Category Archives: Student Teaching in Belfast

“Reading” in the United Kingdom

This week was the Stranmillis Reading Week. Reading week means that no classes are held  and we can do our “reading” wherever we want. We chose to spend our reading week exploring the United Kingdom. We traveled to Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland; London, England; and Cardiff, Wales. Each city was unique and wonderful to explore. My feet still hurt, I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed, and it feels good to shower in my own bathroom, but the adventures were beyond worth it.

Glasgow

As our first stop in the trip, this city was our test run of traveling. It was our first hostel experience and first time navigating a brand new city for more than one day. Glasgow was very urban with a few historical aspects along the way. My favorite stop was the Glasgow Cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful and full of detail. Each stained glass window and chapel was unique and it was amazing how much effort went in to this building. We were lucky enough to hear a bit of the service on Sunday morning, which was just as beautiful as the building it was held in.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh

This city was my favorite of the four we visited. The history and character of each building, street, and shop was great to experience. We explored the Edinburgh Castle, which I geeked out in because of a Netflix series I watch featuring Mary Queen of Scots, who spent a short time in the castle. This city was rich with history and royal aspects, which is something we do not experience in the States. We heard bagpipers on the streets and saw kilts galore. We also courageously tried Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, and it was surprisingly delicious (I recommend not asking what it is before trying it). Edinburgh was the hardest city to leave, but I hope I will one day make it back there.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London

First, although it is possible, I highly recommend experiencing London in more than just 36 hours. While we saw all of the major landmarks, we did not get to experience them as much as I would have liked (Sight-seeing, not sight-doing). We stopped by Tower Bridge, made our way to see Big Ben,  the Westminster Abbey and ended our day at Buckingham Palace. Sadly, no one let us in to the palace, but we at least go to see it from the gates. By the end of our day in London we were more tired than any other time in the week, but we forced ourselves to keep awake and walk through the city. We ended up taking a chance on tickets to see Matilda the Musical at one of the many theaters. Lucky for us, and to our surprise, were able to get tickets for 5 pounds and it was an absolutely amazing show! I highly recommend seeing a show in London and it was definitely one of the highlights of my week.

Big Ben!

Big Ben!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardiff

This city was one that we had pretty low expectations for. Many people told us that there would be little to nothing to do, so we planned on it being the relaxing end to our trip…it was a bit different than that. It happened to be a huge weekend in Cardiff with the Autumn International Rugby Event of Wales playing Australia. We met a large group of Australians staying in our hostel who convinced us it was worth going to the match. We were able to find cheap tickets and experienced our first Rugby match! That night we also met a couple of the Australian Rugby players which was pretty cool, especially since one of them chatted me up about the Cubs winning the World Series. I don’t think we experienced what would be deemed as the “true” Cardiff, but I loved our time in this city.

Australia vs. Wales Rugby Match

Australia vs. Wales Rugby Match

 

 

Walking through Belfast

This week I participated in a sponsored walk with the year 8 students at Breda Academy. Year 8 is the equivalent to sixth grade in the United States, which is also one of my favorite grade levels to work with. This age group is not much different in Northern Ireland than the United States. Every student has a cell phone, Snapchat and Instagram are vital, and social awkwardness is evident.

The sponsored walk was a fundraiser for MS in Northern Ireland. The students raised money for an organization and then spent the morning walking around a park in Belfast. The park was gorgeous and I had the chance to socialize with some of the other teachers from my placement school. I was able to get great travel tips from them, as we are about to embark on our journey throughout the United Kingdom. Per usual, the topic of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton also came up and the pity everyone has for our country’s government. It was great experience to be outside of the classroom with students and to be seen by them as someone other than the adult who has observed us for the last week.

Later on in the week, all of the IFSA-Butler students met up with our Belfast “Mom” Eibhlin for a walk and hot chocolate. Eibhlin is a huge comfort to have here in Belfast. She lets us know of good places to go, fun places to eat, and is there to listen to all of our fun stories of experiencing Belfast. She is like having a parent here in Belfast even though she is only a few years older than us. She makes us all feel at home here and makes us laugh for all of the ways we mispronounce words or do not understand lingo. The IFSA community is a great outlet to have here, while also being able to branch out and meet people from all over the world in Stranmillis.

One of my favorite parts of the week is our Northern Ireland course here at Stranmillis. For the past two weeks we have been learning about The Troubles that occurred in Northern Ireland and how they shaped Belfast to be what it is today. The history and culture is fascinating and it truly helps in becoming acclimated to Northern Ireland. International students also only take this course, so we are exposed to not only Northern Irish culture, but also cultures throughout the world. One of the best parts of the my study abroad experience so far has been my ability to meet local students from Northern Ireland, but also making friends with people from a variety of countries.

Walking along River Lagan with the IFSA group

Walking along River Lagan with the IFSA group

Sponsored Walk with Breda Academy

Sponsored Walk with Breda Academy

The Calm Before the Storm

When I say the “storm” I mean it in a good way. This week was very relaxed. As usual we didn’t have placement on Monday but I could feel myself coming down with a sickness. I think the Mourne mountains got the best of me with the cool breeze blowing from the water. But the mountains were well worth the sickness.

Luckily, I only had half days at placement all week because they had parent-teacher conferences. I went to school Tuesday and did a PowerPoint presentation about me so the students knew more about me and where I come from. They had quite a few questions. I went to school on Wednesday but my cold was full blown at this point. I didn’t want to infect the kids with my sneezing, coughing, and constantly blowing my nose so I went to see the nurse Thursday morning instead of going to school. She advised me to also take Friday off of placement. This is another difference I have noticed about Northern Ireland; they are a lot more laid back about taking care of yourself first and school second. I kind of felt like I had to be on my death bed to miss a day of student teaching in America. But here they were pushing me to stay home an extra day to get better. I definitely wanted to be better by the end of the week because that is when the storm hit!

When I say storm, I mean me and Shealagh’s week long trip around the UK. In Northern Ireland they have a half term. The primary schools, post primary school and Universities all take a week off of school, which is called half term. So we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to travel. We fly out of Belfast Saturday night to go to Glasgow, Scotland. Then to Edinburgh, London and Cardiff. We are staying at each place for about 2 or 2 1/2 days. We are very excited for all of the new opportunities but also a little nervous. We have never stayed in hostels before so it should be very interesting! I’ll let you know how it all went next week!

This is what my week consisted of.

This is what my week consisted of (the middle medicine is really disgusting).

Getting Accustomed to Life in Belfast

This week I was at Gilnahirk Primary school Monday through Thursday. I am still observing but she has me grading papers, their daily maths and spelling. This week she also had me work with a boy on multiplying multi digit numbers and some tests he missed. He was gone for his grandfathers’ funeral but he picked up on the multiplication very quickly. I was shocked that they were already starting multiplying multi digit numbers because my students at my placement in Iowa were just getting introduced to multiplication. In Northern Ireland, they start introducing multiplication at P4 which is 7-8 years old.

Certain differences I notice during school:

  • They call math, maths.
  • Grading is called marking.
  • Their classroom management is very different because of the students’ behavior. The students are well behaved so a lot of times they don’t need a ton of classroom management.
  • The transitions are very smooth and I think it is because she has student jobs and the students know the procedures.
  • They talk about God freely. They just started learning about the Dynamic Earth and the first lesson was on the creation of the Earth.

This upcoming week I am starting c-teaching so I will be teaching a lesson a day. We have to create a lesson plan and review for every lesson plan we teach. This is a little different than my placement at home because we didn’t have to fill out a detailed lesson plan for every lesson we taught.

On Saturday we went to Derry, which is The Walled City. We learned a lot about the history and struggles. It took us about an hour to walk around the wall, we went to lunch and walked past the murals. We spent about four hours in the city and that was the perfect amount of time! We rode the bus there and back, which took around two hours each way.

On Sunday we made a last minute decision to go to Newcastle, Northern Ireland. We went with a girl named Kai from Providence College and three international girls from China. We rode the bus once again but the ride was about an hour and fifteen minutes. Newcastle is right on the coast so it was very windy and chilly. We walked along the coast to a trail. The trail went up the mountain. It was very steep and exhausted us all, but once we got to the top we quickly forgot about the hard hike. We took plenty of pictures and then headed back down the mountain, got ice cream and went back to Belfast. So far I have been loving it and I am getting used to life in Belfast!

Fall in Belfast!

Fall in Belfast!

The Walled City - Derry

The Walled City – Derry

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Mourne Mountains

 

 

Embracing the Culture Shocks

This week I started to realize that I was experiencing more of a culture shock than I had expected. Since getting to Belfast, I had a strange feeling that I knew was not homesickness, but I did not feel quite settled yet in the new city I would be calling home. Then I started to think more about when and where I would have the unsettling feeling (which was not really a negative emotion), and most of the time it would be in situations where I felt very separate from the culture I was living in. Having this sense of culture shock is something I am thankful for because it means I am being exposed to something new, which is the main reason I came to Belfast.

I noticed the greatest sense of culture shock in my placement at Breda Academy. Going to school is usually the only time I am on my own without another American or student from Stranmillis. Being the only student at Breda Academy is exciting and allows me to set my own impression on the teachers and staff. However, there have definitely been times I have felt intimidated by trying to put on this impression in representing Stranmillis, Drake, and, quite frankly, the United States. I have gotten more comfortable, especially with spending this past full week in school. It has been exciting to learn the different aspects of schools in Belfast, but I am still learning to be patient that I will be confused and need to ask for help, or for someone to repeat themselves because I cannot understand their accent.

Some of the biggest differences I have noticed at Breda Academy are:

  • BIDMAS = PEMDAS; different terms are used such as brackets for parenthesis and indices for exponents in Mathematics.
  • Grading = Marking; grading and tracking are a big focus in this school. Each grade level is broken down into about 5 levels based on student ability. Each level is lettered A-F and based on tracking tests. This week most of the students were taking their tracking tests.
  • Teachers are addressed as Sir or Miss; no matter what the teacher’s name, each male teacher is addressed only by Sir and the female teachers Miss. There also seems to be a slight difference in the person-ability within the schools. While in the States not all teachers are friendly with students,  in Breda Academy I have noticed a level of formality among teachers and students (or pupils). Respectful behavior is a very important aspect of education. Teachers make sure each student is behaving properly while in school.

One of the really great culture “shocks” I have noticed is the leisure-based lifestyle many people live here. Most businesses close around 6 pm, the buildings on campus are all closed by 9 pm (including the library), and most people do not start their days until after 1 pm on the weekends. Since I am so used to the American way of being constantly busy and spending my whole night in the library, this change was a little frustrating. However, this new lifestyle allows for time to focus on getting to know other people or enjoy the city. We have been taking advantage of most of this time to travel. This past weekend we visited Derry/Londonderry and the Mourne Mountains. Derry was full of culture and rich history. We walked around the walls that surround the city dating back to the 17th century We also saw the murals that were painted as a result of the Troubles in the 1960s. The Mourne Mountains showed absolutely amazing views (and we did not even make it to the top!). Our legs are sore from all the hiking, but it was worth it! Our half term is coming up, which will allow for more travel and time to experience more cultures!

Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Historic Murals in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Historic Murals in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains, Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Week 1 at Stranmillis University College

Here begins our 10 week journey at Stranmillis University College!

When Shealagh and I arrived we met Ashley, our student advisor, who showed us around the city and had orientation with us. She took us to our flat which we each have our own en suite in. We got all of the necessities and unpacked everything! We met the other Americans from Providence College who are staying on the same flat as us. We forced ourselves to stay up until about 10 pm that night although Shealagh and I were both exhausted.

On Monday and Tuesday we had meetings to learn about the program, our placement and the college itself. We met the placement coordinators and education administrators. All of the people within the college have been so helpful and accommodating for us! One thing that kind of surprised me was our schedule in the school which is:

Monday: Morning activity, Northern Ireland Culture class 2-5

Tuesday: Full day at placement school

Wednesday: Half day at placement school

Thursday: Full day at placement school

Friday: Half day at placement school

It seems within their culture, they are very conscious of not being overworked. They set up the schedule like this because they knew we would be traveling and wanted to make sure we would have time on Fridays to travel and recovery time on Mondays after traveling.

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to my placement at Gilnahirk Primary School which is a 20-30 minute cab ride depending on the traffic. I am in a P6 classroom (4th grade) with Jane Pitts. The students here are the same age as the students at my first student teaching placement so it has been very interesting to compare. I have noticed how well behaved the students are here. Classroom management is very different because of their good behavior. I haven’t seen very many lessons yet but they do a lot of independent work and she basically tells them the task and they work quietly at their desks. I have also noticed that the students in Northern Ireland are farther ahead in their learning than my students in Des Moines. For example, they were able to write a full story about Vikings when my students in Des Moines needed a lot of guidance just to take writing from a graphic organizer to a full paragraph.

On Friday we had a meeting with Lois Totton who talked about our schedule, assignments and travels. Then we had the rest of the day to explore the city and do some shopping.

Saturday was our trip to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giants Causeway. They were both so gorgeous. It was a little cloudy and then the last 30 minutes of our time at Causeway there was a steady rain. I wore my winter jacket which is not waterproof so I was soaked by the end of the trip. But the beauty of it all was definitely worth the wet clothes!

Sundays are lazy days in Ireland so we tried to  be productive but none of the buildings or the library on campus were open. So we had to settle for the kitchen to be our work space for the day!

This upcoming week I will be in the classroom every day so I will much more to say about school!

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

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Carrick-a-Rede

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Stan House

Our New Home in Belfast

It has officially been a week since we touched down in our new home of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The jet lag has left us, the accents are becoming easier to understand, and the lingo is starting to feel natural. The first week here at Stranmillis University College has been a whirlwind of new experiences and information, but this city has done nothing but amaze me. Everyone we have met through Stranmillis and IFSA has welcomed us with open arms and patience as we adjust to our new home (Even the taxi drivers have shown the upmost kindness). It feels strange to think it has only been a week here, but I cannot wait to continue with the next nine.

I will be spending most of my time during the week at Breda Academy in their Math’s department. Most of my teaching will be with P11/Year 4’s, which would equate to freshman in high school. I will also be working some with P8/9’s, which equates to 6/7th grades. Breda has a unique daily schedule, so I will be spend my time with two cooperating teachers, rather than one. The school lingo has been interesting to pick up on. Classes are called lessons and the grade levels have been tough to understand. After two days being in school I feel a bit more comfortable, but I think it will be even better after this next whole week in school.

Here are the biggest joys I have had in the last seven days:

Joy #1: The way of life here seems to be much more focused on the well being of people. I noticed this cultural aspect first at Stranmillis where we had coffee/tea breaks and people were asking whether we were doing well almost every thirty minutes. The coffee/tea breaks are also in the school, which I think is a trend the United States needs to pick up on because who doesn’t want a mid-morning coffee break? Stranmillis has shown in this short amount of time how much they care about their students and their willingness to accommodate any need we have. I also noticed this aspect at the schools where many of the teachers saw professional life as a simply that, a job. The idea of “working to live, rather living to work” is very evident here, whereas it seems to be the opposite in the United States.

Joy #2: Site-seeing and experiencing the culture. I have already been blown away with the architecture and natural wonders that Northern Ireland has to offer. There is so much history in this city that I am slowly learning and look forward to learning more. This weekend we traveled with Stranmillis to the Giant’s Causeway, which was breathtaking. There is a wealth of natural beauty on this island country and I cannot wait to explore as much as I can.

Joy #3: Stranmillis provides a weeklong reading week, which allows for traveling. We decided to plan a week of traveling to explore the entirety of the United Kingdom. We will begin our journey in Scotland, through England, and end in Wales. I could not be more excited for this trip and get to see so many different places. We also planned a trip to Barcelona later on, which is another place I have always dreamt of going. My hope is to balance my time between enjoying Belfast and Northern Ireland, while also taking advantage of the opportunity to see other countries in our short time here.

There have also been a few challenges…

  • Figuring out which way to look when crossing the street
  • Trying to open doors… (Is it push or pull?)
  • The accents…there is definitely a slight language barrier
  • The pound – Half of the currency is coin!

 

Belfast City Centre

Belfast City Centre

Friars Bush Cemetery - Belfast

Friars Bush Cemetery – Belfast

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Weeks 9 and 10- the Beginning of the End

Wow, I am still in shock that our time in Belfast has come to an end, we are done with student-teaching, and I am technically now a Drake alum. These ten weeks have been eye-opening as I have learned so much about Ireland, teaching, and myself. These past two weeks we were busy getting things ready for the end of our school placement, preparing for our final presentation, and thinking over what to say at our graduation. In the midst of academia, we were also trying to get in our last few excursions as we wanted to see as much of Ireland as we could in the remaining days. Some of my trips included spending time in Londonderry and Dublin. All of these last-minute obligations made for a hectic ending and little sleep, but in the end it was worth it to soak in as much of the Irish culture and landscape as we could. This student-teaching experience has solidified my philosophy of who I think I will be as a teacher, has made me learn that kids will be kids no matter what side of the globe you are on, and has given me a deep appreciation for the Irish and their kind hospitality.  Ireland will always have a special place in my heart and I hope I get the chance to return to it some day in the future. I have titled this blog as “the beginning of the end” not because it is the end of our time in Belfast, but because I hope it to be the beginning of a great career in teaching and the ignition of a desire to continue learning about global education.

Londonderry

Londonderry

Londonderry

Londonderry

my hopes for student-teaching at the beginning of the program

my hopes for student-teaching at the beginning of the program

Ms. Moore's P2 class and our teaching assistants

Ms. Moore’s P2 class and our teaching assistants

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Dublin

Dublin

Bri and I with members of Brooklands Primary School

Bri and I with members of Brooklands Primary School

Winter crafts

Winter crafts

Perks of being a teacher around the holidays

Perks of being a teacher around the holidays

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Our week started off with a visit to the Stormont Parliament Building. This is a large, beautiful building that I pass everyday on the way to Brooklands Primary School but have never been in. It sits on top of large hill with a gated entry way and draws your attention immediately as you are passing by. Our supervisor, Dr. George Beale, took us to get a quick tour, hear about some of the government’s history, and find out about some of the recent legislature relating to education. While it was quick, it was very informative; if we were only there an hour longer we would have been able to sit in on one of Parliament’s meetings!

After almost six weeks worth of hard work, we have finally reached the time to perform our Christmas plays in my school placement! This past week, P2 at Brooklands Primary School performed their play, “Santa’s Setbacks”, for P1, P3, and our Nursery. It went off without a hitch and the kids did a spectacular job! This upcoming week they will be performing for the moms, dads, grandparents, and other friends and family that have purchased tickets. As great as they have been, I think we are all ready for the play to be over so that we can resume to a somewhat-normal routine. I am ready to not have the play’s Christmas music stuck in my head 24/7!

This week I taught numeracy relating to our number revision of 1 through 10 as well as an activity I learned from my last placement called “Domino Addition”. Students use dominos to add the two parts to calculate a sum. It is a great way for developing number sense with children, recognizing fact famlies that make the same sum, comparing values, and subitising numbers. I also taught our Learning through Play time relating to Winter. Students made snowflakes out of pasta, snowmen cards, penguin prints out of potatos and paint, and a penguin out of an old waterbottle. We now have a lovely winter-themed classroom that will parallel the cold fronts that have been coming through Belfast!

This next week is my last week of Bell-to-Bell Teaching which absolutley dumbfounds me. We still have so much to do in terms of assignments and presentations for Stranmillis even though we have 13 days left of our placement. It will be a busy next two weeks! IMG_1385

Stormont Parliament Building

Stormont Parliament Building

Inside of Stormont Parliament Building

Inside of Stormont Parliament Building

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Matching Narrators in the Christmas Play

Matching Narrators in the Christmas Play

Dad in the Christmas Play

Dad in the Christmas Play

Snowmen in the Christmas Play

Snowmen in the Christmas Play

Doctor in the Christmas Play

Doctor in the Christmas Play

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Winter Crafts

Winter Crafts

Student whole-group work for Domino Addition

Student whole-group work for Domino Addition

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Tis’ the Season

After learning about Thanksgiving last week, we have made a quick transition to Christmas! From our crafts, to our hymns, and our preparation for our Christmas play, Thanksgiving is long-forgotten in the minds of our P2’s even though it was only just yesterday. This week, students have been making Christmas crafts during play-based learning, which have already been used to “deck the halls” of Brooklands Primary. In less than two weeks, we will be performing our Christmas play called “Santa’s Setbacks” (pictures and more to follow next week). It’s amazing to see the progress the P2’s have made from when we first started practicing a month ago. I’m also amazed daily as to how our teachers are able to get through an hour a day of play practice with almost 90 little bodies to manage, but that is a Christmas miracle in itself. Besides teaching play-based learning, my responsibilities have also included teaching numeracy where students learned about the story of 6 (different ways to get the number 6 with addition) and more about adding with the 2 pence coin.

Some of our other obligations from Stranmillis this week included attending lectures about bullying in schools, teaching Science through play, and Numeracy and number sense at the Primary level. Although these topics are ones we have covered in our coursework from our home institutions, it was a good reminder, especially as we have gained more control in the classroom. On Friday, we met with our Stranmillis Supervisor, Dr. George Beale, to discuss observations for this next week, teacher effectiveness, and teacher and student roles in the classroom. It is really starting to get down to the wire as we will be leaving in three weeks and have many assignments to complete before than. Even though I am not at Drake, I certainly have not escaped the urgency and workload of Finals!

Thanksgiving meal courtesy of our Dining Hall

Thanksgiving meal courtesy of our Dining Hall

A caroler in the Xmas Play

A caroler in the Xmas Play

Christmas Crafts

Christmas Crafts

Christmas Trees and Puddings

Christmas Trees and Puddings

Crafty Angels

Crafty Angels

Crafty Rudolph

Crafty Rudolph

Christmas Markets in Belfast

Christmas Markets in Belfast

the Story of 6

the Story of 6