Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Will See You Again

"This is not where it ends. I will carry you with me, till I see you again." These lyrics are from a song called See You Again, by one of my favorite country artists, Carrie Underwood. These were the lyrics that played in my head during my last week in London. Of course, I missed my friends and family back home terribly, my summer in London was everything I hoped it would be and more.

During my last week at ICS, I started with the 5-6 intermediate class and moved to the 5-6 advanced class. The kids in both classes were fantastic. Most of them could speak a good amount of English which made the days a lot easier. On Wednesday we went to the Battersea Children's Zoo in Battersea park! Granted, it was a children's zoo so there weren't any huge animals, but it was such a fun trip. The kids were studying animals, so it was really rewarding to hear them call some of the animals by name or ask about ones they didn't know. We spend the morning walking around the zoo and letting the kids play on the playground before we went back to the school. Since the 5-6 classes are pretty young, their trips are only half day trips. We saw some pretty cool animals including different birds, monkeys, otters, and rabbits to name a few.

My last day of work was my last full day in London, which made it a really tough day. In the morning when I got to work, there was a full breakfast laid out in the staff room with a note for me and a coworker who was also leaving that day. It was so sweet! I spent the end of the week with the 5-6 advanced class who made me a book called, "How to be a Great Teacher" full of their writing and drawing. It includes things like, "Play games" and "Teach kids."It's one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever gotten from a class! I also recieved a thank you note signed by everyone and a very nice Swarovski pen from the school. I was shocked that I was so thought of. The people I worked with were truely amazing in every sense of the word. I am so luck to have gotten the chance to work with people who I learned from and was inspired by. I have such a global perspective on teaching thanks to these people, and I couldn't have asked for a better internship!

Some of my staff at ICS
After work my coworkers and I spend the afternoon and evening in the park and at a local pub. Friends I had met came to see me as well which made it a really fun night.

London has been a dream for me since I was in the fourth grade. I opened my blog by telling you how the history of this city has fueled my passion for reading from such a young age. The love I've had for this city has only increased in my two months there. It's a vibrant city full of modern culture and breathtaking historical sights. I know in my heart that someday, hopefully in the not to distant future, I'd like to go back there on a more permanent basis. From the global education program I experienced at ICS to the amazing people I met, I am sure this is a place I could someday call home. It might not be home forever, but I think I'd love to spend a few years really living and working in London. It's a beautiful place and I couldn't imagine saying goodbye to it or the friends I've made. So to quote Carrie, "I will see you again!" Thank you to all who read my blog! I'm so happy I could share my European adventures with you!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Victoria and Albert Museum, Bath and Stonehenge!

My time in London has absolutely flown by. I now only have 13 days left which makes me absolutely gutted (one of my new London words). I have loved my time in London and I wish it didn't have to come to an end. These next two weeks are going to be jam packed with some last minute sight seeing and making the most of every second of every day. This is the outlook with which I entered this week and this weekend, and I have to say, I wasn't disappointed!

This week in school I was with 7-8 Elementary. By our standards, elementary is considered to be
between beginners and intermediate. So my kids could easily tell me their names, where they were from, and how they were that morning, but they struggled in any other area of conversation. The focus of the week was clothes. It sounds like an odd topic, but we got to do some really cool things. We talked about different types of clothes, patterns on clothes and what clothes are made of. I learned that in Europe they use the words polka dots and stripes, but these words are used interchangeably with "spotty" and "stripy," words that to me, sounded like something a three year old would say before learning polka dots and stripes. But nevertheless, that's what they say here, so that's what my kids were taught. We also learned the difference between clothes you would wear in the winter and the summer (which is also quite different to home considering the large difference in climate). We had them do a lot of writing and speaking about what they and the other students were wearing to help them form full sentences in English. We also did some drawings with accompanying sentences. One of the projects they did was to dress up the teacher I was working with and myself in different types of clothes. It was quite amusing to see them dressing us up. In one of my students' drawings, I am wearing a football uniform!

Our trip for the week was to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I've been here before to visit a friend who works in the museum so I was very excited to go back. I felt that it was a really interesting museum. But, with our focus for the week being on clothes, naturally we spent the entire day in the fashion room. This room had displays of London fashion through the years that provided the museum goer to see how drastically fashion has changed. While for the more advanced group this was very interesting, my group had a little bit of trouble with the clothes. For example, there was a very fancy evening dress in one of the display cases, but trying to explain the difference between a day dress and an evening dress was utterly lost on them. We had a lot of time in the museum so we had them draw a lot of what they saw and label their drawings. It worked quite well, and took up the allotted time for the field trip. We broke for lunch and got to eat in the garden of the museum which is beautiful. We had a nice day for it as well, so the kids got to run around in the warm weather a bit when they finished eating. The trip went pretty well, I want to try and make it back to the museum. There are a few exhibitions that I am really interested in seeing!

Saturday was a really exciting day for my and my flatmate Taylor. We had signed up to go on a trip to Stonehenge and Bath through our visa sponsor and the day had finally arrived! We met in the designated area at 8:30 on Saturday morning and embarked on the trip to Bath. When we got there, we were ushered straight onto a walking tour of the city. I'd always heard about the Roman Baths. That was all I knew about the city however, and I'm almost glad I didn't know a lot about it because it gave me the opportunity to learn while I walked down the streets. Bath is a gorgeous city. To make it even better, here in England we are having some of the hottest few days in a long time. It got up to about 86 degrees yesterday and I even got a tan (and if you know me, you know that's basically impossible)! We walked around the city and learned about how it came to be the way it is. Bath is a World Heritage City. Most people think that's because of the Roman Baths, but actually it's because of the beautiful architecture of the city. Everything was planned so beautifully and the architecture is consistent throughout. There is much evidence of the Roman style in different points of the city. The Circus is modeled after a Roman Colosseum, but is actually a big circle of town houses. They are completely uniform with different columns on each level. The Royal Crescent is located just down the street and is also Colosseum like, but is only a half circle. Along with the canals, these were some of the most famous sites in Bath.

After our tour, we went into the Roman Baths. We had a limited amount of time, but we loved getting
to walk around the Baths. The large on in the middle is easily the most recognizable. We were told in the museum that the water at one point could get to 90 degrees celsius in the water which is almost at water's boiling point and very hot! We walked through the baths, threw a coin in the coolest one and headed back to the bus to make our way to Stonehenge!

Stonehenge is without question one of the most mesmerizing sights in England. The stones that stand there just scream that they are there for a reason, but that reason has been completely lost to us. The audio guide I listened to speculated that there was some significance to the way it was built as a calendar. Each month the sun shines through a different archway. The audio guide also mentioned that the majority of the rocks that went into building Stonehenge are underground making it harder to interpret the meaning behind this English Heritage site. Being before these stones was truely breathtaking. I can't even begin to explain the feeling you get when standing
before Stonehenge, but I would say it's worth a visit. We took pictures from basically every angle before we were ushered back on to the bus and home to London.

Today I went on a walking tour the "The Square Mile" with our Panrimo coordinator, Geoff. The square mile is the original city of London. And technically, the major sites like, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the like, are really in the city of Westminster, and not the City of London. The city of London has been built and rebuilt since the time of the Romans. It was first burnt to the ground when an English queen, Boudicca, watched her husband be murdered by a Roman who then whipped her publicly, took revenge by burning down every major city she could get to in England. She was opposing the roman rule and is thought of as one of the strongest English women that ever lived. She was to be sent to Rome as a slave as punishment, but instead took poison to avoid her fate. It is said that she is buried below platform 9 of King's Cross. It is rumored that J.K. Rowling has the Hogwarts train leave from platform 9 3/4 to pay homage to one of the greatest British women in history.

The city was rebuilt and was again destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was started by a
baker who's fires hadn't gone out at curfew. With the way the wind typically blew, the fire that was started would have burnt itself out very quickly, however, the wind that day came from a different direction which caused the fire to spread uncontrollably. It is said to have destroyed 13,200 houses and 87 parish churches. The fire devastated the city. The need to rebuild came quickly and an idea was presented to the King to rebuild the city in a grid-like pattern, the King loved the idea, but the people of London are stubborn and wanted their houses exactly as they had been before. Which is why, the streets have absolutely no pattern whatsoever. There are some streets here that just appear out of nowhere an alley's that you can only see if you make sure not to blink. I found it quite amusing that the city could have had structure, but because of the stubbornness of the population, it is the confusing mess we have today.

I won't bore you with much more history. I just found the things I learned today quite fascinating. Another quick tidbit - we passed a lot of shops and restaurants, but everything was closed. The reason for this is very unique to London. The majority of the people who work in London, don't live in London. They live in residential areas outside the city. Because of this, there is no reason for shops and restaurants to be open, when there are no people. And to further enforce this to me, the only people we saw on our walking tour, were other people on other walking tours! After the tour in traditional London fashion, Geoff and I stopped at a pub to get a pint before going our separate ways. I spent the day enjoying the nice weather and simply walking around the city. I revisited a few of the traditional tourist sights, walked through Green Park and went to Oxford street. This evening I went down to explore my own neck of the woods. Until tonight I had yet to visit the Little Venice area. I'm glad I finally walked down that way because it is absolutely beautiful.  There are about three that spread off from one main canal and stretch for a while in all directions. It was a great way for me to end such an eventful weekend, with a casual stroll around the canals. Today was one of those days where I had to sit back and pinch myself to make sure I really was in London. The city has such amazing and diverse things to offer. I went from the old city of London, to Westminster, to walking through parks, down busy shopping streets and the calm canals of Little Venice. London is truly a beautiful and amazing city.

With only 13 days left, I have a lot to do! I'll keep you updated as I pack the rest of the beautiful city of London as well as the surrounding area into the next two weeks!    


Monday, July 8, 2013

The London Aquarium and Dublin

My goal at the start of this blog was to update it about twice a week. It seemed to me I'd have plenty of time, but I don't think I realized just how busy the life of an intern and Londoner could be! My goal is still to update about twice a week, but for now, this post will have to cover two very different topics. I hope you like them both just the same.

This past week was the second full week of summer school for me and the staff of the York Terrace East campus of ICS. This week brought excitement, confusion, stress, and overall the feeling that I have picked the perfect line of work for myself. At the end of every day, I was absolutely beat, but I don't think anything else could give me the rewarding feeling that's mixed in there with all the tiredness. The week started off crazy for me being placed and replaced into different classrooms however, I was thrilled when I was told I would be working in the 5-6 year-olds advanced class. I had a great time last week in 7-8, but I have to say, I much prefer the younger children most of the time. I was placed with another teacher who told me on Monday afternoon that he believed in co-teaching and said if there was something I wanted to teach to just let him know. This being said from a proper teacher to an intern was pretty amazing. Being thrown into the class obviously made it hard for me to plan with out first getting to know the students in my class, but it was really comforting to know that I would be able to practice the profession that I love so much.

Our focus of the week for their class was sea creatures. They were learning all about fish, whales,
dolphins, sharks (the favorite of almost all of the boys), crabs and so on. On Wednesday we took our excursion to the London Aquarium! The Aquarium is centrally located just down from the London Eye and across the River Thames from Big Ben. This made for a really interesting bus ride and trip just to get inside. For students who are learning English as a second language, it's really important to get them to talk about anything, and boy did they want to talk about Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as we went by. It was wonderful to hear them talking about visiting those places with their families and finding the words to express their excitement. When walking from the road to the aquarium, we walked right in front of the London Eye. The area was absolutely packed with people and combine that with 40 five and six year-olds who keep stopping to look at the London Eye, and you have recipie for craziness. Getting them all inside took loads of stopping, counting their blue ICS hats, and sometimes, even dragging them along. But it was well worth the effort once inside. We split into groups to avoid crowding the other patrons at the aquarium and I had about eight of my kids in my group. Keeping them all together wasn't easy, but it was really cool to hear the collective, "WOAH!" at every tank we came to. We saw loads of sea creatures and I even got a few pictures. The kids loved when about half way through, they got to pet a starfish. It felt like all too soon when we were rounding them up and heading back down the crowded street to the buses. I was so excited I got to go on this trip. The animals there were so interesting!

On Thursday I got to school to find out that because of an emergency with one of his friends, the teacher I worked with wouldn't be in for the last two days of the week. They asked me if I felt comfortable teaching some of what was planned for those two days with help from other staff members. I of course said that I had no problem doing so, but with the school day starting in thirty minutes, I had a lot of planning to do. The schedule worked out so that I had most of the morning free because my class had PE and recess. Within two hours I planned for the next two days, printed off worksheets, made slide shows, found interactive videos and pulled about 15 books on sea creatures from the library. If my college classes have taught me anything, it's how to pull together lessons under pressure. I had a lot of help from other staff members as far as being my extra set of eyes or reading the kids a story, but I was most excited to be in front of a class actually teaching. On Thursday we learned about coral reefs and why they are important to fish. By the end of a video on youtube and a class discussion, almost all of them could tell me that fish need coral reefs to use as a home. We did a few drawings and writing activities about coral which turned out fantastic! On Friday, our focus was parts of a fish and relating those parts to us. Throughout the two days that I was in charge of the class, I felt like they really learned. I was so happy when I did their writing assessment on Friday and saw that most of the students understood what they were writing and could talk to me about it as well as ask how to spell what they needed. What began as a hectic planning time on Thursday, ended with a very rewarding afternoon on Friday.

This next part of my blog is really quite bittersweet for me. Since I've been living in London, I've
Dublin Castle
traveled to Paris and Amsterdam. This past weekend was spent in Dublin, Ireland and was the last international trip for me as I only have two more weekends here in London! As a whole I've decided that Ireland is beautiful! We had absolutely amazing weather while we were there which just as here in England is few and far between. I actually got sunburned just from walking around the city! Both my flatmates came on this trip as opposed to the others which were made up of just Taylor and I. Dublin was the one trip where nothing was planned. We had a hop on hop off bus tour booked, but beyond that, we didn't know much about the city and were very open to whatever we found. One of the first things we learned about Dublin was that, it's not nearly as "touristy" as some of the other cities we've been to. It was impossible to find souvenir stores that line some streets in cities like London and Paris. It gave the city a really unique feel. We took the hop on hop off bus to the Temple Bar area. Temple Bar hosts many of the city's cultural aspects. There is some form of pub on every corner as well as markets, street artists and live music. The area is also home to Dublin Castle. The castle is very different from those you would expect. It's really small, but it's still beautiful. There are gardens as well that were very green. In the Temple Bar area as well, there were some beautiful cathedrals with gardens outside. There were people just sitting out front of cathedrals enjoying the nice weather with picnics.

One of the other attractions we hit on our first day was the Guinness Storehouse. Having already
done the Heineken Experience last weekend, I felt it was only fair to try the Guinness Storehouse as well. I have never been a huge fan of Guinness, but I have to say, it's much better in Ireland than in the states. We learned about how the beer is made, got a little taster and I think my favorite part was getting to learn how to pour a Guinness. Pouring a Guinness requires a two-part pour which is different than most beers. After the pouring lesson, I even got a certificate saying that I crafted the perfect pint of Guinness. We ended the experience at the top level which offered panoramic views of Dublin.

Taylor and I decided to help us experience the local culture of the Temple Bar area, we would sign up for a pub crawl that went through the pubs of Temple Bar. Taylor and I have done a few little pub crawls so far but I think this was one of my favorites. Three of the venues had live music in a real pub environment. Irish bands sound much different than bands one would find in the US or even in London. They have a really unique sound so getting to experience live music in a really relaxed environment was so much fun!

On Sunday we started they day by going souvenir shopping and then had a trip to the National Leprechaun Museum! It seems very silly, but we had a great time there. We learned about the legends and mythology of Ireland. We learned of Leprechauns, Fairies, Banshees and Merpeople and how they all interacted with each other and humans. In one room, all the furniture was giant sized to make us see how small Leprechauns are. We tried climbing up on the furniture, but I'd be lying if I said it did it all on my own.

After the Leprechaun Museum we embarked on a plan to find the coast. Ireland is so beautiful because it has mountains, city, canals, and the ocean. In Dublin you can constantly hear seagulls that remind you that you're never far from the shore. Getting to the cost was not an easy task. We walked
for almost an hour and were so tired. But when we got to the coast, we all agreed it was worth the trip. It was low tide so we got to walk in sand that is normally covered in water. There were little tidal pools where we stuck our feet in. We got some amazing pictures on the beach with Dublin in the background. It was absolutely beautiful. Being in London, I didn't think I'd get to go to the beach at all, but it was so much fun to roll up my jeans and put my toes in the sand.

The trip back to London was eventful to say the least. Flights and things got confused, but now that I'm finally back in London, I'm happy to reflect on the beautiful things I got to see in Dublin rather than the craziness of traveling. It was an eventful weekend, and I can't wait to get to work tomorrow and meet my new students! I'm sad my days of weekend international travel are over, but this week will bring an amazing field trips as well as some day trips around England this weekend!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer School, the Geffrye Museum and More!

It has been quite a whirlwind of a week! After returning from Paris, we started summer school straight away and we were so busy that the weekend came before I knew it and I hadn't updated anything on our first trip!

ICS is very unique in that right after the mainstream school ends for the year, summer school begins straight away. Which meant a lot of boxing things up and preparing for summer school. It all went very well because come Monday morning, we were all set and ready to begin. Summer school is mainly used for teaching English to non native speakers. The kids that come to our summer school are from places like Russia, Italy, Brazil and so on. They are all with us to learn the language. In order to help that, the first thing we did when they arrived was give them a little language test to see what level of English they understood. I felt bad for most of the kids because it must have been a bit daunting to be given a test in a foreign language as soon as you get to school. But we tried to talk with them as well which proved much better than a written test what level of English they understood. We split them into classes based on their level and began the day with an introductory assembly.

I was placed in the 7-8 Advanced class. I worked with another teacher and we had six students. They were wonderful kids, we had two from Brazil, two from Kuwait, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Thailand. The first day was pretty hectic with everyone including the staff getting to know the ropes of how the school would work, but we made it through! On Tuesday we went to the Geffrey Museum. I'd never heard of the museum so I did a little research before hand. The Geffrey museum focuses on the history of homes and gardens in England. When you walk through it, there are examples of how people lived in different time periods. They begin in the 1600's and their most current room is based in the 1990's. It didn't sound like much for the kids, but they learned quite a bit. We didn't stop at every room, we instead had two sessions taking place in a Victorian era house and the one based in the 1990's. It was quite fun to talk with the other teachers while looking at the one from the 90's and remembering things like VCRs, older cell phones and other similar things. The kids of course thought all of it was so old and weird! We learned
that in the 90's, apartments began being built in the loft style to save space. We also saw that the design style was also very clean and simple. The Victorian style home was very elegant. We learned about how the flower pattern was very prevalent, and how instead of electricity they used candles, gas lamps and oil lamps for light. We also saw a very interesting contraption that the children just loved that was once used to toast bread by the fire! We ended the trip by letting the kids run around in the gardens which were beautiful before getting them back on the bus.  

The theme of the week was "My Country Your Country" so as a little project to learn about each other's country, we made posters! Cara the classroom teacher and I each made one to show we were from America. We had an American flag in the middle and then put landforms (another one of our topics) typical to where we lived as well as food, hobbies, weather and other things that we liked about where we were from. Cara is from Boston so ours were very different! It was a fun way to see what the kids like about where they come from. We all got to share and speak a little about our countries. I tried to explain biscuits to them, but they just told me that the picture I put on my poster was of a scone and that biscuits are cookies! I had to give up trying to explain it to them! The poster making taught us all so much about each other and was a really enjoyable activity for them throughout the week.

My work week ended on Thursday as Taylor and I headed out to Amsterdam that night! We took a train to the airport right after work and got to Amsterdam around 10pm that night. It was not easy getting from the airport to the hostel, but we made it work! Friday morning we got up and made it the Heineken Experience by 11am when they opened. It was perfect because we didn't have to wait in the massive lines I saw later that day. I've done the tour before, but as I now have a better appreciation for the beer, I enjoyed it much more. We learned a lot and had so much fun talking to the staff and using all the interactive bits of the tour. There is one room where you can be the DJ and play a game and there are videos everywhere. And of course, we ended up in the bar at the end happy to sit down and enjoy our beer!

After the Heineken Experience we went to a quick lunch and then made our way to the Anne Frank House. On the way, we found the Amsterdam Dungeon. While it's obviously made out to be a really
touristy thing, we couldn't help but pop in to see what it was like. It was scary and quite funny. We got to walk through and learn a little about the history of how they dealt with criminals in different eras. They pick on people in the group and poor Taylor got put in a cage and put on trial for which-craft! It was a fun little stop, but when we were done we continued on our way to the Anne Frank house. You can't really put that experience into words. I had chills most of the time. The house has obviously been renovated but remains unfurnished. Otto Frank wanted it that way, but with his help they have made a model of what it looked like at the time that the Frank family was in hiding. Standing in the room where they lived with the pictures Anne put on the walls just gives you a heavy feeling. The whole time you walk through the house, the people are basically silent. It's clear that no one can understand why there was a time where hiding spots like these where necessary. Throughout the entire museum there are quotes from Anne's diary on the wall. I remember when I read the diary, I thought how profound her words were for someone of her age. They are made even more so when put on the walls of the secret annex.

We went on a canal tour that evening and saw some of the sights of Amsterdam by boat. In my opinion, you can't go to Amsterdam without doing one if you haven't before because some of the sights are beautiful and since the city is so centered around the canals, it's a good way to learn about it. We stopped at a pasta place on the way home for dinner and then called it a night. We walked so much!

On Saturday we did a two hour bike tour! I have to say, I enjoyed this tour so much! Everyone who lives in Amsterdam travels by bike so being able to just bike around such a beautiful city was fantastic. I've always been a little nervous around the bikes because they do not stop for you if you're walking! But by the end of the tour I was getting annoyed when people weren't following biking rules that I hadn't known two hours earlier! We had a fun morning. The rest of the day was spent really just walking around little shops and buying some souvenirs. We had signed up for a pub crawl that night so we went and had a really fun time. We met some really cool people from Dublin, Canada, Ukraine and I even ran into some fellow Carolina Panthers fans from Charlotte!

Sunday was the day we left so we didn't do too much. We went and found the classic I amsterdam sign and visited the Van Gogh museum before heading home to London.

I have to say, these weekend trips have been fantastic but I can't help but smile every time we return to London. It really does feel like home!