What did I learn?

Friday marked my last day in school. Unfortunately, I had to cut my trip short by a few weeks meaning I have completed my final week in school and I am currently writing this from high up in the sky somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on route to Paris. 

Although sad to be leaving I feel I must reflect upon what I have learnt over the last 20 weeks. I wish to look at what I have learnt as not just a teacher but as a person. 

As a teacher ..

I’ve realised I can do it. I can be flexible, I can be active, I can be adaptable, encouraging, interesting, fun, relatable, knowledgeable, useful, helpful and needed. The most important thing I will take away with me is flexibility. I have enjoyed my journey from student teacher, to co teacher, to supply teacher, to support teacher. I feel ready for my own class. I have adapted to walk into any class and take a lesson with very little notice, a daunting notion to begin with but now an exciting challenge. I have also developed my inquiry techniques, especially the importance of such a method and the enjoyment and pleasure it brings. I  had a chance to trial and test behaviour management techniques and work with some particularly challenging classes and children. I have a whole new set of techniques for gaining attention in a classroom, to work with a range of ages. I was lucky enough to work with both ends of the primary section, brooding my subject knowledge for both and the journey needed especially with learning a second language. This is an important part of the experience, bring able to fully emerge with EAL learners everyday and adapt my English and phonics teaching accordingly. I’m proud of the small impact I made in my weeks with year one and their improvement with sounds during our intovention group. Hopefully I have helped them see reading can be fun. I have left behind a range of new resources and ideas for phonics and guided reading in year one as well as helping to impove the writing with my fourth grade class. Cata and I were very proud of last term’s Inca report and now I’m hearing tremendous things about their recent scientific writing. Hopefully my participation with 4I helped to achieve this. I will miss the children so very much, and equally the incredible team of primary staff who were all amazingly helpful, friendly and a joy to work with. What do I need to work on though? Learning a few more handy five minute fillers for those fast workers and that time before or after break. 

Thank you for having me and I hope I see you again one day. 

As a person ..

I did it! I moved to a whole new continent to live in a city with very little English and managed. Living in Plymouth was one thing but moving abroad is a much bigger step. Not just any city abroad, a city in one of the most dangerous continents in the world, which happens to be earthquake prone, ridiculously far away from home and with a whole new language to grasp. I could not have done it without the support of the amazing ladies connected to the school as well as my fellow Plymouth students and family. I used to be too scared to phone and book a table in a restaurant, or ask for ketchup in a diner. But now? I hope when I get home I am more than able to do these things with confidence now. A personal achievement I would say, but I am proud to have conquered ‘Chile’. Being able to go out and about independently and live life to the fullest. I feel ready to take on the next steps in my life, whatever they may be. Perhaps abroad again? (Somewhere closer to home though..) and more than ready to take on my NQT year. 

I thank everybody connected with my involvement with Chile and the school. From lecturers to friends and family. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and sorting everything out back home now. I will however never forget Chile, the people I met nor the memories made. Seeing the Atacama dessert, visiting the vineyard, going to the top of the tallest South American building, living abroad, nights out, nights in, food, school life, cinema visits, the trip to see the sea, Chilean Day, shopping, museums, the hills and of course the views. Thank you Chile!

Right now I am about 4 hours into my 14 hour flight. (This will hopefully be posted once I’ve landed in Paris). I’ve already seen one and a half movies plus an episode of Friends. I will be home soon.

I want to thank anyone reading for following my blog. We will have to wait and see what happens next!

    Plymouth Group 2015

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Living in Santiago

Greetings!

This week I enter my 18th week of life in South America. It is hard to believe I have now been living in Santiago for 4 and a half months, with 8 weeks to go until retuning home for Christmas. I’m not entirely sure where that time has gone! I very clearly remember the day I arrived. I remember being blown away by the view of the mountains, hearing beautiful South American music everywhere and realising very quickly there was no English to be seen. When I arrived, way back in June, I did not know I would be spending half of my 2015 living here. I am now looking forward to going home but I know I will miss Chile so much! I cannot wait to return home, I find myself appreciating England so much more now, but having said that, I don’t want to leave here. Santiago has made me feel very welcome.


Selfie at the top of the tallest building in South America 

I want to share with you some of the things I have noticed or experienced about living in Santiago. These might be everyday things to get by or quirks and characteristics of this city which I have been amused by and become acostomed to over these last few months. Most of the following have been noticeable to me because they are different to life in England. 23 things .. here we go:

1. Dogs

The whole city, country even, is filled with stray dogs. I haven’t noticed many lately, maybe I have just become too used to seeing them, but it not uncommon to be joined by a furry friend on your walks. Santiago isn’t bad compared to say San Pedro de Atacama, that place was overrun with every breed of dog you can imagine.

2. You need a BIP card to travel

To use the public transport here you need a ‘BIP card’. A convenient method I believe (unless you forget your card on occasion). It cuts out the awkward fumble for change to pay the driver. Problems only arise when you need to top up!

3. Transportation in general

So easy to use! The metro is organised with coloured lines, clear signs and it is relatively clean and pleasant to use. Of course rush hour, as with everywhere, is a little difficult. Buses are hot temples of sardines with little regard for health and safety. Although I don’t mind using buses I can see the issues I will face when the weather heats up!

4. Fireman are volunteers

I think I read somewhere that Chile is the only country in the world whose firefighters are not paid. Just an admirable point I wanted to share.

5. You need to ‘take a number’ in a pharmacy to be served

One of those things where if you don’t know, you look like an idiot. Yes, when you need to talk to a pharmacist or simply buy a bottle of shampoo you need to take a number and wait to be served. Something worth noting if you ever visit!

6. Sunglasses are a must

Seriously. Especially at school, brightest place ever.

7. Everyone is usually late

If someone is coming to fix the washing machine at 2 o’clock expect him a few hours later, or not at all.(Talking from previous experience here).

8. People assume you speak Spanish 

A topic I have touched  on before. I have learnt to try, people are usually appricative of the attempt at least. My Spanish will only improve with trying!

9. Tipping

Difficult concept for a Brit to grasp (I think!). I am never sure when and who to tip, and especially how much! Paying as a group in a restaurant is difficult enough when some people have cards, cash, big notes, small notes and change. Then we have to work out 10% on top? I hate it. I get in a panic, I also feel crazy guilty if I forget, I hope they accept my British ignorance. As an example, in supermarkets 99% of the time there are people packing for you, I can never understand how much to then tip them.

10. People selling stuff whilst you wait at traffic lights

Flowers, chocolates, vegetables, fruits, newspapers, ice cream, sweets and I think I saw iPhone cases the other day. As soon as you pull up they begin weaving in and out of cars selling.

11. You need to get your fruits and vegetables weighed 

Again, one of those things that if you don’t know you look like an idiot. Yes, once you have selected and bagged your fruits and vegetables you need to take them to the little desk where someone weighs them and puts a sticker on. Same with the bread. There is a debate about whether it needs to be weighed when you only buy one of something. A quirk to adapt to. Oh, and you can’t buy fresh milk.

12. It is ridiculously noisy

Seriously. I live in a relatively quiet town at home and aside from the odd siren or drunk at 3am, Plymouth is also quiet. In comparison to Santiago it’s quiet. This place is just so ridiculously noisy! Car horns are my biggest hate! Everyone all the time, for no good reason, beep beep beep. Dogs as well are annoying.

13. Greet everyone with a hug and a kiss

Friends, family, colleagues, children, parents, soon the bus driver I am sure. Honestly, get used to it quick. Also be warned when I get home I will be giving everyone a hug from now on!

14. Nanny’s

Most families have help of some sort.

15. Air pollution is also a massive problem

Cars are actually told they cannot drive on certain days to control air pollution. The smog is evident around the city if you go to any significant height.

16. The roads are hell

I hate driving, but I don’t think there is enough money in the world which would make me drive here. It’s horrible! No one can use lanes or indicators. There is little regard for people crossing the street, they talk on their phones and generally don’t think about other road users. Day two in the city we saw a car hit another car then I saw a car knock over a boy on a bike last week. It’s madness.

17. Eating times

The eating times in chile are weird. Lunch at 12 o’clock is considered too early so eating dinner at 10 is ok.

18. Hide your belongings 

An obvious one for living in a city I suppose. Everyone has a story about something happening to either them or someone they know. Chile is known for having expert pickpocketers, must keep your wits about you at all times.

19. So friendly

Santiago is a friendly place. Most the people you come across are polite and helpful. Shop workers are lovely and don’t bother you whilst you browse, even with the language barrier and people are just generally smiley and greet others as they go about their day. I can’t begin to tell you how great my colleagues are.

20. Cross on ‘solid green’

Another road problem. Pedestrians are supposed to be able to cross on a ‘solid green light’. But the amount of times I have stood as 20 cars simply fly through a red light when I stand wanting to cross. Oh and if it rains forget it. The driving goes from bad to worse.

21. The cannot handle the rain

Similar to the chaos that Britain endures when it snows. The city freaks out. Our weekly meeting was cancelled, there was talk of closing the school and flooding began everywhere. Santiago is in a dip making drainage difficult. Cars have even less worries about pedestrians and do not think twice about driving through puddles.

22. Earthquakes

Oh boy, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to going home to an earthquake free country. Since the larger earthquake in September I have felt like I have been on a boat, constantly swaying! The tremors which followed were frequent and just when you think it’s all over another one occurs. I miss stable ground.

23. Mountains 

I don’t want this post to come across as negative so I have saved the best about Santiago for last. The picturesque, beautiful and breathtaking view. It is indescribable.

And those are some of the best, weirdest, most annoying, funny and interesting points I can think of right now to tell you about Santiago! It’s a friendly city with some great things to do. For example yesterday I did one of the things on my to do list and visited the top of the tallest building in South America, 300 m high over looking the city  at the top of the Costanera Centre. Amazing.


View from the top of the Costanera Centre


View from the top of the Costanera Centre

 

Group selfie at the top!

Once again, thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about life here in Chile. I’m sure there are lots of other fantastic things I could have mentioned these are just some. Until next time ..

The Similarities and Differences: 3 Months Later

Way back in July I wrote a blog regarding my initial comparisons and differences between my experiences teaching in the UK and here in Chile. Three months later I wanted to update you all on my thoughts and feelings now. I reflected initially on my first reactions to mainly the differences I had noted being here against teaching at home. My observations included: size of class and the size of the school, the ‘free periods’ teachers have, the IB, attitudes and values, the Spanish language, English and maths, lack of technology in classrooms and the behaviourisms of the children. Most of my feelings on this have not changed and they were difficult to adapt to, but you soon get lost in the Chilean way, whilst also trying hard to hold on to your core beliefs and principles as a British teacher. A daily battle.

To begin with I was co-teaching a fourth grade class alongside the amazing Cata. I have learnt a lot from both 4I and Cata herself about my own teaching. Since returning from the two week break last month my role has changed and I am now the support teacher in first grade. My new role includes coordinating the guided reading and supporting in other areas of the curriculum. I realised immediately the issues surrounding reading and phonics for these EAL learners. It has been hard not seeing my lovely fourth graders everyday but I have tried to get stuck in with my new tasks and create exciting new resources and plan different things to engage the children in their reading.

This leads me into my first point. Phonics. I am used to following a very structured and organised phonics program. Teaching new sounds daily or weekly depending on the stage of the children and group being taught. Here there isn’t a structured phonics plan nor coherency with the sounds. Although new to phonics in the school, as I am now with a lower year group, what I have seen so far is not structured and makes it difficult to plan according to needs when they are so varied. Children’s knowledge of sounds is very hit and miss. The one thing I think would work effectively in this school are phonics groups and differentiation, as well as following a planned program to guide and aid the children’s learning. Most schools do phonics say first thing in the morning or straight after break? This way the children could be split into 7 groups to better aid their learning to suit more individual needs.

There is however a general lack of differentiation among every subject. I was quite used to creating 4 different success criterias for an English lesson or printing three various science worksheets for the various abilities in the class in England. We are taught as British teachers that differentiation is important, almost fundamental to learning. Yet here it is still very much an up and coming idea which is just reaching the school. I had an experience this week when covering a year 2 class where three teachers had joined together to create differentiation in their reading comprehension lesson by splitting the children in their classes 3 ways, so the children could work at more able levels. One of the teachers who organised this is English. Aside from this, differentiation is rarely seen. I suppose you could say their readings is differentiated as they are split into reading groups within their classes. But reading is an issues in itself. Books are created by printing black and white copies and masking taping them together. In year one we are back to using the Oxford Reading Tree instead. Meaning assessment must be done on an A-Z reading level yet everyday we read ORT. Slightly confusing. I understand money is an issue beyond control sometimes, but investment in books would surely be worthwhile. After all, I remember reading about Biff, Chip, Kipper & Floppy when I was their age ..

Having said all of this, there are a 100 and one different reasons why I love the school. One of my favourite things is planning together. One of the things I loved most about my final teaching practise was how KS1 planned together. One or two would take control of English and another Maths and then together we would plan topic and anything else. The collaboration worked really well in that team and meant someone might test a lesson out and feedback on what to do better when the others did it or share previous experiences to create the best learning environments. Here in Chile, the 7 teachers in a year group meet twice a week in CAD meetings to plan and discuss various year group issues. For example, myself, Cata and Fran – another 4th Grade teacher – were to plan maths for the final unit of the year. Two others were assigned English and the others IA (Integrated Areas). I like how teachers can plan together and then come together to discuss the planning and assessment and feedback on all their ideas to create the best for the unit and the children’s learning.

Another great thing is the notion of ‘leaving your work at school’. This does not mean not doing anything once you leave the premises. But when the final school bell of the day rings everybody leaves school, including the teachers. It’s a rarity to find anyone in school come 4 o’clock (I can feel the fury of British teachers reading this, I know, I know, it is madness!). But given the free periods you have during the day (when other teachers take Spanish, sport, religion and music) you can get a lot of your work done. There is certainly less pressure here than back in the UK. I know my friends at home have been up late or in school for longer than expected to keep up to date with marking and assessment, planning and creating. Here, there is more of a sense of having a life outside of school. It is actually possible here to pop to the shops after school or go for dinner. I am not saying it is impossible at home but here there is just generally more free time and reduced pressure. Personally I do still do work on the weekends or some evenings. Perhaps that is just what I am used to, but it is of course possible to go above and beyond and this will be reflected in performance and outcome (I hope!). Going above and beyond however is certainly a choice. If anything it is just easier to leave at ten past 3 with everyone to get a lift down the mountain! (I don’t think I have mentioned it on my blog, but getting to and fro the school is a bloody nightmare).

Finally, another one of my favourite days in Chile happened today – Teacher’s Day! Nothing like anything that I have ever seen nor would expect in England. The day begin with a buzz. Children were excited, teachers were excited. Children bring gifts for their teachers including a class gift presented to the class teacher from everybody in the class. Mostly parties were held in the classrooms with games being played and an enjoyment by all. The day coincided with the schools anniversary. So many hugs are shared with the children, a major difference to the UK. Practically everyone in Chile is greeted with a hug and a kiss, including the children in school. Something to get used to when you first arrive! Today was a huge day of celebration and so many hugs were shared! The children left early and all the teachers in the school (about 200 of us) gathered in the senior dining hall to indulge in a three course meal all set out very formally with fancy cutlery and 3 glasses. We enjoyed a beautiful meal and we were graced with the delights of the school’s music department playing a few classic hits for us as well. It was so nice to all join together and celebrate everyone who works at the school and enjoy the appreciation and dedication of everybody too. Bonus, I now have a huge supply of chocolate thanks to my amazing children!

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Thank you Emilio. ‘Sharlot’ makes much more sense than ‘Charlotte’

And now there are only 9 weeks left of this experience! I have been in Chile for nearly 4 months now. I cannot lie, I am looking forward to going home now, but I also love being here. I enjoy going into school everyday and seeing what new adventures the children and I can all get up to that day. I will miss the school and look forward to implementing some new ideas regarding reading and phonics over the coming weeks leading up to the end of the school year in December. Most importantly, I will definitely miss the children ..

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Carola, Jesu, Cata, Myself & Cecilia at the Teacher’s Day lunch

Back To School

Where did those two weeks go? Yes, tomorrow we return to school after a two week break. Over the last fortnight the Plymouth team have flown back home and I have been joined here in Santiago by a fellow graduate. Coral and I spent the last week and a half exploring the city, celebrating Chilean Independence day and doing all the classic touristy things! I have taken so many photos which I cannot wait to share with my friends and family when I get home. For now, I just want to quickly tell you some of these exciting things I have been up to lately.

Firstly, one of my favourite days in Chile so far was visiting Valparaíso and seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first ever time. I never realised until living here in Santiago just how much I miss living by the sea. I grew up in a seaside town and then went to university in Plymouth, “Britain’s Ocean City”, so have always been surrounded by the ocean. I have never before seen the Pacific Ocean however.

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View of the Pacific Ocean

So four of us travelled to Valparaíso for the day and began our day with coffee in the hills. We sat enjoying our breakfast listening to jazz music playing from a nearby music school. After exploring Valparaíso we moved on to Viña del Mar and Concón, where we had a seafood lunch and walked the along the seafront admiring the view. Such a simple yet beautiful day seeing the ocean and exploring new places.

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One of the streets in Valparaíso

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We are not hippies, we are happies

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Beach walk

The day after my seaside adventure came another big adventure. ¡El terremoto! Yep. The earthquake hit on the Wednesday which I explored in an earlier post.

The day after the infamous event, Coral arrived! Over the last week we have done some classic tourist activities such as the city bus tour, museums and getting to know the metro. I think getting our map out in the middle of ‘Plaza de Armas’ clearly marked us as tourists. However, we have had a good time seeing museums, a zoo and exploring the cathedral. I took Coral on buses and metros to explore the public transport systems, as well as introducing her to three malls. Bad idea to take her food shopping in Jumbo the day before Independence Day. Only comparison I can make is to the food shop leading up to Christmas! Mayhem. I also went on my second ride of the city bus tour, this time stopping off at the local zoo and then reaching the top of San Cristóbal Hill on the funicular. The views at the top will never stop being beautiful, so I didn’t mind. The bus tour makes much more sense on your second go, I now understand more about the people they were referring to and the places spoken about.

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View from the top of San Cristóbal Hill

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Me at the top of San Cristóbal Hill

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María on top of San Cristóbal Hill, overlooking Santiago

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Because everybody needs to take a giraffe selfie

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago

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Le fils de I’homme by René Magritte

And finally the other big event that did occur over the break was ‘dieciocho‘ or the Fiestas Patrias. This event is held to commemorate the formation of Chile as a national state independent of the Spanish Crown, an Independence Day if you will. This fell on Coral’s first full day in the city. We ventured out to a local park to meet another teacher but were struck with how quiet the streets were. The whole city felt slightly deserted! Nobody, hardly any cars and very few people. We decided to spend the day at a ‘Fonda’ celebrating. There we found the rest of the people, (those who had not gone to the beach for the weekend). We played traditional games, watched dances, rodeos and festivities as well as sampled the local beverages and cuisine. 

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Celebrating DieciOcho

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Fonda Parque Padre Hurtado

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Charlotte trying to win a bottle

Overall we had a nice little break. A well earned break. Just organising everything now ready to head back into school tomorrow and ready for my final 12 weeks here before heading home at Christmas. Looking forward to getting back to school tomorrow and seeing everyone, I have missed my children so much.

As always, thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoy my updates and photographs. Apologises I do not seem able to write short blogs.

Graduation

So tomorrow is the day!! Graduation is upon us and here I am 7000 miles away in a whole different country entirely. I am upset to not be joining my friends and course mates to celebrate our degrees together .. but look at where I am! It’s hard to stay sad for too long.

Graduation has made me reflect on my time at University and that is what I want to write about now. However, I will try and keep it brief ..

First Year

(Seems like a distant dream now). I don’t think I would recognise the person I was in my first year. My confidence has grown and myself as a person. How I ever summoned the courage to move to University at all in beyond me. But hey, I did it! Three years ago, almost to the day, I moved into my first University house and began my first term at Plymouth University. I was only slightly familiar with Plymouth due to my Brother having recently finished his degree at the same Uni, so I needed to get my bearings.

I soon met my Digital Literacy course mates and began adjusting to University life and living independently. I remember my first placement was in Taunton where I would drive Wayne and I everyday .. forcing him to listen to Christmas songs in the car even though it was only November! It all went so fast and before I knew it it was time to begin looking for a house for second year. I enjoyed my 5 week placement in the summer with my host family in Exeter and experiencing a city school also. Now, I will try and insert some pictures but bare in mind, taking pictures in seminars is not ideal and therefore most are more social occasions .. haha.

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The view over the water in my new hometowndream

One of my first housemates, Ellie

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The first ‘Digi Lit’ social. Bonding outside of seminars

Second Year

Second year, I became more much comfortable with everything. I had adapted to University living and understood better how to write assignments and participate in University Life. Second year was also fun because one of my greatest friends from home had arrived to begin her Plymouth adventure also. This meant I always had a familiar face to turn to. In addition, my circle of close friends within my specialism became more of a family and we did lots more together. They are true friends I will never forget.

The end of second year was difficult due to an illness which effected my final placement. Perseverance and I had to carry on. It was around this time I knew I wanted to experience teaching abroad and not limit myself to the UK. I had also become more comfortable in a classroom and knew my strengths and weaknesses much better to help me work through the standards and become the best teacher I can be. Ready for some more pictures?

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Jade and I enjoying Jade’s first Fresher’s Week. HahaIMG_3086

Board game night with my Digi Lit family

Third Year

My favourite year! I moved into the most horrid house of the three years, yet the most fun! Over the last few months I had grown closer to my now best friend and moved in with her. Mice, non working showers and shutting myself out more than once, were some of the lowlights. Yet the laughter, jokes and games were some of the best parts! Difficulties arose when we both had to write our assignments at the same time, especially the research reports.. The workload in third year certainly went up a notch but luckily we had each other for support.

I loved my final placement in Frome. My favourite placement of all my experiences in University. Obviously the expectations went up but so did my confidence with my teaching and I finally understood my best methods for behaviour management, differentiation and assessment to name just some. I applied for Chile in my final year and tried out new experiences throughout.

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Outdoor cinema fun at the SU

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Final seminar together as Digital Literacy students, soon to then become Computing & ICT

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Ready to hand in our dissertations!

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Last night out as students

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My beautiful best friend & I

Just a small reflection on the biggest three years of my life so far. Couldn’t have done it without the support of my amazing family and of course my friends. It’s been emotional, exciting, scary and brilliant. Now I am teaching everyday out here in South America. Would not be here without Plymouth University either.

Once again, I wish everyone a fantastic day at Graduation. Celebrate well and celebrate together. We have had a brilliant time together and I know I am proud of my degree and the hard-work it took to get here. Here’s to the next adventure ..

What A Shock

Something unexpected happened this week! ..

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The evening after the earthquake

On Wednesday morning the Plymouth guys left and headed off for the airport. I busied myself all day with getting food in and cleaning the apartment ready for Coral’s arrival the next morning. I FaceTimed home and updated them about my trip to the coast the previous day and settled in to watch some Friends online. About half 7 on the evening I decided to begin making my feta cheese and spinach wraps. I had been thinking about making them for a week or so but waited until I had the kitchen to myself as I can be a nervous cook! So I gathered my ingredients at the dining room table.

I began my preparation and after a while took my spinach and garlic to the hob! I was so impressed with my culinary achievements (however small) and got my phone ready to send a picture. When suddenly something did not feel right.

I cannot quite recall the initial feeling or what I noticed. I think I saw the utensils in the kitchen swaying slightly and had a feeling something was not right. I turned off the hob and looked towards the living room. Everything was moving slightly. It felt like I was suddenly seeing the world on a Friday night after one too many. I ran (staying calm did not seem occur to me to start with ..) around saying ‘no, no, no’ with my next reaction to ring my Sister. It was now about 8 o’clock here in Santiago and therefore midnight at home. She didn’t pick up the phone to start so I text her and asked her to answer. I just needed a voice on the other end of the phone. “I think I am in an earthquake” I said to her.

The initial shakes lasted around 4 minutes, according to the news, albeit it felt like a lifetime to me. I can’t remember what I did. I think I was just frozen still and taking in what was happening. I live on the 6th floor of an apartment building. Chile is a country prone to earthquakes and has therefore built their structures to withhold such events. It was not like the movies where everything is shaking uncontrollably, it was more of a sway and a sense of dizziness and being unsteady.

I know, when it was over, I sat down on the floor next to my laptop and googled ‘earthquake’ the first thing that popped up said there had been an M 7.9 Earthquake near Valparaiso in Chile. I knew of Valparaiso as I had been there only the day before to go and explore the cities and see the ocean. I knew it was reasonably close. Of course, this information was soon upgraded and found to be an 8.3-magnitude quake – according to the BBC it is the strongest earthquake in the world this year.

I had many school colleagues reach out and message me and also come over to check on me, which was truly lovely. I felt well taken cared of. Cata informed me that there would be aftershocks and tremors to follow but all would be less than the original quake. Not long after I hung up to my Sister did an aftershock happen and they continued through the night. The most strange thing I remember is the noises of everything moving. I do also remember thinking ‘I want to go home now’.

The worst thing about my experience was my family and friends waking up to the news at home of ‘An earthquake in Chile’. Of course there was panic and curiosity among them to check on me – but of course I was asleep! I spent most of yesterday afternoon ringing around and assuring people I was fine. It will be a story to tell for years to come.

Luckily the damage is minimal here in Santiago, however the coastal areas were not as luckily. They had many waves hit the shore as a result of the earthquake and the damage is more severe out there. I cannot begin to imagine how the people of these areas are feeling or coping. I had enough trouble dealing with the effects here in the capital as an earthquake is not something I have ever had to deal with before. A week or so after we arrived we had a small one whilst in school but this was much more than that. My thoughts are with those battling the after-effects nearer the epicentre.

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I just wanted to remember this experience and what better way than to write it down on a blog. As stated, this was just my personal reflection on the event and my thoughts are with those truly effected.

Today, September 18th is a day of celebration in the country as we begin the two-day festivities of ‘Fiestas Patrias’ celebrating Chilean independence. Feliz Dieciocho Chile & thanks for the experience …

Celebrations

Just as my friends are beginning their new chapters, taking on their first class and starting their NQT years, my term has concluded for two weeks! I now have a fortnight off before working through until the end of the school year in December. Yes I am essentially on my ‘Easter Holidays’ as this is the last break before the final term of the academic year. After watching everyone enjoying their summer off, I am looking forward to relaxing over the next two weeks.

The last fortnight at school however was packed full of events and celebrations! We celebrated both ‘International Day’ and ‘Chilean Day’ over the last weeks, as well as having a party on the last night to say goodbye to one of the boys in our class who is moving back to Spain next month.

There was an amazing sense of community during these two big events and it was amazing to watch the school and children come together and celebrate culture, diversity and celebrate differences.

International Day

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Assembly to begin the day of celebration

We celebrated International Day on the 3rd of the September. This event was celebrated only in Primary with Senior and Middle holding their days separately. Each class was given a country to research and present. The 7 countries this year were England, Australia, Greece, Indonesia, Korea, Brazil and Spain. The countries are randomly selected annually to reflect nationalities seen throughout the school. Classes began decorating their classrooms in advance and wow did they go all out! Mom’s offered to help out and ensure their child’s classes were full of decoration, pictures, signs, props, resources, food etc. In fourth grade we were already working on Mesoamerican Civilisations, therefore we presented on our various civilisations as a year group. Our class did presentations about the Incas, whilst other classes had Mayas and Aztecs as well as touching on other civilisations to compare and contrast such as Easter Island and the Egyptians.

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Examples of our classes Inca dolls and scenery which they designed and created themselves

The day began with a huge assembly. Selected children of the school were involved in a parade to celebrate their nations and culture. They were dressed in traditional dress and waved flags as they walked down the middle of the assembly. Reminded me of the opening of Eurovision. After that, all 7 countries were presented to everyone. Taking it in turns, a small slideshow was played of famous and relevant places and icons from said country. Then there was a physical presentation, usually a dance. England was represented by a bunch of Mom’s dressing up and performing to the Spice Girls. (My children were less than impressed when I decided to join in and sing-a-long with them!). Other examples include the Macarena being played for Spain & traditional dances for Brazil and Greece. Australia was represented by a sketch.

After break time we were invited up to try different foods from around the world. I enjoyed the foods from India, Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile (pancakes and Nutella, yum). England was represented by a coffee cake and toffees. I am sure we could have suggested better options! (We thought about a Yorkshire pudding, Cornish pasties or simply tea and scones – all amazingly British). Anyway, the children thoroughly enjoyed their international snacks.

From here the rest of the day was spent presenting and visiting classes. The children enjoyed the day very much. It was clear to see they were enjoying themselves, yet learning about the different countries and cultures. Additionally, the children were able to work on social, presenting, research and listening skills as well as working on their attitude of respect. Children here are taught to combine and associate attitudes and skills with learning. For example to respect, listen and think. It was an important day to remind everybody that we might all come from different places but these differences in race, nationality, appearance etc needs to be celebrated, respected and valued in the community.

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Presentation of Brazil by a third grade class

Chilean Day

Now the official Chilean day happens next Friday (18th) but we celebrated it internally throughout the school a bit earlier. On this day the children came in in their traditional dress to match the dance they were performing on the day. Our girls were in very flowery dresses with the boys in checked shirts and hats. I wore my best Alpaca poncho and Chilean hat! The only remotely Chilean attire I own.

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We decorated our class with the Chilean colours & Chilean flag

On Chilean day we watched traditional dances, undertaken by the music and sports departments, as well as watching our own grades perform their dances. Unfortunately we were having weather issues on Wednesday and everything had to be rearranged at the last minute due to rain. After having an uncharacteristically hot week last week this week was miserable.

On the afternoon we played lots of fun games throughout the year group. I was personally in charge of the sack race! I had my little helpers practically running it without me after not too long. They knew what they were doing. Other events included skittles, three-legged races, arts and crafts and relays. Time flew by and everyone seemed to enjoy their day.

Again, it was fantastic to watch everybody get together and celebrate the music, food, events and culture of Chile. I love wherever you go here you are never far from a flag! There is always a giant Chilean flag flying with pride – outside most buildings. I am looking forward to the nationwide Chilean Day next week! Empanada’s & Pisco Sour all round!

The final celebration we had in school was on Thursday. After powering through getting them to finish their Inca reports all morning (with Cata and I are extremely pleased with the end result!) we could end with a birthday / leaving / end of term party. For week’s the class have been organising this day in regards to presents and surprises for Ale. We had a leaver’s book packed with photographs and messages with the children bringing in ‘shared snack’ and their ‘secret friend’. Secret friend is essentially ‘secret Santa’ but at all times of the year. The children are supposed to pick out a name of a friend in the class and therefore each child will have a gift to receive and give to their peers. On this occasion though all the children had in fact selected Ale with him conveniently choosing his best friend. (This was an amusing morning for me as I had to distract him in the Inquiry Centre whilst this was organised, forcing him to look through books about the Egyptians with him just eagerly wanting to return!) He was under the impression we were simply having an end of term party with everyone bring in snacks and presents when actually it was for him. It was very sweet and a beautiful send off for such a bright young boy, to enjoy his last day in school with his friends, eating, playing, listening to music and receiving lots of presents!

Now I am looking forward to the next two weeks off to rest and see the city and surrounding areas. I also look forward to Coral’s arrival next week ready to begin my final few months here. I will write another blog in the next few weeks as I wish to reflect upon my first three months here in terms of my learning and teaching. But for now, that concludes the final celebrations of term … I wont tell you about how the teacher’s celebrated with a rodeo on Friday which included candy floss, candy apples, games and a mechanical bull 😉

Formative Assessment: CPD session

On Friday 28th, I was involved in my first ever delivery of a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) session. Myself and the other 6 students planned and presented 5 workshops regarding various areas of formative assessment. I personally delivered a session on marking, written feedback and the importance of children responding to this feedback. We were all quite nervous all week, however come Friday I was oddly excited .. then 3pm hit and I was just nervous again.

We began in the primary dining hall where the acting head of section welcomed the 50 teachers to the room. We had invited the teachers of kinder to grade 4 to our session totalling fifty teachers. The most daunting thing for most of us was standing in front of perfectly established and experienced teachers as some of the group have not yet even graduated University yet, nonetheless here we were about to deliver their CPD session. We tried to make it as clear as possible that we wanted to share our ideas, experiences and practises with the Primary section, yet we did not expect them to take on every suggestion and implement everything Monday morning. We wanted to simply share our way of using formative assessment – as it has been identified as an area of interest by the school – due to having being trained in this thoroughly.

We set up 5 ‘workshops’ for the staff to rotate through. It was agreed early on that the 3 third year students would deliver their sessions alone, whilst the second years paired up. We split into these groups:

  • Peer and self assessment
  • Target setting
  • Marking and written feedback
  • Questioning and oral feedback
  • Assessment for learning

We collectively came up with our 5 areas and then planned solo. We shared ideas together and collaborated to ensure any good practise we had seen between us was shared ready to pass on before creating the presentations individually.

As explained, I personally presented ‘marking and written feedback’. When I first told some of the teachers about this they instantly assumed I meant ‘giving a grade’, this was my first insight into the thoughts regarding marking at this school. On my final placement I was used to marking Maths books every lunchtime followed by marking English books and topic work after school – among everything else. There is less emphasis on ‘marking books’ here (in general, the school seem to sway towards more summative approaches hence our input regarding assessment for learning) and the idea of marking books seems non-existent.

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I decided to begin with a small introduction about myself. I wanted to explain that by ‘marking’ I meant giving comments individual to children and not a numerical grade. Then I went straight into discussing the need to express a formative comment written on children’s work to bridge that gap between the child’s current understanding and their desired performance level. From here I could further this with examples and explanations. I also said that feedback is most beneficial during a topic of work, such as a first draft and not at the end of a unit as the child cannot apply this specifically any more (no use receiving all their feedback on their end result). I knew feedback would be covered in other stations but I focused on written feedback and showing the children the need to understand where they are with their learning and how to progress to their next steps. I did not want them to think their efforts carrying out this technique would be wasted. What I wanted to focus on is how the child can respond and use their feedback.

Secondly, I went through point by point some key and important ideas I had stuck up on the board. For example:

  • Giving prompt feedback
  • Numerical grades do not show a child how to progress
  • Importance also of child to teacher feedback
  • How the feedback should relate to the learning objective

The last point made me realise during the research for this session that I am used to ensuring every child has the learning objective written on their page just as they would write the date and title too. However, here the learning objective is never on work. By writing the objective teachers and children can see clearly on the page the objective for the lesson and mark appropriately according to this.  I suggested this to the teacher’s and it seemed to be a welcomed idea.

I asked at this point if anyone had any questions. I began the sessions with fourth grade (my year luckily, which made me feel much more comfortable to begin) and they had many ideas and questions which was great! During this point we discussed when children could respond to their feedback, such as during morning work or at the beginning of lessons. I suggested that starting the lesson by looking over their feedback would also help them recap their learning prior to the start of the next session.

In terms of actual ideas, I shared a booklet I had created. We decided as a group to collect all our resources and ensure they are sent via email to everybody next week in case anybody wanted to follow something up. I created two booklets, one for ideas on marking and the other for ways in which children can respond to marking. The ideas written in these are collated from personal experience from myself, discussions with my peers and their experiences and ideas, plus internet research. I will share these booklets below:

How to mark JPG_Page_1

How to mark JPG_Page_2

How to respond JPG_Page_1

How to respond JPG_Page_2

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There are of course many ways to do this so I chose the best of what I had heard and tried to combine it together to show how best we can use this formative assessment technique.

Then I let everyone explore these booklets as well as examples of children’s work I had gathered which implemented and showed these ideas. For example, I had: highlighting the lesson objective in traffic light colours against whether or not I thought they had met it (meaning it needed to be on their work), highlighting three successes in green, highlighting pink to show I thought a child needed to think about something more, circling a V, I or G to show verbal feedback, independent work or group work and also showing how to effectively use two stars and a wish against the learning objective and success criteria. Equally I had children respond to feedback by doing ‘purple pen work’, simply signing their name as an acknowledgement and also answering questions I posed to further their thinking and learning.

I noticed very positive comments as I circulated the room and saw how the teachers reacted to the examples and ideas presented. As an example, the third grade teachers took to the idea of drawing little steps and suggesting a next step for individual children and the teacher’s within fourth grade seemed agreed they will try to start writing learning objectives on work.

Overall everything seemed to go well. Everyone responded well to my session and I also heard good things about the other workshops which is great. This is the first time the Plymouth team have implemented a CPD session to share our knowledge but as it went well I would not be surprised to see this as a permanent fixture in the criteria for being here in Chile. We all began the week and session as being very nervous, but I believe I can confidently say we are all glad we did it now.

Thank you

Made My Decision

Just a quick message to update you all on life in South America.

As you know I have been teaching in Chile now for a couple of months and was scheduled to return to the UK in September. I guess I must be enjoying myself as I have decided to stay on now until at least December. I’m very excited to continue teaching my lovely 4th graders & working alongside wonderful people everyday. I am excited to begin thinking about some longer term ideas to implement in the classroom now I know I am staying out here a bit longer.

The other Plymouth guys are leaving in about four and a half weeks time and then I am excited that another Plymouth graduate will be flying out to join me out here! I cannot believe we have already been out here for nearly 8 weeks. It is nice that I will not be staying in Santiago alone and look forward to Coral’s arrival.
This does however mean no Graduation with everybody back home! I wish all my fellow BEd graduates the best of luck & warm wishes for the future. I love seeing the pictures of everybody creating resources and planning their classrooms for September. I am sad to miss out on celebrating three great years with everybody in Plymouth. If someone wants to FaceTime me during the ceremony that would be fun .. Ha.

This means I won’t be home now until Christmas!! Looking forward to seeing everyone when I get back – time is already going fast, I will be home before you know it. Looking into planning a trip to a nearby country for the September break, will have more details on that soon.

In-the-end-we-only-regret-the-chances-we-didnt-take.

All the best, thanks for reading.

August Update

We have just surpassed the half way point for the 12 week stay here in Chile. I just wanted to write a quick update to share with everybody what I have been up since half term, which was nearly a month ago now! Time is going by fast and I wanted to ensure my blog was up to date with pictures and stories for everybody back home and for myself to look back on in years to come. I will look at what I have personally done in and out of school. (I will try and keep it brief)

So way back on July 15th we returned to Santiago from San Pedro. I spent the following week and a half either at the Doctor’s, pharmacy or in bed – not fun. I had the unique experience of visiting a Chilean doctor, which was located at the top of a mall. I was very confused when we parked in the multi-storey at the mall and wondered into a medical centre. I have to say though, I always finding parking at the local doctors at home a complete pain, there was a vast choice of parking at the mall .. Something to think about! I was assigned an ‘English’ speaking Doctor, although telling me I would get my results in 2-3 years when he meant days was surprising. Needless to say his English was not perfect but I appreciated the attempt. For the millionth time in my life I was asked if my surname is Scottish, no it is not. Even after having a conversation about where in the UK I am from my medical form still managed to record me as Argentinian? All in all an experience and luckily I was fit and well again within the week!

I returned to school the following week and in some ways it felt like I was starting all over again. I knew it was important to jump right in and carry on! We spent the week finishing off our previous IA topic, voting for a new class council and studying in maths for a division quiz. I was unfamiliar with the division technique used so I left that to the class teacher and I taught the other half of the class about solving mathematical word problems. We have found splitting the class a great way to differentiate our maths teaching as the children can be at very different places with their maths ability. For example, last week I taught division, working faster and challenging the higher ability whilst going slower with the others to ensure a thorough understanding at their pace.

We began our new IA topic last week – ‘Mesoamerican civilisations’. I know nothing about this area! I think as I went to a British school we looked at areas closer to home, such as the Greeks, Romans, Vikings etc and therefore I have never looked at the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs. I am looking forward to learning with the children! I am getting slightly lost in all the different cultures within Chile alone. I think I have taken a slight back-seat with IA and instead focusing on my maths and English teaching.

Last week I was asked to cover a class for the day. I was grateful to be asked and a little nervous. I had never walked into a unfamiliar class and taught on my own before. On my final placement I taught a few Friday’s when the Friday teacher was asked to cover classes elsewhere. I knew my class well though as I was with them for three months. I had never really met 4G so it was a little daunting. It was a good experience though and everything went well. My only real ‘hiccup’ was when the children came up to me first thing with messages and communications from their parents .. in Spanish. “You are going to need to translate this for me” I had to ask, several times.

Additionally, in terms of school, I have been learning more about their assessment strategies. They use a ‘7 point’ system where any marks in all areas are scored with this giving the children a score up to 7. This is not a strategy I am familiar with. I hope to look into assessment a little more and blog about my thoughts on assessment here. For example, my class teacher and I have discussed the possibility for a need to differentiate the 7 point system (I am sure it has a sophisticated and scientific name but I shall stick to this for now) for various grades. Equally, I feel in the UK we use more formative assessment strategies. Like I said, I hope to explore this further at a later date.

Outside of school lots of things have been happening, especially at home. My family moved to a new home a few days after I left for Chile so I have been using ‘FaceTime’ to communicate with them and see the new house. It’s quite a strange feeling seeing my family in what I feel is somebody else’s home. I know you all read so want to thank you all for your love and support always! Including my extended family as I have been told you also read, thank you 🙂

Last week my graduation tickets went on sale! I do not know where those three years went. It doesn’t quite feel real that I won’t be going back to Plymouth to see everyone in September. Now all my friends have fantastic jobs in schools all over the UK. I chose to come out to Chile and so I watched as my friends went through job interviews and now they are all setting up displays, classrooms and planning and preparing for their first term! It is weird that they are all having one last summer before the madness hits and yet I am going to school everyday, in August!

Last weekend the girls and I took the Metro to Santa Lucia and explored the hill, buildings and local market. We walked up the hill and saw little forts and castle type buildings which were surrounded by parks. We did not quite understand what the hill was as there was no information available. Nevertheless, it was beautiful up there. If the weather had been nicer I think the view would have been more spectacular but it was stunning to see the mountains. I still think the mountains look like a green screen image and not really real, I would never want to get used to seeing them. We then ventured into a nearby market. I ended up coming out with an Alpaca poncho and a Lapis Lazuli ring!

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View from the top of Santa Lucía Hill

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On Santa Lucía Hill

Finally, in a typically British fashion I shall finish with the weather!! We have had some crazy weather over the last couple of weeks. We all think that since returning from San Pedro, it has not been as cold as it was in the mornings. The following picture shows one of the beautiful sunrises we see each morning over the mountains whilst beginning our school day.

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Sunrise over the mountains

This week the rain arrived! It has not rained here in approximately twelve months, I think they made up for that this week. There was so much rain this week that there was even talk of closing the school Friday. The rain caused road closures in the city and we even experienced a power cut in the apartment as well as traffic lights not working out on the roads. The children seemed fascinated by the rain, but I suppose they have not seen it in a while. The rain created lift home problems for us, our weekly meeting was cancelled so we could get back, sports was cancelled meaning children swarming and messing up classrooms, plus we got really wet. The walk to school Thursday was horrendous. We had to run away from the edge of the pavement to avoid splashes from passing cars meeting puddles. We were cold and wet by the time we reached the bus. Not fun! It was supposed to rain for days but luckily it stopped yesterday and only returned briefly today.

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Up in the clouds at school

I think that concludes everything from my last update to now!

Hope everyone is well at home, until next time.