Looking Back to the Teacher Intern Life in ISR
By Sebastian Waffenschmidt, Teacher Practicant in Grade 1
My name is Sebastian. I am 28 years old and from Germany, more precisely from a city called Giessen. I am about to become a kindergarten teacher and did one part of my final year in Grade 1 at the International School of Riga.
As some of you know, this is my second time being at ISR and teaching Grade 1. When I came here for the first time, I was doing a two-month practical training abroad which was a part of my apprenticeship. This is also how I found out about ISR, and it was more or less by accident that I came here. I heard that my school in Germany and ISR have a partnership, but I never considered Latvia as one of my desired destinations for the two-month internship abroad. Moreover, I was more interested in countries that I actually applied for, such as Ireland, Finland and Sweden, but my teachers had a different plan for me. They asked me if I could imagine going to Latvia and I said, “I have never been to Latvia and would feel more comfortable with Ireland, Finland and Sweden but I am up for the challenge.” Thus, it became Latvia. As a result, I started to research ISR to find out more about the curriculum, the school’s profile, and their history. It all sounded very interesting, and I was curious to see how the Primary Years Programme is implemented in Grade 1 because I did not know it before. As I look back on my first internship at ISR, it was the right decision to come to Latvia. With Jenna Heidel I had a great mentor and learned a lot from her about teaching and PYP. All in all, I was very impressed when I first arrived at the school and immediately felt the warmth and the willingness to help me to settle in at the school. All those components led me to come, back but now for six months.
All my colleagues welcomed me with open arms and the same warmth as last time; it felt a little like I never left. My mentor (Jenna Heidel) was the same and I taught Grade 1. The only thing that had changed were the children. This time, I came with different goals than I did in my two month internship. I wanted to be even more involved and learn more about teaching, as well as improving myself as an educator. As this was the case, I was more involved in all school processes, I was responsible for several breaktime duties each week, I led and supported lessons, gave instructions to the whole class and in small groups, helped with assessing the children, took part in parent–teacher conferences and shared my thoughts about their child. During this time, I learned a lot about teaching, myself and where I need to improve in order to grow as an educator, and to develop further skills.
ISR also showed me how important it is to have a strong community as well as the cooperation with the parents. What impressed me the most was the diversity of different nations and religions playing peacefully together and the mutual respect for one another, which cannot be taken for granted.
It is a little bit of a different story for the country Latvia. In the beginning, it was hard for me because as a foreigner it was not easy to get in touch with Latvians, and the cultural aspect should not be ignored. I am used to living in a multi-cultural country with many different influences in many aspects of my life, and I was missing that in Latvia. My experience with most the Latvians I have met was that they are introverted, reserved, and not talkative. But as soon as you get to know them, which can take some time, they open up, are very warmhearted, welcoming and talkative. It is as it is in every country, you make good and bad experiences, but I rather focus on the good experiences.
To sum it up, I had a great and wonderful time in Latvia and at the International School of Riga. I think ISR is heading in the right direction and I will follow further developments. I wish my former colleagues all the best for the future and would like to thank each and everyone. Special thanks to Jenna Heidel, Aija Zandberga and Amanda Romey for always supporting and helping me.