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(L-R)Becky Lee, Sean Ethier, Amanda Langille, Laura Patterson, Ken Chisholm, Brittany Andersen, Maria MacMillan, Kieran Gallivan, Megan Pritchard, Tess Thurber, Stephen Clark, Andrea Clair
It has been the St.FX Bachelor of Education tradition that students in their second year have the option during their last practicum to travel as a group to teach abroad in a location chosen by the Faculty. Previous destinations include Norway (2012), Australia (2011), Kenya (2010), Iceland (2009) and Scotland (2009). This practicum (Education 482) provides an opportunity to expand and practice teaching skills in an international setting. Participants will gain information on an educational system different from their own, gain experiences with the traditions and cultural values of the host country, and participate in classrooms where they can observe, assist, and teach. This is normally of five or six week’s duration. The expenses for travel, food and lodging are the responsibility of the participants. Immersed in a different culture, students see how cultural factors influence educational policies and practices. Working alongside experienced cooperating teachers on site, the pre-service teacher gains invaluable cultural experience, meets diverse student populations, and contributes to the global society. Pre-service teachers are accompanied by a St FX Faculty of Education member who fulfills the role of Faculty Advisor.
Nine St FX B.Ed. students accompanied by Faculty Advisors Jeff Orr and Mark Firminger completed their final practicum in Selfoss, Iceland in the spring of 2009. The note below is a reflection by pre-service teacher Nicole Cox Class of 2009:
The international practicum in Iceland was a positive experience that has changed my life. It was extremely beneficial to my education career and has really opened my eyes to the different teaching methods and philosophies around the world. The opportunity for an international practicum allows education students who are about to enter the real teaching world to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something that they can’t in Nova Scotia. The language barrier, culture differences and education methods are all areas that we each had to adapt our strategies to overcome problems. The school was amazing. The staff and students were very welcoming and helpful to all of the Canadian student teachers. The teaching and observing opportunities in the school allowed us to take part in a variety of subjects. The cabins that we stayed in were convenient because they were so close to the school. The opportunities to visit the other schools in the area were appreciated. Selfoss was a nice small town to be placed in. It had everything we needed and was a safe community. -Nicole Cox
In the spring of 2009 an experimental project was undertaken by the St Francis Xavier University Faculty of Education in Nova Scotia and the Highland Council in Scotland. Arrangements were made for two students from the B.Ed. program, who were studying elementary methods and Gaelic as a teaching subject, to undertake their final teaching practice - March / April 2009 - in Portree primary school on the Isle of Skye. During the Easter break the students spent one week taking a high level Gaelic course at Sabhal Mor Ostaig. The objective of this project was to establish whether the degree of competence in Gaelic demonstrated by the students was sufficient to allow them to take charge of a class in a Gaelic medium school. The project was a success and Highland Council reported that the students had shown a high level of competence in Gaelic and also in primary teaching method. It indicated that it would be happy to appoint them to a post in a Gaelic medium school if a suitable vacancy arose and there were no Scottish trained teachers available.
Fourteen St. FX Bachelor of Education students and their professor and faculty advisor Bosire Mwebi travelled to Kenya for an international practicum placement in March and April of 2010. The reflection below is from pre-service teacher Susan Thistle, Class of 2010:
We were going on an adventure. More specifically, we were going on an adventure to Kenya, Africa, where we would complete our Bachelor of Education degrees by teaching the students of Nairobi. My friend Melissa Walsh and I were travelling in a group of 17, including 14 university students, two teachers from Nova Scotia and our professor and guide from St. Francis Xavier University.
We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya after two days of travel and were very excited to start teaching at the Nairobi School. We were welcomed warmly by staff who were very excited about the partnership which would have us working together for the four weeks we would be at their school. We would be working in an all-boys National boarding school, Form I-IV, (grades 9-12), with a curriculum modeled on both British and Canadian systems. With our Canadian team, we taught in various disciplines throughout the school, including, Math, Science, English, French, Music, Health, History, Technology as well as afterschool clubs and sports. During our time at the school, we were able to learn about the many differences and similarities (both in and out of the classroom) between Nairobi and Canada. Students came from many different backgrounds, but all understood and cherished the importance of education and the opportunities that it provided for them. We had many discussions with the students about the things that motivated them, and how we could bring this motivation to our Canadian classrooms. We were also able to take part in a Professional Development Week with the teachers of the Nairobi School and helped to plan the upcoming school year. We were able to adopt some of their teaching strategies and techniques and presented some of the techniques that we use in Canadian classrooms. We were able to create an international curriculum plan to benefit the Nairobi students as well as those students of our future classrooms in Canada.
While in Kenya, we were also able to travel throughout the country and take in the beauty of Africa. We visited an animal orphanage, a giraffe park where we were able to feed the giraffes, Mount Kenya where we stopped at the equator, the Nairobi National Museum, Kenyatta University, a Children's Home, the United Nations, the Canadian High Commission and many other schools throughout Nairobi. We were also able to gain an appreciation for the beautiful wildlife, visiting Masai Country and spending time on a Safari, seeing spectacular animals in their natural habitat. We returned home to Canada after six weeks of international exposure and a life-changing learning experience in Africa. We were hosted with fabulous hospitality and welcomed by warm-hearted people everywhere we travelled. Hopefully, one day, we will return to Africa again. -Susan Thistle
Fourteen St. FX Bachelor of Education students and their professor and faculty advisor Dan Robinson travelled to Australia for an international practicum placement in March and April of 2011. The reflection below is from pre-service teacher Matt MacDonald, Class of 2011:
What student doesn’t dream of international travel at some point in their lives? For 14 of us, all Bachelor of Education students of St. FX, our dream came true in March 2011, when we travelled to the southern hemisphere of beautiful Australia for 6 weeks to complete our final teaching practicum!
Accompanied and organized by Professor Dan Robinson, who made this incredible journey possible, this was undoubtedly the highlight for each one of us during our final two years at St. FX. This opportunity was not only about travel, but a chance for each one of us to bond as peers and fellow teachers, to broaden our knowledge of what we had learned as students on our journey to become teachers. This incredible trip broadened our personal development, and gave each one of us a chance to grow professionally by learning about the educational culture and lifestyle “down under”. Although similar cultures, the heat is extreme in Australia and students wear long sleeves and hats on a daily basis while outside at school, and we too, were required to do the same while teaching. Wide brimmed hats were mandatory. Teaching abroad in Strathpine, just outside of Brisbane, was an opportunity to interact with Australian teachers and students; share ideas, stories and ways of life within our own cultures. We were fortunate to live in a beachfront community while in Australia, with the beach literally steps away from our front door, and an amazing sight to see each day on our commute to school.
As a group, we all had a unique opportunity to bond with one another while living together, and to share our experiences from the different schools we were teaching at, while enjoying the culture, beach, travel and many other events that Australia offered us while there. We learned some fun expressions: “g’day mate”, “dodgy” “lolly” “Sheila” “mozzie” “cuppa” “bloke”, “wadd a ya reckon” “jumper”. Some of our memories include footey games, fantastic nightlife, sightseeing, beautiful beaches and Morton Island (which is the third largest sand Island in the world) A few of us Phys. Ed students also had the opportunity to live and spend a week on this incredible Island, as part of the curriculum, camping in the open, on the beach, with the students we taught. In addition, ST. FX students hosted a thank you BBQ for the Australian Teachers and staff who welcomed us into their schools and community. This was an incredible experience and opportunity for each of us from St. FX. On behalf of every one of us, thank you Dan and St. FX for this awesome experience! - Matt MacDonald
Twelve St. FX Bachelor of Education students and faculty advisors Elizabeth Munroe and Andrew Foran travelled to Norway for an international practicum placement in March and April of 2012. The reflection below is from pre-service teacher Laura Patterson, Class of 2012:
Our practicum in Norway consisted of 12 students who were dispersed between four schools situated in and around the city of Bergen. From an outdoor based kindergarten on top of Mt. Floyen, to public and private schools within the city central, we had a taste of Norway’s education system like no other!
We understood very quickly that the Norwegian school system instills a set of values and understandings of education through experiential learning occurring outside of the classroom walls. This practicum gave us a first hand comparative understanding of curriculum and teaching in this part of the world, and how this translates for the students to provide incredible learning experiences. The academic benefits for us as we practiced and taught proved that these values inhabit the classroom daily. We saw that differentiation plays a very important role in the Norwegian education system and the valued relationships of trust and responsibility between the teacher and student are immeasurable.
We were also able to immerse ourselves in Norwegian lifestyles, which helped to close the cultural and language barrier. With the most beautiful scenery and refreshing rain, we explored daily. Many of us climbed some or all of the seven mountains surrounding the city. We tasted treasures of the city’s restaurants, and took weekend excursions exploring the world renowned Fjords and city of Voss for example. When speaking on behalf of the 11 other students in the group, I know we will all hold a piece of Bergen in our hearts and be forever grateful for the people we met and the impression it has made on our future teaching careers. - Laura Patterson