Lessons Learnt by Alexis Datema

3 05 2016

Dear Champions Alumni and Family, Friends, and Followers of the Champions Program, and anyone else who happens upon this amazing blog,

My name is Alexis Datema, and I am a first time Stamper/Champion. I was placed at Villa Primary with my two teaching partners, Jenelle and Kristi. I have to admit, when I signed up for this back in September, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into! I knew that it would be hard work. That point had definitely been driven home. I knew it would enjoyable, since the program focuses on teaching students. But what I didn’t realize was just how transformational, incredible, and life altering this trip would be.

During my Long Practicum at Harry Sayers, I learnt a lot. And I mean a lot. I have to thank my FM, Susan Antak, my TM, Neelum Multani, and of course the 30 bright and shining faces that greeted me each morning, for teaching me so much over those 3 months. However, there is only so much that can happen when you are learning within in your comfort zone. I have learnt some things here in Antigua that I simply could not have in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

One of the first lessons I learnt here is that kids are kids. Of course the culture is quite different here and children are often thought of and raised differently than those in Canada. However, these students have a desire to learn. They have a desire to connect. They have a desire to use every last second they possibly can to be around those they look up to. Back in Abbotsford, I remember shooing my students out to play during recess and lunch, trying desperately to convince them that it would be more fun to play with their friends outside than it would be to talk to me about whatever topic it was that we had just covered. It is much the same here in Antigua. During break and lunch, children are literally hanging off the windows waiting for us to scarf down our lunches so that we can go out and play with them. Children see teachers as very important people. They are people to look up to, to learn from. As I embark on my new role as a teacher, this is something that is both stress inducing and exciting. We play such a critical role in these students’ lives, its hard not to feel the pressure sometimes.

The second lesson I’ve learnt is that teachers are teachers. Again there are cultural differences which make certain actions okay here that would not be okay in Canada. However, at the end of the day, there are teachers who believe in more traditional methods and there are teachers trialing the new, whether that be out of a need to adapt or a choice to try something new. Teachers at home are situated in a very interesting time of change, as the old curriculum is out, and the new curriculum is beginning. There are a lot of changes coming to the B.C. Education system. As part of that, I have been able to experience some new ways of teaching, more active and more place-based. As part of my research, I have been observing teachers here in Antigua, and I have seen some incredibly exciting things! For instance, there is a classroom with no desks. Instead, the students chose to sit on chairs or sit on the ground or even lay on the ground. They were free to discuss in groups and collaborate on projects. The class was continuously active and very engaging. Another class I observed today used songs to recall every unit they had studied since September. That’s right, the teacher had come up with songs for every single unit of study. They sang about germination, they sang about their times tables, they sang about adding an ‘es’ to make a word plural. And not only did they sing but did full body movements along with the words, talk about DPA! They even had a “Beans in a Bag” experiment hanging in their windows, taking me back to our Science course at UFV with Awneet Sivia. There are exciting things happening in teaching across the world. It has been exciting to observe teaching styles here that I can take home and use in my own future classroom.

The final thing I’ve learnt, so far, is that I am myself. I think back to who I was at the beginning of my teaching program. I was definitely nervous and felt as though I didn’t know much. But what I did know was a very basic teaching philosophy. I thought that students wanted to learn, and that it was hindrances in their understanding, or difficulties outside of school that led them to act out. I thought that students learnt best while being active. I thought that students had incredible ideas that needed to be shared. I thought that I would do a large portion of my own learning through those students surrounding me. And I thought that all students deserved to be cared for. My teaching has certainly changed, I’ve dabbled with different teaching styles, my classroom management has significantly improved, but my beliefs regarding teaching and students have stayed fairly similar. Whatever my students need, I will work to provide. Regardless of where I am situated in the world.

I am extremely grateful for being given this opportunity. And grateful to have been placed at Villa Primary, where I have the opportunity to collaborate with my two fantastic undergraduate students, as well as the fantastic teaching staff at that school. I am grateful to have been able to get to know all the students we teach throughout the day. It is through these people that I have been able to learn and grow. And finally, I am grateful to the network I have supporting me both here and at home, who cheer me on when things get tough, and laugh along through the insanity that is this experience.

Thank you everyone!
Alexis Datema
Villa Primary



7 responses

3 05 2016
Boni Datema

My dear, you make us so proud! Yes, you are, and have always been, a teacher. Never forget that every little person you come across will have something from which you can learn.

3 05 2016

Lexi! So glad you are loving this experience, you are all doing amazing work! I’m looking forward to hearing all of your stories about what you have learned and experienced! Enjoy your last week of teaching at Villa!!

3 05 2016
Gina ruggles

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your wonderful story of your teaching experience here in abbotsford and teaching the children in Antigua. Thank you for sharing.
Gina Ruggles

4 05 2016

It is often easy to forget the importance of the little day to day moments we have in life, we are busy and trying to keep up with the frantic pace of our society. One of the many things we can learn from children is to be in the moment, and to focus on being mindful and present. A common theme with the champions is having the opportunity to be in the moment with each other, the other teachers and the enthusiastic children in Antigua. Teaching is not only about curriculum lessons but also about being present and available to each student and be mindful of their needs within a very structured environment. This process stems from being mindful of self and our own development from the experiences and relationships throughout life. The experience of teaching in Antigua and working with everyone is another layer of that journey. Enjoy.

4 05 2016
Barbara Salingre

I enjoyed reading your reflections Alexis. It is evident what an incredibly competent teacher you have become. Enjoy your experiences at Villa Primary and I can’t wait to hear more about your students there when you get back.

4 05 2016

Miss you, Lexi! I love your heart, and Vandy would be SO proud with your reflection 😉

20 05 2016
Balwinder Jaswal

Hello Ms.Datema! Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher to me. I am using my mom’s computer so I’m not sure I should be doing this. Anyways, good luck on becoming a teacher! I miss you like crazy so come visit Harry Sayers soon. BYE!!!

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