Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bittersweet Goodbyes

Smultronstallet (Ice cream restaurant)

Gota kanal

Hiking in Soderkoping

 Top of the hill =)
Last day with my wonderful teacher Ms. Eva Blume

"Be brave enough to live creatively. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go in to the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful, what you'll discover will be yourself."

I have tried to think of things to say in this last Sweden blog. When I found this quote, I knew it would say everything I cannot exactly put in words. This experience has truly been life changing. I have heard the saying "wherever you go, there you are". I would rephrase that now to, "wherever you go, you continue to find and create yourself". The many goodbyes of firsts and lasts are nothing short of bittersweet. I am so glad to go home- graduate college (finally!), visit with family and friends, finally watch one of my nephews ball games this season, etc. However, there are so many things here I am going to miss. I honestly believe I am a stronger and bolder person because of this experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world! 

In school this week, the students are still preparing for the national test that will take place in a couple of weeks. My teacher gave the students all of their old exams back and also had them take a sample test. As with any high school student, most are not very interested in math. It took much prompting and checking on students to keep them on task. This week, they are also taking English tests so the schedule was a bit different than usual. Like back at home, I have probably interacted just as much (if not more) with teachers than I have students. We have spent lots of time discussing similarities and differences between American and Swedish secondary education. 

I will give a short recap of my last few days here in Linkoping:
Monday I went to a chocolate store in Gamla Linkoping to bring some goodies home for my family and students back at the high school I was student teaching at before I left. I also went with Ericka and her boyfriend Jonas to Soderkoping. We ate at a famous ice cream restaurant, took a hike up the hill/mountain, and walked around downtown. Before going back to the bus stop, we went to Norrkoping's downtown as well. 
Tuesday For dinner, we met with five Swedish student teachers who will be coming to Bowling Green for four weeks in September. We tried to help prepare them for schools in America. I think they were a bit overwhelmed but we reassured them that with them being able to talk English they wouldn't have a problem. 
Wednesday Today I have been packing and cleaning my corridor. It looks a little bare in here now. I made chocolate chip cookies for my corridor mates to try as well. Tonight we will go eat downtown and have say our goodbyes to some people we have met during our time here. We will head to the airport around 10 tomorrow morning. It will take 18 hours of travel time to arrive in Nashville just before 11 tomorrow night (my body will think it is 6:00AM). 

My plan is to blog one more time when I get back to the United States! Graduation is Saturday-so there will be much to errands and things to get done on Friday. To those of you who have followed me through this journey, I thank you and hope you have enjoyed getting to hear about Sweden and back through the eyes of a teacher. See you soon USA!!

Monday, May 12, 2014


The Nordic Museum (Sweden's history)

Kaknastornet (30 stories up!)

Touching the Baltic Sea!

Gamla Stan (behind the Royal Palace)

Vasa Museum

Hello again all! This post will be about my time spent this weekend in Stockholm (Sweden's capital). So things don't get confusing I'm going to do my best to tell things in chronological order...
Friday We ate at McDonald's before taking the bus to the train station.  Our first train took almost three hours to get to Stockholm. It was a wonderful scene...there was tons of water throughout the trip. Once we arrived, we got bus passes and found our hostel. We got settled in and quickly fell asleep.
Saturday After getting ready for the day, we found a place for breakfast. I had a coffee and chocolate muffin at the Expresso House. We (sort of) discovered how the buses ran and found out how to get to a stop close to the Vasa Museum. We spent a couple hours taking the guided tour, watching the film, and exploring. The Vasa is often referred to as "Sweden's Titanic". We then stumbled upon the Nordic Museum, which was all about Sweden's history (clothing, art, fashion, etc.). Afterwards, we found a restaurant for lunch close to a theme park. To get back to the central train station, we hopped on a very old tram that actually stopped much sooner than we had anticipated.  Stockholm's train station is much different than Linkoping's. It was full of shopping stores and restaurants (all inside which was a nice escape from the cold rain). We found it odd when stores started closing at 5:00PM. From there we headed to the Kaknastornet. The bus dropped us off a little ways from the tower and we chose to take the quicker route (through a less traveled muddy path in the woods). Once inside we pushed number 30 on the elevator and soon found ourselves in the clouds (as it was foggy and cloudy the entire weekend). On our way back to the hostel we stopped at Pizza Hut (which is much more fancy than the US). 
Sunday We decided to venture out to the Old Town to do a bit more shopping and find the Royal Palace. (This was of course after we stopped by Starbucks!!!) We found the island to be very confusing, but after some time wandering we found guards and knew we had arrived. Once we purchased our tickets we toured the Royal Apartments, the Treasury, and the Tre Kronor Museum. Luckily we were able to watch the changing of the guards which was very extensive including a band, speaker, and lots of saluting. Then we decided to wander some more, found a place for lunch and made our way back to the hostel to pick up out things. On the way to catch our train, we stopped to eat at MAX (Sweden's McDonald's). 

This weekend was much more relaxed and "go with the flow" than London. It was a wonderful time and I know I will cherish the memories forever.  Only 3 (almost 2 for me) days until I touch American soil again. Graduation is also quickly approaching! Best wishes to you all!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring time = Testing Time

 Gamla Linkoping
 Gamla Linkoping (We think this was someone's back yard)
Kebab meal
 Longhorn (Can you tell I've been hungry lately?!)
Ericka and I at the goodbye get together

Hello again!! This post will be a bit of a mixture between what has been going on at school and a little about other things I have been doing while in Linkoping.
At school this week, my teacher has been testing students on Oral Comprehension in Mathematics. Therefore, we have not been in the classroom actually "teaching". Instead of an hour of math class, the time period is split into two sections of students. During this time 3 or 4 students meet Ms. Blume in a separate room. They are given calculators, rulers, pencils, and a large sheet of paper containing four graphs. Ms. Blume asks students questions pertaining to different graphs and/or different questions about individual graphs. Although I do not speak Swedish, through observation I believe that once one student answers other students are able to give their input as well.  The idea of this is to test their ability to comprehend, reason and understand graphs. The students are grouped (somewhat) based on varying abilities. As with any test, you can tell that some students are worried and anxious.  After the test is given we go back to Ms. Blume's office where she grades the students based on how well they answered the questions. The students who are not testing during their period for Math are in the original classroom preparing. Once again, I found myself observing the wonderful student-teacher relationship she has developed.  Speaking with them before and after the test, easing some of their anxieties (even if they did not perform well). Tomorrow, we will finish her portion of giving oral tests.  Next week, she will continue teaching again so I am looking forward to getting to interact more with the students and helping them with their individual work.

After school, I have been doing some odd and end things to take advantage of my time here.  On Monday, we had a Cinco de Mayo party with some people in Emily and Olivia's corridor along with two other student teachers from the University of Kentucky. We made tacos and provided nachos.  No one outside of the United States knew what the holiday was until we explained it to them. It was nice to sit and chat with people from so many different places. I left a little early, but one of the corridor mates even got his guitar out to sing a bit!  On Tuesday, Ericka met with us when she got out of school and took us to "Gamla Linkoping" or the Old Linkoping.  A small, antique-like part of the town. We went in a few shops but they were closing while we were there. I will go back next week to buy some chocolates to take home.  Before going home, Ericka and I went to eat at a little restaurant near the bus stop.  I had kebab for the first time! On Wednesday, I met Ericka downtown to do some shopping.  I didn't buy much but it was nice to look around at all of the stores.  For dinner, we had Longhorn Steakhouse.  I could tell I wasn't in America, but it was still very good!  Afterwards, we met up with everyone to say goodbye to the student teachers from the University of Kentucky. They are graduating this Saturday. Today after school I went to the grocery store and I also did some laundry. I have started to pack for Stockholm but I am not quite finished yet. We will leave tomorrow evening and return Sunday evening. We have already made some plans for next week and I look forward to sharing them with you all!! One week until I am back on American soil where refills are free and doors with handles show that you should pull the door not push =).  God bless!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Please, mind the gap.

 As soon as we stepped out of the underground tube, we saw "Big Ben" (the tower, clock, and bell that stands at the end of the House of Parliament).
 While walking through the Royal Park, there were so many birds!
Our Yeoman Warder tour guide at the Tower of London. Here we also saw the crown jewels and walked around one of the buildings full of armory.

Westminster Abbey: STUNNING!! We toured here during the day on Friday and then at night attended an evensong service where we got to hear the men/boys choir sing.

This was taken in the Royal Park on a bridge, facing the Eye (a giant ferris wheel of "capsules").

After touring St. Paul's Cathedral, we climbed up to the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery, and Golden Gallery... a total of 528 steps and 280 feet high. 

 Typical tourist shot in a red photo booth =)
Buckingham Palace! (The flag was up which meant that Queen Elizabeth II was home)

In the tube, you are asked to "mind the gap" or as we would say "watch your step".
On Hogwart's Bridge at the Making of Harry Potter Tour at Warner Brother's Studios

Bridge of London

Hello all!! London was so much fun and an experience I will never forget! Although I would like to tell you every single detail about all the fabulous things I did, I truly believe I could not do any of it justice! To me, to truly appreciate the architecture, history, culture, and mindset of London you must go yourself. Instead, I will list them in the hopes that one day perhaps you will take an adventure yourself: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery, Saint Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Making of Harry Potter Tour, Tower of London, Bridge of London, Platform 9 3/4, Big Ben, the Eye, House of Parliament.
As you can see, we crammed as much as humanly possible in the 3 days we were in London. I have never in my life been on so much public transportation at one time. While in London, we had to use the underground tube to get to cities in central London, overground bus when the tube wasn't working, train to get to and from the airport, bus to get from Stockholm airport to our city's central station, bus to get from central station to and from our dorms, and double decker bus to get to Harry Potter tour in multiple ways with multiple wait times with multiple complications (tube strike and construction)! I wouldn't trade it for the world =)

This week, we are doing National testing at my school. The system is much different from ours so I am enjoying learning new ways to test. I will post much more about it later! Cheers friends!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Kids will be kids"

 Student desks
 "Restaurant School" ran by the students
 Teacher's carts
 Layout of the school
 Teacher's desk
 Teacher Lounge
 Anders Ljungstedtska Gymnasium 
Summer Celebration, downtown Linkoping

Since I have not talked much about the school, I wanted to devote this blog to the whole reason I am here... teaching! =). The school I have been placed at is often referred to as the Vocational school. Most students who go to this school will get a job after graduating high school. It is grades 10-12, which are ages 16-19. (Yes, I do look younger than most of the students.) As stated before, Mrs. Blume teaches mathematics and is also the teacher's union worker.  When she is not teaching, she is involved with meeting about math or the union (pay, administration issues, scheduling, etc.). There are so many differences in this school than the high schools back home. However, it would be misleading if I did not speak of the similarities as put it simply: kids will be kids. No matter what country, a high school student is a high school student. They love talking to their friends, long to fit in, want to give up when things get difficult, text on their phones, find ways to be a bit rebellious, and are still searching for who they really are...trying to define themselves in any way they can. In the same respect-the teachers here struggle with the same battles that I would assume most high school teachers struggle with: motivating the students, helping them through daily struggles of life, finding ways to keep them on-task, last minute scrambles before national tests, and balancing their 100+ roles that go under what it means to be a "teacher".
As for differences... I will try to break them into sections (what else do you expect from a high school math and special education teacher?):
-Scheduling: This high school is probably more similar to a technical college back home than a high school. Students are not expected to arrive until they have class.. which may be 8:00AM or 10:00AM and are expected to stay at school until their last class, which could run later into the evening. Students may have a break between classes where they go eat lunch, sit outside, etc. much different than 8 minute hall breaks. It seems they have more responsibility at a younger age.
-Grading: Sweden just recently changed their grading system. It used to be something fairly similar to the United States. Now, it is more like a rubric that the teacher fills out about a student's abilities on certain topics such as problem solving, concepts, and reasoning. 
Next week the students will take the National Test. Mrs. Blume will be sitting with different students throughout the day grading their oral responses for the Math portion of the test. I am very interested in seeing how this works. Although they will be speaking in Swedish, I like the idea of allowing students to voice their reasoning and problem solving skills. This idea of oral testing has been going on in English, but it is only the second year for Math. 
-Class Time: Besides one class on Monday, each Math class is an hour long. Typically, Mrs. Blume will give a 20-30 minute lecture on the topic (Geometry, Statistics, Functions, Algebra) and then release students for independent work. During this time, we walk around the classroom checking on progress and answering questions. The independent work typically consists of 12-15 problems with the answers at the end.
-Honesty: The teacher-pupil relationship Mrs. Blume has created is one of much honesty and care. I have enjoyed watching her interact with the students, laughing with them and listening to their concerns. She seems to have such relationship with many students and it is heart-warming to experience. 

So I don't keep rambling on I will sum up the last few days quickly:
Monday was school, eating with Emily and Olivia, booking airport bus from Linkoping to Skavasta
Tuesday was school, McDonald's with Olivia, and searching for current job openings
Today was school, downtown for a celebration of summer and the king's birthday, packing for tomorrow

Tomorrow we leave for London!!!! We have lots of things we hope to see, we will find out how much we can get done in a short amount of time.  We will return Sunday morning. I hope to blog again Sunday evening.

Thanks for reading!! 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A whole new world.

 Saturday at a Cafe by the park (Translates Tropic House)
 FIRST train ride! (From Linkoping to Norrkoping)
 Park in Downtown Linkoping on Sunday
 Exploring Norrkoping (lots of water and sidewalks)
 Attempting to help Ericka make Swedish meatballs
Beautiful cathedral in downtown Linkoping (Sunday)

Hello again! Things are very busy here. I am not blogging as much as I would like to. I will recap the last few days...
Friday: I went to school again, my teacher had a class meeting (similiar to homeroom) and taught Math 1. They are doing statistics: mean, median,etc. When I got home, I went with Emily to meet Ericka at the train station. We went with her downtown and then stopped on our way back at the McDonald's (much different than ours!). We thought we could take our food with us on the bus.. we were wrong and had to walk home (good exercise!!!). After, we hung out in their common area (living room/dining room) with some people Emily met who are from the University of Kentucky and some people they had met from Germany. 
Saturday: Olivia and I took a train to Norrkoping to meet Ericka. We went downtown to eat at a Chinese restaurant. After that, we walked a lot of the city. There were lots of rivers, waterfalls, old buildings, and parks. For a break, we went back to Ericka's room. I rode one of her bikes for a few minutes. Then Ericka took us to the grocery store to purchase items to make real Swedish meatballs. They are served with what looked to be gold potatoes, a gravy/brown sauce, and jam. Her cooking was much better than IKEA.  After we watched some TV, Ericka took us to the train stop and we came back home.
Sunday: We met the girls from the University of Kentucky again to go explore downtown Linkoping. They have been here since January and will leave a week before us. I had cappuccino and a chocolate muffin. We saw many things: the cathedral, park (full of flowers, people getting sun tans, a gazebo, fountains, people playing basketball, etc), high school, library, and graveyard. When we got back home, we made spaghetti and I did some laundry.  I had planned to blog when I got back to my room, but my corridor mates were having "fika".  It is where everyone sits to drink coffee and have some type of cake. It is very important here.  They take turns cleaning the common area and preparing fika. I had what was very similar to a brownie and we talked a lot about the differences in Sweden and America. 
I made sure to take pictures of the school today, but I think I will wait to post them. I plan to blog Wednesday, before we leave for London on Thursday morning! =). We will be back early Sunday morning, so I will have much to tell on my return. We have already purchased tickets to take the tour where Harry Potter was made. 

Until next time-best regards to all who are reading!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

X marks the spot

Hello there!! It has been a few days since I have been able to blog, so I will back up a bit. I left the Nashville Airport at 4:15PM on Monday. With time change and lay over, I arrived in Linkoping, Sweden on Tuesday around 4:30PM.  On Tuesday, Erika picked us up at the airport and we went to get some routine things done and met Lena for bus passes, student ID cards, finding our rooms, eating dinner, finding our dorms, etc.  On Wednesday, I went to school for the first time.  Afterwards, Erika took us to get routers for wifi access, IKEA for shopping and dinner, and the grocery store.  Today, I went back to the school. Afterwards, I met with Olivia and Emily to help them with their internet connection.  Then, we made nachos for dinner.

There are many things that are different in this country that I found interesting and some of you may also... I'll only mention the main ones for now:
1) School: I am at the high school.  It is for grades 10-12. The school is very large.  They label their building by letter for different hallways.  There is A-Z!  Everything about this high school is unlike America.  To me, it is more like a university. For starters, the school has three places to eat: a Cafe for coffee and pastries, a large cafeteria, and a restaurant that is ran by students.  It also has a salon where students are studying to be beauticians, and I have seen some students in what looks like to be outfits for painters.  My teacher, Ms. Eva Blume is wonderful.  She is very kind and has helped me so much.  She does not have a "room" like teachers do in the US.  Rather, she shares an office space with other math teachers and pushes her materials in a cart to a classroom where she teaches.  Her schedule is much like a university professor; not as many classes as high school but lots of planning and discussing with other teachers.  They do not have subjects for math here (Geometry, Algebra II, etc.). They teach all of it.  From my understanding, everyone is required to take Math 1, but only students wanting to be in certain professions have to take Math 2. She has four different classes that she sees at different times during the week.  I have not seen them all quite yet. Additionally, once a week Ms. Blume meets with about 20 students she mentors. Today she gave them their new schedules and talked to them a bit, much like homeroom would be back home. She is also the union person for the school so many times during the day people will come talk to her about their concerns.
2) Transportation: I bus to and from school every day.  It costs $12 krona which is not quite $2 US dollars each time. I get on the bus close to my dorm and get off at the main train station.  There I wait for a different bus to take me to the high school.  I think it takes about 35-40 minutes.  Most everyone will bus, bike, or walk.  They do drive cars, but it is for long distances.  Most people have Volvo, Volkswagen, Fiat, and Toyota. Outside every building of the dorm there are about 20 bikes.  It is very common.  Big intersections for driving do not have stop lights, but huge circles (I can't think of the American word right now) so there is only a yield sign.
3) Food/Drink: Yes, I have had meatballs-twice!  They are very good.  After some observation, it is obvious that people eat much healthier here.  There foods include lots of fruit and vegetables, grease/fat is limited, and portion sizes are much smaller.  People eat with a fork and a knife.  They do not put their knife down the entire time they are eating.  Drinks are different too, they have some similar products like Coke but lots of other sodas (Orange, Apple, Lime) and sparkling water.  For those of you who know me well... this is interesting... creamer is almost impossible to find and they definitely do not have CoffeeMate!!! In school, they drink coffee almost all day.  On Wednesday, I tried some and it was the strongest coffee I had ever tasted!! Today, it took some form of a creamer and five cubes of sugar for me to be able to drink it. 
4) Clothing: Converse is huge here.  Almost everyone wears jeans... sweatpants are hardly ever seen =(.  Some where leggings.  Almost everyone wears tennis shoes or boots (what I would call combat boots).  There are not a lot of backpacks... most students have a purse or form of a duffle bag. Most brands I am not familiar with, however I have seen quite a bit of Nike tennis shoes. It seems that everyone wears whatever they want to wear here.  It has been hard to find a "style".  I have seen some groups of girls in short leather jackets and I have also seen crop t-shirts.  Also, the boys at the school roll their pants/shorts up (about one time) and typically wear zip up jackets and shirts with buttons.
5) Living Arrangement: I live very close to campus, I am with the college students.  In my corridor, there are eight people.  We share a kitchen and living/dining room area. My room has a bed, end table, two chairs, bookshelf, desk, computer chair, stand up shower, toilet, sink, and walk way for hanging and staking clothes. I have never lived in a dorm before, but the people I met are friendly and it is nice to see their lifestyle.
6) Language: Last but not least, I cannot ignore the difference in Swedish and English.  The barrier has been a bit more complicated than expected. I have learned to rely on body language, facial expressions, and tones. I think it has gotten me quite far.  Everyone in Sweden is required to speak English so it is very helpful when I need assistance.  They can switch over very quickly. They are shy, especially the high school students.  I think it will take a little longer for them to feel comfortable around me.

LOTS to say!!! There is much more but I think that sums things up well.  My laptop says it is 3:01PM but my iPhone says it is 22:01 (10:01PM) so I will get ready for tomorrow and get some sleep! This weekend we are planning to see Erika again, I think we will take the train to Norrkoping and visit around there.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Sweden?

    Hello! It is that time!!! Sweden is here!! In a few short hours I will be finally in Linkoping. Months of planning have come to an end and this is where "the rubber meets the road". I am so excited for this adventure.  I have wanted to study abroad for a very long time.  I remember sitting in an advisory meeting my Freshman year at WKU and being told about the students who had student taught abroad that year (I think it was under 10).  I loved the idea, but of course the thought scared me.  This semester, over 60 student teachers are flying to various countries.  There are 3 of us going to Sweden, myself and two Elementary Education majors, Olivia and Emily. Our friend, Erika from a nearby city in Sweden will be picking us up at the airport.  Erika was student teaching abroad in Bowling Green just a few short months ago and we were able to network with her for this trip. For those of you who don't know, I will be teaching high school math with Mrs. Blume while I am abroad. Their education system is vastly different from ours and I am excited to experience new things!  
   When thinking about my first blog, I thought I should address a question I have been asked many times the past few months, "Why Sweden?".  My answer is to the point: "Why not?".  Why not go somewhere unique?  Somewhere uncommon?  Somewhere new?  Somewhere different?
    While on this trip, there are many things I think I would like to do.  But the most important will be to learn. Learn everything I can as quickly as I can.  I hope to be like a sponge, soaking it all in.  My emotions are many, but my heart is calm.  I have waited five years for this trip...and I am ready.