Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Last day of Teaching in Sweden

Today was my last day of teaching at Folkungaskolan. It's been a great four and a half weeks with my fifth and sixth grade students as well as my supervising teachers Karin and Björn while I have been teaching English lessons everyday. I am so thankful to have been given the teaching experience at
Folkungaskolan, and will treasure all of the memories and relationships that I have formed across the pond. My fifth graders were so sweet to even make me a good bye notebook filled with hand drawn pictures and notes.

I loved teaching English to my fifth graders through animals and Disney themes. On Friday, my students presented different Disney movies in groups through singing, acting, or both. They were so creative and fun to watch! My sixth graders were very impressive in their presentations today through comparing the United States and Sweden. It was so interesting to watch my students form their own opinions of what the positives and negatives are within each country with a specific topic such as the economy or gun control. Both grades and their English speaking skills were so impressive through their projects.

Overall, I am so sad to go, but ready to return home and graduate on Saturday from WKU! I have thoroughly enjoyed this great experience in Sweden; a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me while I have been in Sweden, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone back at home very soon!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cruise to Helsink, Finland!

This weekend, we ventured to Helsinki, Finland on a weekend cruise from Friday to coming back today on Sunday. We left from Stockholm on Friday afternoon on our cruise ship, the Mariella. We arrived at port in Helsinki, Finland around 9:45 AM to go out exploring through the city until having to return back to the ship by 5:00 PM. On Saturday night, we began our trek back to Stockholm arriving in the morning around 10:00 AM and catching a bus back to Linköping from port.

The whole trip was a lot of fun. It was my first time ever being on a large cruise ship. The small cruise ship room to sleep in was definitely something to get used to! Nikki and Rhanda accidentally missed the bus to go to the ship, subsequently missing getting on the ship, so it was just Katie and me on the weekend trip together. 

Going to Helsinki was amazing because of how beautiful it was and the architecture. It was the perfect day to go with the best weather we have had this whole trip. There was a very cool market that we hung out in awhile just to see the different craftsmanship; they had a lot of things made with reindeer horns and fur from seals and foxes. You get a sense of the culture through going into the city markets.

We explored Helsinki, all by foot, walking for about 6 hours to get the whole feel of the city. We saw beautiful cathedrals, the Senate Building, Finlandia Hall, and much more. Overall it was a great trip for our last weekend in Europe!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Special Education in Sweden

On Friday after teaching two English classes, I headed over Berzeliusskolan, the school that Katie is doing her student teaching at while in Sweden. Students come to Berzeliusskolan because of its specialty as a math and science high school. In addition to its advanced math and science curriculum for the students, it also houses the school for those in special education. I spent two hours talking with the head master of the special education school and receiving a tour of their facilities. It was such a worthwhile, and educational meeting. Because I will be beginning my Master's in Special Education starting in June and all of my experiences at the Kelly Autism Program back at WKU, it was something I did not want to pass up.

The main difference between special education in Sweden compared to the United States is that students with special needs are not mainstreamed in the normal classroom. Once diagnosed, students go to the special education school program.It is a completely separate system from the usual Swedish curriculum.

It is crazy how much support and money the special education school at Berzeliusskolan has to teach the students. For the 57 students that attend, there are 37 teachers and aides. There are five programs the students get to choose from based upon what they are interested in and what they would like to focus on. Student choice is again important.

I loved going on the tour, and learning about the program. I enjoyed noting the similarities and differences and trying to understand the whole special education system and why they are doing what they are doing. The classrooms had so much art work from the students, specific student work stations, and so many visual schedules for the students. It seemed like a great learning environment for the students, and I could tell that so much effort was put forth to make sure students are successful.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trip to Paris, France

On Saturday, Nikki and I headed to Paris! We stayed until Tuesday when we took a flight back to Sweden. It was an amazing trip, and we got to see so much!

In front of Notre Dame
When we arrived, David picked us up from the bus depot, and we took a driving tour around the city. Then, we parked the car and proceeded to walk down Avenue des Champs-Élysées to see the Arc de Triumph, the gardens, the Louvre, and the obelisk. The architecture and everything is so breathtaking - wish the United States had something to compare to all of the buildings in Paris. Afterwards, we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral; Mass was being held by the Archbishop so we could go inside and walk around, and listen to it all in French which was cool. The cathedral is celebrating its 850th year. By the end of everything for the day, we had a delicious dinner at a small French cafe, and it was time for bed.

In the Hall of Mirrors at Versaille
On Sunday, we woke up early and decided to go to Château de Versailles for the morning. The palace is absolutely beautiful. We took a tour of the palace going from room to room and getting to see all of the art and history from the French royalty. I used to love reading about Marie Antoinette, so it was so cool to see the famous paintings of her, and then their personal rooms. There is so much history at the palace which I love.

Grande Arche

We stopped at a Farmer's Market on our way back to the apartment for lunch. The food there was so delicious - I love being able to get fresh breads, baked goods, fruits, and vegetables all right there for you to have.Then we went to see the Grande Arche - a modern version of the Arc de Triumph.It is also on Avenue des Champs-Élysées just like the Arc de Triumph so from the distance standing under the Grande Arche, we can see the Arc de Triumph.

On the Seine River cruise
Before ending the day with a trip to the Basilica, we went on a boat cruise of the Seine River to see all of the important landmarks. In an hour trip we cruised the Seine River going by the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Natural History Museum, the Musée d'Orsay, and more. It was a fun way to see Paris from another point of view on the river.

In front of Sacré-Cœur Basilica
To end our day on Sunday, Nikki and I headed to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It is so special because the Basilica sits atop a hill (the highest point in the city), and you can overlook the entire city of Paris. There were so many people just sitting on the church grounds hanging out, listening to music, and enjoying the gorgeous view. The interior of the dome was so incredible- the ceiling has such amazing artwork. It was unbelievable. It was a gorgeous scene, but what was so special was how it was created - it looked as if it was pieced together with small pieces of tile all to create one amazing masterpiece.

View from Sacré-Cœur Basilica

With Monday as our last day in Paris, our goal for the day was to start with the Eiffel Tower and end with the Louvre, and that's exactly what we did. We first went to the Eiffel Tower - it is so impressive, and you just don't understand until you see it in person. I've seen so many pictures and the sight has been in so many movies, but it's totally different once you actually are there at the Eiffel Tower. Nikki and I made the decision to be healthy/cheaper, and to climb the stairs to go up the Eiffel Tower. We took the 780 stair trek all the way up to the second overlook. Then, to go to the very top, we took the elevator for another 40 stories. So exhausting to go all the way up, but so worth it! The view was unbelievable, and you get to feel like you are on top of the world. It was fun to be able to search and find all of the different tourist spots from the Tower.
Hilltopper pride on top of the Eiffel Tower

Outside of the Louvre
After going to the Eiffel Tower, we ended our day with exploring the Louvre, one of the most famous art museums most known for housing Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.  One of the best things was that we were able to get into the museum for free! The museum is so expansive- on our boat tour the guide told us that if we went to the museum everyday going to each and every article in the museum's collection for 30 seconds each, it would take a total of 3 months. Needless to say, we did not get to see everything in the Louvre, but that just means we will have to take another trip back to Paris to try to see more! My favorite parts of the museum were the Egyptian collection, the sculptures, and the Renaissance paintings. It amazes me how skilled all of the artists had to be in order to complete such works of art. I definitely do not have the skill whatsoever!

Hanging out with the Mona Lisa painting
Overall, the whole trip to Paris, France was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget! It was so rewarding and educational at the same time. As someone who loves history, I loved being able to go to the sights that I have read so much about, and to learn even more history behind such an amazing city. Again, a big thank you goes out to David who let Nikki and I stay with him for the entire time, and showed us many of the sights around Paris!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Incoming Paris Blog!

Currently back at my corridor in Linköping, Sweden after a fantastic trip to Paris, France with Nikki! We had such a great time, and saw so much! I'm downloading pictures as I write this, and will make a huge post about everything we saw and did. A great big thanks goes out to David Tran who we stayed with while we were in Paris - an absolutely great host and tour guide around Paris! 

Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lessons and the Praxis

I've got some great lessons planned for my 6th graders that I'm so excited for them to begin starting tomorrow! We are working to compare the social and culture of the United States to Sweden - and it is student directed learning with the students getting to choose what they learn, and how they would like to learn it. I love how much choice I see Swedish teachers give their students, so I'm doing it, too!

We brainstormed as a class what the students were interested, and they compiled such a long list from security/gun ownership to the economy and insurance. Then, we brainstormed how they want to learn the different information; they chose have class discussion and group work with the final product for the students being a video or a PowerPoint. Because students are choosing what and how they are going to learn, I think students are better motivated and connect more to the content.

In groups, students will choose their topic, give background information on it for the United States and Sweden, and then give their opinion on the topic - which do they like better, what benefits do they see, how are they similar/different etc. I can't wait to see what they all come up with especially the videos and PowerPoints. 

On another note, I got back my Praxis scores for teacher certification, and I passed both the multiple subjects portion and PLT portion! Now, when I head back to the states and graduate I will be officially certified to be an elementary teacher in Kentucky!

Also have some travel news - Nikki and I will be heading to Paris for the weekend! We cannot wait to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, and so much more. If anybody has any other suggestions of where to go or things to see, please let me know!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday in Stockholm

On Saturday, we took a day trip to visit the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm. I was sick on Friday with some sort of a stomach bug so I wasn't sure if I was gonna be able to make the trip, but I made through it and decided to go - no use in staying in on a Saturday when you're in Europe...

Nikki, Rhanda, and I on the train with our "flat" friends
We took the train from Linköping to Stockholm. It was about a two hour train ride - we traveled through pretty rural countryside filled with lots of water and ice. It was a very cold Saturday in the low 30's! It didn't help that it was also windy and occasionally raining. When we arrived in Stockholm we went to the tourist center to get a map of the city. We tried to map out where we would like to go for the day. Unfortunately, some of the museums and sites that we wanted to see were closed for some renovations. We wanted to go to the Vasa Museum, but it was closed, as well as the National Museum - all because of renovations. Apparently, Stockholm is not as busy as a tourist destination until at least May, so they work on their museums to update them before May. 

The Royal Palace of Stockholm (North Wing)
Everywhere we went in Stockholm we walked. By the end of the day we were definitely exhausted. My favorite and the main site that we saw was the Royal Palace. We went on a tour of the Royal Palace through the main museum giving us a history of the palace, the royal apartments, and the royal treasury. No pictures were allowed so unfortunately I don't have any to post from what we toured. The palace had a disastrous fire in 1697 that destroyed everything except the newly renovated north wing -  seen in the picture to the right- Plans were made for the palace to be rebuilt within 5 years, however it took 60 years until the royal family was able to live in the palace again. 

Royal Band during the Changing of the Guards
Hello Royal Guard!
One of the cool things to see at the royal palace was the changing of the royal guards. It happens everyday at 12:15 complete with the guards and the royal band. The royal guards protect the palace everyday and are very much like the British guards with their stern demeanor. There was a very large crowd of people to watch the changing of the guards so that they had us standing off in roped areas to watch it all. I loved the ceremony of it all, and how serious it all was. 

Katie and I - cuing in on my Swedish King roots
Inside the palace, we went on a tour. The history museum part of the palace discussed the different monarchs, the fire, historical events, etc. We got to see parts of the original old palace before it had the huge fire. Then, we went to see the royal apartments - there were different levels for different occasions or people. All were exquisitely decorated. The furniture and artwork definitely looked like they held their weight in gold. I liked that they were kept decorated in the baroque style for the most part. Lastly, we toured the royal treasury. In the treasury, we saw a lot of the royal regalia. The most prevalent thing in the treasury were all of the royal crowns. We learned that what the crowns look like with the different sizes, colors, and if they are open or closed signified what crown belonged to who. Open crowns are for princes and princesses, whereas closed crowns are for the king and queen. If they were red, then the crown was for the king or queen, but if they were blue, they were for the princes and princesses. Bigger crowns are for the males (of course), and the queens or princesses have the smaller crowns.  

Outside of the palace, we walked around mostly Old Stockholm - there was beautiful architecture, and so much water. Stockholm is a city made up of many islands so there were many waterways with us crossing many bridges. We also went through some of the shops shops they had. 

Along the way, we ran into a medieval festival of some sort with different booths and everyone dressed up in the traditional old way. I didn't waste the opportunity to shackle myself by arms and neck for a little bit just for fun.  

Overall, we had a great trip! We definitely all bonded together as we walked many miles in the freezing cold to see such a gorgeous, historical city :)

WKU Hilltopper pride! All the way from Stockholm, Sweden!

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