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Montenegrins – Brave, NOT Aggressive

Generous, caring and brave are some of the words that describe the people I met during my EMU Study Abroad in Ulcinj, a small town on the southern coast of the breathtakingly beautiful country of Montenegro.  My positive experiences with Montenegrins will resonate with me forever and here are a few examples:

  • There are no words to fully thank Silvija, who is hugely responsible for opening her native Montenegro to us. As busy as she was, she graciously educated us on the culture, answered even our silliest questions, and went above and beyond to ensure the program’s success. Who does this? A Montenegrin does!
  • My daughter and I were whisked off on an unforgettable late afternoon tour by Medina, a gregarious woman who wears many hats, including being a local English teacher. Knowing how busy Medina is, I kept thanking her and telling her to go home to her lovely family. She insisted that she wanted us to experience some of her favorite places and continued to grace us with her time, energy, and fun personality. Oh, and we saw INCREDIBLE areas that we probably would not have seen on our own. Who does that? A Montenegrin does!!
  • One of our local drivers (we called Joseph) opened car doors, patiently waited for us to have our morning coffee at the local bakery, happily agreed to our often-inconvenient requests of driving ALL OVER, made helpful connections for us, and MUCH more — with a smile and without keeping the meter running. In fact, on numerous occasions, Joseph refused to charge us for short trips! Who does that? A Montenegrin does!!
  • The staff at the Copacabana Beach Restaurant graciously treated our entire Study Abroad team of teachers to a delicious dinner – just to thank us for being teachers! Who does this? You got it. A Montenegrin does!!

I have countless more stories like these. Needless to say, I was appalled to hear anyone describe Montenegrins as aggressive. That was quite the opposite of my experience and anyone who takes the time to get to know the people would surely agree with me.

Thank you to the lovely people of Montenegro!

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Montenegro – Day 3 and beyond

Unbelievable! The clear blue color of the water in the Adriatic Sea is mesmerizing!

Days 3  and 4 of my Study Abroad were filled with teaching, sunbathing, and exploring. The school and our apartment are located in Stoj, which are basically suburbs of  Ulcinj,

My morning routine is to walk down the street (about 10 minutes) to the bakery, have a fattening breakfast of  Burek or other delicious pastry, and of course COFFEE.  We ask for “American” coffee and it’s a hit-or-miss because they basically bring out whatever they feel like it — usually cappuccino.  (By the way, I tried Turkish coffee, which is super thick and nothing like American. Let’s just say it’s not for me.)

After sitting for a few minutes (since they don’t like to give  “to-go” cups), we start the hike over to the school. On the way, we encounter several animals, including COWS, sheep, cats, and dogs. Oh, and there’s a rooster singing his song nearby. The cows stare you down and are basically grazing wherever they want. The stray dogs have clipped ears — I was told it’s to show that they are neutered/spayed and safe.

The hike to the school (from the bakery) is about twenty minutes. I’m loving the exercise, but we had a couple of rainy mornings and I was totally not prepared! Luckily my roomie bought an umbrella for me. So sweet!!

The kids are adorable! They absolutely love everything we do, but they especially LOVE a particular song that is now forever engraved in my dreams — Baby Shark!  They beg us to let them sing it EVERY DAY! These kids are so eager to learn that they show up 30 minutes early every day…in the summer!

Basically, after school, I am either doing lesson plans, homework or sneaking off to an adventure like the beach or the downtown, which they call City Center.  I also went to nearby towns called Budva and Kotor. Both of these places had cobble-stoned streets and little quaint shops and restaurants.  So fun!

On the weekend, I went off to Croatia with four other teachers. It’s an adventure just to get there since we had to catch a ferry and go through customs.  Once we got settled in, we explored Old Town, where Game of Thrones was filmed! So exciting. We also went on a private boat tour and stopped at three islands. At one of the islands, we swam inside a cave, which had the most beautiful blue water I’ve ever seen!

After that amazing trip, it was back to work on Monday morning and, even though I was exhausted, the kids’ enthusiasm made me forget how tired I was. I even played soccer (for a hot sweaty couple of minutes.} The weather warmed up quite a bit, which made our morning walks difficult. And sweaty.

Tuesday afternoon, about 15 of us ventured out to Ada Bojana Beach. It was the BEST day! We hung out at the beautiful beach and then hopped on a boat to get dinner at a seafood restaurant. The staff was attentive and the food was yummy! We were all so happy with our little adventure.

Today (Wednesday) was interesting. We were told the power was going to go out for the whole city. Why? Who knows? Then we found out that it’s not happening. Meanwhile, there were two earthquakes in neighboring Albania and many people said they felt it here.  (I didn’t.) Later in the after school, all of us were treated to a special dinner cruise by one of the locals. It was relaxing and a fun way to end our week. Well, almost. Our last day of school is tomorrow and then on Friday, the kids will perform for all the top officials in the area. Oh boy. I’m going to miss these kids!

Stay tuned. for Rome…

 

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Montenegro – Day 2

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Excited faces and voices crowded the foyer of the Montenegrin elementary school and then suddenly it was time! This is what we’ve been preparing and waiting for! Originally we had 16 and as if by magic, we now had 26 eager 3rd/4th graders.  The classroom was smaller than my own classroom back home and we literally could not squeeze another desk or chair. Despite the large sized group, the students behaved so well and we had no behavior issues. It was a productive and fun-filled day! They were all still smiling at the end of the day, so this was definitely a successful first day! I loved every minute of it! More about the kids later.

Later in the afternoon, we hit the beach. The beaches in this area have funny names. This one was called Copacabana! The sand was a dark gray color and very soft. The water looked a brilliant blue (more pictures coming soon), and the sun was hot — until the clouds started getting darker and we finally made a run for a beach cafe when a sandstorm practically threw us at it.  More on the food another time.

Here are some observations and things I’ve learned about the culture and community, so far:

  • Montenegrins don’t buy coffee on the go.  On our walk to the school, I stopped for a quick breakfast bite and wanted my coffee in a “to-go” cup. They laughed at me and amongst each other for a minute before handing me a tiny cup with the coffee, which was delicious, by the way).  I guess they don’t believe in Starbucks here and are not upset about it.
  • Cows roam free on the streets. I saw at least 4 cows on this same morning walk. So cool. They didn’t bother us at all as we basically walked around them on the path. I love cows!
  • The kids in our class are VERY SIMILAR to the kids back home. They love many things and especially SOCCER (they say football) and DOGS! They loved EVERYTHING we did with them and especially anything with music, dancing, singing, movement,  and interactions with partners or in small groups.
  • The kids here do the FLOSS dance too!! If you’re not a teacher or a parent, you may not be familiar with it — omg! Youtube is most likely behind this! Ditto with FLIPPING water bottles — well, only one kid was doing this, but it’s a fad I’m glad is mostly over in the U.S.

My jet-lagged brain needs a break…more tomorrow! And yes, more pictures too…

 

 

Philosophy of Education

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I agree with this educational quote because I believe it is more important for students to be passionate about learning than to memorize facts. In my future classroom, I want to ignite a flame in my students to love learning and seek deeper understandings instead of just retaining facts for a test. This belief is part of my personal philosophy of education, developed after considering current educational philosophies, and reflecting on my own experiences in education. My philosophy of education is valuable as a future teacher because it will affect various aspects of teaching and learning, including learning goals, teaching practices, and classroom management.

The two major and opposing philosophies of education in contemporary American schools are teacher-centered and student-centered viewpoints. Teacher-centered viewpoints include essentialism, perennialism, and behaviorism (Oakes, Lipton, Anderson & Stillman 2013). Student-centered viewpoints include progressivism, humanism, and constructivism. These viewpoints are in opposition in terms of “aims of education, educational practices, the dichotomy of authority versus freedom, and the uses of subject matter” (Witcher, Sewall, Arnold & Travers 2001). By studying these traditional and progressive educational philosophies, I decided that my personal philosophy of education is a combination of both.

Additionally, my teaching experience  has shaped my personal philosophy of education. I have worked with a diverse population, including students with zero-English, special needs, and at-risk students.

With today’s technology, students could “Google” it when they need to find out facts. For that reason, simply memorizing facts is not necessary or enough in the 21st century. More importantly, today students need to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. My overall learning goal for my students is to understand foundations of content areas instead of learning by rote. For example, they would be able to analyze the information and determine whether the information is accurate. In this student-centered progressivist viewpoint, the focus is on teaching divergent points of view and diverse subject matter (Johnson, Musial, Hall & Gollnick 2014). Students would test their ideas through experimentation and discussions. This would help students in all aspects of their lives because they would be able to solve complex problems in their personal and post-high school lives.

Furthermore,  I agree with the teacher-centered approach of essentialism in which students are taught the importance of being part of the community. Connection to community is important for developing the kind of students who will be law-abiding and responsible citizens long after they leave my classroom. Students would learn behaviors and skills needed to be productive members of society.

From my teaching experience in student teaching, building sub, and formerly as an English learner Paraprofessional, successful teaching begins with engaging all students. Without it, I have seen students lose interest and disrupt the class instead of paying attention to the lesson. No learning is accomplished. Given this, I plan to utilize several teaching practices, depending on the needs of my students and the subject matter. For example, I plan to facilitate cooperative learning in which students are given the opportunity to learn from their peers and not just from me.  I have used this student-centered approach successfully by having students work with partners and in small groups. Not only did cooperative learning engage students, but it promoted learning for all learners, especially the English learners and struggling students who learned from their peers. Moreover, “[c]ooperative learning provides students with an environment that enables them to develop as leaders who have confidence and who inspire others with their sense of individual and societal responsibility” (Williamson and Null 2008). In other words, it also helps the higher level students.

Much of my teaching practices involves similar student-centered approaches, including constructivism that “emphasizes developing personal meaning through hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning” (Johnson et al., 2014). Not only are students more engaged through this approach, but they gain a rich and meaningful connection which will help them truly learn instead of learning for a test. Moreover, I create lessons that challenge students to become critical thinkers. For example, I created a lesson where fifth graders had to analyze text for deciding where a new paragraph should begin. This was a higher-order thinking skill and challenged students. Additionally, use ongoing open-ended questions and tasks to help students learn, adapt, analyze, ponder and stimulate thinking. Overall, I create opportunities for creativity and promote meta-cognition because these not only engages students, but promote active and meaningful learning.

While most of my teaching practices will likely stem from a student-centered focus, especially constructivism, there may be times when I rely on teacher-centered ways. For example, for certain lessons about abstract subjects I could use Socratic questioning, which is based on perennialism. By using the Socratic dialogue, “learners’ beliefs are challenged by the teacher through a series of questions that lead learners to reflect on their beliefs, induce general principles, and discover gaps and contradictions in their beliefs” (Johnson et al., 2014). Consequently, I will engage students through a lively discussion, rather than lecturing.

Students often become unwilling spectators of a chaotic ping-pong match between disruptive classmates and their teacher. In the meantime, all productive learning ceases. An effective classroom management plan is essential for optimal learning and must encompass preventive, supportive and corrective strategies.  On the first day of school, I plan to use a student-centered approach in teaching behavior expectations and consequences. For example, I will involve the students in developing rules and consequences. I can model acceptance of other cultures or differences, by giving all students a voice in the discussion. After that, students will sign a class contract on chart paper that will be prominently displayed. I will send home a letter to the parent that includes my high expectations, as well as a copy of the rules and consequences and a brochure about the school’s zero tolerance for bullying. Then, during the first ten days of school, these rules and consequences will be continually and clearly explained, modeled and practiced. Students will then fully understand their limits or boundaries. If students choose to break these rules, I will consistently enforce consequences. Consistency is crucial in correcting misbehavior and/or stopping it from recurring.

Moreover, students learn best in a safe environment. To ensure this, I will have a bullying plan in place to help and educate students. For example, students may report bullying privately or anonymously (by using the bully box).  Also, I can teach students problem-solving skills, through the Leader-in-Me school wide program. With these skills, students learn to make better decisions, including to “think win-win”, “seek first to understand, then to be understood” and to “synergize”. With this support in place, disciplinary issues would decrease and the classroom would be a positive learning environment.

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought”, by Sun Tzu, means that if one spends time preparing now, problems will be avoided later. My classroom management plan is more of a systematic approach of managing a classroom that has practices and procedures in place to prevent the disciplinary problems from beginning or continuing. This includes strategies to make it clear what is expected of students and to consistently enforce the rules with consequences. Overall, my role as the teacher is not that of a disciplinarian, but that of a manager and facilitator

The beauty of creating this philosophy of education is that I was able to “swim in the same social stream as the prophets of old, but a little farther down. The office of philosophy is to bind their times and ours together in a commonality of reflection on experience” (Walcott 1966). In other words, I can pick and choose what works with my students, based on my experience. Thus, my personal philosophy of education is a blend of traditional and progressive ideas. My learning goal would focus on developing critical thinkers, problem solvers and good citizens. This is essential for helping students become successful in their personal lives and in society as a whole. Furthermore, most of my teaching practices will involve student-centered approaches, including cooperative learning and constructivism. This will depend on the lesson and on the students. I will also use some teacher-centered practices, such as the Socratic dialogue. Lastly, my classroom management will be student-centered whereas I include students in creating rules and consequences and I plan ahead in order to prevent disciplinary issues. Overall, my personal philosophy of education is a combination of traditional and progressive ideas and will likely expand through the years. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

References

Johnson, J. A., Musial, D., Hall, G. E., & Gollnick, D. M. (2014). Foundations of American

Education Becoming Effective Teachers in Challenging Times (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Oakes, J., Lipton, M., Anderson, L., & Stillman, J. (2013). Teaching to change the world (4th

ed.). Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Walcott, F. G. (1966, April). Importance of a Philosophy for Teachers. Educational Leadership,  556-559.

Williamson, A., & Null, J. (2008). Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Educational Philosophy as a

Foundation for Cooperative Learning.American Education History Journal35(2), 381-           392.

Witcher, A. E., Sewall, A. M., Arnold, L. D., & Travers, P. D. (2001). Teaching,  learning: It’s all about philosophy. The Clearing House, 74(5), 277-279.

 
 

Toyota City – Days 5 and 6

The staff at the elegant Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo was helpful and friendly. I will miss Tokyo.  It’s a happening city — very much like what I envision New York City, where I’d like to visit one day.

Saynonara Tokyo!

Day 5

Going on a ride in the Shinkansen (bullet train) was a lot like flying in a plane, except everyone must board in 60 seconds or you are left behind!

What a cool experience! We zoomed all the way to Toyota City in 2 1/2 hours; by car this would take about three times longer!

Mount Fuji was spectacular! This picture doesn’t do it justice since we were going too fast, but we could see it from our seats.  It was a bit surreal. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Family, travel, Uncategorized

 

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Japan Adventure Begins!

This is it! I’m leaving for Japan in less than 8 hours!

Since it’s about a 14 hour flight, this means I’ll be there (U.S. time) about 5:30 AM tomorrow.  With the 13 hour time difference (Japan is ahead), it will be about 6:00 PM Japan Standard Time when I get there.  Oh boy!

I look forward to the new experiences.  It will be a little tricky sometimes, but I’m confident I’ll figure it out.  Money is one of those things.

For example:

  • 1,000 yen is = $12
  • 5,000 yen = $62
  • 10,000 yen = $124

Good thing I’ll have the internet!  I’m renting a pocket wifi so I’m good to go!  Speaking of going….gotta run now!  Sayonara!

~~ Maggie

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in travel, Uncategorized

 

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Domo Arigato – 6 days to go!

It’s over 6,000 miles from here to Tokyo!  As I finish getting ready for my AMAZING trip, I can’t help but think about all the Japanese families who make the 6,000 + mile trip to America AND put their kids in our schools.  Think about it.  You travel that many miles and (jet-lagged) are expected to acclimate to American culture and schools — not to Read the rest of this entry »

 

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