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2 Weeks in Hamburg

Hallo again from Germany! 

Let me just begin by saying how much I LOVE Hamburg. This city is so fun, vibrant, diverse, and beautiful! They call Hamburg the 'Venice of the North' and it is not hard to see why. There is water everywhere. You can easily spend the day cruising around the Alster, smaller canals, or smaller lakes around the city. Although I have only been living here for 2 weeks, I feel very settled into my new 'home'. My buddy from the University of Hamburg has been so helpful and has helped me feel like a local by showing me around the city, taking me to local spots, introducing me to her friends, and inviting me to events such as an outdoor movie on the Alster.

It has also been wonderful observing and reflecting on the similarities and differences between Canadian and German

high schools. I have noticed a lot of big differences such as bilingual learning, and interdisciplinary subject content. Some examples are how students in the Bilingual program are instructed in English, but are often asked to translate what they have learned into German, make English-German vocabulary lists, and the use of textbooks and resources which are primarily English, but also use German mini-texts, vocabulary, and occasional instructional boxes. I believe this kind of bilingual learning is very beneficial to the students because as they are learning in English and expanding their academic English vocabulary, they are also learning in German at the same time. I have also noticed that the English classes are very interdisciplinary, and not at all similar to what I have experienced taking language electives in Canadian high schools. For example, the students are not only studying grammar and vocabulary, but rather the English classes look more similar to a humanities class where they study literature, global issues, economics, and politics (while also studying grammar and learning vocabulary). It is very interesting to observe this, as the students learn so much vocabulary because of the topics that they are studying. In one class I have been observing, the students are doing a unit on 'figure and famine'. Here they study eating disorders and why someone might develop an eating disorder, the differences in diet across various countries, and industralizion and importing/exporting. Here, the students were learning vocabulary related to all of these topics, but also discussed deeper topics which made their learning more meaningful and relevant to them. Another thing I LOVE about the school is how it is surrounded by trees and all of the classrooms have windows for walls. It is so refreshing to look around and feel surrounded by treetops!

 

 

 I have also enjoyed using my spare time to travel! Below are some photos from my recent trips to Bremen, Germany and Gdansk, Poland! Tschüss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hallo! 
 
What an incredible opportunity this is to be writing to you from Hamburg, Germany! I am very excited to be here for many reasons, both personal and professional.
 
While I am in Germany I hope that my understanding of the various ways that education can look and function will be expanded, and that my teaching practice will be improved by this new understanding. I hope that travelling and experiencing a new school system will enable me to broaden my perspective and begin to think about and conceptualize education and teaching in a new way, based on new methods, values, and procedures. I believe that looking for and reflecting on these differences will be of great benefit to me as I complete my last year as a pre-service teacher. 
 
I am a very strong advocate for experiential learning, and I applied to this program with the intentions of learning as much as possible professionally through observation, experience, and reflection. I hope that immersing myself into a new culture will help me grow personally as well. 
 
While I am abroad I can't wait to travel, try new food, and connect with local people to help me understand how life is different in Germany. 
 
Finally, I hope that I will learn new strategies to teach English language learners, since the students that I will be working with are all in the English bilingual program. 
 
I am so excited to begin this journey, and can't wait to update you all on what I have learned! 
 
Tschüss!
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Japan Fall 2018

Travelling internationally and independently is a big step out of your comfort zone. This was mine entirely. But, there are so many benefits that I hope to achieve from going on TAB. Primarily, I want to increase my confidence in taking new challenges out of my comfort zone that will allow me to also learn about myself, and grow as an individual. Travelling is perfect for me to achieve this confidence and learning. I have always wanted to travel somewhere far and by myself to try new things and stay open minded. With my previous experiences in travelling and the love for travel, I have progressively, over the years, grown an itch to keep going. And now here I am in Japan to embark on this journey!

Going to Japan has always been a bucket list country of mine to visit. Their culture is different from Canada's in many ways, and I wanted to immerse myself in their country and learn about them. By doing so, I hope to learn about Japan’s fascinating culture, people, values, and language. It would be interesting to see the relationship, according to similarities and differences, compared to our own. Maybe I will be able to pick up certain traits and values that are meaningful to me to hold on to, or need to learn and improve on about myself. 

Not only this, but it would also be a great experience to witness the classroom setting, the curriculum that is being taught and the school culture itself of Japan, such as what can we learn and strengthen in our classroom. I hope to learn the various teaching methods of Japan that will allow me to integrate new knowledge and skills into my own teaching career. Since Canada is a multicultural country, it would be beneficial for future teachers, such as myself, to be able to expand their teaching techniques that align with a diverse range of students.

Currently being in Japan already, there is so much to experience and learn. I am grateful for this opportunity to visit Japan and I will keep you all posted in the next few blogs!

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Home time!

Hi everyone, this post is coming at you from 11887 m high! I am currently on hour 6 of my long journey home, not even halfway through and already bored…. Luckily for me, this 14 hour plane ride from Brisbane to Vancouver is very empty so I have a full row to myself! This experience has really been incredible and I don’t really know how to put my thoughts into words to be honest, but I will give it my best shot! Firstly, I think I will speak to my professional gain because that seems the most obvious. As I said many times before I began this program and continuously throughout, the professional gain was a huge influence as to why I chose to do TAB. Always having the intention of teaching overseas one day this program was very appealing to me from the get go. I now have the extra experience to not only put on my resume and into my portfolio, but also in life. Having that extra 120 hours (approximately) of experience really speaks for itself. I am now going back with confidence in the classroom ready to take on this practicum with everything I got!

Leading from this, I will now speak to my personal gain. On a personal level, I really can’t use enough adjectives to describe how my experience has been. I have grown into not only a much more confident teacher but also person. I moved away from home at 17 to live in Victoria to go to the University of Victoria, so I have always had that spark for adventure in me but it is now well and truly alight. Although I did move away, I have always been quite dependent. Not necessarily only my parents but more so on my friends as well when I got older. I never really enjoy being by myself or doing new challenges first. Yes, this is still somewhat true but I really feel like I have grown more into a truly independent person. I have very much always been a people pleaser. I have found that being so independent has allowed me to flourish into someone who has an opinion and who is not afraid to share that opinion. I think that being away from home for 3 months and doing lots of solo travelling really adds to someone’s character; and I think that it has only added positive attributes to mine.

Lastly, I speak to you future TAB student. If you are reading this, meaning that you are interested in this program, I have two words for you: DO IT. As I said before, it is really hard to put thoughts into words when thinking about my time over the past 3 months. I tried my best in this post, and it took me a while on my 14 hour flight home from down under. Irrespective of the professional and personal gain, it is truly a wonderful program to be a part of. I got the opportunity to do many things that I haven’t done before and see places I have never been before. Yes, teaching is primarily why someone is interested in this program but it is so much more than that. If you are given the opportunity to go, go and don’t hesitate; you will not be disappointed.

Well folks, the big finale. I have really enjoyed writing these posts and hope that someone has appreciated reading them! Thank you to my family and friends back home for being so supportive while I have been away. Thank you to Kelsey for being my own personal photographer and soul sister in Australia. To my fellow TAB 2017 students, thank you for being on this epic journey with me! I will leave you once and for all with some pictures of my adventures these past few weeks (I had the best day at the zoo and at the rugby game)! Over and out. 

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Adventures!

I can’t believe our adventures are coming to an end! It’s been such an incredible experience. To be honest, I’m kind of sad to be leaving such a beautiful place!

In the past few weeks we’ve had the opportunity to explore some interesting places around Vietnam! We all went to a place called Ba Na Hills, which has the worlds longest gondola ever! Once you got to the top of the mountain, there is a bunch of places to visit, such as a French Village, an indoor amusement park, a beautiful garden, temples and much more! It was such a unique place, it almost felt like a mini Disneyland! The amusement park was awesome full of fun rides and games! I definitely felt like a kid again!

We also had a chance to go to Son Tra mountain, which is also known as monkey mountain. We spent a whole day on the look out for monkeys! It is safe to say that we were extremely successful. We had a chance to see the cutest and most frightening monkeys on that mountain. The viewpoints were beautiful and everything about this place was just so serene. It was so nice to enjoy some quiet and relaxation time away from all the hustle and bustle. After enjoying a beautiful day exploring, we stopped at a temple on our way

home. It was so beautiful full of lush gardens and the most beautiful architecture ever. On our way home from the temple, we passed the intercontinental hotel where we discovered the APEC summit will be held. We also learned that both Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump will be attending the summit here in Vietnam!

We also visited a place called Hoi An Ancient Town, which was full of lanterns and beautiful lights! That is also where I tried egg coffee for the first time and loved it! We took a boat ride in Hoi An, the entire river was full of candles and the entire town was lit up. We also had a chance to tour the night markets and make friends with tourists from all over the world!

A few days go we were honoured to be invited to an authentic Vietnamese lunch by one of the locals who we made friends with down the street. This was definitely an

experience never to be forgotten. We had the chance to bond with some of the locals and enjoy their home-cooked food (to be fair we didn’t really know exactly what we were eating, but it was delicious nonetheless!). No matter how much of a struggle it was to communicate throughout the lunch we always ended up resorting to laughing. That being said, the lunch was full of smiles and laughter!

Apart from all the exploring we have had a lot of time teaching in the classroom. Teaching has been both incredible and difficult at times. I am constantly learning a lot despite the language barrier. Sometimes I think that it is so important to embrace the uncertainty and learn to be flexible and enjoy these moments. 

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Adéu Spain

My time here in Barcelona has come to an end. This has been such a great experience and I have learned so much both personally and professionally. Prior to coming here I had never travelled outside of North America, so this experience has allowed me to grow so much. Saying goodbye to the teachers and students at Rubí was bittersweet. I’m excited to return to Canada, see my friends and family, and begin my next teaching placement, but I’m sad to leave behind the amazing people I’ve met and the country of Spain. I’m definitely not looking forward to the cold weather in Canada!

While here I’ve had the opportunity to also experience both French and Italian culture. I took a trip to Paris and Rome. Both cities were incredible. It was great to see other parts of Europe and iconic landmarks that I have always dreamed about visiting. It’s interesting to see that so many people in Europe speak multiple languages. 

Over my time in Spain I have further developed my classroom management skills, lesson planning abilities, flexibility and ELL instructional skills. I previously had very little experience with ELL students, so this placement has allowed me to cultivate tactics that I can use in my future classrooms. Also, being put in situations where I don’t understand then language being spoken to me has allowed me to see things from an ELL perspective. I have a better appreciation for how ELL students might feel in a classroom when they don’t understand what people are saying. Even though I will be starting my Calgary placement a week later than most students, I feel prepared to hit the ground running. After my placement in Spain I am even more comfortable in the classroom. The experience I have gained here will be so beneficial to me as I continue to move forward in the BEd program and eventually into my teaching career.

Living in Barcelona for the past 9 weeks has been incredible. I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and discovered how self-sufficient I can be. I have seen so many amazing buildings and landscape, tasted wonderful food, heard delightful music, and met many welcoming people. Spain is a beautiful country with a rich history, and I’m so happy that I was able to experience it.

 

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EXACTLY A WEEK LEFT!

I am so so grateful to have been placed at Ainosato Nishi Elementary here in Sapporo. It was a very emotional last day for April and I. We will miss the students and teachers dearly. Words cannot describe how much love I have for the teachers and students at that school. Everyday, students would greet us with a loud "hello, good morning" and "see you" when we left. There wasn't a day where I didn't have a huge smile on my face. During our time with homeroom class, we had many opportunities to share with them cultural differences and activities. For example, one of the table group conversations we had was about different sounds that animals make. It was very surprising to them and to myself how different each sound was. A dog sound in Japanese is "wan wan" and we would say "woof woof". (The girls and I found this shirt that we couldn't stop laughing about and now we finally understand that it was a pun and not a typo.) April and I also taught them how to play "Duck Duck Goose" and they taught us a Japanese game in return. My greatest learning experience occurred when I was observing a few classes in Japanese. Initially, I didn't understand why we had to observe a class taught in a different language. Even though April and I didn't understand what the teacher and students were saying, we used their gestures and tone of voice to try to put it together. We had to think about the class in a different way and it allowed us to think outside the box and to observe every little thing that was going on. Throughout the lessons, the teacher used many effective teaching strategies. In one of the math lessons, she presented the class with a question. She gave the students an opportunity to solve it. After, she asked the class for the answer. She doesn't tell them whether it was right or wrong but she asks them for the reason for their answer. This way, students are able to understand why and how they got the answer.

School festivals are also very important here. Students practice for weeks for a one day event at the school. During these festivals students would do a combination of a play and singing a song. Students would audition for the part they want to play in the play. Students also have to audition for piano parts as well. If the students don't get the part they want, the would audition for another. They are not discourage because in the end, everyone will be able to play a role in the play. All the costumes and props are made by the teachers and students in that class. I had the opportunity to make tissue flowers and sew flowers onto a dress for one of the girls. The play and song were absolutely amazing.

On our last day, our homeroom surprised us with a goodbye party. They sang to us, told jokes, played Duck Duck Goose and another Japanese game. I felt so much love from them. The goodbye party turned into a crying party and seeing the children crying made it even more difficult to say goodbye. I will never forget them and there will always be a place in my heart for them. 

The funny pun shirt.

A scene from the school play. 

This week, we went on a 2 day excursion to a few places outside of Sapporo with other international students. We got to visit Lake Utonai Wildlife Conservation, Ainu Museum, Volcano Science Museum and made udon (Japanese thick noodle). I learnt so much about the history of the Ainu people and other facts about Hokkaido. We were all trying to piece together the information with the very little Japanese we know. 

What's left? I am currently trying to spend as much time with my host family. I can't believe that it's almost time to go home. I will really miss them. I am so grateful for all they have done for me and opening their heart and home to me. I can't thank them enough. They have taught me many Japanese traditions and brought me to many places to eat and sight see. This week, I will also be spending some time with a few university students I met and attending a few university classes. 

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Sayonara, Japan!

I thought now would be a good time to start my last blog post while in Japan, as I am having my first feelings of anxiety knowing I have to leave this wonderful place and my fantastic second host family in exactly 10 days.

(Signatures from some of our students at Daiichi Elementary)

This week and last, Stephanie and I have had the pleasure of visiting Koryo Junior High School in Iwamizawa. In Japan, they start mandatory English classes in junior high, so there is more for us to do here than there was in the elementary schools. It’s great to be able to help out with English classes and have more conversations with students. The junior high students are shy, but always willing to share their recommendation for anime, music, or food we should try. Many teachers here are also quite proficient in English, so we have the pleasure of speaking to them about their lives here often.

(enjoying some of the fall colours in Iwamizawa)

(enjoying some of my walks home as the sun sets in Iwamizawa - 15 hours ahead of Calgary time!)

Saturday was my 22nd birthday, and my host family spoiled me. I was very fortunate. My host family took me to a nice Korean BBQ restaurant in Iwamizawa (Korean BBQ is very popular here), and we tried all sorts of interesting foods like tongue, heart, bone marrow, and tripe. After that we went to karaoke which is extremely popular in Japan, but nothing like the way we do karaoke back home. In Japan, you rent a private room with couches and a karaoke machine, and you sing with your friends. It was a different experience for me, but it is incredibly fun. If any of you find yourselves in Japan in the future, try karaoke!

(My host mom- Megumi, Father- Hajime, and Brother- Shim at dinner)

(Celebrating with karaoke - this is my host Mom singing "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer)

Gearing up to come home is starting to get exciting, but stressful. Right now I am trying to balance schoolwork, fun, spending time with my host family, and making sure I have done as much as I can while I am here.

(The University treated Stephanie and I to lunch and a wine tour)

I have learned so much since I have been here. I will have to admit, it was hard for me being a privileged, English speaking North American to adjust to a new culture and language. I will be the first to admit that it has been hard to let go of my sense of entitlement I noticed I carried with me. If I were to give advice to the Japan group, or any TAB student for next year, especially first time travellers, it would be that. Lose all sense of entitlement you might have before travelling, especially to a non-English speaking country. I found myself a lot of times on this trip getting frustrated or angry because I can’t understand. I have found myself several times wondering things like “they know I don’t speak Japanese, why haven’t they adapted to me”. This is something I have had to completely let go in order to become fully immersed in Japanese culture. This realization is not one I am most proud of, but is very important. It is something I will take with me even back home. I have now been in the shoes of someone who does not speak the native language, and know how tough it is mentally to cope with that. I am extremely thankful for my language learning experience here, tough as it may have been. I didn’t realize how quickly you start to pick up a language when you are 100% immersed in it and have no choice but to communicate that way. I find myself understanding small parts and phrases in conversations around me, and it is such a cool feeling.

In a week and a half, I leave this amazing place and make my 48 hour trek back home. Wish me luck making all my connections! I can not wait to be back home and to hear everyone’s TAB experiences. Hard to believe that I am even here right now, let alone that I have almost reached the end! Thank you U of C, Werklund, my fellow Japan mates, and everyone who has been supporting me back home on this journey. I look forward to coming home and sharing my learning! Enjoy a few more of my favourite pictures from my last few weeks below. 

Best, 

Kaitlin

(Running into local kids in a restaurant, they always want pictures and autographs)

(My host mother and I enjoying a day shopping on the weekend)

(Shopping in Furano)

(Blue Lake, Furano)

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Boa tarde do brasil,

Where has the time gone? It seems like we only just arrived in Brazil. It is very hard to believe that in just over two weeks I will be back in Canada and cold weather. Some days its so hot here I can’t wait but then I remember I hate being cold. Our time in Brazil has been a mixture of keeping busy with our online classes, visiting language classes, taking Portuguese and exploring.

The last few weeks we have had the opportunity to observe in different levels of English language classes. The schedule they made for us had us rotating through three different classes but due to holidays and tests I have really only had the opportunity regularly visit one class. It is a juniors 6 class with about 12 students ranging in age from about 12-14. They are quite chatty and easily distracted but a fun class. I enjoyed having a few classes to observe the teacher, Fabiano, and his teaching style as while as brush up on my English grammar. The students were asking me what I was writing in my notebook and I told them I was learning along with them and they were amused by that. This week, I had the opportunity to teach a short lesson on interrupted past continuous and the difference between ‘when’ and ‘while’. I had to look it up to make sure I would teach it correctly. I decided to mix in a short lesson of Canadian vocab. It was fun to share some very Canadian things, places, and people with the students. We talked about Moose, elk, hockey, lacrosse, maple syrup, the RCMP and of course Ryan Gosling. We finished by played a game where they picked two actions and had to combine with ‘when’ or ‘while’ and incorporated some of the Canadian vocab. It was learning moment for me through out the whole lesson as I adjusted as I went and had to think on my feet to fix hiccups in my lesson. My biggest takeaway is that explain Canadian things is difficult and I need to speak slowly (always my problem).

This class also helps me with my Portuguese. I wish I could say that I was able to have basic conversations but alas, Portuguese had not come easy to me. I can say hello, greet for morning, afternoon, and night, say goodbye, how are you? And respond. But other than asking people their names, age, where they are from and what their profession is, I struggle. The students love when they can speak Portuguese to me at the end of the class since usually class is a no Portuguese zone, however they all get very excited and speak at the same time. Once they slow down and take turns it is beneficial for me – they love to help me. I usually can pick up a few words of what they ask me but overall, I struggle a lot. I able to read/recognize written text and words but I am struggling with the understanding and speaking. Our Portuguese teacher, Pedro has been wonderful and this week he took us along with the other exchange students to eat a traditional Brazilian dish called Pamonha. It is a corn based dish that is served in a corn husk, very hard to describe but very tasty. We also tried it deep fried and a corn based dessert that was like a pudding. Pedro helped us with ordering in Portuguese which is a skill I am still working on, it seems if your pronunciation isn't just right people don't seem to understand at all what you want or need. I am hoping in the next few weeks I can work on my clarity, pronunciation, and confidence in speaking Portuguese so at the very least I can order Acai with granola and condensed milk (my favourite) and not receive granola and banana instead. Small goals.

 We have used our weekends to see Goiânia and more recently a few places nearby. We were brave and rented a car to go to nearby Pirenópolis and it was both exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. Brazil drivers are pretty crazy. We had a wonderful couple days exploring the town - touristic, charming, and full of great places to eat and shop. We also explored some nearby waterfalls and drove up one of the craziest, steep, bumpy sand road I have ever driven on.

The next weekend we went camping. We rented a FIAT Toro, which is a little truck, and off we went to Chapada dos Veirdos. We were a little under-prepared, who knew it got cold in Brazil? We spent our days sweltering in the heat while we hiked to amazing waterfalls and cascades and our nights were spent shivering in a tent. It was an experience I will never forget.

We have visited local breweries in Pirenópolis and in Goiânia and drank some amazing local cerveja (beer). We have had lots of cerveja both local and not. But I still need to try 'pequi' - it is a local fruit and apparently people either love it or hate it. You can't bite the fruit because it has tiny thorns that get stuck in your tongue and it has a very strong aroma. I am hoping to try it before we go just to say I have - we have tried cerveja with pequi flavour as well as a sauce.

 We have also used some of free time to visit more classes at the language centre at the request of some of the teachers. They say it is a great opportunity for them to practice their English and in turn we learn a little bit more about Goiania, Brazil, the education system and about the students. They love to ask questions about what we think of Brazil, what we like here, what we don’t – which is hard to answer. I love Brazil, but it so different from Canada. The biggest thing for me is the safety, everyone is always reminding us to be safe, and not walk anywhere at night. We are also able to share about ourselves, Calgary, and Canada with the students so it’s a win-win. Again, I always have to remember to speak slowly and use simple language so the students are able to understand me – I always want to say a lot in a small span of time.

 I am looking forward to seeing what our final weeks here have in store for us. Hoping to learn as much Portuguese as I can and soak up as much of the sun before heading back to Canada. Our time here is wrapping up so quickly it is hard to believe I will be teaching in a kindergarten class in just a few weeks.    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tchau for now!

 

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2 weeks to go!!!

Well, 2 weeks to go. Unbelievable. The past few weeks since my last post have been busy with our online classes as well as our placement here in Brisbane. It is so crazy that last time I wrote it was 4 weeks until I flew home, which seemed like quite a while. Now it seems like I’ve closed my eyes and I am flying home in 2 weeks. The weather here is getting very wet and although it is nice to get some relief from the constant (almost unbearable) heat, I need to work on my tan before I come home and rain is not going to help!! I am hoping for some last minute sunshine next week to help me.

Kelsey and I have been spending time at a school called St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School. It is an all girls school, which I have never seen before, so it has been an interesting experience. Compared to our previous school, I find that we are more useful here. ALL classrooms have a back room that is used for small group work, which is where I have been spending most of my time, helping particular groups in their rotations. I have been helping with Grade 1 English and Grade 5 math to name a few. One day last week, I was lucky enough to be in a Grade 6 English classroom where the students (and me) got to watch Zootopia! It was awesome. During the movie, the teacher shared with me all the projects that she intends to do with this movie and it was great to see! They will be creating their own podcast in groups as the final project. I have also been spending a great amount of time in a Grade 5 classroom while they are learning about Bushfires. I have had to learn lots about Australian Bushfires to help these students as they are writing a narrative about it! I have had to be quick on my feet and infer information from the novel they are reading but it has been great! The students love working with me and think it is hilarious when I have to ask them what common words in their vocabulary mean, and are really dedicated and willing to ask me for help when they need it. It is toward the end of the school year for the students here in Australia so they all understand their expectations and are getting ready for the intensity of the following year, or Secondary school. The staff at this school has been so accommodating and are overjoyed to have an extra set of hands in the classroom. The school is smaller than our previous one so the staff room is more intimate and all teachers have made an effort to introduce themselves to us and ask what we are doing. One teacher is visiting Canada in December and has been picking our brains about her preparations for her trip (for example, what clothes to bring). It has been great! The girls who attend the school are lovely as well. It is not overly obvious that they are high SES girls. Yes, many of them sport Apple watches and a few talk about how they got ponies for their birthday or own a bakery, but overall they are lovely girls who are eager to learn. I really love being at this school and it is opening my eyes at the different types of schools. As someone who attended public school my whole school career (minus one year), I am a huge advocate for public school. However, seeing this private school is showing me that there is a difference. All of the classes at St. Aidan’s have 16-18 girls, whereas I grew up with 25+ students in my class. I have no complaints, as I had an excellent education at a public school, but I think that had a lot to do with my work ethic and dedication to succeed. I think that private schools have a lot going for them, and lots of times you get what you pay for and I think you do at St. Aidan’s.

As for our adventures for the past few weeks, Kelsey and I have been doing some local exploring around Brisbane. We have been to a few museums as well as visited Stradbroke Island with other international students at QUT! Stradbroke, or Straddie as the locals call it, was incredible. We were both quite disappointed as it literally rained ALL DAY. However, on our walk around Stradbroke Island, through the rain, we were looking out into the ocean appreciating the sights and we saw whales!! It was incredible. Kelsey and I were in awe and stood and watched the ocean for 15 minutes while getting soaked. When we finally moved on along our walk, we saw a family of wild kangaroos cross our path in front of us. Overall, this day was one that I will definitely remember as a highlight from the past 3 months. Tomorrow we are going to see a rugby game, New Zealand All Blacks vs. Australian Wallabies and I am SO excited. I purchased these tickets back in June when they went on sale and have been looking forward to it since then. I love watching sports and follow international Rugby from back home so to be able to experience this event will be a great life moment for me. As far as rugby goes, this event is pinnacle for any rugby fan. It is on my bucket list to see the All Blacks perform the Hakka in real life, and I will see that tomorrow!!

Well that’s it for now! In the next few weeks we have 4 more days at St. Aidan’s, a QUT conference, I am going to visit the Australia zoo and then we leave so it will be a busy time! I will leave you with some pictures of the past few weeks! The next time I write I will be on my way home or already home! Crazy how time flies. 

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Halfway through my time is Brisbane!

Well, we are officially half way through our time here in Australia! I can’t believe it! It has been an amazing adventure so far and I am so excited to see what the next few weeks have in store! It is basically 4 weeks until I fly home and I just know that is going to fly by faster than the past 4 weeks have! Since I last wrote, Kelsey and I got the opportunity to visit the Whitsundays, complete our last week at the school we have been at since we started here, and do a presentation at QUT as well as attend a lecture!

Firstly, the weather here is amazing. It is slowly getting hotter and I cannot even imagine what it is like here in the height of summer (December-March). It must be unbearable because even now, in October, I have a layer of sweat on my face as soon as I leave our apartment. When we visited North Queensland and went to the Whitsunday islands during the spring holidays, it was even hotter up there! The Whitsundays were amazing; the bluest waters, the whitest sandy beaches and the most luscious green trees. The colours there were incredible and it was definitely a place that I will never forget. Kelsey and I had the opportunity to visit the beaches, meet some locals, visit the famous Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island, and go sea kayaking. Whitehaven beach’s sand is 98% silicon so no matter how long it is in the sun, it will never get too hot; it also squeaked a little when you walked on it and was the whitest sand I have ever seen. We also got to wear the very fashionable 'stinger suit'. These skin tight, iconic, basically wet suits, we were required to wear to protect us from the deadly jellyfish that inhabit the North Queensland oceans. It was definitely an experience to be in the water along with these (and who knows what else...!) creatures! It was a spectacular experience to visit this amazing part of the world and one that I will never forget. After our few days in the beautiful Whitsundays we returned back to Brisbane to catch up on schoolwork and do some local exploring. We also had the opportunity to meet up with Tracy as she was in town and we walked around the Botanical Gardens and got to hear all about her experiences! We are all having such a wonderful time away; it truly has been amazing so far. The end of September marked the end of the Brisbane festival, meaning there was a firework display. 20 minutes of fireworks accompanied by music and good times was an amazing way to end spring holidays. 

Before the students and teachers went on their spring holidays and for one week after, Kelsey and I were volunteering at St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School. We completed 4 weeks of teaching there before starting at a new school next week. We had great experiences and got the opportunity to sit in and help on a number of classes ranging from Grade 6 religion to Grade 1 music to Grade 3 PE. One thing that has struck me as particularly surprising in the school system here is that the children have PE for 30 mins, once a week. This is very different than it is back home as the students are required to do PE if not every day but at least every other. It was a lovely school and the staff were so welcoming and accommodating. One teacher gave us both a booklet of literacy resources and it is going to be amazingly helpful in my future career! I have found that their typical school day is very similar to what it would look like at home. They arrive at 8:40am to start their day, at 10:40-11 they go for 'morning tea' (we would call it recess), at 1-1:50 they have lunch (allocating the first 10 minutes to only eating to ensure all students eat their lunch instead of just play!) and then they go home at 3pm. This sort of structure is one that is seen throughout most schools in Calgary. They have a 'no hat, no play' policy at all schools in Queensland as the sun is so hot and the lack of ozone layer makes in dangerous for everyone, especially young children. Even teachers are required to wear a hat while they are on supervision! The physical school structure itself though is very different. As opposed to having one big building where all classrooms and learning spaces are located like schools are in Calgary; this school, like many other schools in Australia, has different buildings. The climate here allows the students to have that separation between buildings as they can walk outside year round without freezing like we would at home! I am definitely sad to be finished at this school but had the most wonderful experience and I am looking forward to having new experiences in the coming weeks. Next week we will be helping at one of the most expensive schools to send children to in Queensland. Should be an interesting experience with lots of amazing resources available to the teachers! We are looking forward to it, so stay tuned! Below are some pictures of St. Peter and Paul's school! 

Lastly, since my previous post Kelsey and I were asked to do a presentation about the University of Calgary, Calgary, and the Education program for prospective students completing a similar Professional Experience placement in Calgary next January! It was not a great turn out, as lots of the interested students were out on practicum, but it was nice to get to share some information on our programs and schools. We left our emails along with the PowerPoint so hopefully we can stay in touch and meet up with the students when they arrive in Calgary next year! We also had the opportunity to attend an Indigenous Education tutorial, which was fascinating. They were just finishing up their unit but it was interesting to see the parallels between our online class that we are completing and their one. 

In the coming weeks we have lots of fun adventures planned! I am lucky enough to have gained not only an adventure buddy but also a new bestie in Kelsey and we have so many things left we want to do, time permitting! I will leave you on edge for my next post and leave it at that for now!

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Life in Iwamizawa City

Konnichiwa! 

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

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

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

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

(Stephanie signing autographs for the kids at Daiichi Elementary)

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

(Dinner with my new host father, Hajime)

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

(Everything Maccha, all the time)

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

(Otaru world famous sushi)

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

(Loving it here in Hokkaido!)

Ja mata sugi! (see you soon)

Kaitlin 

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Teaching, teaching, teaching!

Hi everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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The excitement never ends...

Hola mi amigos!

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

  

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

 

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

 

That’s all for now! Adios =)

 

Much Love,

 

Hana K.

 

 

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Teaching in Vietnam!

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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Algumas semanas em Goiânia!

Bom dia! Tudo bem?!

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

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

Does it get any better than this?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Até logo!!

 

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

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Three weeks in Barcelona

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

   

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

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

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

The computer lab

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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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Japan is incredible!

My trip in Japan has been an amazing experience so far. The people are super helpful; the food is wonderful and delicious (see ramen picture); the landscape is awesome (see the above image taken from on top of Mt. Moiwa).

Japanese Language: I have the amazing opportunity to learn Japanese, which has proven to be challenging (like any learning language process), but fun. It is especially fruitful because we are placed in host families; the opportunity to have some basic conversation with them in Japanese is wonderful. One thing that I have learned is that communication is important in everything I do, but I have also developed different ways to communicate when you cannot do so verbally or with the vocabulary you want to use (i.e. pointing!).

Sports Festival: My first introduction to the Japanese education here was through the Elementary school Sports Festival that took place the very first morning that I arrived. I still remember my own experiences in Calgary, where Sports day consisted of an afternoon walking to different stations with my friends to do various Track and Field activities. I was extremely surprised to see what the Sports Festival meant in Japan and particularly for this school. First of all, the entire school is split into the Red and White team and they compete to be the winning team. This included speeches and friendly taunting between the two teams, which I wish I understood. Then there were athletic competitions, such as sprinting, tug-o-rope, relay races, etc. My personal favourite athletic activity was the play wrestling that took place. Students formed groups and there is one student who was held up by the others. That student would then have to remove the cap of the student of the opposing team without falling down from their piggyback position. I cannot imagine this being done in any Calgary schools at all!

Moreover, the parent involvement is amazing during this event. Parents arrive early with their students in order to set up tents and mats in order to see the event. The parents also participated in some of the events to get points for the teams, which was amusing. The event ended with awarding the winning team (red for this year) and it astonished me to see the students from the losing side cry. However, the teachers gave them a rallying talk, which I found incredible because there is a real sense of community here.

Manners: One of the things I enjoy the most in Japan is their politeness. This is present in different ways then Canada, where we are known for saying “sorry” for everything. Instead, the Japanese say "thank you" for the meal before (“Itadakimasu”) and afterwards ("Gochisoosama”). Families greet each other when they leave and return home. Although this happens in Canada, the difference is that this is ingrained in them from a young age. Students are required to take a Moral class where they learn to behave in society. While I haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of these classes, it is amazing to see this in their society and see the contrast to Canada. As part of our observations, we were told that classroom management is not an issue, because the students are so well behaved all the time!

Significant actions: When comparing and contrasting the differences between schools in Calgary and Japan, one thing that I really enjoyed is the seriousness of traditions and ceremonies. For instance, the students take their entrance ceremonies and graduation ceremonies extremely seriously. When a teacher starts the class the entire class in one voice greets him/her and when the class is done they thank the teacher together as a class. Students in elementary and junior high school serve lunch to their classmates. Most importantly, the students take part in cleaning their entire school together after lunch. Groups are assigned the task of wiping down the area where they ate, their classrooms and even their hallways. I think this instils a sense of responsibility in them and helps the students form a community.

I am looking forward to beginning my placement in an elementary and junior high school to learn more about the education here in Japan in the month of October!  

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Brisbane Update!

Lauren here checking in from Brisbane, Australia! Well, for starters the weather here is absolutely beautiful. An average of about 26 degrees Celsius everyday accompanied with sunshine and gradually increasing the longer we stay. After completing two weeks of volunteering in the schools I am finally starting to feel comfortable in our new temporary home and in the schools. Our apartment is so beautiful and in such a great location.

We started our volunteering our first week in Brisbane and have continued since. We are lucky enough to be on ‘spring holidays’ at the moment as the school term ended but we are currently looking at attending some classes at the Queensland University of Technology to see what sort of things they are learning about at the moment to fill the next few weeks as well as maybe doing some local exploring. We met with our liaison and the Dean of Education of QUT a few days ago for tea to discuss opportunities for us to build relationships in Australia. They were both so lovely and it was nice to start to discuss building those connections.

The school we are placed in at the moment is a great school located in a very high SES area so there are no serious behavioural needs within the classrooms. The children have just finished their 3rd term so this past week they were wrapping up what they had been learning before they have their holidays! In two weeks they start their final term of the school year before going on summer holidays in November. The only really noticeable difference in the school system I have found is obviously the flipped school year. The kids cannot seem to wrap their head around the fact that at home the school year starts in September, not February. Kelsey and I were lucky enough to be able to go to Sea World on an excursion with the prep (kindergarten) students last week. It was certainly a great experience! We arrived in the morning to find that two of the parent volunteers had backed out earlier that morning so they were so thankful to have us there to help. The teachers/parent volunteers were responsible for carrying the student’s lunch and waters etc. as well as obviously supervising the children and ensuring they did not go off wandering!

Overall I have spent the majority of my time in a Grade 1 class and have loved it. The teacher is more than willing to share her resources and answer all my questions as well as let me do some small group work with some students that require extra help. I am finding that the Grade 1 class is very heavily focused on academics other than play. I have seen next to no play-based learning and I am not sure if it is just because it was the end of term or whether it just is not present in the classrooms. Will keep you updated when we start back up again in a few weeks! I think it is important to track these sort of patterns as these ideas of inquiry and play based learning are very much drilled into us pre-service teachers in Canada and I am not sure if it is instilled in teachers in Australia. We will have to see in a few weeks!

I think that compared to other TABers our experience down under is comparably different. With English not being the main avenue for teaching, it has allowed us to open up to more subjects than just English as a second language. For example: I was able to sit in on a religion class in grade 1 and having not attending Catholic or a religious school at all throughout my education, it was so interesting. The teacher was very persistent on telling the students that these stories are not necessarily true, but the general idea is what they should focus on. The students were learning about Noah and his story and some of the ideas about creation they were saying were, I felt, truly insightful for their age. It has been, and will continue to be, an amazing experience and I am so excited about what the next weeks have in store.  I will leave you with some pictures of my adventures from the past couple of weeks! 

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