I spent eight weeks student teaching 34 seventh-grade students math and English in Husnes, Norway. This experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I learned new teaching and classroom management strategies, how to work with English Language Learners, and what it feels like to be around people that speak a different language. When I wasn't teaching, the other teachers taught in Norwegian, so I had to ask for translations or infer what they were saying based on their actions and pictures. There were five student teachers from Iowa State and five student teachers from University of Arizona. Living and working with the other student teachers gave us more chances to collaborate and discuss new lessons to enhance the learning of our students. Student teaching in Norway was a great opportunity, because I got to learn so much about the Norwegian culture. I'm very excited to go back one day to visit my cooperating teachers!
One day in class, my cooperating teacher was telling a story to the students in Norwegian. I had no idea what she was saying until she started acting it out and drawing pictures on the board. While she was doing this, I was guessing what she was saying and following along. After class, I asked her what her story was about, and I guessed right. This really hit me, because even though I didn't know what she was saying through her words, I knew was she was saying through her actions. This is a strategy I can use in my classroom if I have English Language Learners. I understand how frustrating it is not knowing what's going on, so I know to work with those students to feel comfortable and included in my classroom even with a language barrier.
The most memorable experience I have is the school ski trip. We went to a ski resort on a mountain for all the students (1st through 7th grade) to downhill ski, cross country ski, or sled. This was a great time for me to bond with the students and get to know them better. A lot of the students were scared to speak to me, because they weren't confident in their English. This showed them that I wanted to get to know them, and we could have fun together.
What did you not expect?
I was very surprised at how relaxed the schools are. They don't stick with a set schedule. They do things based on the needs of the students. Norwegians love being outside, and when it was a nice day, they went outside! As I get my own classroom, this showed me that teaching requires flexibility, and it works. I am here to help my students, and if I need to change my plans to better them, I will.
What advice would you give?
Do it! It was a big change, but I loved the girls I went to Norway with and my cooperating teacher. Everyone was so supportive and wanted me to have the best experience. Not everything will be perfect, but it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that you will not regret.
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience really helped me become a better teacher. I saw a lot of relationship building and positive reinforcement. In Norwegian schools, they care a lot about relationships between teachers and students and life skills. It helped me observe a different school in how they build their classroom community. I didn't realize how difficult it is for people to learn English. Teaching students English helped me take a step back at what I was doing and how to mold it into something they would understand. This experience also made me more interested in working with English Language Learners. I would like to continue my education and my career in working with these students.
How did you learn about this experience?
I learned about this opportunity in my freshman orientation class, and it was my goal all through college to student teach in another country.International Connections