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university of calgary (7)

A plan. My experiences over the last few weeks have highlighted the similarities between traveling and teaching. It all started with a desire to escape the constant business that naturally occurs in a city of 10.6 billion people. The noise, the traffic, the unsettled feeling of always being on the move. Despite being a beautiful place to live and study, Xi’an is only a tiny part of the Chinese landscape. Over the first four weeks, it became clear that I had to experience what rural China was like, or I would forever regret not taking the opportunity to. Thus, trip planning began, and my excitement grew. However, the only week we would be available to travel, also happened to be the Chinese National Week of Holiday. This meant many millions of Chinese citizens would also be moving across the country, causing many unexpected challenges to emerge. Regardless of all the hurdles, after many late-night planning sessions and time spent endlessly refreshing pages to check for updated train and bus availability, we formulated a plan. We were set to leave with only a few gaps in transport to address in each city.

The day came, we were up before the sun, eager to hit the road. The experience started smoother then we anticipated, we caught a cab without hassle despite the language barrier and time of day, we passed through security with only minimal lineups and the high-speed train was spacious and comfortable. Traveling at 250km an hour, 4 hours later, we arrived in Chengdu, and we were able to navigate our way to our connecting bus with ample time. This was when our plan started to change little by little. Our 4-hour bus ride ended up being 8 hours along a bumpy, and at times highly dangerous road, due to the traffic, but we arrived at the hostel with only a few sore stomachs. The next day we explored Kangding, a stunning mountain town that rivals the sites of Jasper and Banff in Canada. After lunch, we decided to try to hike up a hill to find a monastery, with no guidance, or points of reference in the fog and tree cover, we missed our mark by a longshot and ended up summiting the entire mountain. At the top, we found a beautiful Buddhist village. It was indeed one of those “steal your breath away” unexpected travel moments! The next day, we were off to visit a town even further into the Tibetan prefecture of Ganzi, there was only one problem, we did not have a ride, and all the buses were sold out. “Not to worry!” we were told by the locals, we could always hire a car to take us.  After 2 hours of waiting, attempting to find a driver, we met some very friendly Chinese university students heading in our direction. They helped arrange transport and we were off! Little did we know, that the one-hour drive would become a night spent in subzero temperatures stuck on a mountain sleeping in a car, as firefighters, police officers, and military personnel worked through the night to rescue us and many thousands of others from the mountain, due to an unseasonally tremendous amount of snowfall and freezing rain. We arrived safely back in Kangding the next day, thanks to their hard work, courage, and dedication. Our new friends engaged us in conversation late into the night. They kept our spirits high with traditional songs and our bodies warm by loaning us their sleeping bags (Thanks Jane, Richard, and Bella!).

All and all, in both teaching and travel, having a plan is important, but always remaining adaptable in dynamic situations and remembering to reach out for help when you need it, is critical to being successful in your endeavors!

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A Language Learning Epiphany

Ni Hao!

As the initial culture shock wains little by little and I settle into my life here in China, I have begun to develop more of awareness into how difficult it is to live in a country where you can understand almost nothing. In the area of Xi’an where we live, very few if anyone I have encountered speaks English, and ninety percent of all text is in Chinese Characters. Culturally, this is a true testament to the pride the Chinese people take in celebrating and maintaining their rich and vibrant history! It was eye-opening to recognize my own cultural bias, assuming that there must be some level of Western influence here, furthermore that most people would understand essential English communication. In my past travels, words in unfamiliar languages often shared similarities in letters and sounds, and people were accustomed to frequent interactions with tourists. Thus far, that has not been my experience here. The amount of mental energy that is required to attempt simple tasks like buying groceries, getting a cell phone, doing laundry or reading a map is not something I had anticipated. However, after the initial hurdle, I realized that it was beneficial for me to brought out of my comfort zone in such a way. This environment provides the seeds required for authentic personal growth. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to develop your language skills out of necessity!

The language learning courses have provided me with a whole new perspective regarding what it feels like to be a language learner in a classroom environment. Mandarin is said to be one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, and it has certainly proven to be a real challenge for me. The courses are taught primarily in Chinese, which means if you don’t understand something, you have the potential to become lost quickly. Often questions will be asked again, but when you don’t have the language background to comprehend them, you can do little except stare back blankly. I witnessed many of the same looks I had experienced when I administered the IELTS test for Chinese students at the international school I am teaching at. These moments provide me with a snapshot into what the ELL population in Canadian classrooms must feel like. My whole experience with language thus far has helped me to develop a new level of empathy for the challenges immigrants across the world face. It has undoubtedly influenced my perspective and approach in the classroom as well!

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Up, Up, and Away!

After almost a year in the making, the day has nearly come to cross the ocean bound for a world relatively unknown to me. As such, questions such as “why are humans inclined to travel?” have been forefront on my mind. Those are far too tough to tackle in one blog post, so I have opted instead to reflect on why I chose to pursue this educational opportunity in China. The Asian continent has been of interest to me since my early childhood. This is in part because of the stories my aunts and uncles, who participated in peacekeeping efforts abroad with the Canadian Armed Services, shared with me growing up. Perhaps, it was their stories that drew me to study history. From my prior experiences, I have grown to understand that various media, textbooks, and film can only provide a limited perspective on the history of a region. Experiencing a culture, visiting what it collectively values, conversating with individuals about their story; this is what I feel develops a greater understanding of the human condition.

Furthermore, it facilitates the opportunity to reflect on my worldviews and values critically. Of interest to me, because of my minor in history and specialization in social studies, is how China approaches incorporating social sciences into its curriculum. I look forward to being challenged by the substantial cultural differences China has from Canada and the United States. Although it can be tempting to only look for differences when traveling, I am also eager to examine the many similarities we share!

I am interested in learning about the variety of religious influences thousands of years of cross-continent trade has brought to China. My communication and culture courses exposed me to the religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, which are common in China. Even though the state’s official position is the embracement of atheism, I am eager to seek out and experience each belief system in practice. Furthermore, I also want to study the fusion that has occurred between them over time. I studied culinary arts during high school, so Chinese food is another aspect of the culture that I yearn to delve into. I have had limited exposure to non-north Americanized Asian food during my lifetime and welcome the introduction to a new culinary profile!

As I finish final preparations, my mind is filled with intense fluctuating emotions. At times, I felt flustered and overwhelmed, while at others I am filled with eagerness and excitement as I think about the unknown. I find it comforting to think back on why I chose to pursue my Bachelor of Education, the joy of experiencing a moment with a student when it all ‘clicks,’ and I hope I feel that way by the time I depart. I’ve learned that the journey preparing for this trip was an integral part of the experience, it has challenged me both personally and professionally, but has made me all the more prepared.

I look forward to developing friendships while travelling and experiencing a culture that is substantially different then my home nation!

“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it.”

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Studying Japanese all day every day

Konnichiwa!

I have been in Sapporo for almost 3 weeks and so much has happened since I have arrived!

September 2

On our very first full day in Sapporo, we were already given the chance to visit an elementary school. All of us attended a very exciting event called Sports Day! It took place at my host brother's elementary school that is located beside the Hokkaido University of Education (HUE). Sports Day takes place on a Saturday and it is one of the biggest events of the school year. Students are divided into the red team vs. the white team. The white team has won every year since 2003. Parents bring tents, food and drinks to set up around the field for the day. It was very...intense (in tents) and super fun! We all got to participate in the day's activities. There was tug-o-war, running relays and races. Some other activities included one with a huge red ball that you had to pass through a line of people and the first team to get the ball back to starting position wins. I was able to participate in that with my host father. The cutest event was a ball-toss for first graders. They circled around a basket hoop and were trying to hurl as many beanbags into the basket as possible at a very fast speed. The most anticipated event was the calvary battle where a student would get on the shoulders of another with 3 other people to support them and they would fight against another student in the same formation. The objective was to grab the other person's hat. It was suspenseful and entertaining to watch. At the beginning and end, there were speeches and performances.  At the end when they revealed the score, they did it in a way that kept everyone on their toes. They announced the first digit of each score followed by the last digit of each score and finally the middle digit to declare who was the winner. The red team were the victors this year!! They were so many great learning moments that took place such as the day being student driven, for example the announcers were students, the high level of parental involvement such as setting up tents and wearing the same colour for their child's team. All in all, it was a great first day.

September 3

I visited Sapporo Station, the clock tower and the television tower.

September 4

We got a tour of HUE and a tour of the city with our new Japanese friends.

September 5

Japanese class started!

September 8

The Sapporo Autumn Festival started and it is several streets long of just food and drinks. Each street has their own theme such as ramen, European food or seafood etc. We had okonomiyaki (a Japanese savoury pancake) for dinner and Kaitlin, Christine and I went up the JR Tower to see the night view of Sapporo. 

September 9

I was given the opportunity to participate in my other host brother's open day at elementary school. I helped the school build shelves for students. My host father and some other parents also came in to help. I could tell that the school community was really and strong and committed to giving their students what they need. (The person wearing pink in the picture is me! This was posted above one of the shelves in the school) After I went to the Hokkaido Shrine and the Autumn Festival again with my host mother, April and her host mother. 

September 10

I got dressed up in a Kimono and went to a street food festival! After, I went to see my brothers participate in a swimming competition and they both won medals and awards. I was so proud! After my whole family and their family friends went to the Sapporo Beer Garden for dinner. Oishikatta desu! (It was delicious) 

September 11

Our first school visit to an elementary school. Shippun Elementary School is a rural elementary/jr. high school and has a total of 25 students combined. It was a such a unique learning experience for us. 

September 15

Our second school visit to an HUE affiliated Jr. High school

September 16

My host father took me to the Hokkaido Modern Art Museum to see the Van Gogh exhibit and it took my breath away. His work was unbelievable. The exhibit showcased Van Gogh's pieces that were influenced by Japan even though he had never been to Japan. In the evening, my host family and I went to a mountain located southwest of central Sapporo and I saw a 360 panoramic night view of Sapporo. It was beautiful. 

September 17

 I visited the neighbouring small harbour city of Otaru with my family. They are famous for their beautifully preserved canal and unique buildings. It was stunning! I was also able to make my own glass cup which was very cool. My host brother and I had a rainbow tower ice cream cone with 7 flavours. I love ice cream. The flavours were grape, melon, green tea, chocolate, strawberry, milk and lavender. 

My time is Japan has been a fun but incredibly valuable learning experience especially when we are in the schools. I will bring all that I have learned here and will continue to learn back home to Calgary.

Until next post, またね (See you)

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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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こんにちは (Konnichiwa) Hello TAB Japan

It is currently 1:20 pm in Sapporo, Hokkaido. 

Teaching Across Borders officially starts today and I feel excited, nervous and grateful for what is to come. 

I am excited to explore a new city, eat amazing food and continue practicing photography. I am excited to continue learning Japanese and practice speaking it with my host family who only speaks basic English. 

I am nervous about meeting my host family, their expectations and how I should act around them.

I am grateful for this opportunity to be in a new city on the other side of the world, learning more about my teaching style, strengths, weaknesses and what I value most as a teacher. I hope to grasp another perspective on education, make new friends, and continue to step outside my comfort zone. 

I have been in Japan for a week already but I miss my family and friends. I know they're worried about me but I will be okay. Solo traveling in Tokyo has been an amazing experience. Even though I have been to Tokyo before, I was able to delve more into the culture of Japanese people such as their mannerisms and their lifestyle. I was able to skip the major tourist spots and explore the small underground things that make Tokyo a spectacular city. Yesterday, all 6 of us went to Tokyo Disney Sea together and it was a magical day. I'm also excited to share this experience with these girls who I feel comfortable with already. 

Some cool experiences so far:

Going to the Cup Noodle Museum and being inspired by Momofuku Ando, who invented precooked chicken ramen instant noodles at age 48, reminding us it's never to late to follow our dreams and do something new

Seeing Tokyo lit up at night from the observatory on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Eating conveyor belt sushi, eating in single person stalls for ramen and having fresh sashmi in a don-buri which is a rice bowl

Sitting on the second floor of a cafe eating creme brulee while watching the madness of Shibuya Crossing on a Sunday Night

Being crammed into a train during the evening rush hour like a pack of sardines

Waking up early and going to a beautiful, nearby park to read because Tokyo is a late rising city and things don't open until 10 or 11 am!

Walking until my feet hurt but seeing the coolest things on the way

Taking photo booth pictures and editing them on those crazy, cute, Japanese systems

The closer I get to graduation, the more I want to teach overseas in Japan or Korea. This experience will be an asset in helping me decide what I want to do. 

I will take it easy, do my best, and have lots of fun!

I'm ready for you Sapporo, Hokkaido.

またね

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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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