italy (17)

Amo Roma

Have I tried all of the delicacies? Have I seen all of the sights? Are there any gelato flavours left to try??? Before I came to Italy, someone told me never to stress about trying to do everything… it will never happen. I spent my last couple of days in Rome trying to enjoy dolce far niente… the sweetness of doing nothing. I did not worry about being a tourist, I just wanted to simply be in Rome.

Now that I am home in Canada I am reflecting on this unforgettable experience. I think my biggest takeaway is empathy. There are so many words in the Italian language that, to me, sound similar, and I'm not sure I'll ever get the hang of pronouncing "gli." I now have a better understanding of what it feels like to sit in a classroom and have no idea what is going on, or to feel like I cannot properly express what I want or how I am feeling because of my limited knowledge of the Italian language. I hope in the future that I will consider the work of language learners in a different light, asking myself, am I evaluating their grammar and spelling or the content of their work? I also need to consider the time it takes to hear or read something, translate it in your head, consider your response, then translate that response in your head before even saying or writing a word! Furthermore, I hope this empathy guides me to support all students struggling with concepts in math or science. If they are unfamiliar with the basics, the rest will be very difficult to follow! It is tough to even ask a question when you don't even know what you don't know... you know? 

On a final note, I absolutely grateful to TAB for this experience. Getting to live in Rome and exploring Italy was an absolute dream come true. I am lucky to have been a pioneer for the program in this country and I am SO excited and jealous for next years participants!! 


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Arrividerci Italy!

It’s been a somewhat disorienting experience arriving back home to a quiet, snow-covered Canmore after two months in the heart of sunny, hot, and bustling Rome. At face value, it feels as though little has changed in my surroundings during my brief adventure abroad. At the same time, my Italian immersion brought me new layers and perspectives through which I now see and experience the world around me. It would be easy to revert back to living in the same way I did before I left for my trip, but I’m challenging myself to continue reflecting on and applying what I learned while away.

Some of the key takeaways that I will bring forth with me in my education work are:

  • Similar to how we’ve seen this emphasized in our courses, teachers in Italy also stress the important of building close-knit relationships with students. In Rome, I had the chance to work with many different teachers, and it was clear that those who had taken time to build personal relationships with their students enjoyed a more engaged and respectful classroom.
  • Learning another language is a humbling experience, as I can attest to trying to pick up Italian over the past two months. Considering how many English Language Learners there are in Canadian classrooms, I feel grateful to have gained a new level of empathy for and understanding of what they are going through and the vulnerability it takes to do so.
  • Even the most passionate educators face burnout from systemic-level issues—something that many teachers expressed during our time in Rome. Many of these teachers loved aspects of their job, but seemed exhausted by the bureaucratic issues that prevent them from providing the type of experience they would hope to for students. Often this seems to come down to a lack of funding, something that is an ongoing issue across Canada. My personal interest in advocating for educational reform at a policy level was reaffirmed, particularly as it relates to further funding for public schools to ensure all young people can access an equitable school experience regardless of their socio-economic background.
  • I was surprised to see that in Rome there is a significant lack of technology use in classrooms. Some teachers would show videos on occasion, but nowhere near to the degree that I’ve seen this emphasized in Alberta. When I incorporated digital mediums into lessons in Italy, students were so excited! Based on my experiences in Canadian and Italian schools, I remain a strong proponent of the frequent (and meaningful) use of technology in the classroom, and believe that teachers should be supporting students with honing their digital literacy.

For those considering participating in Teaching Across Borders, my suggestions would be to go for it! In addition to the experiences that you’ll have being able to learn first-hand about approaches to learning and teaching in a foreign country, there is also so much growth that comes from venturing out of your comfort zone and connecting with the people and culture of a new place. I’m grateful for my experience, and confident that it’s provided me with a more well-rounded framework through which to approach my upcoming practicums and future career.

Grazie mille,

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Ciao for now...

Whether it is a particularly good cappuccino, a warm fall day, or a lively discussion with a class, I am reminded every day how lucky I am to have been placed in Rome for TAB. It is surreal packing up our apartment as (and I’m sure you’ll read this on most blogs) time has flown by!!

We have had experiences in several English classrooms, private and public, at all ages of grade school. One of the most surprising things I have learned about teaching English is how little I know about my mother tongue! Students and teachers will ask me about verbs (continuous simple, past present, etc.) and I am never quite sure I am giving the best answer. In hindsight, it is not Italian I wish I knew more (okay that too…) but I wish I had taken more time to learn more about how to teach English at different levels of competency. It was easy teaching vocabulary to the younger students, but in the final years of high school I felt unsure as to would be the most practical lessons.

As I look forward to going home, I am excited to have the freedom of having a car, a sleep in my own bed, peanut butter, and watching hockey with friends and family! That being said, I am worried about how I will live without the beaitful weather, cheap espresso, and pizzerias on every corner! 

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Veni, Vidi, Vici

After staying in Rome for two months through this TAB program, returning to Calgary is bittersweet. Although I am excited to be home, the time I have spent in Italy was absolutely incredible. Having the opportunity to learn about education in a different city by engaging in such an experiential manner has really helped to contextualize how important it is to understand culture and other factors that influence how people learn to speak English.

Understanding education systems that exist throughout the world is also important in approaching education holistically. I’ve had the opportunity to see many different teachers at many different schools and many different approaches to teaching. This was beneficial as I’ve gathered knowledge regarding teaching methods that I would like to implement in my own classrooms.

This experience has helped me realize that I would love to teach abroad, and continue working with children from various diverse cultures. It’s a great learning opportunity for them, and also for me to share our languages, cultures, and experiences!


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Lessons from my Italian students

Ciao a tutti,

As I pack up my belongings in preparation for an early departure from Rome tomorrow morning, I find it hard to believe how quickly these past two months have flown by. This experience has been bellissimo! Beyond some of the obvious perks of living in a country rich in incredible food, wine, history, art, people, etc…I’ve also gained valuable, comparative insight into the nature of education, successful strategies for teaching and learning, and the hurdles at the systemic level that prevent schooling from working better for all students. In Italy, I found many parallels to our Canadian education system, both from the teacher and the student perspective.

One of my most memorable moments was in my final week in a class with students in their fifth and final year of high school. Having taught this class before, I was aware that they had an advanced level of English, and that they enjoyed having serious, intellectual discussions (and on the flip side, tuned out when more superficial topics were dwelled on for too long). Based on my prior experience with the class, I decided to show them an adaptation of a TEDTalk by Ken Robinson where he addresses some of the problematic aspects of contemporary education. I asked the students to watch the video and consider whether they could relate to anything in the video, and how they felt their school experience could be improved.

The discussion that ensued with these students was truly special, and I think will benefit me greatly in a career in education. Many students expressed a strong sentiment that they didn’t feel there was room for their voice, ideas, and opinions within their education—that they felt that they were being taught in such a way where they felt pushed to unquestionably embrace the knowledge of other’s, rather than reflect on and share their own unique responses to this knowledge. Going forward, this has reaffirmed for me how important it is to encourage students to practice critical and abstract thinking, as well as creative problem-solving so that they feel confident in themselves and their ability to confront challenges throughout their lives and in their careers. My conversation with these brilliant young Romans suggested that this is also a critical way of keeping a classroom full of unique individuals engaged in their education.

I look forward to spending my 9-hour flight back to Calgary reflecting more on my experience, and sharing some further takeaways in my final blog.

Grazie mille,

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Parla Inglese?

The situation in Italy with English is very interesting, as they have only recently begun learning English and being engaged with the language. As well, a teacher’s proficiency in English does not have to be very well for her to teach it. This was frustrating for us, as many times we would be put into an English class, but could not communicate with the teacher. We found that although many younger students were enthusiastic about learning the language and speaking with us, it was a bit difficult for them as they lacked a consistent figure in their lives that speaks English fluently. Therefore, in the classrooms, our role as the “mother tongue” English teacher was often emphasized. This was a chance for students to have a conversation with someone who speaks English, and the students were very excited about this! They loved asking us questions ranging from “do you like rice?” to “can you tell us about residential schools in Canada?” (not in the same classroom)!

One of the most eye-opening experiences for me was a girl from Iceland in a grade 5 class I was working with. She did not speak Italian or English, and it was a struggle trying to help her understand. With many of the other students, I was able to use the very little Italian that I know and often their classmates were able to piece together words and help translate. But with the girl from Iceland, the only communication we shared was body language, which is not always enough. With one activity, I translated some key words into Icelandic and she was very excited about that because she did not feel as lost as she usually did. Moving forward, I would like to gain more experience with situations such as this as it is something that I will encounter in my future career.

By the end of this trip, I have found that I was able to carry very simple conversations in Italian (I must emphasize, VERY simple, my most used phrase through this experience was - “Io parlo Italiano un po. Parla Inglese?”). The minimal Italian I had gathered was useful, as there are still many Italians who do not speak a lick of English. However, my experience with the girl from Iceland emphasized that it is important to be able to communicate with others despite language barriers. I also experienced this during a short pitstop I had in Lisbon, Portugal, where I found myself momentarily lost as I could not communicate in either English or Italian. During my time in Italy, I found that I do not want to assume everyone speaks English as I am the one traveling to their land and I should be respectful of their languages and cultures. 

Being in countries where English is not widely spoken has been very enlightening in how I approach languages and conversation. Furthermore, being in classes where we are teaching English as a second language has given me a great experience that I will take with me to my future classrooms and will be beneficial in how I will teach students who are ELLs.

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To the Toe of Italy

Through our work with YMCA Italia, we have been very lucky to participate in a number of special activities. I am so thankful for our liaison, Paola, for everything she has organized for us! She has included Italian language classes, work with various schools in Rome, involvement with the Rome half marathon (which included seeing the mayor, Virginia Raggi, and Pope Francis!), and so much more! I am also thankful for YMCA volunteer, Victoria, in helping us with experiencing the culture of this city.

At the end of September, Paola organized a trip for us to YMCA Siderno in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Huge shout out to Mario from YMCA Siderno for sharing the work that he does with us, and for showing us around the beautiful town! It was very exciting to have the experience to see the work that YMCA is doing with youth in a different area, especially because Siderno is very different from Rome. Whereas Rome is constantly buzzing with residents and tourists and attractions and shopping and birds, Siderno is much quieter. Siderno is a coastal town in a poorer region of Italy, and the YMCA works to help provide the youth with opportunities to succeed. This includes sports, classes, organized events, etc. We were able to see a student in a one-on-one class, which was very beneficial as it seems the YMCA is very convenient for the youth and their families to seek needed assistance. We were also able to see many youth participate in sports, mainly basketball, which helps to build teamwork and a sense of community. It's certainly interesting to see the "power of play" in practice, and the importance of group activities in building up our students.

While in Siderno, we had the chance to relax by the beach. The month of September was a bit of a whirlwind with getting organized in Rome and seeing the chaotic start of the school year so it was very nice to have some down time. Swimming in the beautiful Ionian Sea was such a tranquil experience, well until I felt something bite my leg! Ran out of the water as fast as I could and luckily no skin was pierced. Alas, I suppose I was kissed by a fish in Siderno 

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Rome is a city rich in culture (duh) and it’s hard not to be inspired surrounded by two millenniums worth of art and architecture. We are constantly surrounded by historical moments; the elementary school we teach at was the first public primary school in Rome and the high school is located in a 17th century monastery. Last week we accompanied the high school classes to a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caeasar (Giulio Cesare). The play was held in Rome’s Globe Theatre located in the beautiful Villa Borghese. This theatre is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre in London (which is a reconstruction of the historic Globe Theatre in which Julius Caesar is thought to be the first play performed back in 1599!). It felt like I had travelled back in time as I nestled into the wooden bleachers and looked up through the open roof to the sky! The skies completely opened up during the intermission and rain began to poured through the roof. As it tapered off, the actors took to the stage to begin the second act. It was a pretty neat experience to watch this play through a drizzle of rain as sound effects portrayed thunder and lightning. The dialogue was entirely Italian and I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how the students in my class felt at times… struggling to follow was is happening and rejoicing at catching a comprehendible word or two! 

I am looking forward to discussing with the students their thoughts on the play, and am inspired to plan lessons that are based around a piece of art. I have been looking for English poems that will introduce new vocabulary and spark discussions around themes and deeper meanings. Teaching in a place like this has me considering how lessons can be planned backwards. Instead of trying to find resources that represent the curricular content, it would be neat to start with an interesting resource (a place, book, work of art) and pull outcomes from there.

Here’s to the second half of this wonderful adventure! Salve!

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TAB Italy hits the road!

Hard to believe we’re already well into our second month in Italy! Last weekend, TAB Roma hit the road to the very deep south of the country. Paola, who's coordinating our Italian experience, organized a trip to a small coastal town called Siderno to learn about the different projects taking place at the YMCA down there. The journey involved a lengthy bus ride (8-hours, though surprisingly comfortable) to reach our destination in Italy’s Calabria region. Several hours on the road gave me plenty of time to gaze out at the spectacular scenery and reflect on my time abroad thus far.

A few things that came up during my pensive moments:

  • Flexibility, and a willingness to go with the flow have been essential. Being here at the start of the school year has meant the teachers we’re working with have been navigating some early-term scheduling woes. By taking the twists and turns in stride, I’ve been able to relax and settle into each experience that comes around the corner—including honing my knack for planning English lessons about various topics on the fly.
  • Learning a new language is HARD! Before getting here, I somewhat naively thought that simply immersing myself in the language would enable me to pick it up quickly. In reality, it’s taken significant effort, practice, and vulnerability to start retaining the most basic of phrases in Italian.
  • I’m really appreciating and learning from the Italian pace of life. From what I’ve experienced so far, people here seem to put a little more emphasis on “joie de vivre” versus getting caught up in the rat race. It’s been a nice reminder to slow down, sit back, and take time to enjoy the beautiful things in life (social connections, food, art, etc.).

Upon arrival in Siderno, we enjoyed the hospitality of Mario who runs the local YMCA. During our visit we learned about the work they’re doing to support students with their schoolwork; to get young people involved in sports; to provide accessible childcare; among many other initiatives. We also had the pleasure of enjoying a few swims in the bright blue Ionian sea while we were there—which felt like a great privilege considering I was getting messages from back home with pictures of a torrential snowstorm that was taking place simultaneously in Canmore.

As we roll into our final month of TAB, I’m looking forward to testing out some new lesson ideas with the high school students to keep them engaged—Kahoot might make an appearance next week. I’m also looking forward to taking a trip out to Naples to revisit the seaside and see whether the pizza there is indeed the best in the country/world (as everyone out here has suggested).


Above: TAB + YMCA Siderno


Above: Enjoying evening walks by the sea


Above: View of the coast from Gerace

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First week of teaching in Rome!

After a few weeks of living in Italy, I feel like I’m starting to get into the groove of the Roman pace. I’m loving the area where I'm living—right on the border of two neighbourhoods, Trastevere and Monteverde. A highlight of my local explorations was going for a—much needed—run last weekend in one of Rome's biggest park's called Villa Doria Pamphili. Endless trails wind through the park which is full of beautiful trees, impressive ruins, and a gorgeous seventeenth-century villa that I look forward to scoping out in more depth in the near future.

Now onto business—last week I had my first three days working with students at a local public high school. The school where we're working has two locations and I rotated between both over the course of the week. As school starts in mid-September in Italy, the teachers were still navigating some start-of-the-year timetable changes so our schedule was somewhat improvised day-to-day. We rolled with the punches and all of the English teachers we were supporting were kind and excited to have us there. Their instructions were fairly straightforward—they wanted us to simply engage in conversation with the students and get them practicing English. I was very impressed with the students’ level of English—the older grades were mostly fluent, with the younger grades still able to communicate though it would take longer to pull them out of their shell.

It felt a little intimidating at first to try to spark up a conversation about a random topic in front of 25 teenagers, but the students were thankfully very easy to engage. What kind of topics do Italian teens like to talk about? Food was a big one, and many were curious as to whether Canadians were as nice and polite as they had heard. One student asked whether it was true that Canadians didn’t even lock their doors. They were also excited to talk about the Toronto Raptors, Drake, Canadian politics, and to hear about what our government's relationship to the U.S. and to Italy was like. In return, I got many suggestions for real Roman dishes, and was schooled in inauthentic, North American adaptations of traditional Italian cuisine (do not mention deep dish pizza around here!). I also enjoyed lessons in how to avoid tourist traps, and learned about their passion for politics and commitment to joining the fight against climate change. 

I’ve been so impressed by how kind, open-minded, wise, and curious the students I'm working with are. I believe we’ll be working at these school for the duration of our time in Rome, so I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know the students and faculty and learning about how their approach to education compares to our system at home.

Until next time,

P.S. A few pictures of Rome below...





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Teaching English, Learning Italian

The first three weeks in Italy have been a whirlwind and I now feel like I'm settling into a routine outside of the classroom.... a cappuccino in the morning, an Italian lesson in the afternoon, and alternating between pizza and pasta at night (stay tuned for how long I can guiltlessly keep this up). Everyone will tell you that fresh, authentic Italian food is just “better” but experiencing it first hand is something else!


Learning Italian here has been my first personal experience truly trying to learn a language. I have always found this a challenging task and this experience has given me renewed admiration for those who can speak more than one language! I have also gained perspective on English language learners. We have started teaching high school English and I like to start by telling the students not to feel embarrassed or nervous speaking in English to me, as they are much better with English than I am with Italian! One of the biggest challenges with speaking and listening to Italian for me has been the unfamiliar sounds (such as words with "gli" and "gni"). I have asked the students if they can think of similar challenges they face with English, and they have told be the the "th" sounds are difficult to distinguish (e.g. "through" and "though"). My lessons with the students have mostly been conversational, exchanging questions about our respective countries (where I can interview them on food recommendations); but, I am excited to move into more grammatical and literary topics where I can find out more challenges students may have with learning the English language. I also look forward to the challenge of creating a lesson plan outside of my specialization!


Ciao ciao, 


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Ciao Ciao!

Education around the world varies so greatly and prior to starting this TAB experience, I was very excited to see what schools in a different country would be like. Education in Rome is a slightly different system than Calgary and it has been very interesting to learn about it hands-on. During our time here, we are very lucky to see different schools at different levels in Italy - ranging from preschool to university!

We spent our first two weeks working at a “scuola dell'infanzia” - which is a non-compulsory preschool. The students here ranged from 2 years old to 4 years old, and there were several older students (~10 years old) who stayed there the day as well and helped until their schools start in the second week of September. Being at the preschool was a great experience in seeing the education at Italy from its very roots. It was also tricky because the younger kids didn’t grasp the idea that we spoke a different language and couldn’t understand them. But we still did our best to help them with their English and they helped us with our Italian - “Io sono stanco” means I’m tired!

After our time at the kindergarten, we jumped straight to “scuola secondaria di secondo grado”, which is high school. High schools in Italy are divided based on a focus on different subjects (i.e. science, art, literature, etc.) and we are working with a science based high school. So far, we mainly remained in English classes (except for the time that I, an elementary ELA teacher, taught order of operations in a Math class) and unfortunately have been unable to see the specific focus on the sciences. Hopefully as we remain at the school, we will be able to widen our experience there. One of the most interesting things I have seen in the high school so far is that the students are so knowledgable regarding the history of Italy and they are very proud of this history. Many students I spoke with recommended that I see the Colosseo and experience the history of Ancient Rome.

This week, we will be starting at a “scuola primaria”, which is elementary school. I’m so excited for the opportunity to see how elementary school differs from the other level schools in Italy, and how it differs from schools in Canada. As this is the age range I am hoping to work with in the future, I am especially interested to see how this experience at an Italian elementary school will help prepare me for the future!

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Settling into Rome

Ciao a tutti from beautiful and HOT Rome, Italy! I had all intentions of writing a blog post shortly after arriving in my new city but the first week flew by!

I’ll admit that I underestimated the impact of navigating jet-lag, the streets of a new place, and a busy schedule of various introductions to the education system in Italy. It’s taken me a solid several days and a brief recharge in Montepulciano over the weekend (a stunning Tuscan town) to start to settle into my experience abroad.

In the middle of week two, I’m feeling more grounded in Rome and ready to soak in the many different education-related experiences that Paola and the amazing volunteers at the YMCA (thank you Victoria!) have organized for us. Some of the highlights thus far include:

  • Taking Italian classes each morning at a local NGO alongside students from all corners of the globe;
  • Navigating language barriers while getting to know some lively 2 & 3 year-olds in the afternoons at a local pre-school;
  • Enjoying mind-blowing (and cheap!) pizza at least once per day—how will I ever go back to a lesser frequency?

Up ahead we’re going to be starting a placement at public high schools in Rome where we’ll be working with English teachers to support students with their learning. I’m looking forward to continuing to settle into the city and meeting with a range of people who work in education to understand the Italian/Roman approach and how it differs and relates to Canadian systems.

Until next time!



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Getting Ready for Rome

Although I have been in Rome for several days now, I feel as if I am still on “vacation mode.” I have been traveling these past three weeks, and it’s been hard to come back to the reality that I have to start doing work related to the TAB program and our online courses. Writing this blog post in my apartment in Trastevere, a beautiful neighborhood in Rome, is helping me come to the realization that I am lucky enough to be doing all that work in this incredible city.

Prior to starting my official TAB adventures in Rome, I spent twenty days exploring other cities in Italy and parts of Europe. For the first and last five days of my trip, I was traveling solo. I have never travelled on my own before, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. Having the freedom and independence to see and do exactly what I want allowed me to travel in a way completely optimized for myself. For the ten days in the middle though, I was able to travel with my family. Travels are well enjoyed with company, and I found that sharing this experience with those close to me was great. My time before I started TAB was so memorable, and each of the places I visited hold such a special place in my heart.

Traveling to many different places was also an eye-opening experience on cultural differences. I was so amazed by how different the people, customs, attitudes, etc were between people from different countries and even cities. Being away from home makes me realize just how much of Canada is in my personality and mannerisms. I feel as if I am so different from the people in Europe, when I know that truly we are very similar and it’s just a matter of understanding their cultural norms.

We’ve only done two days of the TAB program so far, but I am so excited by what we have done so far and greatly anticipate what is to come! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to see Italian education at various levels and to work with students through different platforms.

As the great Italian historian, Elizabeth McGuire, once said: "Hey now, this is what dreams are made of."

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Rome Like Home

I gave notice to my summer job that my last day would be Monday, giving me four days and three nights to pack and run last minute errands. My to-do list had piled up with things that "I'll have a whole week to do!" I am crossing off the last item, "Pre-Departure Blog" from that list as we speak (T-4 hours to flight time).


In between brunches with friends and dinners with family, I have managed to stock up on toiletries, pick up Euro cash, and contact my phone company to determine the cost of a daily "Roam Like Home" plan for my first couple days in the new city. As much as I had felt like I was preparing for my Italian adventure over the whole summer, it now feels like the majority of my pre-departure preparation has occurred in the dying hours of this past week. These next two months will be mark the longest I have spent away from home and I have found packing different from any other trip. Usually, I would bring the bare essentials; but, now I am considering what clothing options I might need, and what home comforts I will miss the most. Extra items have made their way into my suitcase; a cleansing face mask, photographs of loved ones, and a not entirely necessary pair (or three) of shoes. 


People have asked me about my upcoming travels, and the conversation has focused on the monuments I'll see, the food I'll eat, and the history I'll learn about. When I think about it, I am most excited by the relationships I'll build with colleagues and students from a  different walk of life than my own. Although I am lucky to have experienced Italian customs in Canada growing up with my Nonno Vecchio and Nonna Vecchia, I long to fully immerse myself in the country where half of my roots are planted. Through my eagerness to explore old heritages and new relationships, I expect to be leaving a piece of my heart in Rome. As they say, "Home is where the heart is" and I hope to make Rome Like Home



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Bittersweet Goodbyes

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

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

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

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

Positano, Amalfi Coast - an absolutely magical place. 

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

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

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

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

Grade 6 silly pic. 

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Halo/Buon Giorno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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