Final Fun in 1E

As I sit here halfway into our 9 hour flight back home to Fort Worth, I am overwhelmed with a number of different emotions. This past month has been a whirlwind of excitement, challenges, learning, and exploring that I would not trade for anything. I am humbled by the opportunity to travel so many countries and go on so many adventures at just 23 years old. This experience abroad has taught me a number of lessons about independence, cultural awareness, improving my teaching, and the many opportunities that surround us in this big beautiful world. If someone had told me a year ago that I would spend a month teaching at an International School in Gothenburg, Sweden, I probably would have found it to be a very funny joke. However, now I sit here heading home from an incredible journey, feeling so very thankful for this experience.

My last week at ISGR included the special opportunity to work and teach in a beginner EAL class for 1 hour each morning, plan and execute math lessons for my grade 1 class, contribute to team planning with the other grade 1 teachers, participate in fika (yum), and continue building relationships with the sweet kids of 1E. The students of 1E truly made an incredible impact on me, and will never be forgotten along with the many things they taught me. 1E was comprised of students that came from an extremely wide variety of backgrounds, including one student who had never formally attended school before. I believe that working with students from such a wide variety of backgrounds has helped me to become a more aware and well-rounded future educator. I learned more about differentiation, the importance of getting to know your students, IB learning, and how to say “goodbye” in each language that the children of 1E spoke.
One of my favorite traditions that the students and I started was each day they would teach me how to say goodbye, or a similar phrase in their first language. After lunch as they got dressed in their snow gear, they would come to ask me if they could be dismissed to the schoolyard. Each student would then teach me how to say a phrase in their native language. This fun routine began with one young boy who would say goodbye in German, and then began a class-wide activity. Although I loved learning the new phrases, my favorite part of this routine was showing the students that they could teach me things too. They loved teaching me all about the things they knew, and I loved learning from them. I know that I will greatly miss hearing the 18 different languages each day after lunch.

Although I don’t think I will ever be able to forget Hannah, her assistant Mohini, and the students of 1E, they sent me home with a sweet reminder of Sweden and my special time spent at ISGR. The students picked out a piece of Swedish children’s literature translated into english written by the creator of Pippi Longstocking. I cannot wait to add this book to my future classroom library, and be able to share about my sweet experience as ISGR with my future students when they read the book.

A very special thank you to Hannah, my awesome mentor teacher who even in such a short period of time, taught me an incredible amount. Thank you for believing in me, challenging me, encouraging me, and making me feel a part of your classroom community.

Thanks 1E for one of the most special experiences I have ever had and all you taught me!

 

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Unexpected Opportunities

Wow, it seems that our time here in Sweden has completely flown by since returning from our sports break trip! Last week, My cooperating teacher, Hannah, asked if I would like to do the planning for the inquiry unit that week (see last post) and then began having me take over various other tasks in the classroom such as the teacher led math station, break duty, lunch duty, working with individual students, and more. For my final week at ISGR Hannah spoke with the English as a Second Language teacher, Marta, who offered me the opportunity to come each morning for 1 hour to observe the beginner EAL classes. I was extremely excited about this opportunity and was eager to spend the week learning from Marta and being able to apply the many strategies that I have learned to work with EAL students. During the middle of the week, Marta asked me to teach a beginner EAL lesson on adjectives. Although I was very excited to plan this lesson, I was slightly nervous as I have not had much experience planning and teaching EAL lessons. I knew that when planning this lesson I would have to be mindful in differentiating the material for the students. Even though all 15 of the grade 1 and 2 students in the class are classified as beginner, there are still a wide range of ability levels and exposure to English in the classroom. Although very nervous, I was up for the challenge!

Overall, I believe that the lesson went well and that the students gained a strong understanding of the material for the first time that they were being exposed to adjectives. However, as I reflected on my lesson, I also realized the challenges and areas that could have been improved to better help the students grasp the concept of adjectives and their use in English. Although I knew that concepts need to be explicitly taught and reinforced for beginner EAL students, I was still struck by my need to slow down my lesson even more and provide more guided practice before allowing the students to work independently.

I must admit that I was intimidated by the task of planning a beginner EAL lesson, however, I also believe that it was one of the greatest learning experiences that I have ever had. This experience taught me my strengths and areas of improvement when teaching EAL students, especially beginners. During my week helping in the beginner EAL classes, I also found a new passion for working with these students. Although my teaching certification will be in EAL/ESL, I always thought that it would just be a beneficial skill/certification to have as a general education teacher. However, after this week, I have found a deeper passion for working with these students, and have begun considering opportunities to be an ESL teacher at some point during my teaching career. I am incredibly thankful for this unexpected opportunity, and Marta’s willingness to take me in, challenge me, and show me the special joy of working with EAL students.

 

Inquiry

Since beginning my time at ISGR, I have noticed a number of differences between the curriculum here and in the United States. ISGR follows what is called an IB, or inquiry based, curriculum. IB curriculum differs from the typical curriculum that we see in the U.S. because it does not explicitly teach social studies or science. Instead, the students learn a subject that is called inquiry and is typically taught through hands-on experiences. Every 5-6 weeks a new unit of inquiry begins and is explored in depth through various experiments, activities and discussions. Each of the unit topics has several layers and often connects to various science and social studies strands without explicitly being taught. Through my time here, I have noticed that inquiry works well because it caters to the various nationalities and cultures represented in the school rather than following a strict social studies curriculum.

This week I was given the opportunity by my cooperating teacher, Hannah, to plan and execute the inquiry lesson for this week. The unit of inquiry that the students are currently learning about is in regards to the needs of humans and how our environments shape this. Recently the students have been focusing on the 5 senses and how the absence of one of these senses can impact us and alter our environment. During the lesson I taught this week specifically, the students explored what we can learn and gain from sound, as well as what it might be like if we did not have our sense of sound. I began the activity by playing a variety of sounds for the students and asked them to identify as many of them as they could. We then conducted a discussion where students shared their ideas of what we gain from sound, as well as what other senses they might be able to use if they did not have hearing.

After the discussion, the students split into groups and began 4 different rotations where they interacted with sounds, participated in simulations without hearing, and learned how to sign their names in sign language. I was extremely nervous to begin this lesson and lead the activities due to my lack of experience with inquiry, however I was excited to try my hand at something new! My cooperating teacher helped me along the way, while also giving me free reign to come up with activities and ideas for the lesson. Overall, I was very happy with how the activities went over, and I felt as though the students had truly learned something valuable.

Planning and executing this lesson taught me a lot about the various teaching styles that are out there, and also granted me a valuable experience to teach something new. I am grateful for the opportunity to not only teach, but to learn about new content and styles of teaching along the way. Hannah has also generously shared ideas and materials with me that I will be able to take back with me to hopefully incorporate into my future classroom. As I continue to teach inquiry for the remainder of my time at ISGR, it is my hope that I will grow in my knowledge and experience with inquiry so that  will be able to incorporate aspects of it into my future classroom.

 

Pictures of the lesson activities are to come!

 

Keep on learning,

 

Cayia

Sports Break

Here in Sweden the schools observe what is called “sports break” during the month of February. A sports break is a week long break designed for students and their families to be able to enjoy winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding or travel.

During this break Jessica, Delaney an I set off for a week long adventure through Europe! Our first stop was Amsterdam. We spent our days in Amsterdam wandering the canaled streets, sampling cheeses, smelling the tulips that were beginning to bloom, and touring museums. My favorite part of our visit to Amsterdam was the opportunity to walk through the Anne Frank House. This house was where Anne and her family hid in the secret annex during Nazi rule and explores the personal diary of Anne where she recounts her experiences during this time. The experience to walk through the attic where Anne, her family, and two other families were hid was extremely surreal and eye opening. I was overwhelmed by the conditions in which Anne and her family lived in during this time as described in Anne’s diary that is shared throughout the museum.

Next, we made our way to Munich, Germany. Although we had planned to visit several places during our time in Munich such as Hofbrauhaus, Marienplatz, and Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, we did not plan for the large festival that would take over the city during our few days of travel. We accidently stumbled upon the celebration of this festival in the heart of Munich where thousands of people were dressed up dancing, eating, and drinking. The festival is called fasching, and is held the day before lent fasting begins. A variety of European countries celebrate fasching, however it can represent a variety of different things for various religious groups. Experiencing this festival in the heart of Munich was one of the most unique and exciting experiences that allowed us to be fully immersed in the German culture.

After Munich, we travelled to Paris, France. Although the weather in France was rainy and cold, it did not stop us from experiencing all that Paris has to offer such as The Louvre, Mueseè d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and Versailles palace. Navigating through Paris was a whirlwind in such a short amount of time, but we had the incredible opportunity to see some of the most historic and famous works of art and architecture. One of my highlights of the trip, aside from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, was the Edgar Degas exhibit at the Museè d’Orsay. I have always appreciated various styles of art, however impressionism has always been one of my favorites, especially Degas due to his particular collection of dance inspired art pieces. Being able to see some of his most famous works of art in person was incredible, and something I was able to check off of my bucket list.

Lastly, we capped off our trip with a visit to Dublin, Ireland. Although our time in Dublin was short, we were able to take a day trip to visit the Cliffs of Moher. Although each of the countries offered us a unique and once in a lifetime experience that I will forever be grateful for, standing along the edge of the cliffs will forever be a favorite memory engrained in my mind. The view of the cliffs was breathe taking as you walked dangerously along the edge. There are few feelings that will ever compare to wandering along the edge and taking in the view of the waves crashing against chiseled cliffs as you breathe in the salty air. The day finished off with a stop in Galway where we walked the streets taking in the music and sights of the small town.

Overall, our whirlwind trip offered us incredible experiences and memories that will stay with us for years to come. This trip made me incredibly grateful for the life and experiences I’ve been blessed to live. I will forever remember each unique country and the feelings of taking in the history and sights that each of them had to offer. Now that I have returned back “home” to Gothenburg, I can’t wait to be back at ISGR with my grade 1 kiddos!

Until next time,

Cayia

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Sweden!

What a week it has been! Jessica, Delaney, and I arrived to Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday night after a long fifteen hours of travel. Our trip was off to a unique start when my luggage was left behind in London, and didn’t arrive in Sweden until Monday night. Luckily I had a few warm clothes with me and friends who shared to help keep me warm for the few days I was without my luggage.

During our first few days in Gothenburg, we spent a lot of time adjusting to the time change, exploring Haga, and getting familiar with the bus and tram routes.  Our advisor here in Sweden, Cecilia, has shown us all of the beautiful spots in the city, along with the best places to eat! We experienced the local delicacy of Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes which are traditionally served with berry sauce-it was absolutely delicious! After a few confusing rides and lots of maps, we have finally acclimated to the public transportation systems as we learn to navigate our way through Sweden.

On Monday, we began our day by meeting the deputy principal at ISGR, The International School of the Gothenburg Region. During our meeting we were introduced to the IB curriculum that the school uses, the ways and customs of the school, and finished with a tour of the campus. We then boarded a tram to meet the children at a local ice rink where they were spending the day for a local field trip. During this time I was able to meet my cooperating teacher Hannah, her assistant Mohini, and their class of 24 grade 1 students. The kids had a blast skating for the day, however our young kiddos were all tired and ready for rest by the end of the day.

Tuesday was my first official day in the classroom with the students, which allowed me to not only gain an understanding of how their classroom works, but to also get to know the kids. Because ISGR is an international school that is primarily made up of students with families who have come to work in Sweden, there are 18 different nationalities represented in Hannah’s class alone. I have already enjoyed learning about the students and where they come from. Hannah focuses her classroom on celebrating the similarities and differences of each student which creates a welcoming environment for all and is a joy to watch as the kids do the same.

The students were all excited to have me in the class, and were eager to teach me the classroom procedures, especially for lunch time! During lunch time the students eat on plates that we use for cooking in the U.S. rather than trays like many schools do in the U.S. The students and teachers eat together in a conference style room, but there is little to no conversation until the meal is completed. Once the student finishes eating, they use hand signals to ask a teacher if they may be excused to scrape their plate and then finish their meal with a cracker. The kids have been practicing the hand signals with me and like to quiz me to make sure I remember them, especially the signal for cracker! Their lunchtime routines are much different than what I am accustomed to in the U.S., but I have really enjoyed seeing the responsibility that each student takes on by cleaning their plate and wiping up their table before getting their cracker for dessert. After the meal, they all head outside to enjoy a 40 minute playtime-even in the snow!

Although it has only been a few days, I have already learned so much about Sweden, ISGR, Swedish school systems, and my students. I cannot wait to continue this week learning, growing, and exploring through all that Gothenburg and this experience has to offer!

Enjoy the pictures of our first few days in Gothenburg below, see you next time!

Keep on traveling,

Cayia

 

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The Journey Begins

 

Thanks for joining me!

My name is Cayia Leffel, and welcome to my travel blog! During the month of February, I will be traveling to Gothenburg, Sweden to further my education as a student teacher at The International School of the Gothenburg Region. As an Early Childhood Education Major, the opportunity to explore the European School Systems excited my wanderlust heart and eager mind. During my time abroad, my colleagues and I will also be traveling to various parts of Sweden and other countries to immerse ourselves in the cultures and styles of Europe. I am a firm believer that embracing the cultures and opportunities that the world has to offer is the best way to learn and find exponential amounts of joy. As a lover of photography, education, people, and adventure,  I cannot wait to share my journey with you!

Keep exploring,

Cayia Leffel

“I travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.” – Nyssa P. Chopra