At ISGR the 5th grade schedule is based around math and language rotations. Working in groups that rotate through different stations allows all students to get the right amount of time and challenge to complete work that fits their level on the learning spectrum. An example of how the teachers do this is shown in the matrix above. For this math rotation, students have to complete one task from each row in the matrix over the period of a 6 week unit. Students who need more of a challenge are required to complete all four tasks from the grey options which are tasks that are higher on Bloom's Levels of Taxonomy. This group of students also has less class time in this station because the tasks may not take them long to complete. Students who are still working on learning the topics of measurement, volume, area, or circles, are not required to complete any of the tasks in grey. They also have more class time in this particular station so that they have sufficient time to complete their chosen task.
The teachers plan out the way the rotations will work with so much care! It amazes me how much planning goes into making the rotation schedule run effectively and how thorough the teachers are. They know the students so well, and they are able to effectively meet their needs through the way the students are grouped and through the rotation schedule. The way that the teachers at ISGR differentiate lessons for their students is one of the major things I have learned from my time with them.
Grade 5 at ISGR has an amazing rhythm and I have learned so much from being part of it this month! Tomorrow is my last day with the students and staff and I'm so sad. Even though I am excited to be heading back to Texas sunshine, to TCU baseball season, and to a place where people you've never met say "How are you!?" and "Have a great day!" on the regular- today I said "Hi, how are you?" to someone and he asked if I was American because he said no one besides Americans ever asks how you are, haha!- it is hard to believe I will be thousands of miles away from these people who are so special to me! I am leaving part of my heart here in Gothenburg with the thoughtful students that I have been so blessed to work with this month. Each one of them brightens even the cloudiest Sweden days with their compassion and inquisitiveness. Knowing these students, working at ISGR, and living in this city has been life changing. I feel so so so incredibly thankful for this ED-VENTURE of a lifetime and I am looking forward to continuing this semester of growth throughout the rest of my student teaching this year back at Vandagriff Elementary!
Even though I have been student teaching in Sweden, as I previously explained, I have been at an IB school which is not a Swedish school. Today we had the chance to visit a traditional Swedish 6th grade for half the day. It was so fun! We got to teach the students about Texas and answer some of their questions about the United States. They had a lot of questions about rodeo! At ISGR most of the students speak fluent English and know a lot about America because they have possibly lived there or have friends who live there. Some of the students in the Swedish school today had never met an American before! They wanted to talk about food, makeup, movies, TV shows, and the past times Americans enjoy. They gave us a tour around their school and explained how things work to us. Really, the school itself was pretty similar to ISGR- students don't wear shoes in class (because they take off their outdoor shoes), students have freedom to be loud and walk around the halls freely, and they have many breaks during the day to go outside and play. One student told us that he thinks it is important for them to have breaks frequently so they have the opportunity to let out their energy so that they can return to class and regain focus. I loved how he was so proud and confident in the importance of recess! The same student also told us that he know "The typical American lunch is a sandwich with juice box." We said that was pretty accurate and he said he saw it on TV. Haha!! We found out that most of the students at the school learned most of the English they know from playing video games, or watching movies and TV.
Something I have noticed throughout Europe is that everyone listens to American music even if they can't speak English. That is so interesting to me because I don't particularly love listening to music if I can't understand the words, but I guess that is one way to begin to learn!
We were also able to visit a 1st grade class at the Swedish school. Those students don't speak any English at all. It was really sweet because the teacher told the students (in Swedish) that we were visiting from the United States and one little girl said "HOLA!" She thought that meant hello in English, not Spanish. The first graders asked their teacher to translate some questions to us, like what is our favorite food, our favorite animal, and how long it took us to travel to Sweden. Of course, we did not make it out of the school without being asked multiple times about our new president, Donald Trump. I'm so glad we got to meet these sweet students! They were so welcoming and so excited about meeting us, and we were so excited to meet them and ask them some more questions about Sweden, since they've all lived here their whole lives.
I have included a couple pictures of the playground at the school. There are so many the things that students are able to do here that parents and teachers would never allow in the United States. The picture of the log shows a kind of balance beam that the students like to run across. The other logs are fun for students to balance on or jump on as well. Another thing about the playground equipment here is it enables the students to exercise while encouraging them to be creative thinkers as they come up with many different ways of playing on/with it. So cool!
I know I have mentioned this so many times, but the students at ISGR work together like I've never seen. The way they interact with each other is more mature than many interactions I've seen among even college students! Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to art class with the students. The teacher had split the class up into groups of 4 and assigned each group to make a video using iMovie about the different elements of art. First of all, I love the idea of working together to make a video. You could do this for so many different subjects! Unfortunately not every student at every school has access to iPads to easily make a video like this, but if possible it is a great way to incorporate multimedia technology into a lesson, enables students to work together, and ensures that everyone can have a unique role in the group. Oftentimes when students work in groups, there is a risk that one student will end up doing all the work. The way the students were working on their videos showed anything but that. One student was moving the clips around, one student was recording a voiceover, another student was writing a script or giving ideas about what to do, etc. Everyone was doing something to contribute to the project because the hands on aspect of it made it interesting to all of them. Also, having the opportunity to be the star of the movie, either from talking or from being a director or editor and being able to say "I put that together!" or "I filmed that!" the students wanted to take ownership over the work.
One group was working together and having some creative differences. I was about to step in and help them get refocused when one group member said "Okay, you know what thats okay we can do it the way you suggested, we're working as a team and sometimes you have to compromise!" I. Am. Blown. Away. THESE are the skills and characteristics that students develop through the IB program that will really have an impact on who they become as adults! It warms my heart and gives me hope to hear students compromising, working together, being supportive and literally saying "Wow, great job!" or "I really like how you did that!" to each other on a regular basis. They are teaching me more than they know, not just about being a teacher, but also about being a more empathetic, positive person!
This past week has been SO FULL!! Friday was a crazy busy day with the grade 5 science fair in full swing. I created a slideshow of the kiddos with their projects so hopefully I can remember the creativity and thoughtfulness of these students! I also hope everyone reading this blog can get an idea of how amazingly inquisitive these students are! They constantly impress me and show me daily that students deserve to be held to a high standard.
The students were set up at different booths throughout the classroom. Visitors, including the students' parents and the kinder and fourth grade classes, walked through the booths and stopped throughout to hear about the energy projects the students had developed. Having visitors come in gave the students the opportunity to practice describing the science behind their experiments to students younger than them with less understanding, as well as to adults who probably do have some foundational knowledge of science. The fifth graders knew that they would have to use different words and examples when talking to the kindergarteners compared to the adults. Doing this helped them develop even deeper and more thorough knowledge of their topic! Again, students (and humans in general) show they've mastered a topic when they are able to teach it to others, so this kind of project is the perfect way to assess what students have learned. The students were so invested and passionate. They were clearly proud of their hard work. I could definitely see some future teachers coming from this class ;) There were some students who would even ask the viewers questions to make sure they were doing a good job of explaining and so they could further elaborate if needed. Friday ended with a lot of sad students because they had loved the unit so much! I hope my future students will care that much about the things we study throughout the year! But the sadness didn't last long because with the end of the unit came the end of the week- and the beginning of SPORTLOV!
Sportlov is a weeklong break for schools in Sweden, also called "sports holiday." Basically, the kids and their families have the week off to go skiing one last time before the spring. Although to me, it seems like its not warming up any time soon, haha!!
Since we had the week off along with the students and staff at ISGR, Mandy and I decided to explore Europe. Neither of us have ever been here before so we figured we would take advantage of being this far across the Atlantic and see as much as possible.
The trip started Saturday morning (the 11th) as we headed by train from Gothenburg to Copenhagen. We were only there for one night, but we had the time to see the neighborhood of Nyhavn which is a famous area of Copenhagen lined with colored houses. The author of many famous fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen, lived in Nyhavn.
From Copenhagen, Mandy and I were off to Paris! I have dreamed of visiting Paris since I was little. I love fashion, art, history, flowers, coffee, and FOOD (aka sweets and bread lets be honest). So Paris has been the DREAM city ever since I can remember. When I got my first iPod in 5th grade I immediately downloaded Louis Armstrong singing La Vie en rose and would listen to it and dream of one day listening to it in France. None of this matters. I'm just trying to convey how huge it was for me to be in Paris. We were only there for 2 days, so we had a lot to see in a short amount of time. Our first night we had dinner close to the apartment we were staying at in Saint Germain des Pres. We were nervous about trying to speak French at the restaurant because we have heard that French people don't like it when people visit and speak English. Our waiter instantly spoke English to us so it wasn't an issue at all. Plus, he was really helpful in guiding us with what to order, how to pay with our Euros, etc. The next morning we hit the ground running. We went to the Notre Dame Cathedral early in the morning. The sun was rising behind it as we walked along the Seine to get there. O-M-G. Mandy and I were speechless as we walked through the city and the cathedral. We made it there so early that we didn't have to wait in line at all. There was even Mass going on in the cathedral at the time. The inside of the Notre Dame is huge and stunning. There are paintings throughout in different chapels inside. It was really cool because as I was looking and reading I saw a plaque that said "The painting that is usually housed here is on display in Fort Worth, TX as part of an exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum." It reminded me of home and how many really amazing museums we have right in our own city. You don't have to go all the way to Europe to find art and history!
After visiting the Notre Dame we continued across the Seine to have breakfast at a charming cafe right on the corner of a street, so we had a really great view of the city from our table. Plus the waiters took baguettes out of a basket and cut them right next to us, so that was great too. After breakfast we walked around some more before heading to see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. I could wander the streets of Paris for days and never get over the stunning architecture. It is magical to think about the history of the city and to think of how the city has inspired so many great artists and writers.
Our first day was full of exploring and eating macaroons and croissants every chance we got. Our second day was spent at Versailles and eating macaroons and croissants every chance we got. When in Paris!! Versailles was unreal. We learned about the Palace and royal family, and the French Revolution. One of the most interesting things I learned was that the King would have a court watch him eat dinner. He would sit there and eat while a group of people would sit in front of him and literally make comments/compliments about him eating dinner. We also got to hear the background behind all the paintings chosen by the King to be displayed in the Palace or painted as murals on the walls or ceilings. There is meaning to all of it, usually the different artworks were meant to convey to visitors the King's incredible power.
Right after we got back to the city from our day at Versailles, we headed to the airport to fly to Dublin! I went to eat close to our room when we got there to listen to some music, and instantly fell IN LOVE with Ireland. Everyone was so friendly and genuine. The warmth and happiness of the old men singing their Irish songs radiated through the room and made me so excited for what was to come. In the morning we headed out on a tour of the countryside. I cried on the drive- maybe because I was so exhausted, but really I believe it was because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of Ireland and my thankfulness for being able to be there. We stopped in a couple of small towns, but our main destination was the Cliffs of Moher. It was windy, green, and breathtakingly stunning. The Cliffs were amazing, but honestly I was equally as blown away by the scenery along the road on the drive there. Somehow, I feel like I can describe how I love Paris, but there are no words to express how much I love Ireland.
The second day we visited Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. I thought about how the scribes who took the time to write it took such care because of their love for the Lord and their reverence for His word, and I was in awe of the detail of the book. While touring the library I read about some of the first translations of the Bible to English. I also learned about people like William Tyndale, who was killed because of his dedication to the mission of translating the Bible to English so that the common person would be able to read it for themselves. I am so encouraged by seeing God's glory proclaimed throughout all of history and all the world.
I think my picture at the Cliffs 1. With my hair up because it was so windy it kept whipping in my face and 2. Smiling from ear to ear represents IRELAND perfectly :)
The last leg of our journey was spent in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was wishing we had more time in Ireland, but as soon as we landed in Scotland I was in love with it there too!
Like seriously?! This was the view before we even got off the plane!
I was expecting Scotland to be similar to Ireland, but it was really different. It seemed to be more influenced by England, which makes sense since it is part of the UK and the part of Ireland we visited is not. The history of Scotland is tied to England also. Learning about the history of Scotland was definitely my favorite part about being there, because you don't just hear it but you feel like you're in it! Walking through the city is like being in a time machine to medieval times. Then on our second day in Scotland, we went on a countryside tour and I swear every 10 minutes there was an announcement that "That field over there is where the battle of ___________ took place." The history is pretty gruesome!! I've never learned about so many wars and battles. We learned a lot about the conflicts between England and Scotland throughout history and about the Scottish monarchy on a tour of Edinburgh Castle. After we visited the castle we enjoyed participating in the tradition of afternoon tea at a sweet tea room! Then we walked around and went to the Victoria Street which is the "real life" Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!
On our countryside tour the second day we got to see highland cattle which was the highlight of the day for me! You would think coming from Fallon, Nevada and then Fort Worth, Texas I would've seen enough cows in my life, but I love them! (I included a picture because you have to see how cute they are- we weren't able to get that close though so its just a pic from the internet!) We also got to cruise on Loch Ness and have a chance to look for Nessie. The thing about the Loch Ness monster thats so exciting is that even though they can't prove she is real, no one has been able to disprove her existence either because the water is so murky. I guess you will have to decide what you think for yourself!
Now we're back in Sweden, back to school, and most importantly back to Fika ;) In less than a week we will all be back in Texas. The time has flown by and I know in a while all the things I've seen and learned will really set in! One thing that really stuck out to me in my past week of traveling is how grateful I am to be a citizen of the world. I feel so much more connected to that global citizenship now. At the same time I feel so much more connected to my United States citizenship. Learning about the histories and cultures of other places gives me a greater appreciation for the special history and culture of the place that I have grown up and call home. I am so blessed and I can't even believe that this is my life!
Today was a crazy day at school getting ready for the Science Fair which is happening TOMORROW!! Woo hoo! Grade 5 is so excited and I can't wait to see all the students' hard work pay off.
I just wanted to write this quick little post so I can remember this day one day down the road of teaching that will surely be tiring and overwhelming.
Since the students were doing a lot of independent work to prepare for their presentations tomorrow, we were tasked with guiding them and making sure they were making progress on their work. One particular student in the class can get a little (a lot) stressed out to the point where it really slows down his progress because he is freaking out so much about what he needs to get done. I was trying to help him and his partner catch up and get where they needed to be to be ready for tomorrow. His partner was clearly getting anxious because his friend wasn't focusing, and so I spent most of the hour working with the partner and asking him questions to guide his research. He and I were able to catch up and get some really good information to strengthen their presentation. I walked away and was just glad that he had something more than the basically nothing that he had when I first checked on them- haha!!
At the end of the day, the partner of the stressed out student, who himself had been quite frustrated and unsure about himself and their project earlier in the day, came up to me and said "Darcy, I am so excited for the science fair tomorrow!"
OMG! It made me so happy to see this student come full circle from being distressed about his presentation to being proud of his work and confident in his knowledge! Just to get to be a tiny part of that- thats why I love this job!
I am so thankful to be here and to be working with these students at ISGR!
In Grade 5 the students are learning how to do research. The strategy they are using to collect research is called "stripping." Right now they are researching different kinds of energy, but stripping is a great way to collect information and sources for any topic. I wish I would've known about it before because I would have used it to complete my own research assignments at TCU!
How to Strip:
1. Pick a resource (internet sight, article, book, etc.)
2. Read resource.
3. As you find relevant information, write it down on a colored strip. [Each resource gets a different color of strip. This helps students clearly remember which information came from which source, and it also enables the teacher to see how many different sources the students have collected after a certain period of time. They can then make decisions about which students need extra support in their research and which students are further ahead.]
4. Put strips into subcategories. [For example, if I read books about Gothenburg my categories might be Food, History, Economy, etc.]
5. Put all the strips in each group in order so that they make sense.
6. Put the categories in order of most important to least important, so they make sense together.
7. Glue down titles of categories (written on a specific color of strip) with all of the corresponding, ordered strips, underneath the title.
8. Create paragraphs based on the groups of strips you have compiled.
9. Add citations to paragraphs based on the colors of the strip that the information came from.
10. You have yourself a research paper & students have effectively synthesized information from a variety of sources!!
SO many amazing things have been happening in 5th grade at ISGR I don't know where to begin in recapping this past week! I previously mentioned that ISGR is an IB program school. This means they [typically] teach units for 6 weeks at a time and study each unit in depth, in a transdisciplinary way. For example, right now the 5th graders are in an Energy unit. During math time the students learn how to graph data to display information about different types of energy, transfers of energy, different countries energy usage, etc. During language time (what we would consider English Language Arts) students write lab reports. During science they have lessons that have to do with energy. During social studies they talk about the history and development of energy and how energy is used in different places. When the unit comes to an end, the students prepare a project as a summative exam. I love how teaching in long units like this allows the students to interact with the same topic in a variety of ways. It enables all students to connect with the topic in their own way and to discover specific interests they have. It also allows teachers to see what each student is most excited and passionate about when they switch units, because although a student may not be interested in one topic, he may be really interested in a different one during the year. All students are able to demonstrate the areas that they are strong in.
The students not only learn a lot of content information in this way, but the IB program also has certain qualities that students get to understand and grow in throughout the year. The students do a project at the end of every unit on literally anything they want to know more about. This is called Interest Hour. Students pick a topic of interest and then have to determine how it aligns with the different characteristics and themes in the program. I love this because it helps the students to grow in character as well as knowledge!
The students do a lot of independent work. The other day I noticed a student was looking at a webpage when he was supposed to be making a graph so I asked him if he needed to get back on task. He explained to me "No, I'm going to make a graph about this. I just wanted to research and get more background information for my own understanding before putting all my data into a graph." I was like, uh.. okay sounds good my bad! HAHA!! Its amazing! The students are so committed to the work they are doing because they are given the freedom to do it in whatever ways are best for them.
The students also help each other out a lot. Throughout much of the day they are split up into leveled groups. Sometimes though they all get to work together. The other day the students were doing a science experiment in random groups. I was able to see how they support each other regardless of what group any student is usually in. One team had a few boys in it who are new to the school and don't speak much English yet. The girls in the group decided to take over the writing portion of the experiment while the boys did most of the hands on work, and while the boys put things together and worked out the procedure of the experiment the girls explained to them in English what exactly it was they were doing. All the students are really understanding of the differences of their classmates. I believe that students are able to learn and become masters of what they are learning when they have to teach it to someone else, and that is exactly what the students are doing when they work in groups in this way.
I have also gone with the kids to Music and PE this week. In Music, the students have learned to sing "Smile" by Nat King Cole and play it on the piano. One of the students had to teach me how to play- she spent the whole class teaching me and looking at me like "Are you serious?" when I would inevitably hit the wrong key. Such a sweet bonding moment, haha!! At least it was for me, I'm not sure she would share my sentiment. In PE the gym is lined with wooden ladders all the way around the room. The kids were pretty much scaling the walls and hanging from the ceiling! They are totally fine and take care of themselves, it was just funny to watch and not say anything because in the United States that would not be allowed. Its really neat how adults don't have to tell kids no all the time here. They can totally do their thing and they learn to be responsible for themselves.
It was a great first week of school at ISGR. Our Cooperating Teachers have been so helpful in explaining their thinking behind all the teaching decisions they make and the lessons they plan. I am learning so much and can't wait for the rest of the week with the students. I am especially excited for the Science Fair on Friday to see all their hard work pay off!
On Friday after school, Mandy, McKenna, and I headed to Amsterdam to meet up with some other TCU COE friends. We got to hear all about the experiences they are having as they've been teaching in The Netherlands and it was so fun getting to explore a new city together!
Amsterdam is SUCH a cool city. All the people there ride bikes everywhere. We even saw women riding their bikes in high heals. Uh... I can barely ride a bike in sneakers, so we skipped the bicycles and opted for using our feet to get around. We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, walked past Westerkerk, the beautiful church where the artist Rembrandt is buried, and began the day at the Anne Frank House. It was unreal thinking about how the Frank family stayed inside, hidden away from the world and the sunshine, up in a tiny room, day after day after day, not sure what the next day would hold for them. Walking up the steep staircase behind the bookcase that hid it made it real for me the kind of fear they must have experienced. It wasn't an exciting life living in a secret passageway. They had to stay there for their safety. They couldn't make noise because their life depended on it. I learned about how Otto Frank made the decision for the family to go into hiding, and I thought about how painful it would be for my own father to make a decision like that, knowing that all of his children's lives were at risk. As I was up there in Anne Frank's bedroom I thought about how terrified the families must have been in the moment when the S.S. officers came to arrest them and they literally had no where to go. They were completely trapped. It made me sick to think that still today we live in a world where people are killed and discriminated against because of their beliefs. It was so inspiring to see all the things Anne's father Otto did to ensure that her diary was published so that people all over the world might find hope in even the midst of hatred and darkness.
After the museum we walked a few blocks down to a Saturday morning market. The market had a variety of things for sale like old books, paintings, clothes, vintage glasses, jams, flowers, breads and pastries, and most importantly DUTCH CHEESE!!! It seemed like there were a lot of locals there buying their cheeses, breads, and meats for the week. How sweet! Behind each booth I could see the vans that the vendors hauled all their goods down to town in. I couldn't help but think about all the different people there are living completely different lives in this huge world!! WOW! Like when I'm waking up and going to school in Aledo, there are people over in Holland kneading dough to get ready to go to the market.
McKenna and I took some time to consider if we prefer old cheese or young cheese, French, Italian, or Dutch cheese, as we ate sample after sample. We decided we like ALL cheese. We stood on the street and ate our blocks of cheese because there was no where to sit and cut it up or anything, and people stared at us like we were bizarre. Fortunately, after being in Sweden for a week where people do not make eye contact with strangers like we do in America, we are pretty familiar with getting weird looks from people in public.
After the market we walked along the canals and took in the sights of the city! I am obsessed with the doors. Our legs started to hurt from all the walking we've been doing since we got to Europe, and all of a sudden we were all in pain, hahaha! So we hopped on a canal cruise to take a break from walking and learn about the history of the city of Amsterdam.
The next morning we went to the Van Gogh Museum. The very first level of the museum is where most of Van Gogh's famous self portraits are displayed. The next floor shows his earlier paintings and the rest of the floors progress with the top floor showcasing his latest works. Each floor also explains the history of Vincent Van Gogh's life from the beginning at the lowest level, to the end at the top floor. I really love how it is organized this way because it helped me get a better idea of who Van Gogh was and to see how his life stages were reflected in his work. The museum is also home to paintings by a variety of artists who inspired Van Gogh or were friends of Van Gogh. I learned that Vincent Van Gogh was also a writer. He wrote mostly in letters, to friends, and especially to his brother Theo. He and his brother had dreamed of opening their own art gallery, which is another reason why the museum includes so many works that are not Van Gogh's own- they were part of the brothers' collection that they hoped to expand.
We explored Amsterdam for the rest of the day. We ate dinner at the cutest cafe, sampled some more cheese, and then headed to the airport! I was sad to say goodbye to the sun (compared to Gothenburg- I guess Amsterdam doesn't have much sun right now compared to the 75 degree day we just had in Fort Worth!) but I am excited to be back to start another week here. Being away for a bit made me realize how much Gothenburg already feels like home!
Okay y'all I haven't mentioned Fika yet, and I have been going to Fika every day that I've been here so I thought I would write a quick post about it because its probably the most unique part of any day in Sweden. Fika is a coffee/tea break (mostly coffee- people in Sweden love their coffee- look here, I'm not kidding) where people have their chosen drink and a sweet treat like a cinnamon bun, cream puff, etc.
You may be thinking, well lots of places in the world like to have their coffee with something sweet & carb filled. Thats why Starbucks and basically every other coffee shop offers a selection of muffins, scones, or sweet breads along with their drink menu. But here its a completely different thing. You can't go to Fika on the run. People sit for a long while, and eat, and talk with friends or read. They slow down. They drink their coffee. They sit there an enjoy it. Fika is not time for people to gulp down coffee as they're hopping in the car for their morning commute with the hope that they didn't spill any on their shirt.
Fika happens in the afternoon, and you can't go down one block without seeing a sign that reads "Fika" in front of a cafe. Even at school, the teacher's lounge fills up with staff in the afternoon and everyone grabs a mug, fills it up, and drinks their afternoon coffee together.
I'm really going to miss this tradition. When I get back to the United States I'm going to make an effort to keep my shirts spot-free by drinking my coffee slowly and consciously, the Swedish/Fika way!
P.S. Here are pictures of the doors I was talking about at school!
Sometimes I laugh when I think about how many "First Days of School" I have in my future! For most people, those end when they graduate, but not for us education students! Usually preparing for the first day involves picking out the perfect outfit and scouring the school supply section at Target. Today was our first day at The International School of Gothenburg Region. Preparing for this first day was different because we really didn't know what to expect. Mandy, Nicole, and I are in the fifth grade. Even though we're technically all placed with specific teachers, our teachers work as a team so we will get to know ALL the fifth grade students and work with each of the teachers over our three weeks there. The teachers are all from different countries- the U.S., Canada, and Australia. It is so neat to see how they all work together so well despite having such different schooling and cultural backgrounds. The students all come from different countries as well. The ISGR is a school for students who move to Sweden for short periods of time, usually due to their parents' work. In my courses at TCU we have talked a lot about the importance of teaching to students' contexts or funds of knowledge. I am excited to see how the teachers are able to do this at this school where students have such a wide variety of cultural contexts. This map in the class is a way the teacher displays where all the students in the class are from. I love how the teachers and students embrace the diversity of their level 5 community, and how they've invited us American girls to be part of that too!
I love the environment of the school building itself. I have noticed that most of the buildings in Sweden are contemporary in style, with mostly white interiors and big windows. I'm assuming this is because it is so dark here and the white walls and big windows allow for as much natural light as possible in buildings, or in this case classrooms. All of the classrooms have large round modern looking lights hanging from the ceilings and large doors that are painted dark teal. The aesthetics are pretty different from our classrooms in the United States, which are mostly brown. A similarity is that there is student working hanging in the halls and on the class walls!
Being in fifth grade is already so awesome and such a great learning experience. I spent January student teaching in Kindergarten (I am missin' my sweet class so much)! Even though I believe, and have definitely experienced, that a teacher learns so much from his or her students of any age, these fifth grade students at ISGR really challenged me today! The shared ideas with the class that I had never thought of. In one of my courses at TCU we discussed the idea that teachers are often afraid to allow students to be true investigators of the world and to act as independent thinkers because when the teacher does that, she puts herself in a position to have to be open to thinking freshly about what she knows and how she knows it. The teacher has to step out of the often automatic "knowledge giver" role and instead step into a new role of co-learner with the students. At schools in Sweden students call the teachers by their first names. The ISGR is an International Baccalaureate program school so they don't follow "Swedish school" methods in everything, but this is something the Swedish schools and the ISGR schools share. The reason they do this is because it lessens the hierarchical relationship between students and teachers. This helps promote the students' ownership over their learning. The grade 5 teachers at the ISGR are co-learners with their students and after only one day I can see how empowering it is for the students.
The rest of the day after school was mostly spent figuring out how to find our way around the city on the tram & with no GPS because we have no cell service. The fun thing about being lost though is stumbling upon random places that you wouldn't know about to go to intentionally. Mandy, McKenna, and I wandered onto a cute street of shops and cafes called King Street. Crowns hang in the air and light up the dark sky from the beginning of the street to the end. Gothenburg is such a cool city. I'm thinking of my Kindergarteners- their favorite adjective to describe absolutely anything is cool. Haha :) You learn things from your students every day, I'm telling ya! And I can't wait to learn more from this city and the students here the rest of this month!
The past 24 hours have been overwhelming and exciting.
The first moment of panic set in when I was in London for a layover before boarding our flight to Gothenburg and I couldn't figure out how to pay for my water bottle or even pick one out because I was so confused by all the unfamiliar brands of foods and even water that they had in the store. I was thinking, oh great they speak English here and I don't know whats going on, what am I getting myself into?!
Once my friends, Mandy and McKenna, and I were on our flight though, I was looking out the window at the clouds below me with the sunset glowing just above them. (Anyone who is a window-seat sitter like me, and has seen that kind of view before, knows what I'm talking about.) Theres somethin' about seeing God's creation from that viewpoint that makes you feel safe. So when we landed in Gothenburg I felt ready to dive into whatever might be waiting here this next month.
That was until we went to dinner- haha, just kidding- but it was really stressful! Many people in Sweden do speak English fluently so I wasn't prepared to have to learn much Swedish! At the restaurant we went to, we couldn't read the menu. Not only were we trying to decipher the words on the menu, but we were also trying to understand and follow cultural cues about where to sit, how to sit, how to order, etc. I sat at the table eating my meal (which actually wasn't the meal I was expecting, because whoops we read the menu wrong and ordered it by accident) I thought about English Language Learner students and the challenges they face in the classroom when they look at a page and can't make sense of what it says. This morning I thought about those students again when we went grocery shopping and I stood there staring at the shelves just trying to figure out what exactly a product was before placing it in my cart because I couldn't read the labels. I felt so helpless and I wasn't even looking at math problems or essay prompts, I was looking at cereal boxes and food labels. **I did end up finding peanut butter- woo hoo! It is so crazy to me that peanut butter isn't a popular food here. It was however a misconception on our part that it didn't exist here at all. They had one kind (Skippy, I like Jif but its all good!) and it was only sold in 340 g jars. Which is another frustration for me- I have no concept of the metric system of measurement.
After we went grocery shopping we went to Kafferosten to have a Swedish breakfast in celebration of McKenna's birthday! The food was kind of schmorgesborg style and SO good. To continue the celebration our ETEN partner bought us all a cream puff dessert called Semla. The cream puffs are only sold January-February, ending when Lent begins. We got ours at 7-11, that sell famous Swedish pastries alongside their famous hot dogs. We learned that the cream puffs are a big deal. Bakeries all over town have competitions to see who can make the best ones. We spent the rest of the day exploring and visiting with some University of Gothenburg Education students who have been to TCU to study or are planning on going there in the future. It was so fun to get to brag on our school and the College of Education. They are all soo sweet and they were so helpful giving us tips about Gothenburg.
So far my favorite things about Gothenburg are the lights, the churches, and the walking. There are white Christmas lights everywhere (shown in one of my pictures). People keep them up because the winter in Gothenburg is so dark. It doesn't get light until around 8 am and the sun goes down by 4:30 pm- or I guess 16:30. There are beautiful cathedrals everywhere. There is one right down from our apartment. Its unreal that we get to look at it every day! Finally, I love walking! I love walking down the brick streets all throughout town, passing the cutest cafes, seeing the lights, seeing the churches, and seeing the people of the city! I love it here!
Even though it can be frustrating trying to understand cultural customs and communicate effectively (the second dinner ordering experience did not go much smoother than the first) I am so ready to call Gothenburg, Sweden home for the next four weeks!!
So "hejda" for now! (That means bye in Swedish. I looked it up on Google because its day 1 y'all and I don't know any Swedish yet)