family speak German, I am able to pick up on what they are saying now. I answered my cousin who asked his girlfriend a question in German, I hardly even realized I had answered a question I shouldn't have even understood. We had a good laugh and this was when I realized I am actually learning more than I think. I am also starting to pick up on what students are saying about me in German, mostly they tell each other that they can speak German because I don't understand... today a couple of students noticed I chuckled a bit when they said this (in German) and got wide eyed looks on their faces, they realized I understood. This is both good and bad, it is good because now they might think twice before talking about me in German hahaha, but it is bad because now they think I understand everything and they try to speak to me in just German.

I am starting to miss some of my regular food from home... I have been craving sushi for about a week now, and although they have sushi here, everything I have found is pre-made and extremely expensive! I don't want to cave for bad sushi! I also really, really, really, REALLY want some franks hot sauce!! I LITERALLY put that on everything... I almost got to the point where I asked for my Fiance to bring my a bottle in his suitcase when he came to visit. Super markets are small here, and each time I go I become more aware of the fact that it is because they have way less garbage available! Which is good, but so hard when you are craving chips and salsa or something. I thought talking about missing these foods would make me feel better, but now I am just hungry and my cravings are worse... I'm starting to realize I talk a lot about food in my blog posts... Beyond this, I luckily have not been too home sick! However I am desperately missing cuddles with my dog still and cannot wait to get home and spend a day on the couch with her!

The past few weeks I have been spreading my wings and exploring small towns around Hamburg! Luckily this past weekend we had some great weather, perfect for exploring so I went to Lubeck, home of marzipan! I got every flavor of marzipan they sold as I was totally unaware of how many flavors there are and felt that I needed to try them all! MMMM.. I also went to Hohn, where some of my family lives, and they took me out to, Rensburg, Friedrichstadt (a cute little town with Holland style buildings) and Sankt Peter-Ording, where we stopped by the North Sea! And finally Karlynn and I took the train to Luneburg to explore some old architect and relax in the salt-water hot springs. Again it is absolutely amazing to me to see how each town and city is completely unique from the last. Each beautiful and exciting in its own way. I cannot wait to see what the last half of this experience holds!

 Dip in the North Sea                                                                Rainbow of Marzipan! (don't be too jealous friends)                My Cousins and Fiance :)

One of the best parts of living in Hamburg is reconnecting with my family! I have an Aunt and Uncle and two cousins who have lived in Germany my whole life. They have been very close with my family since I was very young. Sadly after my Omi passed away we lost contact for a while and it was harder for both families to travel... now I am able to reconnect with family that is able to teach me things about my Omi that I never knew and share special memories with me. It is really special to me. My cousins are just a few years older than me, and we become great friends over the past few years. This is the third year I have seen them in person but we connected on Facebook about 5 years ago. It is great to talk to this side of my family, get to know them and spend time with them in person rather than just online! This experience is beyond special to me for so many reasons but most importantly for bringing me closer to my family!

Lubeck                                                              Luneburg                                                                                                             Friedrichstadt

I am really looking forward to my last few weeks and hope to teach some more lessons, continue to learn new skills in the classroom and add to my understanding of German! This experience has been incredible so far and I will never forget the memories I have made thus far and continue to make.

Thanks for reading friends! Until next time...

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Through a Student's Eyes

For one lesson this week, I pretended to be a student in a high school biology class. Not just any student, but a student that has limited language abilities - a language learner. I used to be an English Language Learner myself; however, it was at the primary level and it has been several years since I have struggled in a class because of my English. I thought it would be a good idea to do this to get a perspective of an older language learner in a more complex class. My German is at an intermediate level. I can keep a basic conversation going, but some complex topics are difficult to engage with. 

I sat at the back of the class and paid as much attention as I possibly could. Here is what I learned. 

It takes a large amount of mental energy to stay faced in class. Listening to the teacher lecture, then give instructions on the assignment was difficult because the teacher used a large variety of new vocabulary that I did not know. Sometimes, the teacher spoke too fast for me to be able to understand everything. This slowed my comprehension down to the point that by the time I had translated everything that was said in the lecture, the assignment for the day was already being given out - I had missed the instructions. 

Lucky for me, the instructions were written one more time on the assignment sheet - a large help! My next challenge was reading through the information part of the sheet (apart from the instructions) that was meant to accommodate the assignment. This was high school biology class, the information was on the genetic code, amino acids, and proteins. I was a little overwhelmed. 

Students were given approximately fifteen minutes to complete the first two parts of the assignment. For me, the time twas split between translating words that I didn't know and then actually working. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough with my dictionary and I didn't complete the given task in time. The teacher moved the class along to discuss the last part. 

When it came time to work on that last portion, I was a little frustrated. To complete it, I needed to understand everything on the sheet - which I didn't. The translating became exhausting and the fact that I was slow was annoying me. My brain felt trapped because in English I could do all of this, I understood, and I succeeded. In German? Not so much. This was a great reminder of how ELL students feel back home during our more complex lessons. The language barrier gives you a feeling of being trapped in your own brain.

At the end of the lesson? I was not finished, the teacher explained to the class that if you were not done, it is homework. 

Later that day, I spoke with five teachers about differentiation and what do they do if a student in their class speaks minimal to no German. They responded that they provide dictionaries, let students do what they can, and most importantly, pair them with stronger students who have the patience to work with a partner that needs extra help. In their experience, this has worked well. 

All in all, this gave me a good perspective (and a not-so-nostalgic reminder) of what it is like to have limited language skills and being trapped inside of your head. As tough as differentiation can sometimes be to plan or to figure out on the spot, it is crucial for the success of language learners and other students who may need help. 

To keep a few things in mind: I was introduced to the class as a teacher from Canada here to observe, not as a student (although one student who came in late mistook me for one). Because of this, I sat on my own. My situation could have been made easier if I was working with someone. This shows the importance of not letting ELL students be stranded or strand themselves. Obviously this was a basic experiment that I tried out mostly in my head, as I didn't ask the teacher to treat me as one of the students.

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Algumas semanas em Goiânia!

Bom dia! Tudo bem?!

This is now the start of our fifth week here in Goiânia, Brazil. Now that we are more comfortable and confident moving around in the city and coming and going from place to place, I think I’ve really hit my stride here. The weather has been a blessing, the friends we’ve made have been amazing, and even most strangers we meet have been welcoming and kind. Once you venture out of a big tourist city into a more off the beaten path type of place, I think you really get to see what a country is made of and it’s heart and soul. So far, I think Brazil is made of kind, fast-talking people, beautiful food and drinks, gorgeous scenery, and breathe taking heat (which I happen to quite enjoy!). Also, now that I’ve spent more time here, I’ve really gotten a feel for the education system, how it works and what it’s motivating factors are; at the university level and the secondary and primary levels. I am by no means an expert, but I certainly am more comfortable in talking about it.

The view of Goiânia from the window of our Portuguese class.

Does it get any better than this?!

To start our time in Goiânia, we’ve visited 4 different public schools, and I can say with confidence that they are all very different from each other. We visited three elementary schools and one high school. Similarly to in Canada, the academic rigor, appearance and overall success rate of the school has a lot to do with where the school is located within the city. However, the economic differences between sectors within the city are much more exaggerated than it is in Canada. Walking into an elementary level school in Brazil, you would think you were walking into an elementary school in Canada. They are warm, colorful, loud and vibrant places with lost of busy kids running around playing, socializing and learning. The classroom walls are lined with student art work, and two of them even had a room and teacher dedicated to those students who require a little bit of extra help. The teachers are all trained and passionate teachers who, like in Canada, don’t get into teaching for the money, but rather for the love of education and kids. The high school we visited however was starkly different from a high school back home, once you peel a few layers back. Teachers at the high school level are not trained teachers, they are instead trained in different fields such as history, geography, English language, Portuguese language, math, etc. then are simply hired by the school board. Since teachers at this level aren’t trained teachers, they often lack skills surrounding classroom management, assessment, etc. High school teachers are also paid significantly less than primary school teachers, so much so that most of whom we’ve met have second and third jobs to make ends meet. Because of this, there is a lot of teacher turn over at the high school level. Additionally, at this level, there is a relatively high threat of violence, particularly against male teachers. With all that being said, we did meet some absolutely fantastic teachers who really had a passion for education and who took the time to get to know their students and connect with them. Even though there are a lot of negatives about the job, there are still teachers who are working hard everyday to ensure that students leave high school with the best chance at success they can be offered. In a way, it was inspiring to see. Despite all the odds stacked against them, they still try and push on and offer success to their students as best they can. Unfortunately we did not get to see how things are different in a private school versus a public school. We do know that privates schools are incredibly expensive and many of the do not offer scholarships or financial assistance to lower income students. Many private schools claim to offer an “American” curriculum or “Canadian” curriculum, and I think it would have been useful to see what exactly that means, but unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to do so.

The high school students were very interested in the kind of music we listened to. They suggested we should listen to Brazilian Funk music. 

As we move through our education here in Brazil, we will continue to participate in Portuguese language classes as well as being observers and teachers in the PUC Language and Extension Center. The language classes we have been apart of have been so helpful, and even though our progress has been slow, we are still making progress! We can ask and respond to most basic introductory questions, and now we tackle pronunciation and more complex conversational skills. Pretty good progress for only having one class a week if you ask me! I’m most excited to be able to (hopefully) teach a few lessons at the PUC Language and Extension Center. This is a place where students of all ages take extra curricular language classes. This sort of class is almost exclusively offered to students who have wealthier families, as these classes are quite expensive. Regardless, it is really great to be able to see students learning English with many of the ESL teaching strategies I’ve seen in schools back home. I have three different classes, one class with teens (ages 11-13), one with juniors (ages 7-10) and one pre-intermediate (ages 16-55). We will be in these classes for the rest of our time here in Goiânia. I look forward to being able to build a bond with the students and the teacher, a hopefully teach a lesson or two!

When Anthony Bourdain says "If you're ever in Brazil, you need to eat Acarajé", you immediately search every street market you can find until you find it.

Once we found it, it was definitely worth venturing out in the heat to find! 

Apart from education related things, we’ve been exploring our community, making friends, eating our body weight at least once a week and laughing the whole entire time. While we haven’t yet ventured too far outside of Goiânia, we’ve been too busy soaking up all the fun and exciting things to do in town. These last few weeks we have here, we plan to venture outside the city limits and visit all the untamed and wild nature that surrounds us. Did you know they have waterfalls here?! GUYS… WATERFALLS! I don’t know if I can really explain to you all reading this how excited I am for waterfalls, camping and hiking in the next few weeks. I can honestly say that I truly feel thankful to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country with Meghan and Courtney. I couldn’t have asked for better adventures buddies! #blessed  


Até logo!!


P.S. The most useful Portuguese phrase we’ve learned since we got here is “Tocar o seu cachorro?” or “Passar a mão no seu cachorros?” Which both mean, “Can I pet your dog?” 

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Half-Way There!

It has now been one month since we first arrived in Da Nang city. It is crazy to think that our experience abroad with TAB is half-way done. With only five weeks remaining in the program I have been reflecting back on the experience thus far, both the positive experiences and the difficulties we have encountered.

First and foremost, the experience is one I do not regret! The opportunity to be on the other side of the world and experience first-hand what it is like to be an English teacher abroad is one I have immensely enjoyed. It is a stepping-stone that will contribute to the work I will continue to do as an English teacher abroad in my career. That being said, there have been some difficulties. The language barrier proved more difficult than anticipated. I expected to have problems but in some instances charades simply do not work. In the high school the English proficiency is very high while in the elementary school sometimes the students are not capable of understanding direction which makes teaching extremely difficult. The people here are wonderfully kind and everyone tries to help you when they can. People have even gone out of their way to help me with a flat tire, directions and translating to other Vietnamese people. In the schools everyone is friendly but at times I feel they misunderstand our role as I am often left alone with the students for multiple periods – if not the whole day. This was a little overwhelming and lesson planning on my own with course work has proven difficult although I feel my confidence has grown significantly in the classroom. Despite the additional workload we are receiving here in Vietnam I feel much more confident for my upcoming Canadian practicums.

One particular thing I have learned about teaching in Vietnam is the emphasis on competition. Students are hesitant to respond in discussion however with minor tweaks to a lesson plan you can divide the class into to teams and they cannot wait to participate. Debates are my go-to favourite activity as the high school students get extremely competitive to win the debate, enabling them to practice their pronunciation, listening and speaking skills as well as explaining their comprehension of the topic. I prefer the high school over the elementary school but I guess that makes sense considering I am a secondary teacher! I have enjoyed the experience in the schools thus far and cannot wait to teach them about thanksgiving in Canada and Halloween this October!

Outside the schools I am adjusting to the life and social norms of Vietnam! It is not polite to make eye-contact with those who are in the administration and the hygiene standards are lower. People will come up to you on the beach and try to drink out of your water bottle if you’re not careful! Another thing very different from home is the idea of lines and personal space. No one appears to adhere to the convention of lines, but rather who can push their way to the front and personal space is non-existent. Adjusting to these new social norms has been difficult but also opens my eyes to the difficulty our immigrants may feel coming to Canada. This experience has been extremely beneficial so far both as an educator and for my own personal development as a global citizen. I can’t wait to explore more and take advantage of this opportunity while we still have time!

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Last Weeks in Sapporo

Hello from Sapporo! I know this has been said, but I can not believe we are nearing half way through our journey with Teaching Across Borders. I am experiencing the learning journey of a lifetime here in Japan, and am so grateful to get to share it with you all.

This week will be our fourth week in this city, and with our homestay families. To keep you updated, I still have not felt any overwhelming homesickness (which is a huge milestone for me, as I expected I would). My homestay family is wonderful, and I dread that this is my last week with them before moving to my next family. I have truly gained a Japanese mother and father, and two wonderful sisters in my life. They fill the void that being away from home leaves. Every night we play games, watch Japanese game shows, and eat amazing home cooked Japanese meals. On the weekends we adventure out in Sapporo. Last weekend I was thrilled to be able to see my first professional baseball game, and was cheering on the Sapporo Fighters with my host family (and Stephanie!). We are also learning tons of Japanese, and are trying our best to use it. Japanese is an incredible language, but incredibly hard to learn, even with three hour lessons four to five days a week.

For those of you not in Asian countries, and wondering how it feels to be in Japan with the North Korea crisis escalating, we’re taking it one day at a time! In the last few weeks, tensions have been high, and there has been two missiles tested over Hokkaido (which is where we are). The first was in the middle of the night, the second was a week later on our way to school first thing in the morning. Alarms were sounded throughout the city, and transit was shut down until the Japanese government had confirmation that the missile had landed in the ocean safely. With all the supports we have in place, our host families caring for us, and knowing the Canadian Embassy and the University of Calgary are keeping close watch on us, we all seem to still be in positive spirits! Personally, I am choosing to take this with optimism, as a great learning experience, and as Dr. Dressler says, a great story to tell.

Since we have arrived in Sapporo, we have had the opportunity to visit an Elementary school (Shogakko), a Junior High School (Chugakko), and most recently, a High School (Koko). The education system in Japan is fascinating. For elementary and junior high schools, the focus is mainly on rote memorization and repetition. We have seen little to no inquiry based work since we have been observing. When discussing this with with professors and teachers, they admit that this becomes a problem for students. They know the facts, but have simply memorized them on a “script”, and if questions were asked in another way, they would often not be able to answer or think critically to find the answer. This is because the focus is mainly on standardized testing throughout the system. In junior high school, this means focusing on passing high school entrance exams, and for high school students, this means passing university entrance exams. Therefore, for high school students, deciding what their life focus is very early on, as they may either write a science university entrance exam for science-based programs, or a humanities based entrance exam for various other degrees. This preparation requires them to take a science or humanities path in high school.

Next week we start our placements in schools, and I will be writing you from a new city (Iwamizawa)! 

Bye for now! Kaitlin

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Three weeks in Barcelona

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


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

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

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

The computer lab

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Three Weeks in Germany

Hallo from Hamburg!

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

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

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

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

Rathaus on the left    


Port of Hamburg

Planten un Blomen

Binnenaslter (Inner Alster Lake)

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

Street food in Hamburg - Currywurst and bratwurst

Exploring Hamburg!

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September in Deutschland!

Hello from Hamburg!

The past three weeks in Hamburg have flown by! I am surprised at how much it feels like home already. I really enjoy how friendly and helpful everyone is here. The arts and culture in certain areas of the city has also been great to experience as I have been to two concerts here since arriving---The Rolling Stones and Third Eye Blind. It's so interesting how unique and distinct the different areas of the city are. I continue to explore the different streets and markets on my days off and I am always welcomed by the locals; no one seems to mind that I only speak English!

I am surprised at how different our systems of education are than those in Germany as well! The requirements for High School students entering university are much different and less prescriptive than ours. Furthermore, the students here go to school all year with scattered 2-week breaks throughout and a 6-week summer holiday. I like how students have a mandatory 3-week work experience here every year of High School as part of their course requirements. They are very focused on preparing students for working in the real world and equipping them effectively to be a valuable part of the work force. Students also seem to value this aspect as well as some of them have expressed: "As long as you are being a productive member of society, no one really cares what you do in your private life." It's interesting how an authentic focus on finding a job and/or career after High School translates to the students being highly engaged in this goal as well.

Being a part of their culture and values is actually a nice break from those at home because people are much more straight-forward here, they say it like it is and they don't have to apologize for doing so. I feel like I can just ask for what I want and express how I feel and that's normal---no apologies needed and no need to be politically correct. At home, this attitude would be considered rude, but I really enjoy it, people feel more authentic and they give you their opinion exactly as it is; no sugar-coating.

As for traveling, I have visited Berlin and we will be off to Munich to finish off Oktoberfest next weekend! I am excited to get my full dose of Bavarian culture and experience everything the festival has to offer. Berlin was a very interesting city, rich with history and landmarks. We took a bike tour through the city, which was four hours long, but very worth it; we got through all of the sites in one afternoon and ended it with a nice dinner at a cute Biergarten (beer garden). The second day we re-visited some of our favorites such as the Reichstag, Museum Island and we climbed to the top of the Victory Column (not for the faint of heart may I add!). There was a large political protest happening at Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) which made it difficult to maneuver around the area that day. I really appreciated how many young people were present and so passionate about their views. Historically, this is the first generation since the 1930s (due to the occupation under the DDR) that has been able to publicly express their political views. It makes me wish our generation at home appreciated their right to vote as much as these people do, although this freedom has been achieved from astonishing loss and sacrifice. Reading the personal accounts on the East Side of the Berlin Wall really brought a human face to the horrors that occurred during the division of Berlin. We also went into the Museum underneath the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. Going through this museum was also extremely moving. I admire the fact that the Germans are fully acknowledging their past as a way of healing and creating a new future. Even the war memorials scattered around Hamburg are intended to educate on the history of WWII and to serve as a warning against entering into future wars. It makes me wonder how much more healing we could have accomplished over decades with our Native Peoples had we adopted this policy of full disclosure and acknowledgment much earlier than just within the last decade. 

(Jessica and I at the Reichtag-top, Berlin Wall-bottom)

I am looking forward to everything Hamburg has in store for October and for further travels during our Autumn School holidays! Stay Tuned!


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Schools in Perth!

Hello Ning Blog readers!

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

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

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

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

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

I love teaching. Til next time,


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First Weeks in Brisbane

Hello again from beautiful Brisbane!

I was just about to say that I can’t believe how fast time is going by, and then I looked at a calendar and realized that TODAY is the halfway point of my journey! It’s insane to think that 45 days has come and gone, and the next 45 will probably only go by just as fast, if not faster!

Since my last post, Lauren and I have become even more settled in our lovely little apartment. We’ve located the nearest grocery store, coffee shop, bus station, and there’s even a Target across the street…so we’re pretty much set!

The Sunday after we arrived, we looked online and realized that there was a weekend market going on at South Bank – which we’ve learned to be the cultural “hub” of Brisbane. You can find art galleries, markets, lush green spaces, various forms of entertainment, cafes, shops, bars, and there’s even a man-made lagoon to cool off on those warm days (but that seems to be everyday here)! Lucky for us, South Bank is only about 10 minutes from our apartment, which we didn’t realize beforehand, but we’re definitely glad it worked out that way. We ended up spending that whole first day browsing the markets and exploring all that South Bank has to offer.

We began our first week on Monday September 4th, and as I mentioned in my last post, started off with school tours and orientation. It went far better than expected! The QUT staff, as well as the teaching staff and students at both schools were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and they seemed excited to have us – which was a good sign!

Queensland University of Technology Kelvin Grove Campus

The first school where we have begun our volunteer teaching is at Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic. I’ve spent the most amount of time in Year 1 and Year 6, but they have also given us the opportunity to see a range of other classes and subjects. We even got to go on a field trip with Kindergarten (or “Prep” as they call it here)! 

My first impressions of Saints Peter and Paul’s is that the classrooms are incredibly similar to classrooms I’ve seen back home in Canada, in terms of the layout, resources, and learning materials, etc., and the teaching styles are also quite similar. Even though Australia and Canada are so alike in many aspects, I don’t think I anticipated there to be so much commonality in the schools. Of course there are some differences, like the fact that all students wear uniform, which is not as common back home, and the general layout of the school is not something that we would see in Canada either. Instead of there being one large building, the school is made up of many smaller buildings that can be accessed through outdoor corridors – which just wouldn’t be logical in a place where temperatures can drop to -30C! The school is located in a lovely suburb, and we've been told that it has a very high SES rating. I've noticed a significant amount of classroom support, educational resources, and extra-curricular opportunity. 

In terms of curriculum, there are some differences, but the overall learning outcomes that are set in place closely align with the educational goals that are set forth for students back home, and as I mentioned, the methods of teaching, as well as the behavioural management strategies are comparable. 

Though we may not be experiencing the same kind of culture shock or language barrier that some of our peers may be adjusting to, this experience has still been valuable to me in that it’s given me added opportunity to work with students, to observe different educators in their teaching environments, and to develop a clearer sense of who I am in the classroom and as a future teacher. I’ve had to think on my feet – more specifically when I was asked to lead a lesson with 10 minutes preparation (on a topic that I am totally unfamiliar with) and with a class whose names I only knew half of, and the overall experience has helped to raise my confidence in the classroom - though I still have a LOT to learn!

Last week we also had the opportunity to return to the QUT campus and meet with the Dean of Education, Assistant Dean of International Engagement, and the International Engagement Coordinator, who we had been in touch with prior to arriving. Our contacts at QUT have been so wonderfully accommodating and they always want to hear about how we are doing. During our meeting we basically spoke about the Teaching Across Borders program, our BEd program, what we hope to get out of this experience, suggestions for their own program that they are trying to start that will be similar to TAB, and our travel plans while in Australia. We have also agreed to return next month to speak to the students who are interested in coming to Calgary through QUT, to tell them more about what we are doing here, and what they can expect in our city. In addition, we’ve discussed the possibility of sitting in on some Education courses at QUT, which would be very interesting. 

We were only at Saints Peter and Paul’s for two weeks before Spring Holidays began, so this past week we have been able to enjoy some free time while also working on our online studies. Lauren and I have been able to spend a weekend on the Gold Coast, Melbourne, and just yesterday we made arrangements to visit the Whitsunday Islands next week – which we are very excited about! 

I think that's all of the updates I have to share at this until next time, I'll leave you with some photos from my last few weeks here in "The Land Down Under"!

Exploring The South Melbourne Market

Downtown Melbourne

Brighton Beach Huts

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Boa tarde,

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

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

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

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

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

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



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