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An "After ITEps" Story

Hi all,

My name is Mariëlle Spijker, I am 22 years old and I am currently living in Aruba. I graduated ITEPS last summer.

I did my final teaching practice at the Carlucci American International School in Portugal. This was an amazing experience. My mentor teacher was incredible. I learned a lot from her. In addition, I got the opportunity to volunteer at the ECIS conference in Lisbon during that time.

April, 2020 07 At first I was not sure if I wanted to do it, but it was an amazing experience where I met a lot of interesting people. If you ever get the opportunity to volunteer at a conference, I would definitely recommend to do so.

After my teaching practice, I went back to the Netherlands to finish my thesis. While I was doing this, I was asked by my sister if I wanted to fill in for one of the teachers at the school where she works.I combined working on my thesis with working in group 5 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I went from being a student teacher to being a teacher, with a lot of responsibilities, within a few weeks. Where I was not allowed to attend parent teacher conferences during my TP, I had to lead them all by myself now. In addition, I also worked at a supermarket in order to earn as much money as possible, since I accepted a job as a teacher at a local primary school in Aruba.

Every year, SKOA (Stichting Katholiek Onderwijs Aruba) sends employees to the Netherlands to recruit new teachers. After my third year teaching practice, which I did at the International School of Aruba, I knew that I wanted to go back after graduation. So when the opportunity arose, I took it.

On July 30th, I moved to Aruba. Aruba is a wonderful island which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but the island is in no way similar to the Netherlands. The culture is different, the rules are different, the people are different and the language is different. You need to have a lot of patience and be very flexible if you want to succeed on this island. For example, it took me three trips to the bank, you are always missing some document, to open a bank account. Luckily, I had met a lot of people during my 3rd year teaching practice. These people helped me with housing, a car and all the legal documents. After a few days of sorting out all the legal things, we had a meeting at the main office of the foundation. We met the director and they helped us with the documents that we needed for the residence and work permit. During these days I also got in contact with the principal of my school. We made an appointment so I could stop by and see my classroom. I was aware of the fact that local schools do not have a lot of resources, since I visited one during my teaching practice.

However, when I arrived in my classroom there was literally nothing there. No decorations or posters, there were bars in front of the windows and no electronic devices (we still work with chalk boards). Since I was aware of this, I brought a suitcase full of stickers and other stuff from the Action with me.

The first few weeks were really tough. Since the culture is really different, I had to adapt a lot, but I also had to make sure that I was not losing myself in the situation. I still had to make sure that I was clear towards parents and students about what I expected and what my way of working would be.

I did not get a lot of support or guidance from the rest of the team. They were really friendly and said that I could ask anything, but they would leave the school at 13:30 every day (school days are from 7:45-13:03), so I did not have time to ask them anything. On top of that, at one point one of the moms came to tell me that a dad was gathering support from other parents, because he wanted to go to the principal and have me removed from the class, since I did not speak the local language, Papiamento. Fortunately this all worked out and these parents are now really happy with their children having a native Dutch teacher.

As mentioned before, we do not have a lot of resources. A few weeks ago, I went to the Netherlands to visit my family. This was a great opportunity to go to the Action again and buy things for in my classroom. I really wanted to make a reading corner, since the children in my class do not like reading. I bought pillows, a pink rug and some decorations, with which I created a small reading corner. The children love it! I also made a lot of games, with some help from my mom, so we can practice our times tables, addition and subtraction. During ITEPS we often visit the most wonderful schools with amazing resources. The past year, I have learned how to make the most of not having many resources. I had to be really creative in order to meet the needs of my students and I loved it! IT makes the life of a teacher easier, but in the end we will find a way to work without it.

For next year I have two options, I can stay at this school or become the primary school Dutch teacher at another school. I am not sure what I will do, but I will definitely stay on the island!I hope that all of you will have an awesome experience studying the ITEPS course and if you ever visit the island, I would love to show you around!

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