Thursday, August 29, 2013

When a Cactus Blooms

I feel almost jittery because I want to share so much that I don't know what to write about first. For instance, I'm currently staring out the window at my cactus in awe at this cactus sprout that has grown at least 5 inches this week and turned this beautiful magenta color and I want you to see how beautiful it is so we can marvel at the wonder of life together. And I want to talk about my teacher's calender and show you how organized I got today. I want to talk about teacher rooms, cubby holes, bad coffee and good pens. And I want to talk about good neighbors, living alone and being a foreigner without feeling foreign. And I especially want to say that I am so happy I came to Rimbach and am working at the MLS and sometimes I just want to gush about it because I feel giddy. But then I feel silly for feeling so giddy because giddiness is often equated with naiveté. And everyone knows that 22 year olds have reached the highest achievable level of wisdom....

Naja. Let me tell you about life at school. I teach a 9th grade English class 4 hours a week, an 8th grade class 4 hours a week and an 11th grade class every Monday for a double period. I will also be leading up to two conversation classes for years 8th-13th, but we are still working out when to hold those. And I'll be assisting with the English drama group, but that also hasn't begun yet. It's been nice to only have two classes (the 11th grade remedial English class hasn't started yet either) to worry about the first two weeks. Although, I did arrive at school this Monday at 7:25 am only to learn that the upper grades had some sort of assembly and classes were cancelled. Sometimes I'm the last to hear about things.

My 9th grade class is a dream. There are only 7 students. Which is funny since it is almost parallel to my very first high school German class of 6 people. At first I dreaded going to teach them because they were so quiet, but they've started to feel more comfortable and I think I could even say they're having fun. Its a wonderful environment to help me find my voice in the classroom. As I've learned this week, I have a long way to go before I know myself as a teacher and can apply that in an organized and regular way. But that is why the teacher's room is my new favorite place. I only taught during the first period today, but I hung around to be social and learn how to do things like keep a grade book. And drink bad coffee. And borrow good pens. Some other time I'll elaborate on German's elaborate school supply system.
Yesterday, I had a double period with the 9th graders in the afternoon so I took them outside and sat in this this outdoor, stone courtyard and discussed racism in Australia. It was a rewarding moment because last semester I took a class about how to incorporate multiculturalism (however you define that) into mainstream lessons and 6 months later, I'm doing it myself.

Another reason I hung out so long today, was to get tips on managing my 8th graders. 90% of my classroom experience has been with children under the age of 10. So I really don't know much about middle schoolers. Apart from growing up with many younger cousins (bless your hearts). Additionally, some of the other teacher's have told me the 8b class is particularly difficult haha. But I'm totally up for the challenge. I mean, what else would I be doing? I'm here to teach. My life is quite small. For once (RIP St. Olaf). So what I'm saying is, I have the energy for this. Plus, my friends teaching in the US are teaching 5 or more periods a day. I teach at most 3 a day and only one of those are with 8th graders. I have nothing to complain about.

 The most frustrating thing is that they consistently talk while I am speaking. Everyone keeps blaming it on the age, and I'm no authority to say it isn't, but I've experienced similar problems in my other Germany experiences. Especially at the University I studied at in Konstanz I found it so irritating that people will blatantly talk with their neighbor and hardly try to conceal the conversation to a whisper. The same was true when I went to school in Heidelberg and Hannover. And even in the teacher's conference at MLS. So maybe its a cultural thing? I don't want to generalize. This is the trend I have noticed and perhaps it is particularly striking to me because I went to a private high school and St. Olaf- so perhaps its just a matter of where I've spent my time learning? Anyway, I don't know how much I'm going to get at changing that behavior. But I think I might start with a reward system (gasp!). And just like that, Alfie Kohn flew out the window.

I actually successfully baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies two nights ago to give to my neighbors. Hanna liked them so much she wants to learn how to make them this weekend so she can bring them to her class on Monday to celebrate her birthday. Also, after much "beklagen" on my part that Germany doesn't know how to bake chocolate chip cookies, I found this video from one of my favorite German bands on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

So definitely not a flop, but not necessarily good enough that I was sad to give them all away. I brought some to the teacher's room, too. 
This is my cubby. Or "Fach" in German. Or Pigeon Hole as the German's translate it into English. I kind of like referring to is at a Pigeon Hole. 

And this is the teacher's room where I spend lots of my time. And maybe its because I can tune out German so easily, but I haven't experienced any of the teacher griping that I was warned takes place in teacher's rooms in the US.

Well, its getting late and I want to go to bed on time today for once. Although, I am enjoying how easy it is to go to bed early when you live by yourself. Before I go, let me tell you about this evening, because I paused this post in the middle of writing it so I could go somewhere.

There are a few things that I find very important to have anywhere that I am living. Among this list are cozy coffee shops, small bookstores and public libraries. While Rimbach is laking in both coffee shops and libraries, they do have something I am always looking for. Adult ballet classes. I either never fulfilled or never outgrew my obsession with being a ballerina and the dream is very much alive today. Unfortunately, you can never find classes for people my age. I am very shocked that there is such a class in this small village that I can even walk to. Life couldn't be better. Oh, but then it did, because Sabine and Hanna Schmitt (downstairs neighbors, mom and youngest daughter) offered to drive me to class today because they wanted to make sure I found everything alright. Then they picked me up. And then we spontaneously went to watch Caroline (older daughter) at track practice. And met some family friends. And there was soccer practice. And some old people were grilling. It made me feel so at home because half my childhood was spent on the sidelines of various cousin sporting events. There is a competition for all the track and field athletes next Sunday that Caroline and Hanna are in. So I'm going to go, too. It's just the best of both worlds because I'm such a family orientated person so I'm getting all the benefits of a home stay, while getting to live independently in my own space. See why I'm so giddy? Seriously, I prepared myself for a sad lonely year living in Germany for over 6 months now. I honestly didn't think I would find this many communities to be a part of. I think it helps that I have a sort of "i've got nothing to lose" spirit about it all. I wouldn't be throwing myself into this many things at home, I don't think. 

This is Bernard. 

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