Week 5:
Teaching and Celebrations

Ringgenberg Fellow in International Student Teaching

Takapuna Normal Intermediate School | Auckland, New Zealand

December 1, 2019


Standing in the ocean at Brown’s Bay Beach

After my encounter with the stomach flu or food poisoning (the jury is still out on the cause), I settled back into a less dramatic week at school. Each day I am in a new classroom, rotating between the four teachers of the Rimu team throughout the week so that I can see more teaching styles and meet more students. I have noticed that each class has its own classroom culture, pace, and energy, and it makes everyday feel unique and novel. I certainly don’t have any favorites because all of the classes bring something different to the table, and I am learning how to make small changes in my own teaching style to match the class I am in for that day. I think being able to make those minor adjustments will help me greatly when I start substituting next spring, back home.

Last week I led the writing lessons for the classes, alternating between two different lessons depending on what the teacher thought would suit their class the best on the day. One of the lessons is a more focused on reflection and meditation; I played three different, songs without lyrics from YouTube while students completed a free write for five minutes per song, which means they write continuously, without stopping their pens or thinking about grammar. The goal is for students to write what comes from their inner thoughts as they respond to each of the songs, one being a slower, mellow piano piece, one being a more faster techno beat, and the final one the soundtrack to the movie Interstellar. In the other lesson, students are given a starter sentence and told to start writing a story. After two minutes, they pass their paper to the person on their left, no matter where they are in the story, and continue writing, picking up where the previous author left off. After ten passes, they can see how their story developed and changed. It’s been a lot of fun to guide the students through the lessons, and I think the activities are a good fit as the end of the year approaches. 

On Thursday, James, Rosie, Bryn, and I went to one of James’ old colleague’s home for a Thanksgiving dinner. It started when Aubrey, a Cornell alum who also student-taught in New Zealand, moved to Auckland and began teaching. While there wasn’t the standard American Thanksgiving food, such as turkey or cranberries, Aubrey made a delicious pumpkin pie, and everyone brought a small plate, and by the time everyone arrived there was a large Smörgåsbord of dishes. I brought apple-cider-boiled carrots, a stable at the Wilson household. I met lots of new educators from various schools in the area at the gathering, as well as a couple of other American student teachers who are also in their last couple weeks. We exchanged contact information and hope to get together sometime before we all leave. Even though I was thousands of miles away from a typical U.S. Thanksgiving, I went home with the same food-coma that I am sure many people back home experienced.

Part of the staff at Liam’s graduation dinner.

The week ended with two different celebrations. On Friday night, a group of us from Takapuna Normal Intermediate School went to watch the graduation ceremony for a teacher who has recently finished his final year in the Master’s program at the University of Auckland, making him a fully-qualified teacher. We had our whistles, maracas, and tambourines to loudly cheer for him while he crossed the stage;  we were definitely not the only school who brought instruments to cheer for their graduated-teachers. The second celebration was for Bryn’s first birthday. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon for friends and family to gather for a barbecue, to open presents, and to swim in the pool. I am so thankful to be included in the lives of James and Rosie, and they have a wonderful group of friends and family that have been very welcoming of me throughout these past six weeks.

The birthday boy blowing out the cake, surrounded by friends and family.

It’s hard to believe, but I only have one more weekend left in Auckland. I am hoping to make the most of these last two weeks at TNIS and with James and Rosie, and I am looking forward to the warm weather as we enter summer.

Looking out towards Rangitoto from Brown’s Bay Beach.

Caleb Wilson '19

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