Monday, June 24, 2013

J'adore Paris

I know my blog has been very silent lately so for that I apologize! Nothing too terribly exciting was going on as I was just assisting with end of year things for the school which really isn't all that interesting. So after a week or so of doing not so interesting things, this past weekend, my flatmate Taylor and I went on a little adventure!

We had previously booked a weekend trip to Paris and what felt like weeks away was right on our doorstep on Friday! We left directly after finishing work and met at the train station to catch the Eurostar to Paris! For those that are not familiar with the Eurostar, it's a train that when run from London to Pairs passes through the Channel Tunnel or for short, the Chunnel. It's easily the quickest and cheapest way to get to Paris. We arrived there around 9pm local time and headed to the metro where we boarded a train toward our hostel. Finding the hostel was a bit tricky, but we managed to find it and check in without too much trouble. After settling in and charging our phones for a few minutes, we were off again with our destination set on the Eiffel Tower. We got there with just about five minutes to spare and made it in front of the tower to the lawn right before the twinkling lights of the tower lit up and began to sparkle! It was beautiful. I have seen it before, but seeing it so close with a huge crowd cheering made it really sink in that we were in Paris!

The next morning we were up to an early start to collect our Paris Pass. We had reserved a two day pass that included entry to over 50 museums, unlimited metro passes, a hop on hop off bus tour, a river cruise, a wine tasting and a lot more. We got all of these things and a guide book that told us where everything was and how to get there. We were fairly close to the Opéra which is that national opera house of Paris and one of the stops on our bus tour, so we headed that way to catch a bus and start our sight seeing. Our next big stop was (not surprisingly for two girls like us) the Champs-Élysées which is a huge shopping street in Paris full of designers, car dealerships, malls, and little cafes. We walked all the way up and down stopping here and there, and then came to the Arc de Triomphe which of course is a must see. We took some pictures and then braved the crazy traffic surrounding the Arc to get to it. With our Paris Pass we were able to get into the Arc for free so we climbed all the way to the top (there were a lot of stairs). We were met with some amazing views of the city. You could see the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Cœur in the distance. Once we climbed down, we found an underground walkway we didn't know existed that took us safely to the other side of the street. We boarded the bus tour again and took off.

We stopped for a quick lunch at a little french cafe and then headed for our wine tasting. We got there a little early so we did some shopping in the surrounding area and then enjoyed a tasting of six fantastic french wines. I loved all of them! Once we finished we took the metro back to the Eiffel Tower to board our river cruse from its base. The cruise lasted an hour and had some stunning views of the city. We really enjoyed it! After a crazy day we headed back to the hostel for some much needed rest before tackling our last day.

It was a good thing we went to bed early too, because the next morning we climbed up all the steps leading up to Sacré Cœur which was quite the work out. The church is beautiful and the view from the top of the steps is breath taking. We really enjoyed our visit. From there we headed to Montparnasse Tower where the top floor offers a panoramic view of the entire city of Paris! We could see the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Cœur, The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe (which looked so small in the distance you could barely make it out) and much more. The views we saw on this trip were amazing! We left the tower and went to Notre Dame which is celebrating its 850th year this year. There are many things being done in celebration such as some restorations to the church as well as some charity work. The church is beautiful and so worth the line to get in! After a quick lunch we left Notre Dame to go to the Louvre where Taylor saw some pretty awesome art and I mostly sat down. I was so tired and after I saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and some other famous works, I was fine to take a little rest. We ended our day by going back to the hostel to collect our things and taking the metro back to the train station to catch our train back home. 

Our trip was amazing. I think we packed as much of Paris into two days as we possibly could have
and hit all the major sites. I can't believe I live in a place where going to Paris for a weekend is possible and I'm so grateful that my parents have taught me about the world and how to travel. It's one of the greatest gifts they've given me, and I'm a much more cultured person because of it. I wouldn't have been able to go on this trip with out the guidance they've given me which I remembered constantly as I jumped onto the metro or pulled out a map.

Summer school starts this week so I'll have some field trip adventures up soon. I'm also going on another trip this weekend to Amsterdam! I can't wait! This summer has afforded me so many enriching experiences, and I'm so happy I get to take advantage of them!

Au revior!  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We're Off to Greet the Prince

For the last four days I have felt as though I was the silliest American tourist! On both Saturday and Sunday, we did some sightseeing and we also got a very special surprise at school today!

Saturday Taylor and I met Shanda outside Westminster Abbey after she toured it. We had a quick lunch and then we walked to Trafalgar Square and from there to Buckingham palace to take some pictures! We had beautiful weather and were able to get some fantastic pictures of the place, and the fountain but unfortunately, with none of the famed guards. As I learned three years ago on my visit and as was rediscovered on Saturday, there are no guards outside the palace gates for you to take pictures with or to try and get to laugh. Those guards are located far beyond the gates much out of reach. However, we did find some just a short walk down the mall. But still, you can't get very close. But it was close enough to get ourselves and a guard in the same picture! I'm not quite sure what they're guarding, but we were happy just to be able to seem them from closer up. From there we walked back to Trafalgar Square and went briefly inside the National Gallery.

Saturday night, we got to be "groundlings" at a performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest at the reconstructed Globe Theater. Groundlings stand on the ground during the performance instead of sitting. While standing for three hours might not sound all that inviting, it was a great experience. During a lot of transitions, actors would walk to the stage through us and even interacted with the audience members on the ground, doing things like throwing their hat off their heads, or whacking them on the head. We even got water sprayed on us from what was supposedly a bottle of wine. I had read a version of the play for my English literature class in the spring of 2012. It was a while ago, but I understood the basics. The play read very heavy. I was weary of seeing it because I knew it to be a very dark play, but seeing the actors bring it alive, I discovered that it was actually quite humorous. The darker elements were still there, but the humor in some scenes lightened the play considerably. I very much enjoyed it!

Taylor and I missed touring Westminster Abbey and the changing of the guard on Saturday (we slept in a little too much) but we made up for it on Sunday. We got up pretty early in order to visit Westminster Abbey to attend the 10:00am Matins. Neither of us being Catholic, we weren't sure which service we should go to, but this one seemed to be at a good time for us! When you want to look around the Abbey without paying to go inside, going to a service is a nice alternative. You don't get a lot of access, but it's great to see the church in all its glory! The choir was beautiful. I was so impressed the moment they started singing! I loved it. Taylor even managed to snag a few pictures of the inside that are absolutely beautiful!

After the service, we headed to Buckingham palace and made it just in time for the changing of the guard! And with some pushing and shoving, we even made it right up to the front of the gates. We got some great pictures of the guards performing and marching. Then we took the tube to London Bridge City Pier and had lunch at a great little french cafe! We did some shopping in the afternoon and headed home to rest after our busy day!

Today we had an amazing experience at work! My school is located just down the street from the new location of the York Gates. Today was the official opening of these gates and a special guest came to help celebrate the opening. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex came to help celebrate. Prince Edward is the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Since the school is so close, ICS was asked if some children would be there to greet him! My Year 4 class, the Year 1 class and the Nursery and Reception class volunteered and we were able to stand outside and greet him waving international flags! We got them all out there and lined up with their flags. They were quite adorable. First the mayor came and she stopped to talk to the kids. When Prince Edward came, he stopped to talk with them, asking them what sports they played, where the school was and so on. He even asked me and one of my coworkers a question about the flags! It was quite the experience. I don't know where else  I would have gotten to meet a Prince at work! I consider myself so lucky to be here! Prince Edward was
My coworker Masha
wonderful with the kids and his speech very personable. We were so lucky to be there!

This post wasn't as "educational" as the others, but it sure has been a great few days! You can find more pictures from my trip on my new photobucket account I'm using to share the pictures from my trip!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Sunburn in London?

Wow. This week has been the most amazing experience! I consider myself so lucky to be able to be apart of the amazing community at ICS. It truly is a wonderful working community.

Tuesday was my first full day of work and we had a great time in Year 4. During maths (yes maths! I'm not sure why the extra 's' is added here, but I figure I must get into the habit) we worked on fractions. We had three groups each working with a teacher. My group was doing a worksheet on parts of a whole. They did problems such as, what is 1/3 of 15? We used blocks to model the first few, demonstrating how many blocks we needed and how many groups, etc. It was amazing to watch them begin to relate such simple fractions to multiplication and division and knowing that I helped them do that!

I also got to work in a small group during writing. The ELL group that I worked with on Monday got to work with me again and we used their netbooks to help us translate and learn. A note on the netbooks - each student is given a netbook to use in the classroom! They come with them charged everyday and use them to create power points, word documents and more. They are also very skilled at using Google translate to help them with English.

During the day, we also went outside for PE. We got to walk across the street to Regent's Park where years three, four, and five have PE. Dani, the PE teacher is wonderful! She does a fantastic job with the kids and they love her. Interns go with their class for PE so I enjoyed watching their class. They had so much fun playing tag and capture the flag. To my surprise, I got home from work on Tuesday with sunburn! Just being out in the beautiful weather during the breaks and PE that day got me some sunburn. I never would have thought sunburn was something I should prepare for this summer!

On Wednesday my Year four class went on a three day field trip to Folly Farm near Bristol. For most of the kids, it was their first time on a farm so I think it was a great experience. I'll get to hear all about it on Monday, and I'm looking forward to it. One of the teachers kept a blog with pictures of the kids, so it was great to keep updated on what they were doing!

Since my class was on a field trip I was lucky enough to be put in Year 1! This is the equivalent of kindergarten in the US although I have to say, these kids are so advanced, it feels more like second grade. As I have mentioned previously, ICS follows the IB curriculum which follows units of inquiry in their learning. For example, the year one class is finishing up their unit of inquiry on sharing the planet. The central idea for this unit is: There are a variety of plants in the environment that we can use and appreciate. They key concepts they worked on were: connection, perspective and responsibility. The lines of inquiry were characteristics of plants, plants as a source of food, and conservation of the environment. They also focused on conservation, and living things. Around the room there are many charts and graphic organizers demonstrating what they have learned about plants and the steps they took to get there. They also have a lovely little garden outside where they have been planting seeds through out the unit! To put it in perspective again, these are 5 and 6 year olds observing, writing, drawing and really thinking about plants. Their level of thinking is marvelous. They all are writing and reading as well. I thought I was a pretty good reader growing up, but I had nothing on these kids. They're fantastic, and most are bilingual as well.

I got the opportunity to become very involved with the class. I got my own group every time we did stations and I also got to read to them a few times. They amazed me more and more every day. My favorite part of working with them was really seeing the IB curriculum at work. Gina, their teacher, was wonderfully accepting and took the time to let me see student work, books she uses and explain to me more about the PYP (Primary Years Program). I learned that the PYP is very focused on student led discovery and going along with that, about student reflection and observation. PYP teaches the students to be thinkers on their own. When they brought their plants in to make observations, they knew what to look for whether it was a new bud, some new leaves, a change in color and so on. PYP is also big on developing childrens' home language as well as English. Gina mentioned it is difficult to do so with the large amounts of languages spoken at the school (I believe we counted 10 only in year one) but they do try to include it however they can. I got to speak with two students about their development of Hebrew. They both speak it very well and are learning how to write it. They read a book to me that they made with a tutor about being friends with a dinosaur. It was so much fun to talk with them!
They even made me designs with their name in English and Hebrew. I was so proud of them.

After school today I got to sit in on a meeting of the school's literacy council. They recently sent out a survey to the staff about the reading and writing in their classes and how the newly implemented strategies were working. They took the results and made suggestions for next year including teacher led workshops and so on. After the meeting I got to chat with them about the programs they use and how it works. They are very integrated with the units of inquiry which works great in the classroom! I also got to look at a 'report' on one of the year one students. Instead of report cards, teachers give anecdotal notes on each student in each category, each unit of inquiry, maths, language, and so on. It focuses more on growth than anything else but also includes a category of what will need to be worked on for the following year which will allow students to work a little over the summer. I loved the positive messages written in the reports!

I just wrote a novel so I'm sorry this post is so long. I absolutely loved my first week and can't wait for more adventures to come!

Monday, June 3, 2013

London Exploring and My First Day at Work

Yesterday our on-site coordinator from Panrimo, who also conveniently sometimes works as a tour guide, showed us the major sites around London! We started the day by walking to our closest tube station (that's the London Underground, which is the subway they have for those who aren't familiar with it) to buy our oyster cards. Oyster cards are great and very necessary to have if you are in London for any sort of extended time. We purchased ones that allow us unlimited access to the underground and the buses that we can renew every week. As we need those to get to work and anywhere else we'd like to go, they will prove quite handy. From there, we took the tube to see Big Ben the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey which are all located around parliament square. Geoff shared with us an interesting misconception about Big Ben. The tower itself is called Queen Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is actually the bell inside that chimes every fifteen minutes. From where we were, we could also see the London Eye which is a Ferris wheel that has pods that are completely clear glass so you get amazing views of the city.

From Parliament Square we walked to Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square contains many restaurants
and touristy type shops as well as the National Gallery which houses one of the largest collections of art in the country and is free to the public. Then we took a bus to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was my first experience on a London Bus. The system is quite confusing but we've been studying up on where we'd need to go! We used our oyster cards and the bus was driving again before we even scanned our cards! We saw some beautiful streets with very interesting places. After getting off near St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked over the Millennium Bridge which is the only pedestrian bridge across the River Thames (pronounced like "tims"). Geoff told us that the bridge has the nickname "the wobbly bridge" because when it first opened in 2000, when a substantial amount of people walked on it, the bridge began to wobble. It had to be closed for two years to fix it. After walking over the bridge, we walked along the Thames for a little while and took in all the sights. There were street performers and restaurants. We also passed by the reconstructed Globe Theater. This theater is modeled after Shakespeare's original theater and does performances of his plays almost every night. My roommates and I are planning to be "groundlings" at a show soon. A groundling stands during the performance to watch the play and has the best view for the cheapest price.

We stopped for lunch at a local pub where we went over a lot good things to know about the city, where to go, where not to go, how to use the currency, etc. I tried my first English beer and even ordered the fish and chips! Not my favorite, but it wasn't too bad. From there we took the tube back to our street and did some shopping. We were exhausted after such a long day of walking around!

This morning I began my internship!Shanda and I are both at the International Community School (ICS) so we took the tube together to meet Geoff who was going to walk us to work. We got there and met Tricia who is the intern supervisor and learned more about what we will be doing specifically. The school year doesn't end for another three weeks we learned. So for the next few weeks I will be in a Year 4 class which equates to 3rd grade in America. We started out by getting a tour of the school which interestingly is located next to and beneath apartment buildings. Once we were done in the front office we went down a staircase to sky blue hallway. The main hallway is actually underground, but the classrooms get some light from windows higher up on the wall. So the space is a little tight in the hallways and the classroom, but it's amazing how they all make it work. Each class has less than 20 students. They had many resource rooms for reading, writing, learning English and so on. My classroom was located upstairs within the apartment building. The school also has a fenced in playground behind the apartment complex. I was told that some classes get to go across the street to Regent's Park to play on certain days.

Today was culture day so students who are from all over were dressed up like where they were from and most all of them dressed up like someone would in their country and brought some traditional food. My class had students from all over including America, Finland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Lybia, Japan and of course England. And those are only a few, I couldn't remember or even attempt to spell some of them. They seemed to be a great class and I even got to work with a few ELL (English Language Learner) students on their English. They were very well-behaved and seemed like amazing kids. It's getting towards the end of the year so things are a little crazy throughout the school, as it would be with any school. Especially since this week is so sunny, the kids are crazy to have summer.

Today was a short day at work, but tomorrow will be longer! I can't wait to spend more time getting to know the kids I'll be working with! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We're Here!

After a crazy two days of traveling we're finally here in London! To be completely honest, it still doesn't feel real. I keep thinking I'll wake up in my own bed in North Carolina any minute!

After getting in from the airport, our Panrimo coordinator Geoff took me and one of my roommates, Taylor, to our flat! We got the chance to walk around our area for a bit before our third roommate Shanda joined us. We are staying in a beautiful area of London. The locals have nicknamed it "Little Italy" because we are very close to a canal! It is so residential that you don't feel like you're in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the big city and all the tourism. 

After doing some grocery shopping at the Tesco Express down the street, we went out for dinner and found a cute little restaurant and bar! Most people say that the US and UK are a people separated by a common language. While we've already found this to be true, I can also say we're much different than I had thought in the area of food. I got a really good burger at the restaurant, but only because it was the only thing on the menu I recognized! We're going to have to do a little more research and exploring to get used to the food here! Then we returned to our flat and tried to stay awake as long as possible. One thing we've realized is that the days here are long. It was still light out at 9pm when I went to sleep and I was awoken by the sun and the birds at 4:30! So far we haven't seen the normal weather of clouds and rain. I hope it stays sunny!

Today is our orientation day with Geoff. We're going to learn about navigating the buses and the underground, the best way to use our phones and other things to help us figure things out here. We're all feeling a little jet lagged but we're excited to learn and maybe even get a little shopping in this afternoon! We start our internships tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to meeting the people I'll be working with for the next two months! It's been an exciting few days and we're itching to go exploring. I can't wait to see what the next two days will bring.