Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's always hard to say agur

Today was my last day in school and my last day in Arrasate.  Tomorrow, we will head to Bilbao to explore, then fly out on Saturday! Wow this trip was so fast!

Today, I got to see many of the teachers that I worked with in my time in Antzuola!  I got to spend the morning with Laura and Jon Ander, and I spent the afternoon with Miren.  I also got to see many of my students from the past month!  One of my classes (6th grade) even made me a thank you card.  It was so nice to see how much they appreciated having me around.  I appreciated even more how they welcomed me into their classrooms and let me learn from them.

Being in Antzuola, I was able to see how effective projects can be in learning.  Since the students center their curriculum around one topic, they get to explore every subject (math, reading, writing, etc.) in an exciting way instead of through a boring textbook.  I got to see meaningful, hands-on learning!  I was also able to see their beautiful learning community.  These students all work together as a team to achieve a common goal.  I can tell that they are learning valuable life and social skills that will really benefit them in their futures.

My experience here has been unforgettable.  I have met some amazing people who welcomed and helped me feel comfortable at all times.  Even the teachers I met who did not speak English did their best to communicate with me in any possible way.  This school was like a family, and I am so glad that I got to be a part of it, even if just for a short time.  I am forever grateful to my wonderful teachers and students who really opened my eyes and broaden my perspective of education.  Being surrounded by this foreign language and experience as helped me in more ways than I even realize.  I can be a better teacher now because I know what it is like to feel lost and uncomfortable.  I know what it is like to feel like you don't know what's going on.  I know what it is like to struggle communicating ideas.  I experience so many students who feel this way, and it's so easy to forget how they feel!  After this experience, I learned about how they feel through first hand experiences.  I understand that students may need more time or even a new explanation if they are struggling.  I know because I lived it.  This experience was absolutely priceless.  I was able to travel while learning and teaching, and I don't know if I'll ever get that chance again.  I am so glad I took this opportunity! It's been quite the {ed}venture!!

Tonight, we are going to our last Pintxo Pote of the trip with Tane and Sinead!  It will be great to see them one last time before we go back home!

Until next time Basque Country! Agur, Ms. Peachy

(thank you)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our Last Week to Explore

This week has been full of adventures through the Basque Country! Our program coordinators, Tane and Sinead, put together a few visits for us so we could experience different kinds of schools in the area.

On Monday morning, we went to a nearby town, Bergara, to visit a school for the deaf.  It was such a unique experience! They were very welcoming and told us all about their program.  The director explained to us that their philosophy is bilingual and bi-cultural.  It is both spoken and signed language as well as the cultural difference between the hearing and the deaf.  I thought it was a really cool way to explain their school.  That's how they encourage the environment of their school to be.  Students work with teachers who speak to them in Spanish (not Basque!) and sign to them.  One of my favorite parts was that to say their names, instead of signing out all the letters, they come up with different 'signals' to say their names! We all got to come up with our signals for our names and teach it to all of the kids.

Sadly, we didn't have a release to take pictures with the kids to post online, but they were so adorable.  The school works with 25 children that have their own timetables with different teachers as well as full inclusion in general education in schools near their homes.  These students come from all over the valley to this school to get help.  We bonded with these kids instantly.  They were some of the sweetest kids I've ever met!

Jillian had to spell out her name with a Y so they could pronounce it correctly.

The saddest part of the visit was about the parents.  We asked them if their parents knew how to sign and communicate with them, and most of them said no.  We were shocked because in the US, if a child is diagnosed as deaf or impaired hearing, the family and friends of the child learn sign language almost immediately - the parents here don't.  The director was explaining that this is the case because signing is banned in Europe.  He was saying that since most European languages are so historically spoken, and speaking the language is so important to them, that they don't believe signing their languages is appropriate.  It is a very cultural belief, but hopefully it changes soon.

On Wednesday, we had another field trip day.  In the morning, we went back to Bergara to see the educational museum!  It was very cool.  They were able to have English translations for us!  We learned a lot more about the scientific history of the Basque Country.  Did you know that's where they discovered the periodic element Wolfram? It was the 24th element found!  It was really cool to experience the history of our area that we've been living in for the past month!

In the afternoon, we went to the infant school which is for students 0-6 years old. Of course, we were beyond excited because we love the little ones.  This place was like a 4 story tree house! It was absolutely gorgeous! The kids had so much freedom.  It was very Montessori like and the kids got to pick what they wanted to do.  All of the materials were natural instead of the classic toys that children play with.  We were all in love with this school!  The kids were also adorable :) Each level had different spaces for art, free play, home centers, and large areas to play and move.

After the visit, we had our wrap up meeting with Tane and Sinead.  We talked about suggestions for the next time students come to visit them.  We came up with a lot of ideas to improve the program but also talked about our favorite parts.  We all had such a great experience at our schools here! We are so grateful for everything that Tane and Sinead did for us! THANK YOU!

Tomorrow is my last day at the school! It will be so sad to leave them, but I am glad that I get a full day with them.  I can't wait to hear all about their plans for Carnival on Friday!

Agur, Ms. Peachy

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Last Weekend: Barcelona!

Barcelona. Was. Amazing!  I have never experienced anything like it.  The culture, history, city life, FOOD, were all incredible.

We flew into Barcelona late Thursday night.  To get to our hostel, we had to take the Metro.  We were all so excited that we talked the whole time.  After a while, we noticed that we were in the middle of nowhere... We missed our stop! So we hopped off at the next stop and got on the train going the other way.  After much excitement, we made it to our hostel.  It was a cool looking building with a very modern design.  We ended up stay in the same type of room as before - 3 bunk beds with places to put our things underneath.  We were very tired but we needed to go out for food.  We started following Google Maps to our decided restaurant.  Along the way, we got lost and ended up at a Mexican restaurant... Yes in Spain... We were craving it!!  It was actually very good!

Lost in Barcelona                                             Enchiladas Verdes y Margaritas

On Friday, we went to some of the most exciting places in Barcelona.  In the morning, we went to La Sagrada Familia! Wow, it was absolutely beautiful.  We were all brought to tears by the beauty and the feelings we got inside the Basilica.  Words cannot describe how this place made me felt.  And the pictures definitely do not do it justice.  It is way more immaculate in person.  Also, it was amazing to finally see Gaudi's creation that I had been learning about in all my high school Spanish classes.

After lunch, we went to Park Guell, another well known spot in Barcelona, and another Gaudi creation.  This park was magnificent! Every section had its own beauty.  Each view was absolutely amazing!  It was also pretty cool because two other groups from TCU were traveling in Barcelona as well.  We all decided to meet up at Park Guell and catch up on our trips so far.  It was interesting to hear about other's experiences in their placements in Norway and Denmark!

Frogs meet up in Spain!

After Park Guell, we went to a restaurant recommended to us by the front desk at our hostel.  It was another taco place (lol) called Pikio Taco.  They had really interesting and fancy tacos, but they had the best nachos I have ever had in my life (LOOK AT THESE NACHOS!!!!)! After dinner, we went back to our hostel for a good night's sleep.

On Saturday, we walked around a majority of Barcelona; we walked over 11 miles!  We made our way to the Gothic Quarter and saw the Cathedral of Barcelona.  It was very beautiful and had a beautiful courtyard in the middle. On the way out, we found ourselves in Pla de la Seu.  We walked around the area and did some shopping.

For lunch, we had a special invitation to eat at a restaurant owned and operated by Andrea's aunt!  She was very kind and treated us to some authentic Spanish cuisine.  We had sangria, toast with tomato, paella with seafood, and a platter of desserts! We were stuffed but it was delicious!

After lunch, we made our way to the beach to see the Mediterranean Sea.  Of course, I got in despite the cold water, but for the experience of going in the Mediterranean!! It was amazing and I enjoyed taking silly pictures even though the other people on the beach were giving me strange looks.

This is my Ariel pose! (aka why people were giving me weird looks)

Shortly after, it got darker and colder.  We made our way to Ciutadella Park - a large park in the heart of Barcelona.  Here we saw the Arc de Triomphe! It was so beautiful! The details were magnificent!

Later that night, we went to IceBarcelona - a bar on the beach that's basically an igloo bar! They give you a big jacket and gloves as you enter the bar at -11 degrees. The whole bar is built of ice and it was Star Wars themed!  We also got a drink that was served to us in a cup made of ice.  Jillian and Andrea left quickly because the gloves were very thin and their hands lost feeling! Camila and I wanted to stay a bit longer and we danced around the bar to keep warm.  It was such a cool experience!  On our way back to the hostel, we stopped for bagels (can you tell we miss American food??)!

In the morning, we ate at a very popular restaurant in Barcelona called Travel and Cake (an extension of Brunch and Cake) because we were told we had to try the cake in Barcelona... OMG this cake was magnificent! The brunch food was very unique with many different ingredients but still very good!  This place was very popular as we saw from the growing line outside as we ate our brunch.

Chocolate cake with berries!

We still had time after brunch before our flight so we decided to head to the Picasso Museum!  Wow it was incredible!  We got to see a lot of the works he did while he was studying as a young man.  There were also a lot of his practice works when he first started his cubism works.  We were not allowed to take pictures unfortunately :(

By the end of the museum, it was time for us to head back to Arrasate.  We had spent a lot of time exploring in the morning, so we had to rush to the airport.  We made it just in time to get food before our plane.  Our boarding was delayed, and once we got on the plane, it was delayed another hour.  We ended up getting back to Arrasate pretty late.  Victor, Jillian, and I went out to one of the bars for pintxos.  While we were sitting there, we noticed people with menus and real plates of food - something we have yet to see in Arrasate! We were super excited and ordered more food even after we had the pintxos!  It was awesome!  After dinner, we went back to the dorms to finally relax after a long and busy weekend.

We are entering our last week of teaching and we have some special visits planned to other schools in the area this week.  Can't wait to see what's in store!

Agur, Ms. Peachy