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

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

By Kaia Lawton
Week 8 and Final Week

So last week we finished up the session. Luckily I got my voice back and was able to have discussions with the kids and interact with them a little bit better. We had debates and we wrote stories and a bunch of other fun things! Unfortunately, at the time, there was also some shifting going on with the teachers. We had a teacher leave and another take over their spot. It was uncomfortable to say the least. But that is all I will write about that. The performances on Friday were amazing, almost every group doing even better than the last, and my group finished the ceremony. It was a moment to be proud of I would say.

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This week my kids are in a less advanced group but they are all full of energy and ready to learn. It is a little tricky to get them to understand what I want them to do and sometimes I know they get bored with the activities I have for them because they are older and the activities are not exactly for their age. But most of them are good sports about it and if one kid understand the directions he or she will translate them for the other kids. That is another difficult thing at the moment: the difference in English ability. I have grades ranging from high twenties to low forties. In teaching a group like this, that is not ideal at all. If the numbers were closer together, that would be better. But I have some kids who don’t understand anything I am saying and some who are bored because they know what I am talking about already. It’s a little difficult to make sure everyone is one the same page.
I have also come to realize the extreme drain that teaching can have. I have been teaching now for nearly two and a half months, five days a week, five hours a day. I get weekends off, but I have had no holiday or vacation yet. And I am tired. Before I didn’t think that teaching would be so tiring. All you have to do is get up in front of a bunch of kids, give them some information, and then let them do with it as they please, right? Nope, not even close. It is almost like I have to entertain these young people for five hours of the day, try to keep them from falling asleep or texting all the time, and in the process hope that they get some kind of useful information out of class. I feel like I am a one woman circus sometimes, jumping around like a clown, fending of questions like a lion tamer, conducting class as the ring master, and so on. It is rewarding, don’t get me wrong. But now I have a greater respect for my teachers and and better appreciation for what they have done for me and all of their students in the past.

**

My last session ended as well as I could hope with students abilities varying from upper elementary to intermediate. It was hard to get everyone to participate on the same level because the tasks would either be too easy for some or too hard for others. That is the unfortunate part of having less teachers. With more teachers it would not only feel more one on one with the kids but we would be able to tailor each lesson much more easily to the kids skill levels. Otherwise it seems like we are just jumping all over the place right now.

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And then, last week, I got a new group of kids. I got the second highest level, and the toughest group I have had thus far. Each teacher was supposed to get only twelve kids, but by the second day I had fourteen, adding two more troublemakers to my class. The youngest in my group in 11,then it shoots up to 14-17. The defiance of the group in the first week really got to me. The first couple days I could not stand to be around my students. But then, I took a hold of the situation, in a more creative way than I thought I could, and got a little cooperation set in place.

On Thursday of last week I was beyond tired of arguing with my kids, yes arguing, over the cell phones. So, I took an old one out of my purse. The head of maintenance gave me an old phone that some student left behind ages ago that has since stopped working. I told my kids, “If I see one more phone today, this is what is going to happen to it,” and promptly threw the phone out of the window. The expressions on their faces were priceless! They were so concerned with whose phone it was and if it would work, but the most important part was that they put their phones away for the rest of the day. Other types of defiance continued, forcing me to bring a supervisor in to monitor the class the next day, but that seems to have worked well.

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Now, with the help of a seating chart as well, my kids are much more willing to work with me, setting their phones on my desk in the morning and listening to me. Sometimes I have to pry a phone or two from teenage hands, but they know that they will at least get the phones back at the end of the day if they give me their phones instead of me throwing them out the window.

I’m both sad and happy that my last session of my first summer teaching is ending with this type of group. I’m sad because I wanted my last session to be awesome and fun and to end on a high note. But at the same time it showed me that I can be the fun teacher and the strict teacher when I need to be, and I have more to me than just one form of teaching and presenting myself, if that makes any sense. And I think it still will end on a high note. I’m pretty sure it will.

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:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

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.

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

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

Kaia Lawton
Week 4 and Week 5

Hello! So this week is now over, as is my second session of students! The last week we were together I had my students writing and giving reports on countries other than Russia and Republics of Russia. I also had them watch a documentary, which they were not thrilled about in the least. They complained that it was not a real film, which I found a bit ironic. I tried as hard as I could to facilitate discussion but they were very reluctant to start talking. Instead I gave them things to read and write, just so I could hear the pronunciation and then go over their sentence structures. We had to do some in class activities involving sentence structure, and why one word would be better than another, or we would have to talk about verb agreement and so on. At the end of the week, they surprised me, as I thought this group didn’t like me very much, by writing a note to me on my white board again. It was very sweet and appreciated. I now wish that I had done things like that for my past teachers more often as I now see how much work is put into a job like this.

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This week we got new groups again. My group is older than my last by far, but a little less advanced. It is strange to have kids who are fourteen or fifteen, even one seventeen year old and one nineteen year old, who can’t do the same amount that my last session of twelve year olds could do. But this group is very clever and knows some things that are very surprising for their level.

One thing I have also noticed with this group so far is how vastly different language can be, even non verbal language and communication. In the US many would find some of the things that the kids do or say to describe others would be politically incorrect. I even had a moment of shock or two with words thrown around. However, after carefully explaining to them that in English speaking countries, words like that would hurt people’s feelings, I understood that there was no malice behind what they were saying or doing. It was a difference of culture and exposure.

I am also finding it much more difficult disciplining this particular group. It isn’t that they are sneakier or think they are, but they simply don’t care. If I say put your phones away, they do and the second I turn my back they are out again. I now understand just how disrespectful that feels. I also have a hard time not getting angry when the kids whine every time I give them a task. It is something that my colleagues and I tend to marvel at. We, adults at all different ages, from different parts of the world, including the United States, Finland, South Africa, Canada, and Ireland, all find it strange as we would never have even thought to whine in school. It wouldn’t have been okay or acceptable at all. Yet I have seen it in each and every session with all of the kids.
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Regardless, I still have that desire for my students to learn something, and I really hope, every single day, that I taught them something worthwhile. It is a really scary job, being in charge of someone’s education and making sure they get something out of the experience. But I think it will be and has been at times, rewarding as 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:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

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.

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

The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Eleven, Huitennen, Finland — On Teaching and Learning Across National Boundaries

By Kaia Lawton, Huitennen, Finland Report #2

So, this session is over. Every two weeks we will be getting a new wave of kids and as the summer progresses the kids will get older. Some kids do stay for two or more sessions, but none of my kids are.

This week we repeated a few things with reviews and learned some new things. We went over colors, clothing, animals, family, weather, countries, including the US and we even went into the 50 states. The kids were shocked that I remembered all 50 of the states and listed them in alphabetical order. All week long we also went over a song that they were to perform at the final ceremony friday afternoon before they received their certificates. My class and another teacher, Steve’s class, joined up and sang the grasshopper song. It was pretty amazing seeing all the hard work come together in that moment and give them each their certificate of completion.

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The one thing I have to say is most trying so far for me has been figuring out the dynamics and interactions between the kids. With the language barrier already in place, I have seen the kids take advantage of it and they will pick on kids in the class while the teacher is feet from them. I may know some Russian, but not enough to pick up on things like that. We can’t tell if a kid is being picked on in class until there is, most times, hitting or throwing of objects, maybe even some tears, screaming and so on. Then, we immediately blame the child who is more than likely the victim until we understand what is really happening, and I feel terrible when that happens. These kids are also much more outspoken than most kids from the US,and they will yell with or at supervisors when they have to come in to fix situations like that. It is a new experience to see that all together.

I have also seen how bipolar this job can be, at least in terms of teaching the younger kids. One minute they could be acting out and make me crazy and I feel like I hate them and ask myself why I even took this job. But then they turn around and do something nice, like write me messages on my board and laugh when I try to speak Russian with them, or teach me something new, and all my doubts just float away and I know that this job will give me something that I would never have gotten elsewhere.
For all of the North Star Project Summer Reports, see HERE

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:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

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.

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The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Four, Huitennen, Finland By Kaia Lawton Huitennen, Finland Report #1

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The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Four, Huitennen, Finland By Kaia Lawton Huitennen, Finland Report #1

I will preface this with the fact that I am using an iPad on this trip and it doesn’t have Word on it so I cannot attach anything in a word doument. I will have to just type everything in the email. I hope that is okay.

I am in Finland for the next two and a half to three months to teach English to Russian speaking students. They are brought over from Russia on a program that lasts two weeks at a time, so we will be teaching six different sections of kids. Their ages will range anywhere from 8 to 18, and they will get older as the summer goes on. Right now I have a class of 11 and they are all 8 to 11 years old. They are at an elementary level of English. I do speak a little Russian, though I am very rusty, and they don’t always understand my accent. The language barrier can be tough sometimes, but gestures and drawing helps, as do dictionaries.

As for my surroundings, Finland is beautiful. Everyone seems to know only about Helsinki, the capitol, but I am about three and a half hours north west of the capitol, in Huitennen at the Lansi-Soumen Opisto. Huitennen looks just like Minnesota, just without all of the hillls as it is very flat here. My first day I walked outside and found Lilacs, which remind me of home because we have them growing in our backyard in St. Paul. It’s very green here, lots of trees, there is a river out behind the school, and the sky is almost always blue. Of all of the places I have traveled, 11 countries in total, this one feels the most like home. There are some differences. The teachers live in the school, our rooms being through the classroom, in the back, behind a little door that always remains locked, and there is a sauna near the river that we can use any time. Class can only last 45 minutes before the kids get ten to fifteen minute breaks. It’s been a while since I was in grade school, so I’m not sure if that is true for the US as well.
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For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see recent articles in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

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. 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 dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

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

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

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