Students discover international teacher preparation
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine
Immersion into cultures and education systems outside the U.S. leaves a powerful and lasting impact on future teachers. Last month, 20 education students participated in one of the college’s several study abroad programs by visiting the University of Brighton’s Falmer campus in England.
During the four-week program, students studied England’s educational system at Brighton with one of its University’s instructors.
Outside the classroom, students experienced the country through scheduled trips to the Roman Baths, Stonehenge, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, London, Warwick and Bodiam Castles, and cliffs on the English Channel.
The program also allotted time for students to experience the sights, sounds, and culture of England on their own. Senior special education major Maddi Euhus and several of her classmates took one night to attend Her Majesty’s Theatre in London to see The Phantom of the Opera.
While the intrigue of their new surroundings often left students wide-eyed, their education on teaching and learning in England presented them with new ways of thinking.
“Participating in the education process in a different country allows you to gain a new perspective on education and learn about that country’s best educational practices,” said Euhus. “The program gave me a chance to experience first-hand the successes that our instructor had using her methodologies.”
Among the most prominent differences Euhus noticed of education in England was the emphasis and approach to teaching drama in schools.
“Drama is an important part of the English culture,” said Euhus. “Our course showed us how to use dramatic exercises in the classroom to help students really grasp the concepts, have a sense of co-authorship with texts, and have a high level of engagement in the lessons.”
Euhus said the instructor challenged Illinois State students to expand their understanding of the dramas they studied. Students were forced out of their comfort zone by actively completing a series of activities with one another (most of whom were strangers before the trip) to take on the role of characters and create parts of the story that the author did not write.
“Drama activities such as these were never used in my elementary or secondary classes, so I felt unprepared and unskilled,” said Euhus. “But by the end of the program, these approaches became natural, and I value their contribution to student learning.”
As she begins student teaching at Illinois State, Euhus believes the lessons she learned overseas were invaluable to preparing her for her future students.
“As a special education major, it is very important for me to use multiple means of expression and engagement to educate my diverse population of students, said Euhus.
“This program introduced me to such strategies, and I feel confident in my ability to use them in my classroom.”
For current and prospective students considering a program such as Brighton University, Euhus provides a convincing argument.
“Not only do you receive the benefit of taking a class overseas, but you also are able to see the tourist sights and be immersed in the English culture. There were so many times where I just smiled and thought, ‘Wow, how lucky am I to be in England with such an amazing group of people?’”