Week 2:
Running in New Zealand

Ringgenberg Fellow in International Student Teaching

Takapuna Normal Intermediate School | Auckland, New Zealand

November 9, 2019

The two teachers and me at the start of the 7k walk in Waikato.

One of the first questions I am often asked when I meet a staff member or student at school is, “why have you picked New Zealand?”. My response, which feels well thought out and repetitive at this point,  is one that I have thought about from the very beginning of the Fellowship process, and isn’t as poetic or deep is I think people expect.  When I first saw the list of countries I could teach abroad in, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. I knew that anywhere I went would be an incredible experience and would be an exciting new adventure. To narrow down the possibilities, I chose countries that were related to my own passions, and for a long time one of my greatest passions has been running. I ran cross country and track all through high school and college, and have made countless memories with my teammates over the years. I originally thought about student teaching in Kenya or Ethiopia, where some of today’s greatest runners are from, but upon further reflection I knew I was not ready to learn a new language. I then looked to the second most prominent running country, historically speaking, and landed on New Zealand, the country of distance runners Lorraine Moller, John Walker, Peter Snell, and Nick Willis, to name a few. Including New Zealand’s absolutely stunning nature, evident in the Lord of the Rings movies, the history of running in this island country helped me narrow down my choices.

This past week has been full of running, but in ways I am not typically used to. Instead of  8k’s on a country course or an 800m race on the track, I participated in a 7k walk with two other teachers at Takapuna Intermediate Normal School, as well as anchored the men’s 4x100m staff relay during Athletics Day, two races I have never done before. The 7k walk took place in the country side of Waikato, about three hours south of Auckland. Our trio included me, Laura, the music specialist at TNIS, and Belle, a classroom teacher. It was a beautiful drive through New Zealand’s rural landscape, which is very similar to that of the area in California around Yosemite National Park. While we unfortunately did not receive our race medals at the end of the race–there was a slight mix up in customs and are being mailed to us individually– it was a very pleasant walk, full of beautiful vegetation, open fields, and distant bluffs. I couldn’t help but feel like I was Frodo walking from the Shire in Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the event, and it was great to connect with two other teachers from TNIS, gaining insights to their thoughts on the school and the country.

Laura and me on the path during the 7k walk in Waikato.

Wednesday was Athletics Day at school, a day dedicated to track and field for all of the students and one of many school days throughout the year focused on school-wide competitions. The weather for the day was perfect, partially cloudy and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and everything went surprisingly smoothly. I spent most of the day timing the running events, putting the stopwatch lesson I learned from Coach Schofer to good use as I recorded times for all of the runners in lane three. At the end of the day, each classroom organized a relay team to race the staff members, and I have to admit, after watching these middle schoolers blaze down the grass track all day, I was worried of our chances of winning the race! Luckily, we held off the speedy 7th and 8th graders, securing a win and the awe of the students, who were very impressed by our quickness. It was a great day full of smiles, laughter, sun burns, and good memories.

Anchoring the 4x100m staff relay during Athletics Day.

Going forward, I will begin working my way to the front of the classroom, most likely leading lessons in each of the four classrooms I am a part of. The rotation system is a great way to meet more students and to observe a variety of teaching styles, and as the current unit, which is focused on market places and how we function in an economy, develops, I hope to lead lessons for each class. With the conclusion of Exposition, we’ve settled into a normal class schedule of reading, writing, and math, and I am gaining a stronger understanding of the school day and the school’s mission of empowering students to be independent and inquisitive. This will be the focus of my next blog.

The countryside of Waikato and the scenery of our 7k walk.

Caleb Wilson '19

Caleb is from Madison, Wisconsin with a major in education and English and a minor in civic engagement.