Sunday, November 11, 2012

School, Friends, Berlin!

Well friends, it's been a great couple of weeks for me here in Germany, and I am continuing my late night once in a month or so ritual of sitting down at my desk and informing you of my recent shenanigans.

After my friend Thomas left to go back to his university, I refocused on teaching for my classes.  Monday went as Mondays usually go and class was not all that enjoyable.  What's more, a couple students really gave me some attitude.  The instance came up after class.  It was really cold outside and they had a free period before their next class.  They wanted me to leave the room unlocked so they could chill in the warm class room, but I had previously been told by a teacher that students weren't allowed to stay in classrooms unsupervised.  I wasn't 100% sure on this rule, however, and I wanted to let the kids stay since it was so cold outside.  However, I decided to be safe rather than sorry, and told them that they would have to leave, and that I would inquire as to whether or not they would be allowed to stay for next week.  At this point, one student in particular adamantly refused to leave and said that I was wrong and she would stay.  It took me getting quite stern before she left and it all put me in a very strange position.  These kind of instances come up more often than I would have thought, where I am asked by a student if they can do something that is questionably within the rules.  It could be in the rules, but it could also not be, and I almost always have to make a split second and uninformed gut call on what they should be allowed to do.  It is, however, a nice exercise on thinking on my toes and being confident in my decisions.  I later asked another teacher if I should have let them stay in the room, and he confirmed that they were not allowed in there alone.  Victory: Luke.  Later that day in Big Band I was also told that one of my solos would be twice as long, and therefore involve a lot of improvisation.  I actually busted some out without too much trouble and it was fun to fool around on my sax with such freedom.  The concert is in a few weeks, I believe.

The rest of the week went great.  I had no class on Tuesday, but I went to Weinheim as usual to coach and play some basketball.  The basketball was great on Tuesday, and we had some great competition for a couple hours.  I got a ride home from my friend Martin, who doesn't speak too much English, but is almost always generous enough to give me rides when I need them.  I also spent much of Tuesday preparing for my Wednesday lessons as I would have to teach participal constructions in place of relative clauses and for time and reason clauses.  A subject which I am able to speak perfectly, and yet I know nothing about.  I did a ton of research on them and prepared a nice grammar lesson for Wednesday's class.  Incidentally, Wednesday went great.  Class went smooth, with my students paying attention as I explained the complicated grammatical details to them.  I even took part in a card game with some of my students during one of the breaks.  Little did I know that this game involved your hand getting punched and knocked on the desk if you lost.  Obviously, I lost, and the students all but destroyed my hand.  I like to think it won me quite a bit of respect, however.  On Thursday I had my conversation class and I ended up being a little disoriented and arriving there at the start of the class before my class.  I was thus at first very distraught at the fact that I had no students showing up to class!!  Was I that bad??  Then I realized that I was 45 minutes early and I sat outside for a while.  Some students showed up early and we ended up talking for a half hour before class.  Somehow I ended up telling them about the St. Olaf Darth Vader video on Youtube, which they found great, and it now has added about 100 views in the last week.  I think it's currently circulating the MLS.  Friday's class also went very well, though I may have attempted to pack way too much grammar into one class, since I would be gone the next week.  Afterwards, however, I asked one of my students if it was too much, and she responded that no, it was fine, and that I was much easier to understand than their last English teacher (who was far better trained than I).  I took that as quite the compliment!  Basketball also went great on Friday, and I was on the same team as Philipp.  He's 18, and other than that, about the exact same basketball player as I.  We definitely enjoy being on the same team though, as we're easily the two fastest players on the court and we can really get running.  After basketball I enjoyed a movie and a nice sleep.

On Saturday, I slept in and pretty much did nothing until later in the evening when I met up with Timo and Annett at the Sonne (a bar) in town.  It was my first time in the bar, which I heard was Ian's favorite, and it was nice to meet the bartender, who speaks very good English.  Timo, Annett, and I then went to the Rimbacher Kerwe, which is basically just a large tent packed with a ton of people and a band, and we hung out there till late in the evening.  I spent a while talking with Timo and Annett, as well as other older students from the MLS.  Later in the evening, I ran into a girl named Marie, who graduated last year from the MLS and is fluent in English.  We talked for a while, and she then introduced me to several other people in the tent.  One of them asked me where I was from, and after I said Texas asked if I was from Austin.  Turns out, he lived there for half a year for work!!  I couldn't believe it, and we were instantly best friends.  I also met another guy who was determined to find me a girl at the Kerwe, despite my efforts to tell him it was a bad idea.  He then ended up introducing me to around ten girls, all of whom were naturally students at the MLS.  So that happened.  Thankfully, I'm pretty sure it was obvious that I was being introduced against my will, and not trying to hit on them.  Around 2am I took my leave and went home, but it was a fun night.

The next day, I went in to Weinheim to coach a basketball game and we ended up having another brutal defeat.  Shortly thereafter, however, I met up with Elizabeth Peckham and family!  For those of you who don't know, Elizabeth is a friend of mine from high school.  We went into the Odenwald and had a nice dinner together, and it was great to catch up with them, before they drove back to Frankfurt.  I then packed my things, and went down to meet the buses which would take me and over 100 students to Berlin and left at 12:15am.

I arrived at the buses to a mob scene of parents and kids all getting on them.  Thankfully, teachers had spots reserved and I had a window seat near the front.  I was hoping I would be able to get some sleep and without my headphones that would have been impossible.  The students were in a festive mood, as they were going on a week long trip away from school, and they talked, yelled, and sang the whole 9 hour drive through the night to Berlin.  I turned on music and was able to get probably around 5 hours of sleep, not bad.  The week in Berlin turned out great.  I won't get into it on a day by day basis, but I'll cover some highlights.  We toured plenty of museums and governmental administration buildings, and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of information I could understand during our tours.  We also ended up staying at the same hotel that I stayed at three years ago while studying abroad in Berlin!!  I can't imagine the odds.  A few of my students from my conversation class joined the trip to Berlin, and it was great having students that knew me relatively well and wanted to talk to me.  It was also nice getting to know some other teachers from the MLS better, while we went together with groups of students on tours.  An especially pleasant surprise was how much my German improved.  I got to know several teachers much better, and talked to them only through German.  I'm finally at the point where I have no fear of hanging out with someone for a long time and letting a conversation wander in German.  It's also nice to finally let my personality shine through in a foreign language.  I'm finally being able to express stories in relatively the way I want to, and to spontaneously strike up conversations with soldiers at the Ministry of Defense, for example.  Tuesday night proved to be an especially fun night, as we took the students to a club especially made for students.  It's actually a great idea as it is then easier to control for the drinking age and everyone in the club was young except for us teachers.  It was hilarious going to a club with students, however, and many of them would often drag me out on to the dance floor where I could show of my moves with groups of students.  It was a fun night, and afterwards, I unfortunately did not have enough energy to go find an election party and stay up all night to see if Obama would win.  I found out the next morning by asking the receptionist.  I was also pleasantly surprised this week by having several students come up to me and say that my class is the best class or that I am the best teacher.  It really was quite a confidence boost, and I can see why appreciation from your students is one of the true joys of teaching.  The best one of these moments was when I met several students at a Christmas market and hung out with them for about 30 minutes before our tour.  Several of them ended up buying me a huge cookie heart which says "Opa, your awesome" on it, and one of them gave me his hat to wear.  Meanwhile, they all wanted a picture with me, and seemed to think I was pretty cool for wearing the hat and cookie heart around.  Apparently, many students have now heard of that incident as well, but it's nice to express my energy with them and just have fun whenever I can.  I'm really glad I could get to know more of my students a lot better on this trip.  Thankfully, the bus ride back from Berlin was much more subdued and easier to sleep on.  We arrived back at 2am on Saturday, and I got a much needed night of sleep back home.

Classes start up again on Monday, and I'll be sure to keep y'all posted.

'Till then, the Jayhawk season just started, ROCK CHALK!

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