Friday, December 3, 2010


I substituted in a fifth grade class today and one student definitely asked me if I had children of my own.  I don't think I've been asked that one before...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not in America

You know you're not in America when your classroom is provided with an Advent wreath and candles.

That being said, I feel like the concept of Advent is much more ingrained in the culture here than back home.  Sundays are commonly called 1. Advent, 2. Advent and so forth.  I bet a lot of Americans would be left scratching their heads.

November Update

It's been way too long since my last post, and a lot has happened since then!  It's hard to believe that it's already the time of year for the committee at St. Olaf to search for next year's guest teacher.  It doesn't seem like I've been here that long yet.

I have been singing with the Rimbacher Singkreis, which many of the other guest teachers have also sung with.  Our last concert was on October 31, where we sang Franz Schubert's Mass in A-flat-major and the orchestra played Robert Schubert's 4th Symphony in D-minor.  Today I also had the opportunity to sing the tenor solos with the Evangelischer Kirchenchor Rimbach.  We sang Georg Telemann's Machet die Tore weit and Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat.  I certainly appreciate the chance to keep singing and especially to explore such great repertoire.

Last night I attended the annual Christmas concert (Weinachtskonzert) and had the chance to be introduced to the MLS musical ensembles.  18 groups and three hours later, I got to see how the school achieved its certificate as a school with an emphasis on music (Schwerpunkt Musik).  I was especially impressed with the JEM, the "MLS Big Band" which is the school's jazz band.

I also haven't written yet about my trip with the 11th grade class to Berlin.  I left at 0:15 on Monday, November 1st, which was just a few hours after the Singkreis concert.  We traveled through Monday morning and arrived at our hostel.  Throughout the week we visited many museums, landmarks and even saw some theater and other kinds of shows (I saw Blue Man Group).  It is a trip for the history and political science departments, and I personally learned quite a bit in both categories; I can only hope the students did as well.  Highlights for me were the Reichstag (where the German parliament meets), the DDR Museum (about the former East Germany, which I attended on my own) and the German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum).  We left Friday evening and returned very early Saturday morning (2:00).

Me in front of a section of the Berlin wall at the East Side Gallery:

Here is a link to my Facebook photo album.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall Break travels

If you're interested, my personal blog has some new entries about my travels during Fall Break:

New Skype Program

Here is a little update on the skype program we have begun this year:

I believe the idea for the project was Devin Horne's and he, Karl Fink and Romy Schuster did a lot of the brainstorming for the project.  This fall we've begun and tackled many issues ranging from recruitment to scheduling to technology.  But it has been a rewarding activity.

The program consists of weekly meetings of a group of MLS students and a group of St. Olaf students who communicate electronically via a program called skype.  Lea Scheuble has been facilitating the St. Olaf group.  She is an exchange student at St. Olaf from Germany who is the German House Resident.  The MLS students get to practice their English and the St. Olaf students get to practice their German.  And, we have the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues that contribute to cultural exchange.

I look forward to seeing the program grow as the year progresses and hopefully continue in future years.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Last week my eighth grade class had its parents' night (Elternabend).  Needless to say, I was quite nervous.  I knew that my German speaking and listening skills were sub-par for communicating with the parents.  And I also knew that my class hadn't been going perfectly.  The students' behavior had been a challenge, and as a result, not every student was learning as much as he or she could have.  As parents and the other teachers arrived in the room, it was helpful to hear from another teacher that she also gets nervous for these nights, partially because she is younger than the parents (though not as much as I).

I explained some things about my classroom and as expected, the parents had some questions.  It's not always easy to hear criticism.  One said that her child was not understanding the homework prompts.  Another said her child wasn't understanding the new grammar we were learning.  Answering these parents in German was a challenge.  It was difficult for me to be as subtle and diplomatic as I wished to be.  I actually didn't know whose mothers they were, but if the students weren't understanding, it's definitely important to make adjustments.  I hope I got that across in a polite and reassuring manner.  I remember learning in an education class at St. Olaf about ensuring the parents were on your team and I now understand why that is important.
Anyway, I am learning a lot here about teaching and how to interact with students.  I have especially appreciated the opportunities to speak with students outside of class or school.  It's hard to believe I've already been here for over two months!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Theater Festival in Mannheim

Today I had the opportunity to visit Mannheim with Jutta and Bernt Meyer and a friend of theirs and attend a theater festival at the Nationaltheater Mannheim.  I really enjoyed watching excerpts from Die Dreigroschenoper by Kurt Weil after studying it in a music history class.
I also had the opportunity to meet Linda Johnke who was the second guest teacher of the second series from 2003-4.  She now lives in Fürth (near Rimbach) and works on a production at this theater in Mannheim.

I'm also pleased to report that I'm feeling more comfortable with my German.  I still have quite a bit to learn, but I'm less scared of speaking and listening and it is coming easier to me.  It is definitely easier to understand people when they speak to me and I have gotten more used to saying the kinds of things that are essential in conversation.  My next goal is to spend some time studying grammar and vocabulary on my own.  Hopefully I will later be able to report some progress in this regard!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2.5 weeks of teaching

It's hard to believe I've been teaching here for two and a half weeks.  I've found out that this job is hard.  There are many different things to juggle at once.  Planning for class is also a new challenge.  What kind of materials will we use today?  How can I plan classes that engage the students in the subject?
My eighth graders are very excited and have lots of energy.  My big task is steering it in the right direction.  They love to chat with their neighbors and sometimes regaining the class's attention is a big undertaking.  At the same time, they are very excited to participate in class, read aloud, and answer questions.
My eleventh graders were pretty shy at first, but they are warming up as they get to know each other and me.  They are certainly less excited to participate and are more self-conscious of their English abilities.  I enjoy the trust and relaxed environment their older age allows.
I'm learning a lot by making mistakes.  One example is that I was planning to read a novel that was too difficult for their abilities.  I make many mistakes each lesson in regards to classroom management.  But I am learning.
Another great resource has been the other teachers.  Many of them have provided various kinds of help, besides welcoming into their community.  This job would be almost impossible without such warmth and support.
Last Friday was especially fun.  The whole faculty took a trip to the Rhein area.  We took a gondola ride up the hill, saw the Niederwalddenkmal, the surrounding towns and finally went on a cruise down the river where I saw the Mäuseturm, which I read about when I took German with Prof. Fink.  A whole lot of fun, though I forgot to take my camera.  I also spontaneously joined a local community choir that several other guest teachers have participated in.  It was really nice to sing again; I didn't realize how much I had missed it.
I've discovered that teaching is rewarding.  It's nice to come home after a day at school and feel productive, knowing the students had a chance to develop, be that in English or in general as a person.  It should be a good year!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting Started in Rimbach

I arrived here on July 29th and was promptly greeted at the Rimbach train station by English teachers Romy Schuster and Jutta Meyer.  We accomplished a lot that day, including seeing the apartment, registering with the proper officials, getting a bank account, getting enrolled in insurance and many other odd jobs.
Romy, as my official contact with the school, has been very helpful with my many questions, especially in regards to living in Rimbach and Germany in general.  Devin Horne, too, has been very helpful.
Since then, I've been taking a two week German as a foreign language course at the F+U Academy of Languages in Heidelberg.  It has been a good experience, though I would benefit from additional time with them.
The school year begins on Monday and I'm looking forward to getting in the classroom, meeting my students, and beginning to teach.
I'll leave you with some photos of the apartment before I moved my belongings in.

First Post

Welcome to this new blog! I plan to share various stories from my teaching, Martin Luther Schule and Rimbach. Hopefully I will also be able to share news related to this position and others who have been involved in the program. I also intend to hand this blog on to whomever replaces me.
More is to come!