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.