In my most current post in Riga, Latvia, I miss the sunshine during winter and the warm, friendly, and receptive smiles during every season. I do, however, feel that it was easiest to make local friends here. I have had many traditional experiences such as sauna rituals and the Midsummer Festival, Jani. I also enjoy that Riga is a European city with all the perks and less of the hassle of tourists and ridiculous prices. I am enjoying it so far.
I enjoy teaching science and writing. I like researching experiments and drawing out interesting hypotheses from the students. Their reactions to the actual conclusions are fantastic. When it comes to writing, children’s imaginations produce magic.
How many students do you work with during a week's time?
This year I am co-teaching the fifth grade classes. There are 31 lovely, enthusiastic, and capable students that I get to know, work with, and help grow.
Something that I really admire about the international education is the prevalence of learning languages at an early age. I wished that I had learned earlier so that language acquisition later on would come more naturally.
International schools host such a variety and diverse group of learners. How do you find the ability to engage them all? How does language affect this? How does behavior affect this?
In any school, domestic or international, my plan is always to collect as much data on my students as possible. The more I know and learn about them, the more I can address their individual needs. Language factors in quite a bit. I find that students who struggle to engage end up having behavior issues. However, I try and empathize as much as I can. I may act or feel the same way if I were thrown into a class in Mandarin, Arabic, or Latvian -- no clue.
Tell me about your travels. You tend to be on the road/in the air a lot! What is your favorite thing about traveling? What is your least favorite thing about traveling?
My favorite thing about traveling is when the culmination of experiences, people, food, and scenery cause me to smile at where I’ve gotten myself. I love being taken out of my comfort zone and exposed to cultures that help me to grow as a person, as cheesy as that may sound. My least favorite thing about traveling are lines -- anywhere and everywhere!
What are five things you would never leave home without when going on vacation?
Passport, phone (mostly for photography), headphones, anti-bacterial, and chapstick.
That I’ve Been: Siem Riep, Cambodia; The Maldives (any island!); Petra, Jordan; Palawan, Philippines; Iceland (all over)
On My List: Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; Machu Picchu, Peru; Australia; Bali, Indonesia
How do you think traveling enhances your teaching?
A huge part of my teaching involves my appealing to students to be more open-minded and to be risk-takers. I would feel a little bit like a fraud if I didn’t do that myself. Traveling not only teaches me how to fall in love with so many beautiful cultures and locations, but teaches me so much about myself as a person and as an educator.
What skills in you shift by working with young people? Please explain.
I have taught kindergarteners all the way up to fifth graders. I’ve learned many things, but the skills that stand out to me the most are being more patient (when students ultimately need more time), being incredibly flexible (when things don’t go as I’ve planned), and being empathetic to their many emotions, situations, and cultures (when they are who they are and I want to completely understand what makes them tick).
Do you host any large events that feature your students' projects so that the larger community can see what the students are doing? What about school specific events?
Since I am currently teaching fifth grade at an International Baccalaureate school, my students are at the end of their Primary Years Program. All schools that have this curriculum have a unit of study called “Exhibition” in which students showcase their knowledge of the curriculum through a self-created unit about something they are passionate about. The students reach out to the community for support throughout their project and then present their findings at an event where we invite their collaboraters and families to see what they’ve learned and changed in the 6 weeks. We also have a Back to School BBQ, Parent-Teacher Organization nights, International Day, Talent Show, and many other school-wide events to connect the community to the school.
How does collaboration fit into your teaching methods? What about personal choice? And imagination?
I am happy to be working in a school that promotes a program that encourages student inquiry. Collaboration is important with colleagues, but also with the students. Students who are passionate about what they are learning are more engaged and motivated. We give them as much choice as possible and try to guide rather than lead them through our units of study, which are actually termed “Units of Inquiry” in the program. It is amazing where a child’s imagination can lead.
We try and have people from the community come in to speak with our students as much as possible. The parents are often a great source for some of our units and we encourage them to share their experiences to be real life examples of sometimes intangible concepts for students. It helps them to build empathy and relate to whatever we are learning about.
What are your top five favorite supplies to use with students, and why?
1. A blank A3 paper: the possibilities are endless.
2. Sharpies or smelly markers: tools to boldly express their imaginations.
3. A plastic folder: to keep them and their teacher organized.
4. Lined paper journal: gives me a sneak peek into their good, their bad, and their ugly.
5. Glitter: because GLITTER!!!
My favorite parts--because I can’t choose--of being a teacher are (1) that everyday is always new, different, and beautiful/real in its own way, (2) working with honest and open minds, (3) the possiblity for affecting change for the good, and, to be honest, (4) vacation! It is well deserved and much needed.
Do you have a favorite lesson plan that you could share with us?
One of my favorites was one I did with my kindergartners to start our unit on Imagination. I put a box in the middle of the classroom and asked them to draw what the box was. This activated their imaginations and also showed them how very different, yet equally amazing they were and are.
What is your favorite song that you are listening to right now?
There aren't any particular songs per se, but artists... I am enjoying Walk Off the Earth's original songs and covers using super creative items as instruments and also The Head and the Heart! Saw them over the summer in London and fell even more in love. Any song that makes me sing, dance, and/or smile is what you will find me listening to.
I was actually asked this and I said lawyer. Haha.