The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Five, Huitennen, Finland — On Teaching and Learning Across National Boundaries

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Five, Huitennen, Finland — On Teaching and Learning Across National Boundaries

By Kaia Lawton, Week 6 and 7

Hello! So this week was a lot of the same stuff. On Monday I tried to get my kids to discuss Hugo but they complained that it was too long and not very interesting. i find it very hard to believe that a film by Martin Scorsese about another great filmmaker with such interesting and beautiful cinematography could be boring, but I suppose I have a little bit more education in the film world than they do. However, it did irritate me to hear that the movie was too long, when they understood the whole thing, after they begged for a film. They were probably disappointed it wasn’t in Russian or with Russian subtitles. The rest of the week was filled with three tier charades, mafia, and lessons on how to properly develop questions and question tags as those were some weak spots. We also practiced their song with choreography a lot. On Thursday we did a school wide event called the lingua-lympics. The entire school was split into fourteen teams and each teacher had to prepare two activities for groups to do. The teams would rotate every ten minutes and have to complete each task and the teacher would give them a grade. At the end of the whole thing each team had to present a skit that they came up with that included at least one teacher or supervisor. They were all pretty funny. And then on Friday we played games all day while practicing the song here and there because I want it to be a fun day as much as the kids do.


This was one of my more challenging groups I have run across so far. I have had unresponsive kids before, but I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing what it was like for students to flat out refuse to do some in class assignments, even if that meant no homework. It was not one of my better days teaching. Those kinds of days make me wonder if it is me, if I am the bad teacher, or if it is the kid and they just don’t care, or if it is a combination, or even something else. It’s kind of hard not to take those kinds of days personally. Or maybe I should. But since I am new to this, I am relying on my colleagues to help me distinguish these differences, and so far they have really been helping me along.


An unbelievable amount of crazy things have been happening and they are teacher related so I had to take care of a few things this weekend. So I got a new batch of kids, and they are the highest group, so they know a good amount of English. This is both exciting and nerve wracking for me because i am in no way qualified to teach at such an advanced level. However, I have been doing my best. That being said, I also happened to get sick the first day of class and lost my voice for about three days, and the rest of the week I sounded like I had been screaming in my sleep all night long. But I did my best and my kids understood and were very respectful. They did what I asked, or rather, wrote on the board for them to do, and it worked out just fine. We have been having lots of discussions and debates as well as creative writings and story telling added into the mix. I am trying to stretch their minds and get them to think a little bit outside of the box and at the same time keep them awake for the whole five hours they are with me. It is a little difficult sometimes because I want to go back to bed as much as they do, but that is just not an option.


One thing I have also found difficult is teaching them any grammar. Their grammar is nearly flawless at this point. I have tried to teach them the more advanced parts of English such as time clauses and so on, but they understand it perfectly. So I have decided the best I can do is go through common vocabulary with them to widen whatever vocabulary they already have. So far it is working very well.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

2 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Five, Huitennen, Finland — On Teaching and Learning Across National Boundaries

  1. Jonia G

    Teaching sounds like an interesting experience. I think that sometimes days are bad and you can only improve from them. From what I read, you seem to be patient and really like the work that you do. I hope that these experiences have allowed you to grow in a positive way! Teaching is not exactly in my future but your article gave me a new perspective. Thank you for sharing!

  2. jenna proulx

    I enjoy reading your post about your teaching experiences, I want to do what you are doing! It is interning to learn about how the students get to do those fun activities and learn songs. I wish the schools in America did that more. Also amazing that the students know english so well, another thing I wished we would do in the united states education system. I wonder if you are panning on teaching in the US when you return. if so, it would be an interesting experience for you to be able to compare the two situations. Also, teaching is extremely challenging in all cases it is not you or the class it’s just the structure of the job itself; it takes a lot of practice!

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