A Very Swedish Christmas

…Except not really.  We didn’t sit together and watch Kalle Anka or wear crowns of candles, and we certainly didn’t have Tomte running around.  There was a lot of talk about Sweden though, and most gifts I received are intended for use either during or in preparation for travel (read: I got gift cards and clothes).

On a related note, I now have vitamins, band-aids, toiletries, laundry detergent and dryer sheets for all 3 months I’ll be gone.  That should cut down on my expenses while I’m there quite a bit, because holy guacamole does that stuff add up!  OH! And I got a French Press!  I mean, what could be better?!  I love me some coffee and was in quite the pickle because I didn’t want to buy a coffee maker over there (25% sales tax) and buying coffee at a shop every morning is out of the question.  I’ve never used a French Press before, but I anticipate that I’ll pick it up quickly because I’ll be so desperate for my fix.  I’ve been doing tons of research on groceries too, because I’m trying to anticipate what an appropriate budget will be.

As far as items I’m taking, I feel like I’m completely prepared (this statement will almost certainly be pointed to later as ironic foreshadowing).  As I said earlier, I have all my toiletries, vitamins, a French Press (and some coffee to take too).  I’m also borrowing suitcases: one from my aunt Kim’s mom and one from my grandparents.  I have all the clothes I need, but it’s almost guaranteed I’ll take more than I need.  One thing that’ll be hard to cut down on is running clothes. I’m going to be training for my first marathon while I’m there and will need some pretty serious cold-weather running gear.  Lucky me, my aunt got me a UK ear-warmer specifically for running so I can be stylin’ while I’m training.

Aside from all this preparation the holidays have been pretty low-key.  My family and I went to Toledo to see my dad’s family on Christmas Eve, and attended a service at their church while we were there.  Now, they attend a church that is really different from any churches we attended while I was growing up (we went to traditional churches, this was a non-traditional church) and aside from the initial shock, what really caught me was that they were essentially using the engagement perspective throughout the entire service!  For those of you who haven’t heard of it (aka pretty much anyone who isn’t English MIC), all the engagement perspective is is using different methods (specifically, six methods) while teaching to help increase the “stickiness” of the material.  These are creating relevance for your students, offering choices, creating real-world connections, providing interesting texts, supporting collaboration and delivering explicit strategy instruction.  Now, there wasn’t really an abundance of texts from which to choose or any opportunity for collaboration within the service, but when the music department at the church recorded themselves singing popular songs with the words changed to convey their message, they were using the engagement perspective.  The pastor not only scaffolded instruction but also offered explicit strategies for prayer, and drew numerous real-world connections to the Biblical story of Christmas and the meaning thereof.

At first I felt hoodwinked by this tricky church, because I knew what they were up to.  Once I got over that, though, it became incredibly clear how this church became so successful.  It’s the difference between a successful, engaged classroom and one that isn’t.  The material doesn’t have to be innately interesting for it to be taught in a way that fosters motivation, engagement, and growth.  The educator can make the material interesting for his or her students by making it relevant and sticky for them.

I think this might prove most challenging while I’m abroad.  In some ways, it’ll be so much harder to teach students whose culture is largely a mystery to me — will I really be able to make the material relevant to them?


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