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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.

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The four of us at a Temple in Bali

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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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Overcoming Distance in Kalgoorlie

Hi Readers,

This week I had the pleasure of visiting Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie is a small town of 30, 000 people located 600 km east of Perth, my first time visiting the Australian Outback. To get there we rented a vehicle and set out driving on the left side of the road. The drive was straight and flat with many kangaroos and emus who had met unfortunate ends on such a busy highway. The view was of low brush and shrubs mixed in with taller trees, all growing from red dirt.

The first school we visited was the School of the Air. This is a base station to connect students from K-6 who live in very remote areas of the Australian Outback to teachers and learning staff. Students receive term packages with all the resources they will need for that term, this includes novels, booklets, art supplies, math manipulatives, and even science equipment, the students then return the package along with their completed work at the end of the term. Every morning students ‘attend’ an online meeting that begins with the school’s catchy and official song. Students and teachers interact through microphones and by digitally raising their hands to indicate they would like to speak. All comments conclude with a cheeky “over!”. Throughout the morning students attend lessons with their teachers, whether this be social studies or even music. The afternoon is spent working on assignments.

I was very curious about life for the students who live so remotely, I quickly learned how they create fun learning spaces and communities in their homes. Most students live at base camps, which are large farms, someone described them as similar to North American Ranches. The distances from Kalgoorlie range from 2 hours to over 14 hours away. Students often have school rooms located within their homes and wear school uniforms (a polo shirt) on the weekdays to help separate their home and school life. A live-in tutor, sometimes one of their parents, attend a week-long training session at the beginning of each term to learn how to support students and stay in contact with teachers. To build community students still participate in dress up days and attend camp. Camp happens at the end of the term where all students stay in dorms in Kalgoorlie and spend time interacting and learning with their peers and teachers. Teachers also spend week long visits at students’ homes where they check in and support learning as well as build relationships and start to understand each student's unique world. The School of the Air and it’s students have found the key to overcoming distance.

 

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School Uniforms?

School Uniforms, a debated topic in Canada but rarely seen or worn. Here in Australia there are uniforms as far as the eye can see, from large school groups on field trips to kids using public transit on their way home from school. I have always had lots of questions about school uniforms, do they encourage conformity and suppress creativity? Are they itchy and uncomfortable? Would it make getting ready in the morning much easier? Would I focus less on outer appearance if everyone was wearing the same outfit as me? Would your closet look like that of a cartoon character with all the same clothes?  Luckily being here in Perth has provided some answers.   

Here is brief overview. The first record of school uniforms being worn is 1552. Uniforms can be regarded as promoting social equality among students and an esprit de corps (morale), but have also been criticized for promoting a form uniformity characteristic of militarism (Wikipedia, 2018).

Breakdown of the types of uniforms I have seen depending on the school:

Very Casual: Wind breakers/letterman jackets and your choice of shorts

Casual: Button shirts or polos and black slacks

Dressy: Blazers (sometimes plaid), ties, dress shorts or skirt, and school colored knee socks

Gym: Collared shirt with school logo, athletic shorts, white socks, and sometimes windbreakers

Even shoes are required to be the same at some schools; black leather, closed toed, and always worn with socks or tights. The uniforms seem to be designated by grade, all following the school’s colors. Year 6 might have button shirts and sweater vests, while Year 11 wear more formal blazers. The uniforms change depending on time of year to better suit the weather. The odd time I have seen students in school wear their own clothes was ‘free dress’ day which happens once per term. Students could wear whatever clothes they liked as long as they brought a donation for that month’s charity. I am sure all schools have different policies if students are not wearing their uniforms. One school called the parents to bring an extra, if this was not an option the school would provide a spare uniform for the day. The consensus from speaking with students is that they dont mind and some even enjoy wearing their uniforms. They sometimes find the winter uniform itchy and a little uncomfortable but they don’t miss the freedom of choosing their own clothing. Most students have a few of each clothing item for each season in their closet and rotate through before washing. 

 Nurses, mailpersons, and flight attendants of the world, I can now see the appeal!   

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#2: Scottish Highland Games in Oz?

This week we had the opportunity to spend three days at an all-boys private school. The school is K-12 and is split into Junior School (K-5), Middle School (6-8), and Senior School (9-12). The campus is massive and is built into a hill, so it has terraces. The High School, swimming pool and theatre sit on the top of the hill, the Middle School just below it, the Primary School below that, and then the huge sporting fields at the bottom. We were placed in the Middle School with the year 6s (AKA grade 6) and the first two days we spent in the classroom with the students. We got to see them completing end of term assessment tasks for different subjects, and we got to see various options like music, drama, and art. Today was the last day of term so it was a special day – the Highland Games.

The school has historical ties to Scotland and this is reflected in different aspects. For example the boys are separated into different houses (like Hogwarts), the school has a pipe band, and they put on these Highland Games at the end of the 3rd term for the Middle School boys. The games opened with a bag pipe performance from 8 boys, and then there were 9 events. These events were tug-of-war, sack race, spear throw, stone throw, hay bale run, kilt run, skipping, foot stepping, and welly throw (literally throwing a rubber boot). The boys were dressed up in their house colours and were able to get their faces painted (like William Wallace), and the teachers all wore kilts. Everyone seemed to be having a great time which was really great to see. There was lots of friendly competition and comradery amongst the boys. It was definitely a great way to end the term.

These past three days were such a great opportunity. The students were so well behaved, and they were really fun to be around! They had lots of questions for us about Canada and the staff was also extremely welcoming. I really enjoyed my time at this school!

MacKenzi and I giving it our all in the sack race

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First Classroom Experiences in Perth!

This week I had the opportunity to visit Success Primary School here in Perth. I was put in a year 2/3 class of nine students in Inclusive Ed. The class consisted of eight boys and one girl, with four educational assistants and one teacher. I was told that Success had a high number of students that attend this school in Inclusive Ed, and that despite their attempts to try to integrate all these students into mainstream classrooms, it was difficult for some of the high needs students to make progress in that setting due to their needs and all the stimuli that can come from a large classroom full of people. Because of this, these students are placed in a separate classroom with a higher adult to student ratio, where more focus can be put on the student and their learning. After being in the classroom for the one day, I was able to understand the difficulties that would come up if all 9 students were placed into a classroom of 20+ other students.

The time I spent in this classroom was short, but I really enjoyed being in such a small class, as I haven’t had much experience in one, apart from an observational half day experience in Field I. Most of the students in this classroom had autism, though you wouldn’t be able to tell right away, while a few were none verbal and needed more direct supervision. It takes a lot of patience and strength to be in one of these classrooms, but I think that the end result is so worth it after seeing students enjoying themselves and having fun in their learning. 

The day went by pretty quickly, focusing on reading and matching, as well as doing some math games focusing on addition. We then took a bus ride over to the shopping centre for lunch, which my class does every Tuesday. Here they do different activities, such as helping the teacher shop for classroom materials, learning how to check items out, visiting the post office, and just enjoying lunch in a different environment, all while practicing some basic life skills and mannerisms. When we got back to the school, I was able to visit their sensory room, which is something that I have yet to see, and it was interesting to see how it really calmed one of the boys down.

I think that it would be such a great experience to spend more time in a classroom like the one I visited at Success Primary. I know it may be tough, but there is so much joy in being able to see students progress throughout the year. The EA’s were quick to tell me that it can be hard at times for them, but at the end of the day, they really felt like they were making a difference, especially when they would look at their students today compared to the beginning of the year (which is usually late January to early February)!

This is only the second school visit we've had here in Australia, and I can't wait for the upcoming school visits for the rest of our time here! 

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Isn't Australia supposed to be warm?

After a very exciting weekend in the Gold Coast, I have finally made it to Perth and have slowly started to get acquainted in our accomodation. It is very cold in our apartment! We are all wrapped up in blankets as we do our homework.

This week so far, we have visited two very different schools. On Tuesday, we went to an elementary school that hasa specialized program for children with special needs. We each got to work in a different classroom with children that have a variety of special needs. The school had a separate play area for students who required more assistance at recess time as well as those students who did not feel comfortable integrating with the rest of the students. Our contact at the school mentioned that they tried to include the children with special needs into the mainstream classrooms but it was too much of a challenge as the needs of each student was so diverse. The special needs classes were much smaller than the mainstream classes and the number of assistances per classroom varried depending on the students. It was a really neat experience because the teachers had so many different resources to keep the students engaged and excited about learning. I found that the teacher I was working with used a lot of music and songs to teach different subjects. The students knew all the words and movements that made up each song. They were learning without even realizing it! I also really liked how the teacher led the students through a relaxation sequence after lunch and playtime. The students were so worked up and stimulated after playtime that this was a great way to calm them down and get them focued on the next task. 

It has been a really fun and exciting week in these schools. Although there is no language barrier, the students like to try and talk wtih a Canadian accent! It has been so much fun interacting with different students and sharing our cultures. I am looking forward to a two week spring break and coming back to work in some more schools!

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Preparing for Perth!

My name is MacKenzi and I am a second year education student headed to Perth with the Teaching Across Borders program. I, along with three other girls will be staying in the accomodations at Murdoch University. They are already all there and settled in. Lucky them! I will have a bit of a unique experience as I will be arriving in Perth one week after the start of the program. First, I am headed to Brisbane to compete in a triathlon. I have so much to look forward to as I prepare for my journey across the ocean for both of these amazing opportunities. I have always been a big traveller and interested in different cultures around the world. I am always planning my next trip and researching new places to go. I know how important it is to travel with an open mind. The greatest lessons happen when I am pushed out of my comfort zone. So, I am travelling to Perth without any expectations and am teaching myself that it is OK to feel uncomfortable.

This will be my first trip to Australia and I expect that it will be far from dissapointing. I am so excited to be placed in a new school every week and expand my practice. I know that I have so much to learn and I am ready for all that the teachers and students have to offer.  Although we will be entering these schools as teachers, I see myself as a student. I want to embrace the differences between the Australian and Canadian school systems and expand on the similarities.

The countdown is on with only two days until my flight! I am getting so anxious, I can already smell the ocean! Pictures to come when I get over there.   

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First Few Days in Australia

Hello!

My name is Nicole and I am excited to have made it to Perth. I first arrived in Melbourne on August 28 and stayed for a week. While there I visited many museums, shopped in the arcades, walked around the botanical gardens, and took a trip out to Phillip Island. At Phillip Island, I was able to watch the penguins make their way back to their homes after a busy view days on the ocean as well as feed some kangaroos at an animal sanctuary. Melbourne is a very busy city where the cafes and restaurants outnumber the people residing there. For this reason, I was more than ready for an escape from the city life with a day trip on the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road is a war memorial that spans 243 km along the south-eastern coast of Australia. This was my first chance to see rural Australia and it was beautiful. While on the drive we stopped at a rainforest, many small ocean towns, and some breathtaking lookout points.  I look forward to more flat white coffee, an Aussie staple.     

After a week in Melbourne I flew to Perth where I met up with three of the four tab girls I will be staying with; it was comforting to see some familiar faces. We have since moved into our place and are getting settled at the University of Murdoch residence. We had the opportunity to walk around campus and it is very similar to U of C with a gym, student centres, lecture rooms, and studying spaces. I am really looking forward to my time here in Perth and in the surrounding Indigenous schools. This is such a great opportunity and I hope to learn more about the Australian friendly and laid back way of life!

The photo below is of the Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

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Hello from Perth!

Hello! My name is Sheila and I’m in my fifth and final year of the concurrent BEd program participating in Teaching Across Borders.

After a week of some solo travel around Sydney and Perth, Australia, I’ve finally been able to settle down and fully unpack at the Murdoch University Village in Perth for the next two months! Sitting in the Student Hub of the university, I can’t believe that the fall semester is starting and that this will be my final year. It’s still surreal to know that I’m in Australia with TAB, so here’s a few of the reasons why I chose to participate in TAB and what I hope I learn from it by the end of my trip.

  1. Ever since I was younger, I always knew I wanted to get into the field of Education to teach elementary kids. It was my long term goal and dream to be able to travel abroad to teach in different countries in order to learn more about the different cultures and backgrounds that people have around the world. With TAB, I’m able to kick off that dream in Australia!
  2. Tying into the first point, I love to travel and TAB has given me the opportunity to travel to a different country while also being able to finish my degree and do something I’m passionate about.
  3. Again, tying into my previous point, TAB has given me the opportunity to do something else that I’ve always wanted to do – travel solo! These past few days of solo travel have been a nice time to do things that I want to do in my own time, such as be a tourist and sight see, as well as relax and reflect, while enjoying the time I have before classes and TAB start. Participating in TAB also gives me the chance to learn to live away from home and grow.
  4. Who I am as a teacher. By the end of TAB, I hope to learn more about myself, as well as what kind of teacher I’ll be. I know it’s hard to predict who you’ll become, as everyone is constantly changing, but I hope to understand more about what kind of teaching style I’d like to have, as well as give me a better idea of how I’d like to approach field experience when the time comes in November.

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Here's a picture I took at Murdoch University promoting the School of Education!

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#1: Adventure Time

Hello readers!

I have never blogged before, so here goes nothing. My name is Maya and I am a second-year student in the education after-degree program. I am extremely fortunate and thankful to have this Teaching Across Borders opportunity in Perth! I have been travelling around Australia for the past two weeks with my family. I have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, spent a few days on Fraser Island, explored the outback (Uluru and Kata Tjuta), driven up the Gold Coast, enjoyed the beaches and rainforests, visited Brisbane, and now I am currently in Sydney. It has been an amazing and unforgettable experience so far and I am so excited for my adventures to continue in Perth!

When I first heard about the TAB program, I was instantly interested. My family loves to travel, so throughout my life I have been very lucky to have travelled to many countries. This has fostered my love for exploring new places and experiencing new cultures. I have also always been interested in the idea of living abroad however the thought of being so far away from home and my family has always curbed that idea. When I learned that the TAB program was only a 2-month exchange, I felt that was the perfect amount of time! I immediately knew I wanted to go to Perth when I heard that there was a possibility of seeing an Indigenous school. I know the Indigenous people here are a marginalized group, similar to our Indigenous groups in Canada. Throughout my courses from my first year of the after-degree, we have had many discussions regarding Indigenous students and creating authentic lessons that could include Indigenous practices. From this TAB experience I am really hoping to gain some insights, ideas, and strategies for working with Indigenous youth, and bringing that into my practice when I come home to Calgary.

I’m excited to see what adventures and experiences I'll have over the next two months! 

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Here is a picture of me and Yoshi the koala! 

 

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Final Post: Home from Perth, Australia!

Hello Ning blog readers,

I am writing from Canada! It is crazy to think that only a few days ago I was across the world. The jet lag has been more intense than I was anticipating, but I am slowly adjusting. It is difficult to articulate exactly what this experience has meant for me, but I can say with confidence that I’m glad I decided to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s amazing to think how much I did in the span of three months, both in regards to teaching and traveling.

My final two weeks in Australia were amazing. I traveled to a small town south of Perth to visit an exclusively Indigenous school, and it was an eye-opening experience. Most of the students do not live in the town, but get bussed in for days or weeks at a time. Many of them come from a difficult home life and enter the formal education system with little or no preparation. Though there were behavioural issues with some of the students, the majority of them were well-behaved and thrilled to have a visitor in the class. Many of them have physical delays so they start their morning with a half hour physical routine that includes stretching, balance, strength and meditation. The teacher said that the difference she’s seen over a couple of months from using that program have been phenomenal. I definitely intend to incorporate physical breaks into my classroom time, because that type of activity is just as important as traditional school work.

My final week in Australia was spent at a small independent school in a small surf town three hours south of Perth (Margaret River). They have classes for pre-school to grade 7, and there are less than 100 students attending. I found this school fascinating because of their focus on “virtues”- things like compassion, assertiveness, diligence, and truthfulness (there is a list of over 50 virtues; I will attach a picture). They focus on one of these per week. They also do not use a typical reward/punishment system, instead using a “natural consequences” system. E.g., if you draw on the wall, the natural consequence is that you have to clean it up. The school is also surrounded by nature, as it is ten minutes outside of the town. They have class-tended flowers and vegetables growing throughout the school grounds, and they have a designated nature trail where they do plant and insect studies. I can’t exaggerate how much I enjoyed my time at this school. I have filed away many of the practices I saw here for future use in my classroom.

Overall, my experience abroad in Perth was amazing. I got to observe and teach in many different schools, each with their own unique approach to education. I learned something at every stop I made, and have made sure to record every piece that I want to take forward with me in my career. Although I had an incredible experience, I am relieved to be back home with my family and friends. The time difference between Canada and Australia was large, so it feels good to be in the same place and time zone as everyone again (even though there’s approximately a 40 degree drop in temperature between Perth and Calgary). I am excited to start my practicum with grade 2, and am looking forward to the holidays as well.

I will miss Australia, and can’t wait to go back someday. The value of studying and teaching abroad cannot be overstated, and I encourage anyone considering it to go for it. It is an experience that you will remember forever, and you will learn so much about yourself and gain so much knowledge that will help you in your future career. For me, it is on to the next chapter, but I know this will not be my last teaching exchange. Now that I have the confidence to travel on my own and put myself in new situations, I can look forward to a future full of more opportunities like TAB.

That’s all for now. Thanks to anyone who has been keeping up with my blog! I look forward to reading everyone’s posts from this year and from future years! As promised, a few pictures from the small independent school in Margaret River: 

Class-tended gardens:

Nature trail: 

List of virtues: 

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Two weeks left in Perth!

Hello everyone! These past few weeks have been incredible, but very busy! I travelled to Brisbane and Cairns for more adventures over the school break, and have been having even more adventures back in Perth. However, I continue to appreciate this experience for what it is offering me with regards to my future teaching career, and I have not been disappointed by my opportunity to visit a diverse array of schools in Perth. This past week I spent at an inclusive education school, which has some classrooms that are for students with special needs only, and some classrooms where special needs students are fully integrated into regular classrooms.

The whole of my first day was spent in a kindergarten special education classroom. One of the teaching assistants told me that she hoped I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the students, because some visitors do feel that way- but on the contrary, I fell in love with the class almost immediately. After just one day, I felt like I had formed positive relationships with the students as well as a deep respect for all of the special education teachers out there, and for all teachers who work hard every day to create inclusive classrooms and differentiate their teaching strategies to suit the needs of all students.

There was a strong focus on play in this school, and on positive teacher-student relationships. The atmosphere there was warm and fun, though the teachers still clearly knew when to “use their teacher voice,” and the students responded to it. Being in this school reminded me how much joy I get from working with kids, particular younger kids. As such, it has made me even more excited for my upcoming practicum in Calgary with grade 2 students.

It’s hard to believe that there are only two weeks left of TAB. I feel like I have grown so much personally and professionally, and have had so much fun, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss Canada. Part of me doesn’t want to leave, but I am ready to start the next chapter of my life and career. This upcoming week will include a day trip to an Indigenous school outside of Perth. I anticipate that it will be a very valuable and unique experience.

Thanks for reading! Here are some highlights of my past few weeks:

 Great Barrier Reef round 2! Love these big guys:

Daintree Rainforest with my amazing boyfriend who came all the way from Canada to visit me!

Rottnest Island, Western Australia: home to the happy quokkas!

One of many ultra friendly quokkas interested in my ice cream!

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Schools in Perth!

Hello Ning Blog readers!

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

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

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

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

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

I love teaching. Til next time,

Tracy

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Introduction to beautiful Perth!

Hello again, Ning blog readers!

I am coming up on two weeks here in Perth, Australia! These weeks I’ve spent meeting my liaison and other faculty members at Murdoch University as well as sitting in on Master of Teaching courses (the equivalent teaching program to our after-degree program), an Education faculty meeting, and a PD session titled Future Steps: Future Classrooms. I was also lucky enough to attend an event at a school in the city where a group of students from two different rural Indigenous schools were visiting. This group of students were part of a larger group that had written, illustrated, and published a book as part of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s Community Literacy Project. (More info here: https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/community-literacy-programs). We had the pleasure of reading their book and others published by Indigenous students, watch some music videos the students made, and visit the school’s excellent STEM center (complete with laser cutters and a 3D printer).

I could talk for a very long time about these first two weeks, as they have made me think very hard about what I’m looking forward to these next two months, but I will try to summarize some main thoughts I’ve had. Early on in my visit, I made a point to visit the Education building at Murdoch University. I was intrigued to find this set of values displayed along the walkway. Many of these values will be familiar to us from Canada, but I found this list to be quite an eloquent summary. They are:

-        Leading the curriculum - motivating and engaging learners creatively

-        Linking cultures, learning together

-        Innovating with new teaching technologies

-        Diversified teaching experiences: local and international

-        Elite athlete program for health and physical education

-        Growing minds, changing lives

-        Education, the foundation of wellbeing

Stay tuned for how these values might play out in schools here!

Switching gears a bit, my liaison gave me a copy of an article titled 3rd Culture Schools: International Schools as Creative Catalysts for a New Global Education System (Hallgarten, Tabberer, & McCarthy, 2015). This piece explores how international schools have changed over the past century, and what this means for the future of the Education system. They suggest that in a world that is increasingly globalized and technological, international schools may be the key to bridging the gaps in our current global Education system in order to improve learning outcomes for everyone. They say international schools “have the potential to become a powerful creative community with a cause; a cause that goes beyond any individual institution, but supports system-wide educational transformation” (Hallgarten, Tabberer, & McCarthy, 2015, p. 13). They have some excellent suggestions as to how this may be done, but I will leave it to yourselves to read if you are interested via the following link: https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/third-culture-schools-international-schools-as-creative-catalysts-for-a-new-global-education-system

How does this relate to TAB? I think in this day and age, having an experience with education on an international level, whether as a student or a teacher (or, in our lucky cases, both) opens your eyes to just how interconnected a world we have become, and may help prepare you for it. A globalized world presents us with unlimited potential, but it also brings us a myriad of challenges. Never before have we experienced so much change so quickly, and it is up to us as educators to prepare our students for the complex world they will be thrown into. The values of resilience, adaptability, creativity, lifelong learning and citizenship have always been important, but even more so now in an international context. Education today is less about teaching things, and more about teaching students the values, skills and competencies they will need to be socially and environmentally conscious, successful citizens of the world. As we know, the students of today will create the future of tomorrow, so a big part of our job is to challenge them to consider what kind of a world they’d like to live in, and how they can make it happen.

If you’d like, let me know what you think in the comments! That’s all for now. This week, I will enter into my first public primary school classroom in Perth. The week after that will be spent at a private school for boys, where they are finishing up their term with their annual Highland Games event.

I will conclude this post with a few photos from Perth, just for fun! This city is beautiful, diverse, and rich in art and culture. 

 

- Perth Cultural Centre, complete with Western Australia's State Library, two art museums, a performing arts theater, and a developing museum, among many other things. (Government of Western Australia, 2017)

- Garden within Perth Cultural Centre

- Fremantle's cappuccino street- a place for history, chocolate, and- you guessed it- cappuccinos. 

- Fremantle ocean views

References: 

Government of Western Australia. (2017). Perth Cultural Centre. Retrieved from https://www.mra.wa.gov.au/projects-and-places/perth-cultural-centre

Hallgarten, J., Tabberer, R., & McCarthy, K. (2015). 3rd Culture Schools: International Schools as Creative Catalysts for a New Global Education System. Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Retrieved from https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/third-culture-schools-international-schools-as-creative-catalysts-for-a-new-global-education-system

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Introduction to Amazing Australia!

Greetings, Ning blog readers!

My name is Tracy and I will be participating in the Teaching Across Borders 2017 program in Perth, Australia! I am beginning this very special first blog post as I fly to Perth from Cairns, the tropical Northern tip of Queensland, Australia. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the past five weeks touring around New Zealand and up the East Coast of Australia with my best friend, a fellow Elementary school teacher. As she reluctantly boards her flight back to the Great White North, I continue my adventure to Murdoch University, where I will be staying for the duration of the program. The pilot has informed us that the temperature in Perth is a cool 22 degrees. Not bad for the end of Australia’s winter season, if you ask me.

I could not be more excited to begin the Teaching Across Borders program. I have met so many amazing people and seen so many amazing things on this trip already, and I know Perth will bring so much more. Though I’ve had a blast these past few weeks, the TAB program is the whole reason I’m “Downunder”, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I applied for the TAB program because I believe in the value of international experiences for every career path, and for education in particular. I believe nothing influences a society more than education, and thus as teachers we have the power to shape the future as well as the responsibility to ensure we do so from an open and informed perspective. The importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and being exposed to other countries, cultures and education systems is crucial to mastering the art of diversified and inclusive education.

In Perth, I may not be exposed to culture shock or a language barrier as some others in the TAB program will be, but there will be no shortage of diverse experiences for me. Included in my placements in Western Australia are Indigenous schools (with the option of travelling quite far from Perth - details to come), a private school with a Highland Games experience, an inclusive education school, and a school with an intensive language centre that prepares students in exceptional circumstances (e.g., refugees) for integration into the school system. I will also have the privilege of sitting in on Murdoch University Education courses and professional development sessions. I look forward to sharing as much as I possibly can about my experiences on this blog, and to reading about everyone else’s experiences!

To conclude this post, I would like to share some highlights of my trip thus far (classroom-friendly fun facts included). I hope you enjoy them, and get a chance to experience them yourselves one day!

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Sydney, Australia! Did you know the Sydney Opera House exceeded their original 7 million dollar estimate by 95 million dollars!? 

Whale watching at Gold Coast, Australia! These humpback whales travel all the way from the Arctic Ocean to mate and have their babies in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean on Australia’s Eastern coast.

Fraser Island: the world’s largest island made entirely of sand! The SS Maheno shipwreck has been there since 1935 when it was hit by a cyclone. 

Magnetic Island: the perfect place to spot koalas and echidnas in the wild. Echidnas make up 4/5 species of mammals that lay eggs! (Can you guess the other?) 

Hiking in the Taranaki region of New Zealand, where the mountains are active volcanoes!! Also the perfect place for Lord of the Rings fans to get a view of Mount Doom. 

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That's all, folks! Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more from Perth.

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Till next time Australia!

2 months. I’m still so often in disbelief that I had the wonderful opportunity to call this place home for 2 months. Moreover, it astonishes me how quickly this place felt like home. During my time here I’ve learned an enormous amount of what it means to be a teacher and a life-long learner. Coming here and taking a leap of faith was a big step for me and I can confidently say it’s ignited a fire for teaching abroad. I’ve appreciated the challenge for my professional life as a teacher but also the challenge to my personal life. Moving in with people you barely know is a daunting task but I am so thankful my roommates made my time here full of adventure and laughter (to the point where we would be gasping for breath).

Our coordinator worked very hard to give us a taste of the wide variety of schools that Perth has to offer. I’m thankful that she took the time to make us feel so welcome! This truly is a wonderful and life-changing program. I would encourage any student to seriously consider taking part!

Looking back I remember how full of anxiety I was to leave home, but now I’m full of the same anxiety to leave my new home. There are hundreds of things I will miss about this place, from the trendy Fremantle Markets to the stylish Perth CBD, and everything authentically Australian in between. I know I’ve only just scratched the surface on what this beautiful place has to offer and I look forward to the day I can return and share this place with loved ones. I’ve made a lifetime of memories here and am looking forward to sharing all the funny, embarrassing and down-right cringe-worthy stories from our travels. 

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Farewell Australia

It seems surreal that not so long ago I was frightened, full of anxiety, yet trembling with excitement to leave the familiarity of home to embark on my first solo traveling adventure that would eventually see me in Perth. We've finished our last day in classrooms today and in only four days I'll be stepping back onto a plane. While overjoyed to be back in Canada the emotions I experience when I think about leaving Australia are far too familiar. Another place my heart will call home.My time here has seen many ups and downs yet out of every down I come out more flexible, confident, and capable of facing adversity. As with any traveling experience, participating in TAB has truly shown me that as much as you plan and have a way set in mind for how something should develop or turn out, you can only control so much and there will always be uncertainty that you don't anticipate. This notion has previously only had figurative meaning to me but now I see it for real, it's a frame of mind that I now carry embedded in my being. Similar to how we are constantly told the 'good' qualities of a teacher are to be flexible, adaptable, accommodating, etc. understanding what they mean doesn't authentically happen until you've experienced something that challenges your previous perception of them.My experiences in the five diverse schools that that we have visited did not see me teach but I am evermore grateful for having learned about what I have just shared, realizing the types of learning environments that I do and do not want to teach in, and for all of the students who have left a footprint on my teacher heart. I may have not taught as was expected and therefore sometimes feel that I am not walking away with more tangible knowledge, I know that my understanding of education and teaching has been enriched. I know this because of the depth and understanding that I notice within my conversations with other teachers, peers, and group members where three months ago I wouldn't have been able to carry out the same dialogue. I look forward to days where I will reflect on my time here in Australia, when something I observed here becomes applicable to that moment in time. I believe that education is universal, in the sense that despite all of the differences in education systems across the world there are going to be parts from one that impact and influence parts of another. Something negative that happened here for example may influence how I approach a similar situation in my future teaching.In every experience there are uncertainties, struggles, and the unexpected. I am thankful for every part of my experience that has be this way for they shine light on all the wonderful, thrilling, and satisfying moments. An experience that will live within me for a lifetime!
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Oh, All The Places You'll Go!

It’s hard to believe our Australian adventure is beginning to wind down when it feels like we only just began. For our final placement, we are going to a local community primary school that has a high indigenous population. This school compared to the others we’ve seen during our time here seems more ordinary in that it was strikingly similar to schools we visited in our first practicum in Canada. Keeping that in mind it's always amazing to see kids interacting with each other and with their teachers in schools. 

Something that really resonates with me is how for a lack of a better word de-sensitized you get when you’re in an environment for long enough. My first time in a primary class almost a year ago I was nervous and full of jitters but now I feel calm and excited to interact with students and helping them learn. Even in my last placement in the education support classroom, my first week was full of surprises and new experiences, but by the second week everything seemed routine and I was surprised how comfortable I felt working with the kids so quickly. My time here if anything speaks to the importance of flexibility and being able to adapt to new environments quickly. As a teacher, you have 20-30 kids depending on you to be ready and supportive from the first day of school to the last, so it’s your responsibility to be prepared to do so straight away. I think that will be my biggest take away from this adventure, and it is a skill I will continue to develop during my time as a teacher.

Reflecting on the past two months here it still astounds me that right now I’m across the world in Australia participating in this program as opposed to sitting in a lecture theater. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to have been given this opportunity. I know from being here there are skills and experiences that I would never be able to get from home. My time here and my growing love for traveling and exploring are making me eagerly anticipate my next adventure! 

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