Week 16

Personal Reflection
7th - 14th May

Final Performance
I’m finding it really hard to believe that Week 16 has come and gone and this will be the last blog I will right from Flat 2 in Vossenveld which I have made my home for the last four months. People who know me know that I am a ‘homebird’ and love getting home from Belfast on a Friday evening for some home comforts. With this in mind and the very emotional goodbyes that took place the night before I left, I’m pretty sure there were many people who wondered would I ever last the four months. Little did they know that I was determined to see it to the end as I knew that this would be an experience of a lifetime.
Final Performance
Everyone who I talked to before I left told me the time would fly and it really has. Looking back I can vividly remember sitting in this same room writing my first blog post and now I wonder where the time has went to. At this point my emotions are very mixed. Although I am very excited about getting home to see my family and friends, I am going to miss Nijmegen and the way of life that I made for myself here. It will be strange not living with these people who have been my flatmates, my classmates and in many ways my family for the last four months.
Having spent so much time with each other I have learned a lot about these people.  It has been very interesting to live with people from other cultures and find out how they live life, the values they uphold and how they conduct themselves around other people. This has made me really reflect on myself as a person and many aspects of their personalities have positively influenced me. As well as this I would say I am more certain and confident in what I uphold as my values in life and desirable personality traits.
The collage we made Harry for all his help
with the international students.
There have also been many aspects of the Dutch lifestyle that I have embraced. One particular aspect is the relaxed lifestyle. Too often in Ireland we get worked up and stressed about matters that are irrelevant and unimportant. I have found that when it comes to assignments deadlines here in The Netherlands that nobody really gets stressed out whereas in contrast to this at home we are all nearly tearing our hair out. The Dutch set a deadline but it is a case of whenever they get the work they get it, whether it is a day early, 2 days late or a month late. One must consider that if the work is not completed in time with a schedule they can just postpone their graduation to the next year. With the organised and structured mentality people seem to work with in Ireland I cannot ever see this being the case. Although I like the more relaxed attitude to many aspects of life here, as a future educator I think there are many aspects in life in which organisation and accountability is fundamental in order to maintain standards, e.g. assessment.
In all, I can wholeheartedly say this has been a once in a lifetime experience and everything that I hoped it would be. I have seen many places, met many new people of which I will be keeping in contact with and I have learned so much about myself. I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go. Although we all have preferences in places that we’d like to go to, I personally think you can have this experience in any country as it’s what you make it. You must step out of your comfort zone, embrace the culture and the language and make an effort to meet new people in order to the most of any experience.


The International Class!

Week 15

Personal/Professional Reflection
30th April – 7th May
As I near the end of this Erasmus adventure here in The Netherlands I wish to reflect on one of the most central and fundamental aspects of moving to a new country and being able to participate in everyday life there, that being the language. Without a doubt, having very little knowledge of the Dutch language did make me somewhat anxious before I left. Although I had learned some useful phrases and words from the language labs in Stranmillis, it wasn’t long before I realised that certain words have many meanings and the way we pronounced them was hardly even translatable. Thankfully my fears were put to ease in the first few days when we realised most people have some English and are willing to help in most situations. Their enthusiasm to practice their English and ability to converse in the English language made me even more eager to learn the Dutch language.
One of the many situations where the class
had the opportunity to converse in
English with me.
As part of our course here we have been taking Dutch language classes each week. At the beginning, these made me very excited as I thought they were a great opportunity to get a good grasp on the basics of the language which would enable me to participate in all aspects of Dutch life more effectively, but as time went on I soon realised that I wasn’t learning very much. As I reflect on this experience I can say that the way this second language was taught was not very effective. Stranmillis has given me much preparation in dealing with children who English is an additional language and from this I can see how the use of simple words and useful phrases that children will need is more useful at the start than teaching grammar and structure of language. In any case, from this experience I can most definitely say I know how it feels like to be one of these children where they feel lost and frustrated in situations when they are unable to communicate.
The teachers in my placement school were very good at making me feel involved and making sure I knew what was going on most of the time. At the same time I spent much of the day clueless and silent at the back of the class. I enjoyed my placement school very much but there were many times whilst I observed the teacher teaching I wished I could understand what she was saying as the it was evident the way she taught was exemplary as well as the way she interacted with the pupils in the class. After all much can be learned from observing a situation rather than being told how it shoudl look.
From my previously learned knowledge about teaching languages and the useful classes about teaching English here in PABO, I was able to plan and teach meaningful and beneficial lessons to the children in my placement school. I used stories and songs with language relevant to everyday life with gestures and actions enabling children to build upon what they already knew and expand their English vocabulary. When I first met these children they were not very confident in speaking English but after the 6 weeks that I had been in their classes I was pleasantly surprised at how eager they were to converse in English and learn new words and phrases.
For me this experience has been very beneficial in many ways. Not only have I grasped some of the Dutch language but I have also seen how language is a key part of accessing a culture and without it life would be very isolated and difficult. For me learning some of the language was not easy but I have seen how it opened up many doors. Personally I think Walter V. Kaulfers encapsulates the importance if making an effort and learning some of the language. He says, “In humans relations a little language goes farther than a little of almost anything else. None makes a wall, some can make a gate.”
Group 8 showing me their version of
'Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!'
I have also seen how the way languages are taught has a huge impact on people being able to learn them. As a future educator I have benefited greatly, not only I am able to empathise with children who do not have English as their mother tongue but I have gained more knowledge about how to teach these children as well as having experience of teaching English to second language learners which is something I have not done before.


Week 14

Cultural Reflection
23rd – 30th April
This week saw the end of the ‘TET’ course and the final goodbyes for many of our class and of course with our tutors. For some of our classes we were split into smaller groups and as a final goodbye our group had the privilege of being invited to Will, our tutors for dinner. We all accepted his invitation gratefully and I think we were all taken back by his kindness in welcoming 10 of us into his home for dinner.  
With his directions in hand telling us what bus to get and the stop to get off at we set off on Wednesday evening to Wijchen, a small town outside Nijmegen where he lives. We arrived at his house to be greeted by his wife and family who were ever so welcoming and intrigued to know where we all came from.  I was pleasantly surprised as it was evident these people had gone to great lengths to prepare for us coming and enable us to embrace the real Dutch experience. I wondered whether this would be the case if I were to come into contact with people from other countries back home.
In many ways I think we are closed people only welcoming people we are familiar with into our homes. Personally I would say this is also reflected in our style of housing with small windows and separate rooms each with a different function. In contrast to this after seeing the interior of Will’s house and having seen many exteriors of Dutch houses on my travels, they have large windows which are hardly ever blacked out with curtains and inside there are large open spaces. It has also been remarkable to see that most Dutch houses are around the same size. People do not show their wealth by the houses they build which is certainly the case in Ireland with one house outdoing the next. As it has been said, a house is where you hang your hat; home is where you hang your heart. I feel that the Dutch people are more concerned in cultivating this ‘home’ attitude.
In all it was a really great evening being welcomed into Will’s home, getting to know his family and tasting typically Dutch foods. Personally I feel it has been the ‘icing on the cake’ of my Dutch cultural experience. I have realised how much can be gained from opening the door of your home. Will and his family were proud to exhibit many aspects of their culture and so this should be the case for us all. I feel there is no better place to showcase one’s own culture than in their home as this is the place where much can be learned about foods, ways of life, values and much more. With this attitude I hope I will be able to welcome people from other countries into my home and enable them to have a rich cultural learning experience just as I have had here in The Netherlands. I feel Marcel Proust sums up very well what my experiences have been so far. He says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I most certainly have a new outlook.


Week 13

Professional/Personal Blog
16th – 23rd April
When I first read the course schedule the one thing that jumped out at me was the four weeks of both Drama and Art classes that I was going to have to do. What was even more terrifying for me was there was a final performance at the end of these classes as a means of assessing our work. Being honest this made me really uneasy, hand me a basketball or a football any day but please do not put me on stage!
Our teachers chose the groups we would be in and from there we had to choose a fairytale to replicate and perform to a Group 7 class who had very little English. After much deliberation and thought about the logistics of many well known fairytales we came to the conclusion that The Three Little Pigs would be an interesting story to perform.
As well as performing the play it was our job to create all the costumes and set for the performance as well. From experiences like this in the past I have relied on others who seem more creative and artistic to come up with the ideas but this experience was very different. We all had to come up with ideas together for making our costumes and because we had so little time to prepare them everybody had to take one thing that needed made and get to work on it. Personally I felt I surprised myself with my artistic skills in selecting materials that would look effective for the roof of each pig’s house and in turn constructing each of them. Reflecting upon this part of the experience I feel it has been invaluable to me as future educator in the Primary school.  Having gained confidence in this area I feel I am more ably equipped to use any resources and materials at hand to create a rich and stimulating environment for the children to work in as well as providing valuable learning experiences in this area of the curriculum.
Alongside these classes we also worked on the actual play itself. I was very impressed with how the teacher managed these sessions. She created a very safe and secure environment where everybody felt at ease acting out of character. She helped us to understand what makes a good play and how to create this. We worked on using actions, body language and facial expressions to create various characters personalities as a whole group in order to gain some confidence before being left to work on our individual plays. Looking back I feel I have been somewhat inspired by this teacher. She was enthusiastic and had no inhibitions about acting in front of us. This was useful for me to gain ideas as to how I should portray my character in the play. Although we were in charge of the storyline she was willing to help and give advice on how we could improve our portrayal of characters and the overall play itself. She acted as a guide and support rather than telling how it should be done. This is what I would like to replicate as a teacher.
Our final performance was a great success and the children enjoyed all of the fairytales. Although I never thought I’d say it but I really enjoyed it when it all came together. Reflecting upon it I can say that there are many invaluable skills that this area can enhance and foster. I have had to collaborate and work as a team, I am more confident at performing, I have had to extend my imagination as well as being creative and I can wholeheartedly say that drama is a lot of fun. With the opportunity of partaking in this experience I feel I have a new outlook of Drama and Arts as being a central part of the curriculum contributing to a child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. As the Northern Ireland Curriculum (2007:34) states, “It helps children to learn about themselves and the world around them and also contributes to their social and emotional development as they experience and act out different situations”. Essentially this experience has been invaluable personally in enabling me to step well out of my comfort zone and also as a future educator in providing worthwhile and beneficial experiences for children to learn and develop important skills through this area of the curriculum.

Week 12

Cultural Reflection
9th - 16th April
If someone were to have asked me before I left for The Netherlands what the two things I was most anxious about, I think I would have possibly answered with language and culture. Well after three months here I can say that the language can still be a bit of a problem. Most of the time communication is not a problem as I have picked up many phrases and the majority of Dutch people have some English, but there are always the few tricky situations that have caused problems. On the way home from placement one day we missed the bus because the bus driver couldn’t understand where we wished to go, down to a misunderstanding in the pronunciation.
As for the culture I feel like I have become a part of it, it has been an exciting adventure learning what is common here in The Netherlands and participating in that way. It has also been an added bonus being able to experience many other cultures from living with our Erasmus class. We were able to share our cultural tradition of cooking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday with the some of the students on our floor. Tiina who is from Finland also made typical Finnish buns filled with jam and cream on the same day which is tradition in her country. I must say they were really delicious!
As well as this we had the opportunity to attend the carnival celebrations during Spring break. For weeks before we were due to get off we had heard about these celebrations, our lecturers had told us about the costumes they were making and the plans that were being made. I had really no idea what was entailed but eager to embrace all opportunities of particpating in Dutch culture we headed off for the day to Den Bosch to see what all the hype was about. I can definitely say I was not disappointed, the streets were packed to capacity with people all dressed in outrageous costumes and in a very jolly mood. Apparently there is a ‘Carnival Committee’ set up every year whose sole aim is to stop anybody from being serious during carnival time. Looking back it was a great day, there was a brilliant atmosphere, parades on the streets to keep us entertained, brass bands playing music and to add to it it was the first proper day of sunshine.
After such a good day I was curious to know where carnival originated. I found out that it is a day that the Dutch adopted as the last chance to eat, drink and be merry prior to the forty days fasting before Easter, when no meat was to pass the lips. It was surprising too read that it is mainly celebrated in the south of the country which is predominantly Catholic. In many ways these celebrations reminded me of St. Patricks Day traditions in Ireland which are mainly celebrated by Catholics. As a Protestant and living in Southern Ireland I was part of the Girl Guides who always took part in the parades on St. Patricks Day. Just like Carnival in The Netherlands I would say these were always days of light heartedness, fun and enjoyment. From my experiences here I would say that we all need to lose the religious ties and integrate as people for even just a day to have fun, enjoyment and laughter just as I seen during carnival.
As well as this there have been many smaller yet prominent aspects of Dutch culture that have both surprised me and made me reflect on our culture back at home. The Dutch greet people they know well with three kisses alternating on both cheeks. At first I must say I was quite taken back seeing this! I realised how reserved we are back home with a hug being the closest contact and that only being with a person you know very well. Having become more accustomed to this greeting and having the opportunity to experience it when saying my last goodbye to my teacher on teaching practice I must admit it is very personal and nice. In saying this I don’t think it is something I will take home with me, I can’t imagine my friends taking kindly to it at all!
On the first day we arrived here, Tom our ‘chauffeur’ made sure to tell us to go shopping as all the shops would be shut on Sunday.  This was something I found very surprising as it is always amusing to see people at home filling their trolleys when there is a bank holiday and the shops are shut. Personally I like that shops are shut on a Sunday here. People plan ahead and make sure they have enough food in, it means everybody has a day off on a Sunday to spend with their families.
In saying this there are certain aspects of Dutch culture I have been quite shocked with. I have come to realise that the Irish are generally very polite and mannerly people when it comes to interacting with others. In supermarkets when a new till opens, people don’t allow those in the front of the queue who have waited the longest to go to it. Instead it’s a case of whoever gets there first, I’d say my face was priceless the first time I seen this happening. As well as this I have noticed people don’t hold the door open for you or stand back and let someone else through the door. Personally I think these are simple gestures that add to a culture of people. Even though I have come to participate fully in the Dutch culture, I haven’t let the Irish side down; we are still as polite and mannerly as ever!
Personally I am really enjoying participating in another culture; it is definitely a learning curve. There are things which I will take back with me when I leave The Netherlands but there are other aspects I won’t be adopting. What John Abbott says is true of me having experienced many cultures on this Erasmus experience. He states “Every man’s ability may be strengthened or increased by culture.” My knowledge has been broadened and I am open to new ways of participating in society. As I have said I feel like I have become a part of the culture, one could compare this with the words of Marcel Proust, seeing with new eyes. I feel with this broader outlook it will benefit me as a teacher in including and providing for children of different cultures in my classes in the future.


Week 11

Professional Blog
2nd - 9th April

Amongst of all of the experiences I have had so far here in The Netherlands, school practice is something which I have thoroughly enjoyed and taken a lot from . As I near the end of this practice it is an appropriate time to reflect on some of the interesting things that I have witnessed in the Dutch classroom and in school life in general.
As part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Education Today’ course I have been attending schools for 2 days a week for the past 7 weeks. I seemed to have drawn the short straw based on school location as mine is probably the furthest school from Nijmegen. The journey takes me around one and half hours and the further from the city you get it seems the less reliable the bus service is. Nevertheless I can definitely say I have developed patience which will be essential as a teacher. As Arnold H. Glasgow once said, patience is the key to everything. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. I must remember that not all children progress at the same level of development, therefore I must work with them and encourage them at their level and pace rather than trying to ‘smash the egg open’ and align them with expected attainment levels.
One of the most prominent features that I have noticed over the course of the last 7 weeks is the active role of parents within the school. From what I have seen of the relationships between parents and teachers in the school it is evident to me that parents are valued as a key figure in the child’s education. Parents help decorate the school for upcoming celebrations, such as carnival or Easter, they attend school trips to help the teachers, train the school soccer team as well as supervising the playground at lunchtime to allow the teacher a break.
One particular thing that surprised me most was parents and grandparents helping out in all the classrooms during a ‘techniek’ morning that the whole school were doing. All the children in the school were involved in using their hands to create something, some children were weaving, others were hand knitting, some were using lego, some were building using bricks etc. There were adults in each classroom to assist guide and support children in their work as well as to socialise and talk with the children. It was interesting to see that some parents also stayed for coffee during break afterwards and they were warmly welcomed and invited into the staffroom. From my experiences in Northern Ireland I cannot imagine parents being invited into the staffroom as this is the ‘teachers’ space’. Although many schools are trying to better their partnerships with parents, personally I still feel teachers do not see themselves as on the same levels as parents. Even though this may be the case, it has to be realised that parents are experts about their children and they can also bring much expertise and skills from their own lives that will aid the teacher and add to the education of the children. Effective partnerships with parents can have many benefits, Caplan et al. (1997) also highlights that parents who are more involved in school life are more likely to devote time to assisting their children at home which is highly beneficial in terms of development and learning.  
It has become very evident to me that family life is much more valued in The Netherlands than at home. Most of the teachers in the school work part time to accommodate for family life, children go home at lunchtime for lunch and parents are on hand at any time to help out. Personally I am very much in favour of this idea, as a child my mother was there when I came home from school to listen to all my stories I had to tell about the things I was doing in school and to assist me with my homework and reading. In my opinion I benefited greatly from this and his is something that all children need. Parents in Northern Ireland need to reconsider where their values lie in terms of their child’s development, as much of the time they are more focused on their jobs and earning money than devoting time to their children.
As a future educator and member of a school 'team' this is the kind of active role of parents I would like to encourage and see replicated in school's at home. What I have seen here represents to me an equilateral triangle, all sides are the same with the child, teacher and parent working together.
As well as this I have also learned a lot from the teacher’s teaching and how children learn which I will speak about in a further blog.

Week 10

Personal/Professional Blog
26th March - 2nd April

It is the end of my tenth week here in Nijmegen which means we are nearing the end of the ‘TET’ course and as one can imagine there are plenty of assignments to be done in the next few weeks.
For someone who is a ‘home bird’ and delights in getting home from Belfast at the weekends the thought of leaving home for four months was incredibly daunting.  I must admit there were times I thought, would I ever last but I got on the plane and over 2 months on I can say it has been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to making the most of the time that I have left here. Already I can say I have benefited immensely both personally and professionally through this experience. After completing five semesters at Stranmillis I feel like this has been the break I have needed. One could say that often the things that become familiar to us result in dullness and staleness after a period of time. Already I can say that I feel refreshed and am energised for returning to Stranmillis in September. With me I will be able to bring a new confidence to challenge ideas and contribute to discussions in seminar groups as well as new ideas and strategies for teaching. Reflecting on this I feel this mirrors what I have seen on school practice in the past. At times there are older teachers who have been in the profession for many years and year in year out they teach the same topics using the same methods and resources. In my opinion this indicates the importance of being refreshed as a teacher also whether it be taking new courses on offer, searching for new ideas and strategies for teaching, updating resources or speaking with other teachers. In any case as educators we want to endeavour to provide the best possible learning environment so that each individual is able to develop to their full potential.
Many of the classes we have completed here have overlapped with things I have done in Stranmillis but I have been able to see a new perspective on things and diverging methods of teaching which I will be able to draw upon in my future practice. We have been split into smaller groups for some classes, one of these being Problem Orientated Education. Personally this has been a very enriching class where each week we assess a new case study. These are centred around issues such as behaviour, bullying, special needs etc. There is a lecturer who oversees the class but it has been interesting to see that they give us the responsibility and they only contribute if they have something that adds to the discussion. These sessions have gone very well and with each individual contributing to the group we have been able to come up with solutions as to how to deal with these issues that can arise in any school. I feel I am more equipped and knowledgeable if I was to have to deal with some of these issues, which is inevitable at some point in my teaching career. As well as this I have come to see how effective it is when the teacher acts as a guide and support but the discussion is lead by the students. After having this personal experience this is something I would like to replicate and foster as a practitioner.
In all both the characteristics that I have developed as a person here in The Netherlands through my interactions with the Dutch people and our Erasmus class as well as the learning experiences I have had in university and on my school practice will benefit me greatly in my future career as a teacher. Through what I have learned, the strategies and methods I have acquired and my personal reflections on what I have seen, I feel I am more confident and able to provide an interactive and challenging learning environment using a range of strategies and resources that promotes effective learning. This is a key requirement and standard of professional competency according to the General Teaching Council of Northern Ireland.
(Pictures - things we have been doing in class)

Week 9

Professional Reflection
19th - 26th March

One of the core areas of the ‘Tomorrow’s Education Today’ programme which we are taking is being enabled to broaden our knowledge and awareness of different types of school education available here in The Netherlands. Before now I could say this is something that I never really thought about as all schools in Northern Ireland are not classified into categories of which pedagogy they follow. Most schools have a different ethos but their aims and objectives all fall in line with the requirements of the Northern Ireland Curriculum. As part of our Rethinking Education class we had the opportunity to visit some of these ‘Reform Schools’. The group I was placed in visited the ‘Jenaplan’ school.
The Jenaplan concept was ignited by Peter Petersen during the reform movement in the 1920’s. Petersen was labouring with the idea that today’s society is becoming more and more heterogeneous. As he states, “There is more plurality of achievement abilities, of family backgrounds and individual lifestyles; thus the orientation of education towards a specific group becomes increasingly difficult.” In Jenaplan schools there are no homogeneous groups but children are grouped in multi age groups. Onderbouw are 4-6 year olds, Middenbouw are 6 -9 year olds and Bovenbouw are 9 -12 year olds. We had the opportunity to visit the classrooms in the Jenaplan school and for me I found it very strange seeing older and younger children working together. Children work on the same theme and tasks but at varying levels. Jenaplan schools highly emphasise natural development therefore this setup seems most suitable given that not all children develop at the same rate. In my opinion teachers have a much more difficult task in what could be said as differentiating for a very wide ability range.
Children participate in the multi-age age groups for the most part of the day but subjects such as Language and Maths are taught with only their peers of a similar age. This setup works well as each teacher can take a specific age group and focus on one of these areas of learning or the rest of the children in the class can be set a task to complete.
One unique thing that is also typical to the Jenaplan school is the ‘Blokuur’. This is one hour during the day that happens in every class both the younger and older ages in which children can decide what they would like to so for themselves. Children are familiar with this routine and use the time to finish off work that hasn’t been completed. In my opinion this is a very good idea, not only are children adopting the skill of working independently, they also have to decision make about what they need to do and plan their time carefully. This is something I would like to try on as an educator as I think these are skills that each individual should possess and this seems like a positive way to foster them.
As well as this the Jenaplan concept places a strong emphasis on the notion of ‘community’ and everybody working together. As one teacher told us it is about learning together and learning from each other. Everyday classes start and finish together in something like what we would call circle time. As well as teachers and children, parents are also central in this ‘community’ centred triangle. As I have also seen in my placement school parents are actively involved in all aspects of school life whether it be helping to decorate the assembly hall for the current theme the school are studying – e.g. Spring at the present time or assisting on school trips. It seems to me that teachers and parents have a strong relationship and there is ongoing communication rather than just informal meetings. Personally I think this is fundamental, one can assert that parents are a key figure in a child’s education. After seeing parents participating in such an active role, I hope this is something I can encourage as I become a practitioner in future years. Essentially they too can bring skills and knowledge that can add to a child’s experiences and learning.

Although there are many aspects of this type of education that I agree with and would like to adopt as a practitioner, such as the ‘Blokuur’ and the ‘community’ notion, personally I would question the multi-age groups. I can agree that there are many different abilities and each individual child is different but with older children in the class it could be asked whether some children would mature too quickly in terms of personality and behaviour. From my experience on teaching practice I found myself using classroom management and behaviour strategies with different age groups of children as well as the way I spoke to them.
In all I found my trip to the Reform school very interesting and it has broadened my knowledge of perspectives on education. As a group we have to present our findings to the class and I am eager to hear about how the rest of the groups found the Reform schools they were visiting. In various groups they have visited Freinet, Steiner, Montessori and Dalton schools.


Week 8

Personal Reflection
12th - 19th March

Since being here in The Netherlands I have come to realise that each day brings something new, whether it be the people I find myself with, places we visit or the situation I find myself in. It has made me exceedingly aware of how routinely and ordinary my life can be at home a lot of the time. Even though this is normal and how society functions, I ask myself do I really challenge my thinking like I am doing here by partaking in conversations which makes me think about areas of life that are controversial and have no answers or do I prefer to partake in superficial conversations which are of no profit. I wonder do I always seek to try new things and broaden my horizons, making the most out of the opportunities I am given. I can definitely say after this experience there are many things that will have changed for the better both my attitude and perspective of life.
Over the past few weeks many situations that I’ve found myself in have impacted me greatly and have made me reflect upon myself, one of these being a trip to Amsterdam during Carnival break. There is no way I could leave The Netherlands without having visited one of the most famous cities in the Europe so Christine and I went along with two of the American girls, Linz from Brighton and Ines who is from Portugal for the weekend. It was a great trip and in my eyes a very beautiful city seeped in cultural heritage. We also took a walk through the Red Light District which was most certainly an eye opener for me. Personally I felt very uncomfortable and uneasy walking down these streets yet they were swarming with people and there was real buzz with people sitting outside pubs enjoying the atmosphere and the sunshine.
Although these women have rights and are treated very well I do not believe it is right for anybody to sell their body, even if it is to make money. In speaking with my flatmates after our trip about it I was surprised to hear that they saw prostitution as acceptable in society. Some said people are going to do it anyway so why not make it legal so they are treated better. As a Christian I was saddened to hear this as I firmly believe sex was created by God as bond of love meant between a husband and wife.
Since being on the trip I also came to the conclusion that our cultures have a big impact on our personalities and the way we act. Now that I’ve got to know people better and am spending more time with them I can agree you do see their true colours! I’ve looked at myself in many situations and thought you just don’t do that. Many of these other Erasmus students are very forthright with their opinions to the point that they are self centred and aren’t really concerned about what others think. I’ve realised that people of the Irish culture are caring and concerning for others making sure that we all get to do what everybody wants and everybody is happy yet still being able to stay together in a group whereas the others just wandered off doing their own thing without any unease about splitting from the group in an unfamiliar city.  
As Carl Jung once said, The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Reflecting upon this I can agree that I will come away from this experience with a transformed attitude and personality having been in the company of others who are very different to what I am. I can also say there are certain features of people’s personalities where I think that would be unacceptable back home and is a very undesirable trait. Maybe these people who have experienced my personality would be able to take something from me too.

Week 7

Cultural Blog
5th - 12th March

There are many things which we associate with being typically Dutch yet after speaking to some Dutch students they informed me that many of these objects did not originate in The Netherlands. For instance it surprised me to find out that tulips originated in Turkey. Clogs or ‘klompen’ on the other hand are assuredly Dutch and they take great pride in these.
The Dutch have been wearing clogs since medieval times. Originally, they were made with a wooden sole and a leather top or strap tacked to the wood. Eventually, the shoes were made entirely from wood to protect the whole foot. Wooden shoe wearers claim the shoes are warm in winter, cool in summer and provide support for good posture. The wood also absorbs perspiration so that the foot can breathe. In my estimation this sounds like the ideal shoe for healthy feet and one any podiatrist would recommend. Contrary to this in an extract by Wilson (1937), he argued that the only reason the Dutch wore clogs was because they lasted longer than shoes of a comparable price thus reflecting the notion of the Dutch being tight with money!
On our trip to Zaanse Schans we had the opportunity to visit a tradesman’s workshop and see the clogs being crafted. The shoes are made by machine today but there are still a few wooden shoe makers in Holland who are able to hand craft these shoes. Given the shape of the shoe and it being one single piece of wood with no joints it was very interesting to see them gradually take shape after beginning with a one rectangular piece of wood. Afterwards many of us had fun finding clogs our size and trying them on to experience them for ourselves. Personally I still cannot understand how they can be comfortable for everyday use as they are worn a size bigger than your normal shoe size resulting in your feet sliding about inside them as you walk.
As well as this there was an exhibition of the many clogs that have been made down through the years, all with different purposes and therefore varying in shape, design and colour. This was very interesting as we were able to see how the clog evolved and changed over time.
In speaking with a Dutch student he said that if you walked down a street with clogs on in the present day people would give you a funny look. In any case this is probably true as I have not yet seen anybody wearing clogs other than the tradesman at the clog workshop. He told me that only farmers, fishermen and factory workers still wear clogs. As well as being waterproof, clogs also protect the foot from heavy and sharp objects therefore being very practical for these people.
After hearing the origin of the clog and finding out more about its practicality and benefits I found myself wondering why the majority of society have stopped wearing clogs as part of their everyday life. The only possible conclusion I could come to was that of the modernising of society and the trends in fashion that are present all over the world. Down through the generations maybe these people have abandoned the uniqueness of the clog to conform to society’s notion of fashionable. This is also likely to be the case for our own society back home, down through the years I’m sure unique objects, events and ways of life have been abandoned by generations in place of more modern ideas.


Week 6

Professional Reflection
26th February - 5th March

Here I am again at the end of another week reflecting on what has been happening here in Nijmegen and what I have gained from these experiences. In terms of professional development this week has been the highlight so far.

The school building

On Tuesday morning Kine (who is from Norway) and I embarked on the journey to our placement school in Oeffelt. Without the help of a very useful Dutch website which planned our journey and gave us all the options of travel I don’t know how we would have got there. Stranmillis students complain about having to get up early during school based work, we left at 7:10am to be in school for 8:30am and still arrived late.
On arrival we were greeted by our mentor Hella who is also the teacher of one of the Grade 8 classes (11/12 yr olds) we are with. Being an international student stepping into a Dutch school for the very first time with little to none of the Dutch language was a very daunting experience but she made us feel at ease right away. She explained all the details we needed to know for the forthcoming practise and told us about the school and the environment we would be working in as well as answering any questions we had.
Basisschool het Telaraam runs under the ideology of the ‘essential schools model’ which on my first impression is very evident within the school. The common principles of this model are students taking centre stage as workers with the teacher acting as a coach, strong sense of democracy and equity, less being more – depth over coverage and personalisation for each individual to name but a few characteristics. The Coalition of Essential Schools states “We envision an educational system that equips all students with the intellectual, emotional, and social habits and skills to become powerful and informed citizens who contribute actively toward a democratic and equitable society.”
The surrounding area
As I we took a tour of the school and observed various activities and lessons going on I was able to see many similarities with this model and that of what the Northern Ireland Curriculum aims to engage children in and achieve. This being the case I look forward to comparing teaching strategies and gaining insight into innovative and creative methods which I am not familiar with and using these as a future educator.
One unique difference I have noticed and been taken back by is the relaxed atmosphere upheld by everybody in the school which is reflected in the positive behaviour of all pupils in the school. There is a strong sense of partnership and trust between teachers and pupils. In many ways teachers are on a much closer level with pupils. Children call teachers by their first names. As Hella told us, teachers need to know children but children also need to know the teacher. I can agree strongly with this, children are able to sense a teacher’s enthusiasm and commitment to their learning. A strong relationship is built on trust and respect from both partners. Pondering on my own experiences of education I can say that this was not the case for the most. As a class we openly shared our experiences but we never heard of the teacher’s experiences.
School Council
I noticed that teachers and the principal talked to children in an informal manner most of the time, had fun with them and made sure the environment was very positive with lots of laughing and joking. I could sense that the children were happy to be there and enjoyed school. On Wednesday afternoon we had the opportunity to attend the student council meeting which was a very beneficial experience in many ways. One particular observation that I still can’t get my head around was one of the younger pupils sat on the principal’s knee because there weren’t enough seats. It seems to me that this is normal behaviour. As well as this the pupils were eager for us to participate in a Physical Education lesson with them. I am constantly reminded of child protection issues, safety issues and the notion of ‘keeping yourself right’ if something were to happen which is central to all practice at home.
Reflecting upon all of this I feel much more comfortable in the schooling environment here in the Netherlands. If I were to comment on the relationship between the teacher and pupil back home I would say that there is a barrier between them. In some ways there is still the traditional view that teachers are on a different level to pupils which is reflected in the way they treat pupils and the authoritarian figure upheld.  
As a future educator this has made me ponder on how I will conduct my practice and develop relationships with pupils. According to Adler, “the purpose of learning is growth, and our minds unlike our bodies continue growing as long as we live.” In any case we wish to foster the notion of the teacher being the facilitator rather than the island of knowledge. We do not know everything nor have we got all the answers to questions, it is through experiences and interactions we too learn and develop knowledge therefore there needs to be an equal status in the relationship.
In all my first experience in my practise school has been a very positive one and I look forward to teaching my Group 8 class.