Before I begin, I probably won’t post something new on Sunday. So we’ll count this as the Sunday post.
This week has been awesome, and full of some interesting milestones. We’ll go in chronological order!
This past Sunday, Ann-Sofi invited Jaclyn and me over to her house for dinner. She lives in the “countryside”, about 5 minutes from where we live in Ryd. She picked us up and drove us to her house, which she and her husband built on their tract of land. The back of their house faces west and has huge windows, so when we arrived at about 3:40pm, their house was entirely lit by natural light. Gorgeous. Their house was beautiful (yellow exterior, dormer windows on the front and a big front porch) and the inside was so warm and friendly! We also met her family, her husband Johan and children Amanda (11) and Albin (3.5). They (except Albin) were kind enough to speak English with us the whole time we were there, played games with us and served us dinner. We had potatoes, roasted vegetables and [milestone #1] reindeer! It was delicious! After dinner we had a dessert (blueberry cobbler) and coffee (which kept me up all night because it’s so. strong.) and played a game. Jaclyn cheated so she “won”, but everyone who was there knows it’s not true. (Hint: she did actually win, but ONLY BECAUSE she was on a team with Amanda and Ann-Sofi and I felt uncomfortable defeating an 11 year-old.) The whole night was awesome, and it was the first time I felt like I wasn’t just visiting Sweden, if that makes sense. It felt homey.
I’ve written a count-up / count-down on my calendar because I knew there would inevitably come a point when I wanted to know exactly how many days I have been here or how many days I have left. Well, [milestone #2!] this week was the first time I felt disbelief at the “only” … as in, “I can’t believe I only have 68 days left.” I can tell you exactly when I felt this. I was walking to school and it had snowed a bunch overnight but was super sunny on this morning. It was just lovely outside. It hasn’t been too sunny since we’ve been here (only like 4 or 5 sunny days), but on this morning I was overcome with the feeling that I would never not be searching for a similar kind of beauty. (Though I don’t think I’ll find much that holds up well in comparison.)
I have been here for 30 days. That’s more than 4 weeks! One more day and I’ll have been here an entire month which is really hard for me to believe. I can’t believe February is more than halfway over. Time has flown by, and I know the conclusion of my student teaching will come a lot sooner than I want it to. Craziness.
Speaking of our time here, Jaclyn and I have now completed the Tornhagsskolan portion of our student teaching, and we were both heartbroken having to say goodbye to the kids. We enjoyed our time there immensely. The students were great and the other teachers were so welcoming and understanding and I was always surprised (and grateful) that they were able and willing to speak English with us. We got many hugs and thank yous, but by far the most meaningful parting gift was an assignment we gave the 9th (our equivalent 10th) graders. We read two stories, one that heavily used dramatic irony and one that heavily used foreshadowing. We also accompanied these stories with vocabulary lists so the students had a place they could keep track of the words they were learning. Our assignment was for the students to write a short personal narrative that dealt with irony or foreshadowing. They did SO. WELL. It felt awesome to see them pick up what we were puttin’ down (as the kids say) and be able to see it in their own lives as well as write it out in a way that emphasized whichever one they were using. The students turned them in and we reviewed the vocabulary more before giving them their final assignment. We asked them to take some of the new words they learned and, if they were appropriate, to fit them into their stories. We gave them 54 words over the two stories (“The Landlady” and “Lamb to the Slaughter“, both by Roald Dahl) and allowed them to work in pairs to incorporate the words into their stories. Ladies and gentlemen, we had a student us TWENTY-SEVEN of the new words in her story! Correctly!! We were so pleased. We had a couple students use 20-something words in their narratives, several use between 10 and 20, and only a few used fewer than 10. We taught them things! And it worked! So that was pretty neat.
Our students, hard at work.
We also asked the students to fill out evaluations of us before we left. They were anonymous and asked 4 simple questions: What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? What was the most fun activity and why? What was the least fun activity and why? I was a little nervous to give them back because Jaclyn and I had kind of innately taken on “good cop” “bad cop” roles, and I felt like I tended to be a lot more strict with the students (admittedly sometimes unnecessarily. I point you to the worst day). Two of my evaluators alluded to this, writing that I was “a little bit mean for making people speak out loud [in front of] the hole [sic] class” and that I was “a little to sirious [sic] sometimes.” However, most of my weaknesses were that I talked to fast. This I totally get. I tend to speak quickly anyway, but I was speaking a foreign language to these students and sometimes (ahem, often) got caught up in what I was trying to say, not thinking about whether they were keeping up. This is so important for me to keep in mind as I move to Anders Ljungstedts and when I start teaching in the US. I need to sloooooow dooooown because the information I’m trying to get across is really important! As far as my strengths go, students listed things from planning lessons to professionalism to “very determined without being bitchy” (direct quote; hilarious), and my favorite: that I have “a very good reading voice which feels good to listen to.” Surprisingly, the students really seemed to like the foreshadowing / irony writing assignment and enjoying reading the “weird and creepy” stories. (Sidenote: they really were weird and creepy. I’ve linked them above, you should check them out.) Two students said on their evaluations that they enjoyed it all but they were disappointed we were only there for 3 weeks. We were too! It felt way too short and we sincerely loved every second we were teaching.
Now, we have a week-long winter break. Jaclyn and I will go up to Romme Alpin this Tuesday for a day of skiing, and Ann-Sofi and Amanda offered to escort us to Vadstena on Thursday. Here, they pronounce it “vahs-tnah”, farther north (like Stockholm), they pronounce it “vads-tenah”, and in the actual town, they pronounce it “vass-nah”. Interesting. Anyway, there’s a centuries-old monastery, a castle, and good shopping there. We’ll make a day of it! I’m still trying to work out Copenhagen plans, but I’m hoping to go at the end of next week. And Rachel and I will be going to Rome on March 9th! We’ll be taking our final Praxis tests (oh, I got my scores back for the ones I took in January! I passed them both with room to spare!) Rachel is also doing COST study abroad, but she’s in Cologne, Germany. If you’re looking for some good reading, you should check her blog out: A Spritz of Cologne!