This week was an interesting time to be abroad. As the United States elections have unfolded, I think I have been asked at least once a day about my feelings about Trump or Hillary. This week was no different, but the questions were more real after Tuesday. Since there is a time change, I went to sleep unsure of what reality I would be waking up to. The reality turned out to be Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Now, I do not want to make this blog post simply about politics, but if I learned one thing this week, it is how much influence the United States has on the rest of the world. Students in my classes were asking me questions similar to those I would have gotten in the U.S. The teachers here were as shocked as most Americans, and no one could believe it. In the United Kingdom, this election is seen as our version of Brexit…and that is not a good thing.
I began teaching my first lessons this week. I taught an area lesson to Year 8 students and transformation lessons to Year 10 students. The behavior of students in these classes was not much different than those of students in the United States. One thing I noticed was how they reacted to my style of teaching. At Drake, I have been taught that math is best learned through discovery, so I based my lesson on this theory and on questioning techniques. I could tell by many of the students’ reactions that they had not experienced a lot of learning in this way. When I introduced an area activity where students could create shapes, they were extremely engaged and excited to learn. Some of the students also became very excited when they realized I was from the United States. They asked questions like what grade they would be in America, or whether I could understand their accents. Teaching these lessons allowed me to connect with some of the students in a way I had not been able to do yet. I am looking forward to working with these groups for the rest of my time and I know it will be hard to leave my students.
Early in the week we also visited Lagan College, the first integrated school in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, integrated has a much different meaning than in the states. When I think of integrated, I think of race. When they say integrated in Northern Ireland, they are talking about religion. Catholic or Protestant divides most schools, so an integrated school welcomes students of both religions. Lagan College was opened 35 years ago and funded by parents who believed in the school and what it stood for. Students from all over the country traveled to learn in an environment that respected all ideas and opinions, but others did not always respect this school. When the school started out, students could not wear their badges or talk about what they learned in public due to fear of violence. Some school buses were attacked as they brought students from bus and train stations. Today, the school has a new building and serves 2,000 students, with a long list of applications behind them. The school welcomes all religions and allows for open respectful conversations about beliefs. The school also welcomes students of all ability levels. The philosophy that every student has the ability to learn is very evident in this school. Additionally there is pride from both teachers and students in this institution. They strive to provide the best education while also supporting other schools that have joined the journey in integration. Visiting Lagan College was an amazing experience and I was very impressed by the philosophy and ethos that they held.