Major: Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies
Hometown, State: Portsmouth, IA
Type of experience: Student Teaching Abroad
Experience: International Student Teaching- Norway
Experience website: https://www.education.iastate.edu/educator-prep-program/student-teaching/
My experience has been a fantastic challenge full of learning and joy. I came into this placement slightly nervous, as I would be an FCS teacher leading English lessons and more. It was challenging at first to get used to the schedule, the language barrier, and the content, but I had support and smiles all the way. Each day things got a little easier, and by the end I felt at home working with my students and colleagues to deliver a variety of lessons. I have been teaching every day, but I have also learned so much. Living and working in another country has helped me build an understanding and empathy for English Language Learners, as I have walked in their shoes. Through teaching English at three different levels have I learned techniques I can take home to support ELL students in my future classroom. The students, staff, and others I have met during my time in Norway have taught me about their country, traditions, culture and their selves. I have learned about the education system and found things I want to take home to improve my own practice. Through the whole experience I have had so much fun. Even the most challenging day was made easier by the kind spirit and attitude of the people I was surrounded by. My students were always eager to share stories with me, and my colleges were always supportive. This was truly a unique experience, that has helped me grow in so many ways.
The first time I was fully aware that student teaching abroad was an option for me was at the first student teacher round up meeting. We received a packet that listed the different countries you could travel to. After I investigated it a little more I found out as an FCS major that my options were limited, but I would not change my placement for the world. It ended up being the perfect fit!
An impact to my life...
Describe how this experience has impacted your life, as well as your personal, education and long-term career goals: * Coming into this experience I was unsure of what to expect, and I am amazed at what I have gained. I have not only broadened my view of education but come to recognize aspects of my personal life that I want to improve or change. The string that has tied this whole experience together is kindness. From the first day in Norway receiving help from a stranger, to the last days at the school preparing for the holidays with the students. Every person I have met has led with kindness. I was lucky to be the first American student placed at my school, which was daunting coming in, but very rewarding in the end. The teachers that I have worked with have been kind, supportive, and shared so much with me. From my time working in the Norwegian education system I have learned about a slightly different way to educate, have had lots of moments of reflection, and realized some tools I want to take home with me. While in Norway I was able to teach more than my core subject, exposing me to different types of teaching and learning. Working in the English classes I have come to recognize there is always more than one way to meet a learning goal. The teachers here work very hard to appeal to their student’s interest. Whether it be for an assignment, a project, or a test they want each student to feel like they can reach the goal. To do that they give the students option and power in how they execute a task, or what the content focus is. For example, for exams students could link their writing to their interest whatever they may be. While working and living in Norway I have been able to reflect on what it is like to be a language learner. Being immersed into another country with a different language has opened my eyes. I have learned ways to scaffold learning for language learners in my classroom. Also, I have built a deeper empathy for their experience. I hope that I will be able to use what I have learned to better assist my future students. This experience has also humbled me and helped me recognize I can give so much more. As I noted everyone, I have encountered has been kind. We have been hosted, and invited, and given things with no expectation of anything in return. This has helped me realize I want to choose kindness and generosity first. I hope to take this kind giving nature home and practice implementing it into my life. Giving whenever I can and sharing kindness, the free no strings attached kind that I have received. I have much more than pictures and souvenirs to take home with me. I have a broader view of education and strategies to use in a classroom. I have a deeper understanding of language learners, and the challenges it can present. I even have personal goals to reduce and choose kindness. I expected to learn about education from my experience. But in the process, I have recognized I do have the ability to cut back and found inspiration to act first with kindness.
I will never forget...
The most memorable experience of the trip is very hard to pin down. There was such a great variety of professional and personal experiences that I really enjoyed. I think my first day at the school is an experience that I won’t forget and tells a lot about the people here. My first day was orientation and getting to meet everyone, sounds very daunting, but it was great. I was greeted with coffee and a smile the moment I walked into the door. Walking around the school, I felt like royalty because every staff and student in the building knew my name already. I had a desk, computer, office supplies, and a key ready and waiting for me. I got to talk with all the teachers I would be working with and they were all open and supportive. This experience set the tone for the rest of my time. The support from other teachers never faded. The kindness and openness of the students grew each week. It was an amazing first day, to see that they were as excited for me to be there as I was for the experience.
A surprising discovery...
The school I was placed in is a small middle school. It houses students in 8th, 9th, and 10th. While I was there, they received word that their school was on a list of possible schools to close the following year. Students, teachers, and the headmaster all found out through an article in the newspaper. Needless to say, the school was a buzz. There were conversations between students and staff. The whole island was talking and fighting for their school. I had conversations with students and staff about the reasoning for the closure threat, and their opinions. Through these conversations I saw in all of them a connection and pride in their school, which I have not seen before. They all saw the school as a place that brought the island together and builds it up. The students talked about the worry of losing the teachers they know and enjoy. Teachers talked of fear of being transferred, families moving, the economic impact, and losing connections with their students. This experience was not something I expected to be part of, but it helped me recognize what a school can be. It is not just a place to learn. It is a place where relationships are built, personalities grow, pride is gained, and memories are made. In the walls of a school kids may meet their best friend, they grow confidence, knowledge, and skills that will support them through life. It is not just a building, and seeing people fight for their school showed me it can be so much more. I hope as a teacher I can be part of a school students would fight for. Building an atmosphere, they can flourish in and take pride in is a goal this experience has helped me recognize I want to reach for.
Advice for others...
Never turn down an opportunity, even if it scares you a little. I was very excited about the opportunity to student teach abroad, but terrified of teaching outside of my focus area. But I made it through, and I learned a lot from this experience. Stepping out of my content and comfort zone has helped me grow so much as a teacher. Once you get to your placement take all the offers you can to experience to culture and lives of the people around you. The dinners and hikes we got to experience with locals were some of the most valuable learning opportunities I had.