College of Education offers student teaching abroad program

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    In Italy, the doors to preschools lock immediately at 8 a.m. If parents are late, their child will not be able to attend school that day.

    In February, about 20 university students will student teach abroad and learn about cultural differences in education systems in February 2013.

    Places of study include the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, said Dale Young, director of student teaching and career services and instructor of education.

    The College of Education is a member of the European Teacher Education Network, an exchange program which provides students the opportunity to student teach in another country, Young said.

    “The first two weeks the students observe and the last two weeks they will teach,” said Young.

    Rebecca Maffit, a graduate student earning her master’s degree in special education, traveled with 10 other students to teach at the International School of The Hague in the Netherlands last February.

    “International School of Hague (ISH) is one of the top international schools in the world, so I felt very lucky to witness the teaching methods,” Maffit said.

    Before studying abroad, Maffit had never seen how an international school operated. After her experience, Maffit said she was impressed with the intelligence of the students who attend ISH.

    “The teacher gave complicated math problems for students to solve in their heads, and a few of the students solved the problem in their head before I was even able to solve it,” Maffit said.

    Cynthia Williams, assistant professor of professional practice in the College of Education, said she believes studying abroad should be a requirement for graduation because students need to see how classrooms in the United States compare to international classrooms.

    “All of the students spoke at least two languages fluently, if not three or four. They could not wrap their heads around the fact that I could only speak English and a few words in Spanish,” Maffit said.

    Another cultural difference is class size.

    “Class size is usually smaller in the United States, while European countries are more functional if they are bigger,” Williams said.

    Students were admitted to the program based on leadership qualities and professor recommendations, Young said.

    “We usually send from 20-40 students, but the highest we sent was 45,” Young said.

    By the time students graduate, about 25 percent of students will have studied abroad at some point during their college experience, said Tracy Williams, associate director of the TCU Center for International Studies.

    Haley Brooks, a senior early childhood education major, will be a part of that 25 percent as she travels to Holland this spring.

    “I hope to learn more about myself through this experience by forcing myself to dive into a completely new world,” Brooks said. “I think you learn the most when you are challenged and I think this experience will challenge me to think more about the world we live [in].”

    Williams said the College of Education offers other study abroad opportunities, including a month-long summer program led by herself and Michelle Bauml, assistant professor of education.

    “I just think going abroad is [an] important lesson for students. They have everything arranged here, but they learn to read a map and learn independence,” Williams said.