Wednesday, June 21, 2017

By Andy Goodell

Alison Failor, of Muscatine, Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa College of Education in December of 2016, having majored in elementary education with an English as a second language endorsement. During the fall 2016 semester, Failor had the opportunity to student teach at Birkdale North School in a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand.

For the initial weeks of her student teaching in New Zealand, Failor’s work focused on writing instruction to students in years 0 and 1, which are children ages 5 and 6. As her experience continued, Failor also had the opportunity to teach a wide variety of subjects, which offered many opportunities for growth as a teacher. These included teaching math, reading, arts and crafts, and even physical education.

“It really put me out of my comfort zone,” explains Failor. “I was in a completely new country in a school with fewer resources than I was used to. Technology is great, but you learn a lot when you don't have it at your disposal anymore.

The chance to feel unsure of myself made me, in turn, trust in myself and push myself to be the most effective teacher possible.”

Failor says she did a bit of online research to find teaching methods that did not rely so heavily on technology. This helped her adapt during her time as a student teacher. She also credits her cooperating teacher, Lynda Peebles, in New Zealand, with showing her different strategies to teach. She also found immense value in establishing a schedule during her student teaching experience, given the nature of the curriculum in New Zealand.

Recently, Failor taught English as a Second Language at Davenport West High School, and she will teach third grade at Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary School in northwest Iowa this school year. She knows that the New Zealand student teaching experience helped broaden her horizons and has made her a well-rounded teacher in her home country.

“I learned that we are in such a small bubble in the U.S., and you won't be able to learn the strengths and challenges of our school system until you see others,” says Failor.