fall 2018 (127)

Language mistakes...

Over the past few weeks, I had the chance to observe English as a Second Language classes and travel to Chapada Dos Veadeiros

I had the chance to experience two very different teaching styles, even though their lessons were focused on oral skills. Both teachers had classes full of very engaged students who are eager to learn the language. It is refreshing to see such enthusiasm coming from such a young group of people. These observations have helped me determine the kind of teacher I want to become, and they have given me ideas about some of the resources I can use in my classroom if I ever end up teaching French as a Second Language.

Now that I have been here for a bit more than a month, I have become a bit more comfortable speaking Portuguese (even though I still mix my languages). Recently, I went on a trip to Chapada Dos Viedeiros, a beautiful National Park just 5-6 hours away from Goiania, where I was surrounded by Portuguese-speaking students most of the time. While I was having a conversation with them, I found out that I had been mispronouncing and using the wrong term since I had landed in Goiania. Apparently this was a term that could come across as offensive in the wrong context.  Although, I found it hilarious at the time, I also feel very ashamed because I have said this word a couple of times. I had a lovely time in Chapada dos Veideiros, and I feel went one step further in my immersion in the Portuguese language. I got to see the beautiful sights and cachoeiras of this national park while I made awesome friends that help me grow and who support me in my language learning process. This week I also realized I had been mixing up “perto” and “preto”, which means “close” and “black”. So, I guess that clears up so many misunderstandings I have had in the past! Learning a new language is always a process, and I know that I won’t forget the differences between these words. The fact that I got corrected by friends who couldn’t stop laughing at me, makes these words even more memorable. I am happy that I can laugh at my own mistakes and learn from them.



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Elementary School in Sapporo

What I found interesting is how the school structure works in an elementary school, Ainosato Nishi, I volunteered at. What stood out to me was how the teachers structured their classes in managing the students and other teachers. Each classroom, for each grade, has one homeroom teacher, the same as our classroom structure in Canada, however, each grade with the homeroom teachers are managed by two different teacher leaders. They are practically like managers for teachers. If anything happens to students, or things that need to be changed in the classroom, the teacher leaders from each grade will come together and collaborate suggestions, new ideas, and solutions. Once this has been completed, they will share their findings with the teachers of the same grade they manage to implement these solutions. In addition, these teacher leaders also have their own homeroom classes that they teach in. But it is common as well for them to teach a combined class of one specific grade. For example, I witnessed a group of three classes of grade 3’s, led by a teacher leader who specializes in music. He was teaching the students music with another teacher leader. In this lesson, the homeroom teachers of the grade 3’s, were not present. I inserted an image below of a teacher leader leading a group of grades 3 students:


Another classroom culture I found interesting are the student’s behaviors. Students in this school are calmer and very organized, more than what I have experienced in Canadian classrooms in my practicum. Students understand when to be quiet, especially if they are told to be. Teachers do allow students to be loud and noisy in the classroom during activities or when they are working on their assignments. It encourages students to communicate with each other. On another note, I find that the students have better listening skills, are punctual, independent, and very respectful of others. It is part of the school culture to act accordingly, since it is emphasized to follow specific routines on a daily basis in the classroom. It is also including the family cultural structure at home on how students behave. Additionally, looking at the classroom, they all have strong values in supporting community. The classroom values and respects every individual student to enforce that sense of belonging. I can see this when one student speaks in the class, they do not get interrupted. Immediately, all the attention is put towards the one student speaking, even if it’s a asking a question or to answer a question.

Regarding seating arrangements, I asked a teacher how it is organized. They prefer to have male and female students sit together in rows of two, so they can feel comfortable conversating with the other gender. I find this interesting because I think it helps to build that cohesion in male/female relationships. Every student in the classroom i noticed are friends with one another and are always interacting with everyone. Even during break time (recess), the male and female students play together. I had the opportunity to witness this and also participate in their activities (tag). In Canada, we don't often arrange our students to sit in pairs like this. In my own practicum experiences, I have noticed students being paired based on their learning needs, not so often with different genders. 

Another interesting point that stood out to me is the teacher rotation period. I have thought about this concept before, but I did not think that it was something being implemented in this school. One of the teachers we had told me that every teacher stays in each school for only five years. After this time period, they get rotated and begin their new year at a different school. So, each teacher has the same time limit of five years before they get moved to another school. It is a way for every teacher to experience learning and teaching in different schools. I thought this was interesting because looking at Canada, teachers don’t often move out of their positions and do not get rotated. The teacher we had partnered with at this Elementary school has taught for fourteen years and has been a teacher at three different schools. She is very knowledgeable because from observing how she handles students and interacts with them and including teaching classes. She has a good reputation at the school and is admired by many students. 

Overall, it has been a great experience to observe the school culture and the student behaviors in these two elementary schools. I look forward to learning more and hope to implement Japanese school cultures I have learned into my own future classroom!


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Work, Travel, School, Repeat

“Work, Travel, School, Repeat”

Somehow this has become the motto for my TAB experience, and it’s been pretty amazing! This week I was back in classrooms at my school after what was an amazing whirlwind two-week vacation. In Germany, all schools get a fall break that is two weeks in length and during this time, I had the opportunity to explore Germany and the Czech Republic with my boyfriend who flew from Canada for a vacation.  We went on walking tours, bikes tours, ate local food and of course got lucky enough to attend Oktoberfest in Munich sporting a traditional dirndl that I scooped up for a serious deal at a second-hand store in Hamburg.  We explored castles, national parks, small Bavarian towns and big beautiful and edgy cities with rich culture!  Now that it’s all over, I feel so incredibly fulfilled. Travelling truly feeds the soul!But all that travel talk aside, getting back into the swing of things in Hamburg this week was a wonderful reminder of how important relationship building is with students. While it sort of felt a bit like the first day of school again, as soon as I got there I was quickly reminded of how amazing the students are and how there was no barrier in them warming up to me again. I had the opportunity to teach a Grade 11 English class on grammar rules (without a teacher in the room – big steps as I really can’t speak German) and it was amazing! The students worked incredibly hard and I was so happy that they felt comfortable enough to reach out and ask me questions, even if the questions had to be in English.  I feel like I’m really just getting into the swing of things at my school and in my classrooms and we only have two more weeks left! Where has the time gone!?

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Vietnamese Hospitality

Vietnam has some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen, the culture is rich, and the food is delicious. But the thing I’ll most treasure about Vietnam is the people and the hospitality they have shown to me. Throughout my travels here I have been treated like family at the various hotels I've stayed at. My most recent experience was in Cat Ba Island where I stayed in a family run hotel. From the moment we checked in I was made to feel important and valued. They invited us to eat dinner with more than 15 of their friends and family, serving us what seemed like an endless amount of food and making sure our glasses were always full. After dinner we wanted to head into town, so they let us use their personal motorbike. It was a small gesture, but it really meant so much to me. We had a tour booked the next morning and they made sure to wake us up and serve us a Western breakfast (which is somewhat rare to find in Vietnam). Again, seemingly small gestures but it made us feel valued and important.

This experience has not been uncommon for me here. One of the teachers that we work with at the primary school, Jade, has made us feel incredibly welcome and shown us such kindness. She’s invited us out to coffee and dinner, and even had us over to her sister’s house for lunch; cooked by her mom, her sister, and her sister’s friends. It was a very special afternoon. Overall the hospitality I’ve experienced here has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I think this is due to the fact that Vietnamese people really value their family and friendships. I love that. A big part of Vietnamese culture is eating together family style. It’s one of my favourite things about being here and I’m going to miss it a lot.

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I'll be there for you

I post this as I have less than three weeks left in Vietnam.  It has been an incredible journey in which I have learned so much and grown immensly.  Being here has shown me how important the people are in my life back home, and how important it is to have a support system here that you can turn to.  The people here have become incredibly important  me, starting with my roommate Adrian.  We started this journy together when we first decided to move in together while we were in Vietnam.  We traveled and faced many delays as Adrian proceeded to inform me that he is bad luck to travel with, and he was right.  We had flight changes, missed connections, delays, and a security hold up where I thought that I would have to bribe Adrian out of a Vietnam prison.

He has been a huge support system for me while being here.  Since day one whenever he leaves the house or goes anywhere, he always checks to see if I need anything while he is gone.  He cuddles me and plays sad songs when I just need to wallow, he brings me food and snacks, puts up with me when I get into my silly grumpy moods, he even bailed on his whole evening plan one time to go with me to the hospital when I got into a motorbike accident.  He is a star pal.  Get yourslef a friend like Adrian.  It is so integral to my happiness here that I am living with Adrian.  He is someone that I can go out with and have a nice dinner and nice conversation, or we can sit in complete silence for six hours and crush six episodes of The Haunting of Hill House.  He has been my constant companion here and I wouldn't have been able to do this without him  

Its also been important to have sisters, like these girls here.  Sure there has been arguemnts and we have needed time alone, but that is what you get when you live like family here, and thats what we have been doing.  We all came here hardly knowing one another, and we leave with these connections and bonds that will not break.  I wish that we could have gotten to know each other a bit more before we all came here though.  That is one piece advice I would have, for future tabers, is try to get to know some of your peers that will be going with you to your country.  They are going to be the people that you talk to when the culture frustrates you (which it will), you miss home and your poeple (which you will), and when you just want to have a silly night.

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Private Schools vs. Public Schools

It feels like a lifetime since the last time I wrote a blog post! In the past three weeks, Danielle and I have seen the Sydney Opera House, drove Great Ocean Road, watched the AFL grand finale, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and walked the shores of the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Australia is really starting to steal a special place in my heart! Now, we are back from all our adventures, and well into our second placement. This term, Brianne, Danielle and I have been placed at Earnshaw State College in the suburb of Banyo. The school is a public Prep to Twelve co-ed school, split by the Jr. Campus and the Sr. Campus. The school has been overwhelmingly welcoming and supportive of us during our time here, and we cannot wait to continue exploring the school and all it has to offer.







Observing the classrooms and culture at Earnshaw, I have been surprised at the similarities and differences that exist between public and private education in Queensland. Before coming to Australia, I was under the impression that the quality of teaching would be much higher at St. Aidan’s than at Earnshaw, but throughout our observations I have come to realize that the differences between the school have nothing to do with the teaching quality, and everything to do with the schools resources. At St. Aidan’s the school is filled with interactive STEM spaces, each student in the secondary school has their own laptop, and there are a multitude of co-curricular activities and school trips that the students may participate in. Although I would argue that methods of teaching, classroom management and pedagogies were the same at both schools, there was a definite imbalance when it comes to student resources and supports.

What I have found most interesting about our time in the Australian education system is that even the teachers struggle to decide which system of education is best for their children. The private school teachers had students in public schools, and the public-school teachers had students in private schools. There is a definite stereotype in Australia that a private education is a better education. This stereotype runs so deep that even teachers within the public system do not believe that the work they are doing is good enough for their own children. Personally, I always have and always will be a strong advocate for public education. I have always struggled to understand why Canadian parents would spend so much money on a private education, when our public-school system is so highly regarded. Coming to Australia, I thought my perception of private schools would change, as I would be amazed by the quality of education they are producing. After visiting both a public and a private school in Australia I do not believe this is the case. Both school systems are committed to ensuring that their students are receiving the best education that they can supply, and I would argue that both are succeeding.

 Moving forward with this placement, I am hopeful that I will continue to be amazed by the quality of education offered at Earnshaw. So far, our experience has been extremely rewarding, and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store!



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Feeling Inspired in Goiânia

While being in Goiânia, we have done quite a bit of exploring to significant landmarks and parks. Although all have been fascinating to see, the most significant monument to me has been our visit to the Monumento às Três Raças (Monument to the Three Races) – left. Located in the heart of Goiânia, the monument was constructed in 1968 to pay tribute to the miscegenation (i.e. the mixing of races) of the black, white, and indigenous races. After some more online research, it was to give equal recognition of the three races contributions to collaborating together to establish Goiás (i.e. the state of Goiânia) (year of Goiania) and what it means to be ‘Goian’.




This monument is truly amazing to me because of the pride, respect, and equality that the Goian people have for not only their White ancestry,but the Black and Indigenous ancestries as well. The attitude to preserve this recognition and embrace diversity is even emphasized in the school system. When sitting in on a Portuguese Class for Grade 6, students were reading aloud a book titled ‘Ainda Bem Que Tudo é Diferente/Glad everything is different’ by Fabio Gonçalves Ferreira – cover of book on the right. The children’s book essentially touches on embracing diversity among Brazil’s people.



Witnessing this powerful monument and seeing the use of these materials in the classroom are very significant to me as a future educator. I could see myself referring to these as an examples or resources for creating lessons in Social Justice Education and/or Indigenous Education. Sharing how progressive Brazil is in tackling and embracing these issues around race and indigeneity is inspiring to me. I strive to take what I have learned here in Brazil to hopefully inspire my future students.


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Unplanned Adventure

Boa tarde!

It is crazy how fast time is flying by here in Brazil! I will be back in Calgary three weeks from today! This past weekend, my group and I, went on an adventure to Chapada dos Veadeiros with a group of seven brasileiros. Chapada dos Veadeiros is a national park that has many different waterfalls that you can hike to and is located about a six-hour bus ride from our city, Goiânia. The only details we were told was to bring camping equipment and that it would be very cold at night so make sure to bring warm clothes and blankets.



Normally, when it comes to planning a trip, I am quite prepared. However, I thought I would take the Brazilian approach of “go with the flow” this time around. We met at the Praça Cívica (Civic Square) at 7pm sharp because that is what we were told, in order to take the bus at 8pm. Once we arrived, we noticed that there was no one from the Brazil group there. As more time passed, we got more and more nervous. Finally, about 7:40pm, they began to trickle in. Relieved to see them we packed our things on the bus and headed out for our six-hour drive to Chapada. We arrived at a camp site, that turned out to be gravel in between some brick walls, about 5am and began to set up our tents. By 7am we were buying food at the local market in order to keep us full until we returned at 4pm. We each brought one big and one little water bottle, which turned out not to be nearly enough for the Canadians. The Brazilians were totally fine on little water; however, we felt dehydrated and super-hot hiking in the 35-degree weather. And at night, all six of us squeezed into a tent that ended up being like a little furnace when the weather only dropped to 17-degrees, so all of our blankets were tossed asside. Even though it would've been good to know the weather temperature, where the campsite would be, and how far we were actually hiking, it was all totally worth it! The next day we explored the beautiful town and had some delicious meals! We didn't have cell service, so it was a great time to really enjoy the time we had together as a big group. This weekend was the perfect get away during a busy time of online projects and posts.






Overall, it was such a fantastic weekend full of unforgettable memories! Culturally, we learned that our definitions of cold were completely different, not to stress about time, and cell phone service free weekends are good for the soul! Also, we were able to practice Portuguese with all of our friends as well as, learn many new words and phrases. We learned so much this weekend and I will always be grateful to the people who helped get us here and taught us through language and culture.

Obri-thank you!

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Chapada dos Veadeiros

Last night we arrived back to Goiania after a hard, enjoyable, difficult, frustrating, and hilarious camping trip. Our Brazilian friends in the program with Macy and I invited all of us Canadians on this camping trip about a month ago to Chapada dos Veadeiros. Chapada dos Veadeiros is a beautiful national park about a 5 hour drive away from Goiania, and we had been wanting to visit it since before any of us had even arrived in Brazil.

We took an overnight bus on Thursday night to arrive to the town of São Jorge (where the national park is located). This is when our adventure first started. About two hours into the drive, our bus broke down at a truck stop on the side of the highway. We all piled out of the bus, hung out in the truck stop diner, gorged ourselves on the buffet food, and waited for a part for the bus to be driven out to us from Goiania. While we were waiting we played music, danced in the parking lot, and spoke enough Portuguese to make our heads explode. And this was all before we even arrived to our destination.

Once we arrived at 6:45 am, we were introduced to our hilarious campsite. Since most of us have camped a lot in Canada, we were expecting to camp among nature in the national park – like how we’ve done so many times in Banff or Jasper or Vancouver Island. However, we were dropped off at a square, gravel compound between four brick walls with not a tree in sight to give us any shade. We all set our tents up as closely together as we could in order to try to fit everyone in the compound. Before we could lie down for a rest, we were off to go hiking for the day.

We walked about two kilometers down dirt and gravel roads to reach the entrance to the national park. We’re not totally sure if we were extremely ill prepared for this day because of the language barrier, or because the Brazilians don’t mind the heat, or because they didn’t know what was in store for us. But even though we saw some beautiful things on our hike, we suffered. We were under the impression that we’d only need to walk a little bit and then we’d arrive at some swimming areas, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We didn’t pack enough food and we REALLY didn’t pack enough water for the hike that awaited us. The hike itself wasn’t that hard – it was fairly flat save a couple spots of scaling up some rocks and some uneven ground. However, it was long and it was HOT, and we all ran out of water.

When we arrived at the swimming hole we felt like we had died and gone to heaven, except for one thing – we were all burnt to a crisp and there was no shade in sight. We explored around the waterfalls holding towels and sarongs over our heads and shoulders in order to protect our skin from the sun. We decided we should head back earlier rather than later because we had ran out of water, and it wouldn’t be safe to stay out there for long. So, we tackled the tolling hike back with no water and it definitely tested me physically and emotionally. I’m both so glad its over and also so glad I did it.

We spent the whole evening eating delicious pasta and tasting local craft beer and playing Eu nunca… (never have I ever) with our Brazilian buddies. We spoke a lot of Portuguese and a lot of makeshift sign language and utilized the power of pointing. We spent an outrageous amount of money on aloe for our sunburns and tiger balm for our aches and pains. We became friends with the shop owners in the town and exchanged stories of previous travels and what our lives in Canada are like. It was truly a magical night and a magical town that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

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Outdoor Physical Activity


I have spent the past seven weeks wandering around Barcelona and the surrounding area to see what kind of outdoor physical activity the people do here. Of course I expected to see typical activities such as running and biking. However, I have actually come across many people doing things I never expected to see. Barcelona is a lot warmer in the fall than Calgary, so it makes sense that more people would be outside exercising than I would expect at home. However, such a variety of outdoor physical activities is so much easier to find than at home.

Here are some of the activities I have come across without any prior research:

  • Yoga on floating paddle boards in the sea
  • Rollerblading
  • Yoga on the beach
  • Bootcamp workout on the beach
  • Gymnastics in the street (flips, cartwheels, and jumping over people)
  • Swimming in an outdoor pool
  • Swimming in the sea
  • Swing dancing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Frisbee
  • Outdoor football (soccer) on a concrete field
  • “Castellers” - human castle building
  • Lots of running groups
  • Outdoor basketball
  • Outdoor fitness/gym area at the beach
    • This is basically an adult playground where people use their body weight for exercises


As I mentioned above, I have seen many running groups. One of my mentor teachers at the school I am at suggested one group to me as they were having a meet up in a park near my apartment (Parc de la Ciutadella). This group has a runtastic ambassador which organized routes around the park with 3 levels of difficulty. We all met up together at a certain time and then split off in whichever level of difficulty that we wanted to. One group ran, one group jogged, and the slowest group walked. Because I just had knee surgery a few months ago I am not yet able to run so I joined in with the other walkers. One lady referred to our group as the “grannies” which I thought was hilarious. It can be quite hot during the day so exercising at night is ideal. However, parks can be unsafe at night (when you are alone and in the dark) so these meetup type of running groups are perfect.

I have noticed that there seems to be a lot more children playing outside than I typically see at home. My favourite thing that I have seen kids doing so far was a relay race type of challenge on roller blades. One kid would do a crazy move and then the others would try to mirror it and they would race to the other side of the park. I really wanted to share this observation because it reminded me of the things I used to do with my friends when I was a kid. I really wonder what makes kids seem to play outside here more than they do at home. Maybe by the time I get home this will become more clear to me.

Hasta pronto!

(Spanish - see you soon)

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Street Art and Performances

I love walking around Barcelona because I can always find interesting art. It seems as though everywhere I go I can find somebody drawing, painting, or singing in the street. Of course there are always people selling completed work, but there are also others who wait for customers to come to them and then they complete a portrait in the moment.

A very interesting type of art that I have never seen before are the sand sculptures that are made in the evening at a popular public beach, Platja de la Barceloneta. These artists arrive around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and spend hours sculpting intricate figures into the sand. These people put out a jar or mat where people walking by can make donations. I observed that it is hard for anybody to stop and enjoy these carvings without dropping some coins. Quite often the artists become upset if somebody tries to stop to take photos without giving them a donation. One day I spoke to an artist and he explained how this is the only way he can make money. In Canada I would never expect to see an artist chasing after a person for not donating to them for a street performance, but in Barcelona this is a reality.

I also enjoy seeing various street performers. There are people that dress up in crazy costumes and come to a busy street called La Rambla everyday. You can find people painted in gold that can sit as still as a statue. For a small donation they will move and take a photo with you.

Almost every time that I ride the underground subway somebody is singing, rapping, or playing an instrument such as trumpet, saxophone, or clarinet. I have heard some very interesting combinations of music and I have never seen the same person/group twice. There are street performers who serenade people as they eat dinner on an outdoor patio. Others show off their gymnastics skills by doing flips in the street. After any of these performances they walk around collecting change. I have observed that it is likely best to give a bunch of small change or a minimum of one euro. An important note is that it is possible that these artists can be more offended over a tiny donation than if you were to give nothing at all. An example of this is when I saw family of foreign tourists. I watched the father figure dig through a pile of change, giving each of his kids one cent to put into the hat for a group of five street performers. I saw how offended the performers were from the expressions on their faces. This reminded me of how my friends react at home when they serve somebody an expensive meal at a restaurant and a person tips a small amount of $0.50.

Overall, I would have to say that my favourite type of street art is the graffiti. I live in Barrio Gótico (Spanish for the Gothic Quarter). Most shops and restaurants are on the ground floor of the buildings and they have these pull-down doors that are covered in painted images and symbols. I sometimes walk around for hours looking at the designs.


Graffiti is common throughout the city, and nobody seems to mind its placement in public places. I even noticed that the trains are covered in graffiti. At home I know some people would be outraged if somebody spray painted the side of a C-train, but here it seems so normal. In addition I have seen people out in the daylight spray painting tags and pictures. I have never seen this at home - likely because of a fear of being caught by the authorities.

Adéu amics!

(Catalan for goodbye friends)


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#3: New Cultures & Experiences

The past two weeks have been very busy for us girls in Perth! Since the students here were on Spring break, we took the opportunity to head to Bali for a week. Some highlights of the trip were visiting Hindu temples, hiking a volcano at 3:45am to catch the sunrise, and being attacked by a monkey!! Thank goodness it only scratched me… I only had to get a tetanus and rabies vaccine. I’d definitely love to go back to Indonesia one day!

Once we got back to Perth, we had one day of rest, and then we headed off to Kalgoorlie (a small mining town located 6.5 hours east of Perth… basically the Fort Mac of Western Australia). We opted to rent a car so MacKenzi and I experienced driving on the left side of the road in a right-side drive car for the first time! It was a bit stressful to begin with and I accidentally kept flicking the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal (they are opposite of ours). Thankfully it didn’t take too long to get used to it.

The schools we visited in Kalgoorlie have definitely been my favourite school experiences by far during this TAB program. The first was a School of the Air base, which you can read more about in Nicole and Sheila’s posts! The other school was an Indigenous centred school. The deputy principal explained that they focus on creating strong relationships with the students and their families to help the students succeed. The programs and supports they had at this school were really amazing. They have a speech pathologist and OT that come in a couple times a semester to diagnose and create programs for the students who need it. Then they have a teacher at the school who takes those programs and makes sure they are being implemented and utilized, and works with those students. They have a breakfast program for all the students, as well as a room with extra clothes and shoes for students to just take from if they need it. They also started gaining funding for students to enroll in after school sports programs, to give students more opportunities as well as to socialize with other students in the communities. The deputy principal herself drives some of the students to and from sports practices. We were fortunate enough to sit in on a language class where the students were learning different Indigenous languages. Two Elders had agreed to help run this program once a week, and the students all seemed very engaged and excited to learn more about their culture.

The past two weeks have definitely been the busiest and most exciting weeks we have had here, but I am excited for the next 3 weeks because will be in the same school for the duration. I’m hoping this will give us time to connect with the students and teachers, as well as get a better idea of their day-to-day routines.


The four of us at a Temple in Bali

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Acts of Kindness



Six weeks in, there have been days where I have felt homesick and frustrated. However, one of the biggest pieces of advice I have received in life is to focus on the positive and to remember to be grateful. On that note, I have been reflecting on the acts of kindness I have experienced and doing that helps make my heart so full that the homesickness and frustration is abated.

There have been countless acts of kindness, but I want to reflect on a few:

  • The man at the airport – My flight coming to China was delayed by 10 hours in Vancouver, which resulted in me missing my connecting flights in Nanjing. I didn’t know how to speak any mandarin and the flight attendants did not provide any information on what to do once I was in Nanjing other than to go find the checkin counter. Once at the checkin counter, a lovely man noticed how I was struggling to communicate what I needed, and he made sure that I understood what was happening using his own limited English and kept me under his wing as we kept moving locations.
  • Our fellow trapped Kangding travellers – as my other China TABBers have detailed in their posts last week, being stuck on a mountain was almost fun given the kindness and joy that our fellow traveller brought to our trip.
  • Our partner teachers – My first lesson here was a struggle and I came out of it disappointed and displeased with how I ran it. The partner teachers took this as a moment to share their own frustrations and times of difficulty, and I found it so comforting and encouraging that instead of critiquing what I did, they shared their own experiences.
  • My lovely roommate – There is a lot to navigate in China from obtaining a laundry card, to eating at good restaurants, to knowing if toilet paper is toilet paper, to shopping, and booking rail tickets. My lovely roommate is consistently sharing her own knowledge, her own experiences, and going in the middle of the night with me to make sure that we 3 Canadians can have access to Wechat money.
  • My supportive classmates – In our language classes here, it is sometimes hard to not feel overwhelmed in classes. But in kudos to the teachers, they have built such a nice environment that if I am struggling, my classmates will mouth the answer to me or take the time to explain to me when I am confused. There is also a chorus of “zao shang hao” (good morning) every time that anyone enters the classroom, that I would love to have emulated in my own classroom.
  • David & Logan – I couldn’t imagine having a better group of classmates to travel and do this experience in China with – their kindness and humor has helped so much going through the tired days. From David’s insistence and excitement in bringing in new snacks for everyone to try, their encouragement as I struggled to climb 5 steps due to altitude acclimation at Paoshan mountain, to Logan running out at night to buy a bug zapper, I don’t think later on that I will necessarily remember all the beautiful sights we are seeing, but I do think I will remember their support.

Like in travel, I think in teaching there will be days of frustration and negativity, but this practice of looking at kindness and positively is important to help keep moving forward and to appreciate how lucky I am to have the life I have and the opportunities I have.



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Elementary Schools in Asahikawa

The past two weeks have been spent accustoming to our new city of Asahikawa! I find that I am definitely using the little Japanese I know to get around in Asahikawa. When we first got to Asahikawa we went to the popular zoo, Asahiyama Zoo. This zoo focuses on being more interactive, allowing little tunnels to weave through the animals’ exhibits and allow you to see them more up close and personal! I thought this zoo was so fun and interesting because I have never been to a zoo that had such a unique concept!


The continuing weeks we started at the Hokkaido University of Education Affiliated Elementary School. The school had three floors, which were divided by grades, allowing the older kids to be on higher levels the further they advance through the grades. One of our interpreters from the Hokkaido University of Education actually attended the same Elementary school when he was a child. When I asked him about if there was anything different from when he attended school there, he said everything was basically the same! We were able to observe every subject provided by the school and also by the teachers who specialize in those subjects. Some interesting classes to me was “Integrated Studies” where students would combine Science and Social Studies together and also separated from their usual Science and Social curriculum. Something I asked the teachers about was the subject “Moral Education” which is apparently recently added to the curriculum and just teaches students how to be good citizens. I also enjoyed their Music classes and seeing the professionalism in the students performing from Grades 2 through 6! Although classes were in Japanese, I was still able to understand and pick up on the concepts being shown like in Science, Math, and Home Economics.


                                                                                                             A Japanese Math class covering the same curriculum as in Alberta!

One thing I am most impressed by through my class observations is the efficiency of the students here in Japan. We were able to observe a gym class where students chalked up the field, and set up all the equipment for the activity, including dividing themselves into their own teams and positions. This was all done without the teacher having to remind or tell them. This efficiency was not only in Physical Education classes but in every single class we observed.


                                                                                                            A Japanese Physical Education class

The second week at the Elementary School, we observed and helped in the English classes from grades 1 through 6. In Japan, English education is mandatory from Grade 5 and so forth. However, at this specific school they teach English education earlier. This upcoming week we will start at the Hokkaido University of Education Affiliated Junior High School. I am excited to see the differences between Elementary and Junior High Schools!


Until next time!


Christine Erana

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Bike is Life


A major form of travelling within Asahikawa is using the bus. Unfortunately, the bus system is quite difficult to figure out in Asahikawa as the website for the bus is all in Japanese and the bus routes do not show up on Google Maps (the holy grail of our trip is failing us). When we got our bikes we were so excited to not have to figure out whether or not we would have to walk home for half an hour just so we would not be lost.

Below: A bus stop sign. 

As I have been in Asahikawa for two whole weeks now, we have been blessed to be lent bikes by the HUE Asahikawa campus and I am in love. Travelling Japan, I observed that there is a big portion of the population who use biking as a major form of transportation. From young to old, there are always people biking everywhere around. This is no less in Asahikawa and it has been amazing to have my own bike that I can ride around. Because I do not ride a bike very often in Calgary, it has been quite difficult to cycle 30 minutes one-way everyday to and from the affiliated schools that we are volunteering at. At the same time, the exercise is great for all the delicious Japanese food and desserts that I have been having for the past month and a half! 

Some advice that I would give if you are cycling in Japan:

- remember to always stay on the left side of the road (travel the same way as traffic) 

- always have a reflector or light so that vehicles may see you

- having a basket is an amazing thing 

- watch for pedestrians and vehicles

- remember to lock up your bike and never forget the key!

- stay safe!

If you follow most of these you will be ready to go biking in Japan. 

Watch out Asahikawa, I'm ready to take you on!


Chuen-Xi Quek


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Nihon Go!

Our month in Sapporo was one month of Japanese (nihon-go) learning classes where we were graced with the wonderful and funny Yoshida-sensei (teacher). We learned a lot from her and I think that it was very important for us to learn some Japanese before we go off on our volunteer teaching in Japanese classrooms. At first it was quite hard to grasp the language and the pronounciation as it is quite unfamiliar and different from English. Eventually with practice and daily usage I think I picked up on some Japanese. I still have a lot of trouble with making a complete sentence and the order of the sentence structure, but with more practice I think I will get the hang of it. 

One thing that I am getting the hang of and I think that is very important is numbers! We shall go over them:

1= ichi

2= ni

3= san

4= yon

5 = go

6= roku

7= nana

8= hachi

9= kyu

10= juu

10+ = juu + __ (e.g. 11= juu +ichi)

20+ = ni juu (e.g. 22 = ni juu ni)

100= hyaku 

And there you have it! Practice. Practice. Practice. I hope that my fellow friends are practicing their nihon-go diligently so they don't forget what our sensei taught us! 

Happy practicing!


Chuen-Xi Quek


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Insights in a Soba Shop

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

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

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

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

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


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Little Left, BIG Right

This past week the girls and I packed up our bags and headed to Kalgoorlie, which is about 6 hours east of Perth. We rented a car and for the first time I drove on the left side of the road. What an experience! Imagine taking all of your driving habits and flipping them over to the other side of the road. I think that by the second hour of the drive I was starting to feel pretty comfortable with the change. We had to keep reminding ourselves that right hand turns were from one side of the road to the other (BIG right) and left hand turns were quick and easy (little left). The drive to Kalgoorlie was straight and flat. The scenery did not change much during the 6 hours in The Australian Outback. The dirt was red and the the brush was short and quite dense. There were areas that resembled what I envision Africa to look like. We passed several emu and kangaroos in a less than ideal state (dead). 

While in Kalgoorlie we had the opportunity to visit a Primary School that had a large population of Indigenous children. It was evident while talking to the Deputy Principal that she was very passionate about the school. She talked a lot about the importance of building relationships with the students and becoming interested in their lives in and outside of school. She mentioned that she often drove students to sports practice after school so that they would have the opportunity to socialize with other children in the community. I was able to sit in on a language lesson with the level 3/4 students. While the lesson was designed to allow the Indigenous students to learn about the community in which their families came from, it was also beneficial for the Non-Indigenous students. It was great to see students learning about their identity. All in all it turned out to be a very worthwhile trip to the remote town. As the driver, I will continue to second guess which side of the car I must enter from!

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From Perth to Kalgoorlie!

After a quick two-week spring break in Perth and getting the chance to visit Bali (which was so great btw! The views were nice and the weather was warm, reminding me a lot of being back in The Philippines where my family is from), we had the opportunity to drive out east of Perth to Kalgoorlie.

Kalgoorlie is a small town and something completely different than what I am used to. It is a six-hour drive to get to, and when you’re in town, it only takes about 10-15 minutes to drive across it. While here, we had the chance to visit a few different schools. The first school we visited was Kalgoorlie School of the Air, a school that allows for students from different parts of Western Australia to attend, all while staying in the comfort of their own homes. A lot of the students that attend are from remote areas, therefore making it extremely hard to complete an education in person without having to leave their families. I found that the School of the Air seemed similar to home schooling, though they still receive support and materials from teachers at the school. Materials are sent out every two weeks or by term, depending on the age group, and there are daily sessions similar to our Adobe connect sessions we are using in our online classes.

Below is a picture of the set up for the online sessions teachers have with their students at Kalgoorlie School of the Air.

Another school we were able to visit was O’Connor Primary and though we were only here for a very short while, I learned that the school was named after the man who designed a pipeline that brings fresh water from Perth all the way to remote locations far away such as Kalgoorlie. Throughout our long drive, we kept noticing this pipeline above ground that kept following the road, and to our surprise, it was bringing water over 600km away!

The last school that we were able to visit was East Kalgoorlie Primary, a very small school that consists of almost all Indigenous students. It was an interesting experience to see a setting in which Aboriginal students were the majority and the practices that are put in place to help the students succeed. It was nice to see some of the methods talked about in our Indigenous Education class used in the classrooms at this school.

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Switching Schools in Brisbane

Back to School!

Well we’ve just had Spring Break (called Term Break here) in Queensland, Australia. We’re pretty lucky because it gave us all the chance to jet off and explore a bit of Australia! I took off first to Melbourne and got to take in sights such as the Great Ocean Road. It was a beautiful drive all along the coast, worth seeing! Following that I was over in Sydney to see the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach. It was so fun to see such iconic sights in person! To finish up the break, I went up the coast to a little sleepy town called Noosa, it’s a place I would say is similar to Canmore, only instead of mountains it has beautiful beaches! I was able to cross off a bucket list item as I tried surfing for the first time and I was able to get up on my board and surf in to the beach! I think I’m hooked on the sport which may be problematic living in Alberta.

As I said, though, school break is over and we’re back in classrooms here. For the next four weeks I’ll be with Melissa at St. Aidans’s Anglican Girls School. Today was our first day and we both had exceptional experiences! With our last school (which we also both thoroughly enjoyed) we had the opportunity to move around to different classes throughout the day and see a variety of different grade levels, teaching styles and subjects. This school we’ve each been paired with our own teacher for our whole stay. I’m looking forward to this as my partner teacher is fantastic and I’m enjoying getting to know the kids. My hope is to have all the names down by my third full day! I’m in a grade one class and it’s really different being in an all girls school. You can definitely feel there is a calmer energy about the place as well. I already got to spend some time today working with smaller groups on their spelling and grammar and circling the class to help with various assignments throughout the day.

I really enjoyed how their library time was spent. They had a few minutes to sign out some books and then they were lead through a 5 minute meditation of sorts to calm what they called their ‘monkey brain’. Monkey brain is where you have so much on the go that you’re thinking about a million things at once; I’m sure we all can relate! After their meditation they were given a full 20 minutes to read their books in silence and every single girl in the library was focused on their reading! It was really impressive; even the teachers got to enjoy quiet reading! I must say I loved my 20 minute reading break midday, my monkey brain appreciated it!

From there we jumped right into gym class and due to odd numbers I got to partake in the games with the girls. It was a really fun joining the girls but running around in humid 33 degree weather is something I am not used to! You might say us Canadian girls are starting to notice the heat, and we’ve been told it isn’t even hot yet!

All in all it was a fantastic day and I’m really looking forward to getting to know this classroom of girls as they’re absolute sweethearts to work with! We finished the day with story time and they were so excited about it that I think I get to read to them story at the end of every day for the rest of my visit. I must say I enjoy it almost as much as they do!

Time to cook up some dinner, we’re having Greek tonight! Also looks like we have a wicked thunder storm rolling in so should be an exciting evening!

Thank you for reading!


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