history (5)

My Mississippi experience began the minute I boarded the plane from Houston to Memphis. I came through the cabin door, and looked up, realizing that nearly everyone on the plane was decked out from head to toe in Ole Miss gear. I immediately felt very out of place in my floral sweatpants! What I found out later was that there had been an away game in Houston; Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss. People down here are so crazy about football that it is not uncommon for them to travel several hours by plane or car to attend away games to support their team. Apparently there were about 4000 Ole Miss fans at the game in Houston. At this point I was beginning to suspect that football was an even bigger deal down here than I had expected.

I was fortunate to sit beside a very nice man named Hal on the plane. Hal is an Ole Miss alumni, and an avid football fan. He doesn’t even live in Oxford anymore, but he still has season tickets to Ole Miss football. We talked for the entire two hour flight, and I experienced Southern hospitality for the first time. After having known me for only an hour, Hal had invited me to join him and his family and friends at their tailgate tent before the upcoming home game, and he even offered the use of his season tickets to Ole Miss games whenever him and his family weren’t going to use them. Hal also told me about a current controversy concerning the Landshark, which is Ole Miss’ new mascot.

Traditionally, the Ole Miss Rebel’s mascot was Colonel Reb. The Colonel bears a striking resemblance to a Confederate Army soldier, which given the history of the Civil War in the South, is a pretty easy connection to make. Being a university town, Oxford is generally more liberal than other places in Mississippi, which I did not expect. In 2003, the university decided to rescind Colonel Reb as the official Ole Miss mascot. My understanding is that this decision reflected a growing desire to have the school mascot represent all students, and more importantly, for the mascot (and by extension the University) not to perpetuate the systemic racism that is so embedded in the South. I can only imagine how it might feel to be an African American student, attending a school where the mascot is a direct reminder of the Confederate Army, and all of the people who fought to maintain the institution of slavery.

In 2010, the mascot was changed via a student vote to be Rebel the Black Bear. The Black Bear never really caught on though, prompting another student vote in 2017 where voters chose between the Black Bear and the Landshark. The Landshark originated with an Ole Miss student named Tony Fein who played for the defensive line on the football team. Tony had served in Iraq as a member of the US army prior to attending Ole Miss. Following a successful play on the field, Tony would throw up his hand on top of his head in a “shark fin”. This was a symbol that he had brought back from his time in the army, where his patrol had nicknamed themselves the Landsharks. This “Fins Up” symbol was adopted by Ole Miss fans, and is widely used today, making Tony the Landshark a logical choice for a mascot.

The controversy lies in the fact that not everyone agrees with the change from Colonel Reb to Tony the Landshark. I listened to Hal and some other men behind us on the plane discussing the new mascot; saying how much they didn’t like it, and how it was not representative of Ole Miss fans. I chalked this up to a difference in age and culture. After all, Colonel Reb had been the mascot when Hal attended Ole Miss many years ago, and no doubt held personal significance for him. One woman we met at the university said that she fully supported the move to the Landshark, and the accompanying move towards inclusion. Imagine my surprise when I talked to another girl in her early twenties, who, when I brought up the land shark debate, declared that “Colonel Reb will always be my mascot”. It is interesting to note that Colonel Reb had been removed as the official mascot about fifteen years before this student had even come to Ole Miss. I had assumed that people my age here would be more informed, and more likely to support the change in mascots. I wonder if this girl simply didn’t know or understand the historical ramifications of Colonel Reb, or if she understood and didn’t care to think about the ramifications of that support. I still see Colonel Reb around campus on the odd banner or tshirt, but it’s clear that he is not a part of official branding any more. I am very curious to continue to meet new people here, and try to get a wider and more accurate idea of how many people still see Colonel Reb as their true mascot, and why.



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My first full day in Tokyo! Things got started nice and early, which was great for getting to see the city before rush hour hit but not so great for finding a restaurant that was open for breakfast. I settled on a small western café called Dean & DeLuca, whose menu was mostly in Japanese but which catered to more English speaking guests than I’d seen so far anywhere else. I had their tuna sandwich on “pecan bread” out in a small courtyard that sits between some of the underground pedestrian tunnels folks were using to get to work. That’s one thing I didn’t expect to find here: lots of green spaces that you can sneak away to for some quiet in the middle of the day.

TGMqzXO.jpg?profile=RESIZE_710xToday marked my first day taking the subway. Tokyo’s transit system is a bit confusing, but not nearly as confusing as it should be given the city’s size, the number of companies that run trains, subways, and buses, and the number of people who all know where they’re going when you do not. Instead it’s very well organized: there are colour-coded signs in Japanese and English all over the place, and the info maps are close enough together that if you get lost (like I did in JR’s Tokyo Station), you’ll get un-lost quickly enough.


As a history teacher, I couldn’t pass up a chance to tour the Imperial Palace downtown. The palace, built where Edo castle once stood, has some stellar gardens and a handful of 17th century watchtowers that you can get pretty close to. Tours are free and offered in Japanese and English, and if you plan ahead of time you can download an audio guidebook for some extra tidbits as you walk around the grounds.


After the palace I walked down to the National Diet (Japan’s legislature), which is also surrounded by a wide range of government buildings. It didn’t look like I could tour inside most of these, which was a shame, but they were nice to wander by and gave me a better sense of what the city feels like on a Friday afternoon.


I stopped in for lunch at CoCo Ichibanya Curry House not too far from a Shinto shrine I wanted to visit. Most of the other guests were office workers on their lunch breaks. Mostly regulars, it seemed, but the waitress was very helpful and the menu had loads of options. I went with a seafood curry that had shrimp, octopus, and a couple other I-don’t-know-what-those-were-but-they-were-tasty.


The Hie shrine sits at the top of a hill with a staircase (and escalator) leading down to the city below. Out front there are a number of lanterns set up for the Sanno Matsuri Festival, which is on until the 17th. I didn’t stick around for the festivities but the shrine itself was peaceful and worth visiting if you’re interested in history and culture.


On the train back to the hotel I found out that my route was ending 1 station short of my hotel. Not a huge problem, save that this other station A) had 4 different exits and B) my phone has decided it does not like loading maps anymore because it takes joy in watching me struggle. Again Tokyo’s organization came to the rescue. Every few blocks there are info maps that outline where you are, where subway stations are, and where to find nearby landmarks (like that hotel you want to get back to).

That’s all for today! Next is dinner and a walk down to the park I can see from my room. See you tomorrow!

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Home Sweet Home

Finally back in Calgary...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daily Teacher Life and Travels Around Germany

From what I have experienced the daily life of a teacher at school seems to be similar most days. School begins at 8am and teachers have 4 lessons prepared for the day, usually they get 1 free period per day if they aren’t asked to cover another class. There doesn’t seem to be a lot to the lesson planning process as most teachers are teaching out of a workbook. Generally, they begin the class with a game or short activity to capture the students’ attention, then they do an example of what they will be working on, after going on to let students work independently in their workbooks. The teachers do communicate and collaborate with each other to ensure they are all covering the same topics and share ideas on how to present new content. I haven’t been able to discover a laid out curriculum like we do in Alberta, instead most teachers tell me there is something written down somewhere stating what their students need to learn but they don’t know where it is so they just teach what is presented in the workbooks because they include all the topics required of them. Free periods are for prepping as well as before and after school. Since school ends early, 1pm, teachers more often stay after school to prep for their week.  


If there is anything I could bring back to Canada it would be the half day school days! Teachers seem much less stressed and less burnt out. They say they don’t struggle as much to keep the students attention with half days as they would with full day classes in the last few hours of the school day. However, I would love to see more creative and collaborative work in the classrooms here but it doesn’t seem to be the precedent they want to create.


Currently we are on a 2 week fall break from school and are taking the opportunity to tour around Germany. I can’t express how incredible of an experience this has been. Being able to get a first-hand look at so many iconic sites in our world’s history. It has been a difficult and emotional week as we’ve been able to experience the Nazi party rally grounds, the Berlin Wall, and Dachau concentration camp just to name a few. Having this experience allows me to have a deeper understanding of what happened here during WW2 and how it affects people still today. I believe I have a stronger capability now to communicate the importance to my future students of understanding what happened here and how vital it is we can detect it happening again to prevent history from repeating itself.

Sorry for the lack of photos :( phone's been pick pocketed so I am cameraless.  

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It has been almost 2 months since I came to Japan, and I feel like I learn something new about this country every single day. Reflecting on my experience here so far, I have enjoyed learning about the Japanese culture, through its history, language, and its people. A part of this journey has been how this type of learning shapes my identity as a teacher. I have been working with children in schools, where I have witnessed diverse learners who come from different academic backgrounds. This is where I have moulded my teaching style to fit the needs of my students, in a way that works for them, and is effective for their learning.










Photo: Otaru Canal - Hokkaido (Otaru, Japan)


Similarities & Differences



In comparison to classrooms in Canada, classrooms in Japan are not all that different. They are both environments where students learn and gain essential skills that they need in life. They are both places that foster individual growth in different aspects, as well as strives to create good citizens. In fact, even students in both countries are sometimes similar with regards to behaviour and how they learn. However, a difference that I have noticed is what goes on in the school. In Japan, students have school starting from April until March, with a month off during the summer (August), and a few days off around December. Therefore, students spend most of their time at school throughout their early years of education. Schools in Japan also hold many school festivals, where students are able to showcase their learning to a larger audience or is sometimes just simply a place to gather. Furthermore, students have school lunches within the school, in which the students serve the food, and the whole classroom eats together. Usually, after lunch, they also have classroom clean-ups where students are given roles in cleaning their own classroom, as well as other facilities in the school, since they do not usually have custodians to clean the school for them.





Photo: Imperial Palace East Gardens (Tokyo, Japan)


Stepping Stones





Throughout this last phase of my experience in Japan, I hope to gain as much knowledge as I can about the culture within and outside of the classroom. I want this experience to become a stepping stone towards my journey as a teacher. I hope to gain essential life skills and enhance my pedagogical knowledge, which addresses diverse types of learners. Most importantly, I intend to make this experience as rich and fulfilling as possible, not only for myself, but also for the people around me.













Photo: Imperial Palace East Gardens (Tokyo, Japan)


Jerwin Ruzol

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