Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking For Halloween Memories

Hey Everyone Who Reads This Blog,

Would you like to share a memory from Halloween with my 8th graders? I have a double period with my 8th on Halloween and this seems like a wonderful time to share this part of American childhood culture. I was envisioning getting interested family and friends (and blog readers) to write a 300-500 word memory, story, reflection type thing about how they celebrated Halloween (pre-college memories would probably be best, mind you). The 8th graders' English is quite good (better than most Americans' foreign language is at 8th grade), but maybe imagine writing for an American 5th grader. Have fun writing the memory, but don't get too fancy with the sentence structure :)

I'm imagining stories like... favorite costume, memories of making or going out to buy costumes, the year you discovered the best candy route, the year your sister stole all your snickers bars and left you smarties, how long you made your candy last, the year your parents told you that you were too old to trick or treat, the neighbor who yelled at your for going trick or treating when you were in high school (...), the scariest haunted house etc. Anything you want to share! It could also be a memory after childhood about handing out candy. I was envisioning mostly trick or treating stories, but if you have a pumpkin carving story or creating a haunted house story or any other tradition you want to share, be my guest!

Please feel free to share this request with anyone you know who might want to write something. It literally makes no difference to me who it is or how old they are. Basically, I am creating my own textbook for this day and since no one ever knows the people in textbooks, anyone willing to write something is more than welcome!

If you are comfortable sharing, I'd like to have your name, age, and city/state where you lived at the time of the story. I think it might be nice for the students to have some context of who wrote their story and also will show the possible similarities and differences between places in the US.

Please email me at : molly.g.mcdermott@gmail.com

I would love to have these all collected by Oct. 28th at the latest :)

Thank you in advance!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Foiled by Stickers

There is this cool promotion going on at Edeka (grocery store) right now. It seems like something that happens regularly or perhaps at multiple grocery stores, I don't know. They have these books you can buy (for a reasonable price of 1.99) to fill with stickers of all the different animals, reptiles, insects and plants in Germany. Every time you spend more than 10 euoros at Edeka, you get 4 stickers. Hanna Schmitt informed me of this little collectors game last week and I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical. However, I whimsically bought the book this weekend and have no regrets. Its great! Next to each picture, there is a detailed description of the animal and what region of Germany they come from, what the eat, their behavior etc. The book is divided by region, too, so I can specifically go to the section on the Odenwald if I wanted to. AND! it is a partnership with the WWF. AND! it comes with an extra "Abenteuerbuch"(adventure book) to prepare me for going out in the wilderness and also how to make drums and wind chimes out of old pieces of wood. Besides, as I justified to myself, I am learning about Germany, creating a hobby, and bonding with my neighbors all in the same gig.

Hanna and Caroline were happy to hear I joined their trend, and I was especially pleased when Caroline asked me through a grin if I had any doubles yet. Doubles? I asked. Yeah, like the same sticker twice. Ohhhh. So apparently this is a trading game too. School children stock pile the stickers they have more than one of, and than trade with their friends at school. Sadly, I am too much of a beginner to have much to offer, but all the same, Hanna offered to give me her remaining fox stickers to complete my series.

Today I went to buy dip making supplies (sidenote: I have never made nor watched anyone make dip before. It was a quasi stressful situation. I skyped my mom) at Edeka and thought I would buy some stickers, too. Afterall, I want to be a fair trader in the game of German Animal Sticker Collecting, but apparently you can't buy the packets. I had envisioned a sort of supplementary packet you could buy in the case that you didn't spend over ten euros. As I was trying to phrase my question to the cashier, I couldn't remember the name for sticker in German. Low and Behold, it is also "sticker", but I was fussing around trying to say something with "kleber" and not making much sense, meanwhile a line started forming, and the cashier says to me "Uh, English?". Then she explains to me, in English, that you cannot purchase stickers, you can only receive them complementary after a ten euro or more purchase. Then she proceeded to give me a packet of stickers anyway, even though I had only spent 7 euros.

So in conclusion, possibly the first time someone in Rimbach has stopped my German to speak English was over the word sticker and a silly collectors game. Egal.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Straws to Blessings

Today was a bit rough. I almost wrote a post earlier this afternoon, but for a number of reasons, including the fact that I often write about the bad things, I decided not to. But I must say, that I think I write about the hard things more often because those are the things that really make me think. I'm sort of obsessed with what I like to call "imbetterment"- the process of making things better. So when things are bad, I can obsess about them until I find a way to improve them. This is not to be confused with perfectionism... its quite different you see.

Coming home from school today I was feeling pretty fed up with my 8th graders and frustrated at myself for the type of teacher I've been. I still haven't created a class room environment that is disciplined and organized in a way that both the students and I can depend on. I am not holding them accountable for their work or behavior because I can't find a way to make them see the kind of expectations I have (other than scolding, which I think I knew already wasn't an effective strategy). I'm embarrassed to admit that many of my 8th graders don't respect me. I don't think I am being walked over, but I can tell that they are not taking me seriously either. And when I don't know things like how long the breaks between classes are or the policy on giving homework, its easy to see why they wouldn't take me seriously.

I also feel embarrassed that my feelings are getting hurt when they are disrespectful in class because I know its a sign that I'm still immature. Immature enough to be hurt when a student snickers at my German, for example, or immature enough that I avoid walking home during lunch to avoid crossing paths with my students on their way to the train. And I'm embarrassed more so because I feel like I need to prove myself as a teacher at MLS. Both because of my age and because my lack of experience. I don't want to be seen as more immature than I already feel. I know 22 is young to teach in the United States, but I know plenty of people doing it. But teaching at 22 is unheard of in Germany. Its not possible even, because the "Lehramp" program takes at least 5 years.

So I'm publicly confessing all of my fears to you dear blog readers, whoever you are, and hopefully I won't regret doing so in the future. I actually do wonder about the people who follow the blog. The ominousness of your identities keeps me from saying everything I'm feeling, actually. Plus, the internet isn't exactly a private place.

Anyway, back to straws and blessings. Earlier today, I was "counting straws", but this afternoon, I am counting blessings. I feel dumb even saying that because its reminiscent of the blatant moral lessons in Bearstein Bears and 7th Heaven, but it made for a nice comparison to describe my day.

Monday is the busy day. The everything-in-one-day day. And today was capped off with a 9th grade Vertretung Stunde, too. I went home for lunch, counted some straws, drank some coffee. and then headed back to school for Center Stage, the English theater group. I always leave in a better mood than I come. So thats a blessing. So is Herr Wecht, a Hausmeister at the school, who somehow always knows when I'm feeling down (today) and pulls me into his office for chocolate. But the real turn around in my day, was running into a girl in my conversation class after Center Stage. We sat and talked outside the school for a bit before walking to the train station together. I think we connected so well because her parents are each from South Africa and England, but some how decided to live in Germany, and so like  me, shares a piece of "outsiderness" (plus it helped that I was also raised on a number of odd British TV shows so we had some common history). Please don't be offended dear German readers, but it felt really good to laugh with someone about the oddities of German culture. And especially in uncensored English, at my normally (barely understandably fast) speed. It was just an unexpected blessing in my day and a very much appreciated one after the morning I had.

The weekend was full of blessings, too, which reminded me how happy I am to be in Germany. School is hard sometimes, and I am honestly looking for constructive feed back versus positive encouragement, but I have many things to be happy about.

Here are some pictures from the weekend:
On Friday, I say an Arabic film called ( in German) "Das Maedchen Wadjda" with Christina and her boyfriend Dani. A really excellent film, we all thought. I love going to the movies, and especially in tiny theaters like in Hemsbach. It might be my new favorite theater. Before or after the film you can sit in the dinning room/lobby area and drink something.

On Saturday I took a sort of impromptu trip to Heidelberg to visit my former host family that I stayed with for 3 weeks in high school. My exchange partner visited me 4 years ago, and I came to Heidelberg 2 years ago, so the relationship is still strong. I'm really happy that it could work this weekend. Although my exchange partner wasn't home, I spent a wonderful day with her dad and brother. Props to Gunther for taking me all over the Altstadt to find Hausschuhe, Strumfhosen, Nagleknipser and Shampoo. I love visiting because he is always excited to take me places and do things with me. Even though Saturday's events were spent running errands, the day was special because we ate cake from one of my favorite bakeries, ate classic German food in an old Heidelberg restaurant, and walked around the Altstadt in the evening eating Eis. Knowing that I have that home in Germany is one reason why I don't feel homesick. 

Here's a picture of me from this weekend in front of the restaurant in HD

And this is me from March 2009 on my last night in Heidelberg at the same restaurant. 

I had another cultural experience this weekend in Fuerth. Here I am eating "Kochkase mit Musik"for the first time, and a glass of apple wine to go with it! For the past 7 weeks I have been asked regularly if I have tried Kochkase yet, an Odenwald speciality. Kochkase mit Musik means the cheese is served with onions. I can't say I'm totally on the Kochkase train.... but I think I could start liking it. I would describe it as sort of chewy, glue that you can eat...

Linda Johnke- guest teacher at MLS 10 years ago, now lives in Fuerth and invited me over for a Sunday afternoon baking adventure. It was great hanging out with Linda for multiple reasons. Despite having shared nationality and collegiate status, I really appreciated spending time with another former guest teacher who understands the experience I'm in. We also laughed about being goofy people in a country where the word "goofy" doesn't exist. Linda married a Turkish man, Mic (or Mik), who has lived in Germany his whole life and speaks fluent English. They have a 14 month year old son together who is going to be the master of three languages. So cool! Deniz (pronounced Dennis) was adorable and I regret not taking pictures of his entertaining shenanigans throughout the afternoon. 

So life is good. But I need to start becoming the teacher I want to be. Which means doing the things you know you should be doing. And figuring out the things you don't know how to do. And correcting things on time. And planning in advance. And holding students accountable for their behavior.