Category Archives: Student Teaching in Belfast

Only days left!

As our time in Northern Ireland is quickly coming to an end, I am realizing that my student teaching experience and my time as a Drake student are also coming to an end. It is so bittersweet to end my education at Drake University but it has given me so many opportunities to grow as a person. Student teaching abroad has taught me so much about myself as a person, myself as a teacher and education systems in general.

I really enjoyed the last two weeks of teaching at Gilnahirk primary school. I felt as if the students were really starting to respect me and enjoy my teaching. I also felt like I was an essential part of the classroom because I was involved in so many lessons. On Friday I made the mistake of messing with the students. I would tap them on the opposite shoulder so they would look the wrong way, stick a piece of paper in their ear or try to scare them. This got to be quite the game. They kept trying to get me back. During break and lunch they would be crawling on the floor trying to sneak up on me. They left on Friday promising that they would get me back before I left!

The weekend was spent with all of the other American students and international students. We are tried to make the most of our last weekend together. We also went to panto which is a school play put on by Stranmillis students. They performed Little Red Riding Hood and it was pretty cool! It was a little modern with the song selections so that was fun. On Sunday we went to St. George’s Market, which is basically a farmers market inside a big building. I spent a lot of money there for souvenirs and gifts. They also had some great food. I got a chorizo and egg crepe and a tropical smoothie.

It seems surreal that I am starting to pack to go home. It feels as if I just got here. With that being said I am excited to see my friends and family. It has been a great time here in Northern Ireland!

The Beginning of the End

This week we finished our time teaching at placement. I will still have a few more days at school in Breda, but no longer teaching lessons. The funniest part of my last days teaching, were some pupils not realizing that I would be returning to America after my time in Belfast (or that I was American at all). It has been very busy finalizing all of our assignments and courses here in Belfast. We have final presentations coming up next week and our graduation, but it does not feel real that our time here is ending.

We spent this weekend in Belfast to really enjoy our home city one last time. The best part of the weekend was going to St. George’s Market; something we had wanted to do for a long time. The market holds local artists, musicians, and restaurants. We had great food and were able to finish up our souvenir shopping. The market was bustling the whole afternoon and had a band in the center filling the area with traditional Irish music. It was a great memory to end our time in Belfast.

I think the hardest part of our time coming to a close, is saying goodbye to all of the amazing people I have met. The professors, friends, and fellow Americans that we have spent the last 10 weeks have begun to feel like our family abroad. It is tough to think about leaving all of them, but they are amazing motivators to some day make our way back to Belfast.

Vida en Barcelona

This week we traveled to one of the special schools in Belfast, Torbank. This trip was our last educational adventure with Stranmillis, but probably the best. I really looked forward to visiting Torbank because of my endorsement in Special Education. I was curious to learn about how Special Education is approached in Northern Ireland and be able to compare the two.

While Northern Ireland has separate schools that cater to the needs of students with disabilities, their end goal is inclusion. The mentality toward including all students in the general or mainstream system was the major similarity I found between the U.S. and Belfast. I realized that most of the services that are provided in the special school are equivalent to the services provided in a special education department in a mainstream American school. One benefit I found in the special school was their ability to adapt every aspect of the school to meet the needs of their students. The funding is specifically focused on meeting the childrens’ needs, including a medical staff on site. I found this trip very educational and a great tool to use in moving forward with my own work in Special Education.

This weekend we traveled to Barcelona, Spain for our last international trip! We arrived in this new city late on Friday night and spent Saturday exploring (we walked 20 miles!). Although we only had a day in Barcelona, we made the most of our time. We explored Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, and the beaches, ate tapas and churros con chocolate, and walked all along the main streets. The culture, architecture, language, and food made this city one of my favorite trips during my time abroad. I will definitely be back to Barcelona again in my life!

While our adventures this past week have been exciting, it has also been bittersweet. Realizing that there is only two more weeks left of our time in Belfast, I am starting to get sad to leave this city that has become home. When arriving back from Barcelona, I realized how accustomed I had become to this city and that it really was starting to feel like home. I am finally able to use the bus system and make my way around town (of course right before I am going to leave…). I am very much looking forward to being back in the United States with friends and family, but I am not ready to leave this city and its people who have welcomed me with open arms.

 

Sláinte!

This week the IFSA students were taken on another educational trip in Belfast. We traveled to the Youthlink center, which is one of the only centers in Northern Ireland that is officially supported by all four churches. This center supports groups in finding respect and understanding on differences. In addition to the center visit, we were taken on a tour through some of the peace walls and neighborhoods. We had the chance to sign one of the walls and visited a memorial garden and monastery, which both hold a piece of history from The Troubles.

We also celebrated Thanksgiving across the pond! It was a tough day to be away from family, especially with having to still go to school. Some of the teachers asked me questions about the holiday and brought up how much they loved the Thanksgiving episode of Friends. Stranmillis made us a big Thanksgiving dinner and seated us at a big table in the center of the dining hall. They even decorated the table with American flags! Even though we all weren’t able to spend time with our families, it was great to celebrate the holiday as a group and share it with our friends here in Belfast.

We finished our week by traveling south to Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher! We spent our first night being very lazy and enjoying the perks of staying in a hotel room rather than a hostel. Then on Sunday morning we began our adventure to the Cliffs of Moher. We first stopped off at the Baby Cliffs, which was beautiful and seemed super high, until we saw the Cliffs of Moher. We ran into a bit of fog unfortunately once we made it up to the Cliffs. We kept hiking through the path and luckily the fog broke for a brief moment. We were able to take lots of pictures and take in the views. I wish that we could have seen it on a clear day, but it was still an amazing experience.

On Sunday we visited an iconic spot in Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse! We learned all about the history of the iconic brew and even got to practice our pouring skills. It was a very cool experience and a fun way to spend a Sunday. Sadly, we did not have much time exploring around Dublin. I will be traveling back to the south of Ireland at the end of our program to meet my family for a week of travel. I cannot wait to see them and explore an area that holds so much of our family’s history! Here’s to three more weeks in Belfast!

Thanksgiving in Belfast

Thanksgiving in Belfast

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

Guiness Storehouse

Guiness Storehouse

Another week, Mohre fun!

Monday we went on a tour to Youthlink and they showed us around the peace walls. I wrote my name and year on the peace walls. I got the day off Tuesday so I spent that day doing some lesson plans and working on my e-portfolio. Wednesday was a half day, which doesn’t involve much teaching because the students go swimming at 11 that day. Thursday I got observed and i taught my first math lesson here. They have been working on fractions so it wasn’t necessarily an easy topic. I tried using cubes to teach fractions. By the end of the lesson I wasn’t sure if I confused them more or helped them. They students were able to tell me the answer but when it came to showing me how they solved it with their cubes, they were very confused. Honestly, the lesson probably taught me more than it taught the students. It was also a great lesson for me to get observed for because it didn’t go as I planned so my supervisor got to see me deal with adversity and she had good things to say about that.

Friday Shealagh and I left for Dublin. We had Katie and Tunde (two other Americans) meet us later that night. We were so excited to be in a hotel instead of a hostel so we just sat in our hotel room and watched a movie. Saturday we decided to do a Paddywagon bus tour to The Cliffs of Moher. It was a long day but a good choice to do the tour. We drove from the East coast of Ireland to the West coast. We stopped at the Burren, which is a National park with a bunch of Limestone rock. It also had the “Baby cliffs”, which we got some good pictures with the sun out.

We stopped in a cute little fishing village called Doolan for lunch. Nest stop was the famous Mohre Cliffs. Sadly, it was very foggy but it cleared for about ten minutes. It was still breathtaking even if we couldn’t see all of the cliffs. I may have taken a year off of Shealagh’s life. We were about to take a selfie kind of close to the edge when I slipped and grabbed Shealagh’s backpack. She screamed and ran forward to get away from the cliff. Katie grabbed me so I wouldn’t fall of the edge. After everyone realized I wasn’t falling to my death, we all cracked up about Shealagh’s response. Once we got back to Dublin, we ate and went to bed after the long day.

Sunday morning, Shealagh and I went to the Guinness storehouse. I hadn’t tried Guinness until I got to Northern Ireland but I really like it now! It was a very cool experience to see the history, ingredients and advertisement. We also got to pour our perfect Guinness then take it up to the gravity bar and drink it while overlooking the city of Dublin. We also went a little crazy at the gift store. We walked to the bus station and were exhausted by the time we got back to Belfast. It was another good week! We have less than three weeks, which is hard to believe!

Only a month left?!

I am in full swing with teaching now. I am teaching 2 lessons a day which ends up being quite a bit of the day but still not as much as America. I have been teaching grammar, morning routines and volcano lessons. The Dynamic Earth is the topic they are currently studying so I have been doing a lot of lessons on volcanoes and I have really enjoyed it.

I got observed for the first time this week and I did a lesson plan about Mount Vesuvius. The lesson went well and Lois had some good feedback for me. Lois is my tutor and kind of like an advisor. I get observed by a different tutor this upcoming week.

During week nights I have been doing a lot of lesson planning and preparation for lesson plans. This weekend was very relaxed because we have two big weekends coming up. Next weekend we go to Dublin and Galway. The weekend after that is Barcelona. This Saturday we did the Black Taxi Tour and that was very interesting. Our tour guide was definitely Catholic so I would really be interested in taking the same tour with a Protestant tour guide to see the differences. After that we witnessed the Christmas lights get turned on in Belfast. It was really pretty and put me in the mood for Christmas!

Sunday, I had a lazy day which was actually very needed. I feel like I always find something to do with my downtime so it was nice to just lay around before the start of another week!

Exploring without Traveling

This week I took over another class to teach at Breda Academy. This class was a bit livelier than my other two, but just as exciting to teach. I continued teaching my year 8 and year 11 classes, and was complimented by having the pupils excited to see me and seeming disappointed during lessons that I was not teaching. I have really enjoyed getting to know these students and learning from them. It has been really fun sharing my experiences in America and having them compare them to their lives in Northern Ireland. I find myself a little more nervous when teaching here since it is a different culture and I still have yet to grasp all of the classroom norms, but my students are always excited and ready to learn, which makes it all much easier.

This weekend Mariah and I went on the Black Taxi Tour around Belfast. This tour gives the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. We were driven around to different historic areas on sides that were predominately Catholic and Protestant. We drove by the peace walls that are still up today; locking at 6:00pm daily in the chance that violence could break out. Being in Belfast, I have loved learning about the history and what has led to make it the city that it is. Seeing the peace walls was a very moving experience. I had envisioned what they might have looked like, but it was nothing like the reality. Seeing the walls gave me a better perspective on the chaotic times of The Troubles here in Belfast. The height and military grade level of the walls and seeing homes with cages to protect from bombs, transformed the stories that I had heard in my time in Belfast into a reality. I have loved learning about the history of Belfast and I was really glad that I was able to see this area that I may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise.

Christmas celebrations began in Belfast this weekend with the switching on of the Christmas lights at City Hall. Belfast hosts a large Christmas market that is filled with shops from around the world. This weekend was very crowded, but we managed to squeeze in to see City Hall light up. We did not explore the markets very much because it was so crowded, but we will definitely be making a visit later on, maybe two.

On Sunday, I traveled to Downpatrick for part of the day. It is said that St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba are buried there, so I was very curious to explore the area. I was able to attend the service at the Down Cathedral, which is located at the site where the saints are buried. I have never felt more welcomed than I did at this service. It was a small group in attendance, but each of them was very excited to have me there with them. Many of them asked me questions about how I was getting on in Belfast and it was a really comforting experience. One woman even walked me out to the gravesite and explained some of the history to me. Not only was there great history the area I was in, but you could also view the Mourne Mountains, which was absolutely breathtaking.

For the next three weekends, we will be traveling for two of them. I am very excited for all of our upcoming adventures, but the reality that out time in Belfast is winding down is very bittersweet. I am excited for the journey ahead, but will be very sad to see our time wind down.

One of the Peace Walls in Belfast

One of the Peace Walls in Belfast

City Hall lit up for Christmas

City Hall lit up for Christmas

One of the many festive signs around Belfast

One of the many festive signs around Belfast

Down Cathedral

Down Cathedral

The Burial Site of St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba

The Burial Site of St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba

The view outside of Down Cathedral

The view outside of Down Cathedral

Trump?

  • “Is that an American accent I hear? So….Trump.”
  • “Trump or Hillary?”
  • “So what do you think about your new election?”

These are the most common questions I get when anyone hears my American accent. Most of the time my response was, “It is what it is”, and I think they were expecting a more interesting response. I take a taxi to and from school every day so nearly the whole ride every day was spent talking about American politics. I am not someone who is particularly interested in politics so it got pretty old. A lot of the people are comparing it to Brexit and if they wanted to stay in or out. I am hoping the start of the new week will bring the start of new conversation.

This week, I started teaching. I had to teach one lesson a day. I got lucky enough that the topic they are studying right now is the dynamic Earth so I got to teach a couple of lessons about volcanoes. All of the lessons went pretty well and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable and like a part of the class. I got lucky enough to teach volcano experiments on Friday. We did the baking soda and vinegar volcano explosion and Coke & Mentos experiment. The students really enjoyed this lesson and it was fun to watch all of their reactions. Next week, I start teaching to lessons a week so I will be pretty busy!

I have to write a full lesson plan and review for every lesson I teach so I am fining myself to be pretty busy working on lesson plans after school.

“Are you American?”

This week was an interesting time to be abroad. As the United States elections have unfolded, I think I have been asked at least once a day about my feelings about Trump or Hillary. This week was no different, but the questions were more real after Tuesday. Since there is a time change, I went to sleep unsure of what reality I would be waking up to. The reality turned out to be Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Now, I do not want to make this blog post simply about politics, but if I learned one thing this week, it is how much influence the United States has on the rest of the world. Students in my classes were asking me questions similar to those I would have gotten in the U.S. The teachers here were as shocked as most Americans, and no one could believe it. In the United Kingdom, this election is seen as our version of Brexit…and that is not a good thing.

I began teaching my first lessons this week. I taught an area lesson to Year 8 students and transformation lessons to Year 10 students. The behavior of students in these classes was not much different than those of students in the United States. One thing I noticed was how they reacted to my style of teaching. At Drake, I have been taught that math is best learned through discovery, so I based my lesson on this theory and on questioning techniques. I could tell by many of the students’ reactions that they had not experienced a lot of learning in this way. When I introduced an area activity where students could create shapes, they were extremely engaged and excited to learn. Some of the students also became very excited when they realized I was from the United States. They asked questions like what grade they would be in America, or whether I could understand their accents. Teaching these lessons allowed me to connect with some of the students in a way I had not been able to do yet. I am looking forward to working with these groups for the rest of my time and I know it will be hard to leave my students.

Early in the week we also visited Lagan College, the first integrated school in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, integrated has a much different meaning than in the states. When I think of integrated, I think of race. When they say integrated in Northern Ireland, they are talking about religion. Catholic or Protestant divides most schools, so an integrated school welcomes students of both religions. Lagan College was opened 35 years ago and funded by parents who believed in the school and what it stood for. Students from all over the country traveled to learn in an environment that respected all ideas and opinions, but others did not always respect this school. When the school started out, students could not wear their badges or talk about what they learned in public due to fear of violence. Some school buses were attacked as they brought students from bus and train stations. Today, the school has a new building and serves 2,000 students, with a long list of applications behind them. The school welcomes all religions and allows for open respectful conversations about beliefs. The school also welcomes students of all ability levels. The philosophy that every student has the ability to learn is very evident in this school. Additionally there is pride from both teachers and students in this institution. They strive to provide the best education while also supporting other schools that have joined the journey in integration. Visiting Lagan College was an amazing experience and I was very impressed by the philosophy and ethos that they held.

Lagan College

Lagan College

Lagan College

Lagan College

Lagan College

Lagan College

“Reading” Week

Absolutely no reading got done during reading week.

Shealagh and I took a week long trip around the UK. We flew from Belfast to Glasgow, Scotland. We bused from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Bused from Edinburgh to London, England (10 hours). Bused from London to Cardiff, Wales. Finally, flew from Cardiff back to Belfast.

We learned a lot about traveling, gained some confidence in ourselves and got to experience four different hostels. The hostels were a new experience for both of us. They aren’t as bad as everyone makes them out to be. They are a little awkward and sometimes you question the cleanliness of the sheets or the bathrooms but, you also have the opportunity to meet people your age from all around the world.

Glasgow was a nice city but there wasn’t a lot of site seeing to do. We visited the Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest house in Glasgow and walked down Buchanan Street, which had a bunch of shops. We also went to a building called the lighthouse and walked up a bunch of stairs so we could over look the city.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh was our next stop and quite possibly our favorite! Just the city itself was beautiful. The roads were cobblestone and the architecture was old and gorgeous. We got there on Halloween and they had the Samhuinn Fire Festival. It was an ancient Gaelic festival celebrating the end of summer and beginning of winter. It was really cool but actually a little frightening with the very real costumes and actors. We visited the castle and walked around Calton Hill. Calton Hill had a lot of neat monuments and structures. Then for dinner that night we tried Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. This is a traditional Scottish dish. We did not google what it was until after we ate it just in case we didn’t like the description. It was actually really tasty and was good comfort food.

Samhurinn Fire Festival.

Samhurinn Fire Festival.

 

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.

Scottish Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.

Next stop was London! We definitely did not have enough time in London but we tried to make the most of it by doing a bus tour. The bus stopped at all of the main attractions so you could hop on and off at any time you wanted! We got to see the Royal Courts of Justice, Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace and the Marble Arch. Often we would stop, take pictures, enjoy the view and hop back on the bus. Thursday night we were about to call it a night after dinner but we decided to stop at a theater and see how much a ticket would cost to Matilda the musical. We got 5 pound tickets and the musical was great! It was probably our best bargain of the trip.

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Tower of London.

Big Ben!

Big Ben!

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Matilda the musical.

Last stop, Cardiff, Wales. We happened to plan our trip to Cardiff on a really good weekend. We got there Friday night and the Wales vs. Australia rugby match was on Saturday. The city was very busy with a lot of red and green littering the crowd. We checked the ticket office to see how much the tickets were about 30 minutes before the game and they were still 60 pounds. We didn’t want to pay that much so we talked to a scalper and got two tickets for 30 pounds a piece. We had great seats and it was a great learning experience since it was our first rugby match.

Wales vs. Australia rugby match.

Wales vs. Australia rugby match.

Overall it was a great trip! We found that whenever we told anyone where we were from they would ask, “Trump or Hillary?”