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

 

 

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

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

Thankul for P2

My first wave of homesickness has hit. While college students in America will be home on Thursday enjoying a nice homecooked Thanksgiving meal with family and loved ones, I will be teaching P2 children who’s minds’ are already thinking about Christmas and all of the great things Santa will bring them. However, this past week has helped ease that feeling of homesickness because I was able to teach my students all about Thanksgiving in our Learning through Play time. This week, I had our students make Pilgrim hats, Thanksgiving Turkeys, and Thankful Trees to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving. I was eager to see that students were able to make connections from the Thanksgiving children’s video we watched to their learning about God and the Harvest in their Religious Education time. I also taught Numeracy this week where we practiced working on our numbers from 1 to 10 with a game of Math Bingo, the Story of 5 (different ways to reach a sum of 5), and an introduction to the 2 pence coin. Not quite sure how I got assigned to teach that as I can barely figure out which coin is which when paying for groceries, but I managed!

This next week we will be beginning our “bell-to-bell” period so I will be teaching three lessons a day. Here we go!

Student work- the 2p coin

Student work- the 2p coin

Student work- the 2p coin

Student work- the 2p coin

Pilgrims' Hats

Pilgrims’ Hats

Turkey crafts

Turkey crafts

Thankful Trees

Thankful Trees

Thanksgiving Crafts

Thanksgiving Crafts

Over the hump

Well, we have officially reached the half way mark for our stay in Belfast. Each week that I write my blog I feel as though I was just writing my last one for the previous week. One exciting thing that happened this week when we got the chance to hear children’s author/illustrator and Belfast-native, Oliver Jeffers, speak at the Ulster Museum. This was honestly one of the best lectures I’ve been to because of his creativity and humor. It also didn’t hurt that he is one of my favorite children’s authors. On Monday, we completed our second NICIE workshop, which focuses on promoting diversity in the classroom and valuing differences. One aspect of this workshop that I found particularly interesting was when we talked about how to freely discuss religion in the classroom. Seeing as this is a big elephant in the room in America, many of us expressed our hesitancy to do so because it can bring about tension from students and parents and has been even been a source of getting teachers fired. However, in Northern Ireland this is quite the opposite. Seeing as though religion has been such a divisive issue, educators feel the need to have an open dialogue about this in school because it students need to generate accurate conceptions about what specific religions are like. Hopefully, America can jump on board with this ideology in the public education sector as well, so that students gain accurate and healthy views of different religions, rather than just what they hear through the media or other incomplete sources.

This week, I taught Literacy every day to my students and went through my first observation with our Supervisor, Dr. George Beal, from Stranmillis. Although I have half a semester and three years of practicum experience teaching under my belt, its been a difficult transition as we begin to gain more control in the classroom. Adjusting to teaching a new class and in a new country brings its whole set of challenges, but this week I finally felt as though I was picking up at a similar place as where I left off in the States when I was doing my bell-to-bell teaching. I definitely took advice from Oliver Jeffer’s presentation when he said to “Act the part” even if we aren’t 100 % confident of our ability.

Friday, we met up with members of the Belfast Community Project who seek to bring reconciliation to pockets of Belfast that still are going through difficulties relating to the Troubles. These members do work with members of the community both young and old and also aim to ensure the welfare of all citizens in the area. These members of this project were extremely passionate about the work they were doing, the mission of the project, and have been underpaid for the services and often don’t know how much/when they will receive their next paycheck. This was an enlightening and humbling experience that demonstrated a lot of the effort that is going on in to developing the area.

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Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers

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Students’ work from my lesson last week

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I-rish We Had More Time to Travel!

I am seeming to fall more in love with Ireland by the day! This past week I met up with my sister and brother-in-law in Dublin to begin my week off for half-term break. The thing I think I am most appreciative of with this trip was that we were able to find each other at the Dublin International Airport. It just goes to show how reliant we are on cellphones seeing as we both didn’t have an international plan and our wifi wouldn’t work! After about an hour of frantically searching, talking to employees, and running around trying to find the right terminal, we were reunited and ready to begin our sightseeing!

Our first day in Dublin we went and explored the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Not only was the Cathedral gorgeous, but the fact that it was about 1,000 years old completely took me back. There was so much historical and religious significance to it that it was hard to wrap my head around. The following day we took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which was one of my top priorities for my time here in Ireland. Along the way and back from the Cliffs we stopped in Limerick, Galway, and Fanor for some sightseeing. One of my favorite things that we saw was the Obama Plaza in Limerick. Barack Obama’s grandfather was from Limerick and so after Obama went to visit his roots a few years back, an entire truck stop was dedicated to it for tourists to visit. It was quite humorous seeing as there were keychains with our President’s face on them and a wifi account called Barack Obama. We then returned to Belfast where we enjoyed visits to the Botanical Gardens, Ulster Museum, City Centre, Titanic Museum, peace murals, and a Game of Thrones tour along the coast of Northern Ireland. It was a beautiful and once-of-a-lifetime trip that I was able to experience with two of my favorite people. Next week, we are back to the “real” world as we will begin teaching a lesson per day in the classroom and becoming more involved with our students. Now it’s time to start lesson-planning for my kiddos!

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Barack Obama Plaza

Barack Obama Plaza

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

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Game of Thrones Tour

Game of Thrones Tour

Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones

Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones

Titanic Museum

Titanic Museum

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Peace Walls

Peace Walls

an Ancient Bulldog at the Ulster Museum- a nice reminder of Drake!

an Ancient Bulldog at the Ulster Museum- a nice reminder of Drake!

Week 2: Sticking out a Little Less

And just like that, Week 2 in Belfast is coming to a close. I can’t believe we have already been here for 1/5 of our stay. If the speed of this week is any indication as to what the rest of our time will be like, then this placement will be over before we know it. This week was busy as we tried to squeeze in time to learn about the culture, education, and tourism of Belfast and Northern Ireland. This past weekend we spent time biking to Lisburn, a nearby town of Belfast, which ended up being a 25 mile journey, round-trip. On Sunday we drove up to the North Coast to see the infamous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway. After seeing both of those places I can definitely understand why they are such popular sights. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the view from our hikes couldn’t have gotten much better. Although it wasn’t quite the relaxing weekend that I’m sure many of us needed after a busy first week, it was an amazing opportunity to get a sense of the beauty that Ireland has to offer.

Some of our other obligations this week included attending lectures. Our first lecture builded upon on how we can ensure we are including and learning about various types of diversity in the classroom. Through this seminar, we were able to participate in different activities that demonstrated how we can work on building a positive and welcoming  learning environment in our classroom, especially in Belfast with past and current political/religious tensions. The second was about how Northern Ireland’s society and education has been molded by historical events such as the Troubles. Basically, the phrase the Troubles, can be seen as a euphemism for the violence and terrorism that began in the 60’s in Northern Ireland revolving around wether loyalty should be kept to the United Kingdom or to Ireland. Because it was such a historical event in this country, it has been deeply fabricated into the culture and education system today. After learning about this through our lecture, we were given a better sense of how this translates into the schools we will be teaching at and with the students we will be teaching over the remainder of our time here.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday consisted of going back to our school placements where we were able to gather more observations and help assist our classroom teacher. One immediate difference that I noticed when compared to the schools in America, is that there were so many adults in the classroom. We have a head teacher, an assistant teacher, and a Special Education teacher that remain in the classroom for almost the whole day, which is not typical of schools in America. This is an aspect that I particularly like with the Northern Ireland education system because students can receive more targeted support, whether they are academically struggling or excelling. Another evident difference that I saw my very first day was how religion is incorporated into the school. Because Brooklands Primary School identifies as being a Protestant school, religion is a part of the curriculum. At our assembly, students were singing songs where they praised God for giving us food during the harvest. This is something that is the complete opposite from my educational upbringing because of the separation of church and state. It is almost unthinkable that religion would be a part of a public school in America because our country leans on the more sensitive side in regards to our first amendment rights.

After a great week at school we now have some time off for travel since it is considered half-term for students and faculty at the schools and universities in Belfast. I’m off to Dublin in the morning!

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Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

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