Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Good Day for a Good Mug

 Americans, how many mugs do you have in your cupboard? My family has about ten too many all of which regularly irk me as I put away dishes and try to cram them on the shelf. I have however missed them all this year. Germany's mug culture is a bit different. They tend to be smaller, and often taller and narrower. The satisfaction of wrapping my hands around an oversized, orb like ceramic mug this year has seldom been achieved.

Today, however, I bought a mug from Edeka. It's somewhere between a tea cup and a small bowl in size, with a very flat bottom. White ceramic with a limey-green inside. I've been staring at the mug for 7 months; literally ever time I go to Edeka. In all honesty, I don't like it that much. I didn't buy it sooner because I thought I'd find a prettier one. But, even in my beloved Müller (my favorite German store for all things practical and necessary), there wasn't one I liked. And at this point, my new mug makes me smile. It makes me laugh at the fact that I kind of hate it, but admired it at a distance for so many months. And now its mine.  :)

Last Friday I survived Elternsprechtag aka Parent-Teacher conferences. Five parents signed up to talk with me in the evening. After the mock conference videos we watched in the Schulseminar with the other Liv (referendar... aka student teachers), I was nervous what I could say if a parent was upset with me. I was worried they would question or criticize my methods of teaching. I didn't think my German would hold up. I planned on practicing all week and roping friends into doing role-play conferences with me. Instead, I worried all week, procrastinated practicing and ultimately, just sort of winged it, and it went totally fine. The best part of the experience was hearing parents say "contact me anytime with any problems." I felt like it opened a door that I had been afraid to knock on. I've heard other colleagues say, "well, in that case you can contact the parents" in reference to certain behavior. Up until last Friday, I felt such a huge distance between myself and the parents. Maybe because I wrote them a rather ... intense..? .. letter this October expressing my opinion with the class and never heard back from them. I almost felt like they were my enemies- just silently judging me, not saying anything and secretly supporting the misbehavior of their children.
GOOD thing I stopped playing mind games and got in touch with the reality that parents can actually be partners in "crime" in the whole education of the child game.

Speaking of parents, there is a parent-teacher group meeting tomorrow. Mostly after the French trip in a few weeks, but also about classroom dynamics. I don't really know what to say, but I think its important that I'm there.

Time management is still an issue. I realized this week that I am often afraid of running out of things to do, that I drag out assignments that could actually take 5 minutes into 20.
Teaching the 9th graders is consistently rewarding, because they appreciate my style of teaching and the fact that the entire lesson is in English (they have to pay ten cents for any German spoken). However, its difficult to get even 7 minds to focus on one task. I constantly worry that I am not pushing them enough and class is too easy. Since I am always feeling like I could be doing more, I can't enjoy the relaxed moments in class or plan fun things because they feel "unproductive".
(worrying is a theme in my life at the moment)
I just want them to be the best. I want them to be the stars of their English classes next year.
And yeah, I want them to credit me for it  :p
But mostly, I just want them to be good.

In unrelated news, the chocolate chip cookies have been perfected (win), but my pancakes are lacking pretty much everything that makes pancakes desirable. Anyone have any tips? Recipes ? (molly.g.mcdermott@gmail.com) Thanks!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Post Pizza (P)thoughts

I hope this post will commemorate the beginning of more frequent blogging. I'm really sorry for the inconsistency (read:disappearance) over the past many months. I like to write and I've gotten out of the habit. I'm going to try and force myself to write regularly so help remind myself why I like it so much.

My aunt always says that good things come from being bored- creative things, innovative things. For me, I think good things come from being lonely, or perhaps alone is a better word, since alone doesn't have the same melancholy intonation. Overall, I haven't felt very lonely in Rimbach, but I have spent a lot of time alone.

Its a stark change compared to overly-scheduled and -social Olaf life, but its been oddly refreshing. Although I consider myself a social person, and perhaps an extrovert, I really love the time when I do things by myself. I like being alone. I like the things I find to do while I am alone. I like the energy I find within myself to take control of my own happiness. And as I am further imbedded into the Rimbach/MLS community, I am learning that alone time is no longer being forced upon me as often. And I find myself missing that carefree attitude of "I can do whatever I want because if I don't do something, I won't be doing anything." And thats a very liberating feeling.

As the liberating feeling of aloneness has declined, the empowering feelings of belonging and acceptance has increased. I don't have as much time alone, because I have found more and more people here that I want to spend time with and get to know. I've found people I can relate to and know that they understand who I am, and that has made all the difference in my experience here. School life hasn't changed, but the way I approach it has (who saw that coming?...). I've accepted more of the German school culture for what it is and stopped fighting students as much for talking in class. I've accepted that I will make mistakes and that doesn't mean I'm a bad person (although I need to be reminded to forgive myself more often). I feel more confident in my ability to be a teacher and confidence to make a decision on my own.

I think the biggest frustrations currently are: time management (knowing how long to spend on each part of the lesson), motivating lazy students (#ephase) and controlling disobedient students (eighth graders).

Today, Monday, I spent the first two hours of the day trying to make 15 and 16 year olds talk to me. In the third hour, I had a very nice time with my 9th graders, but should we have discussed the h/w in 10 minutes instead of 25? Am I creating a relaxed classroom environment, or an unproductive one? In the fourth hour I tried in vain to pull together a last minute lesson plan on the Superbowl to sugar coat the fact that I was going to teacher Gerunds for the 4th day in a row to my 8th graders. In the Pause, I got laughed at by a handful of 7th grade boys during Aufsicht. In the fifth hour, I lost my patience within the first five minutes of class and in the last five, gave a completely pointless punishment pop quiz on vocab that students "should have learned" over the weekend. I left school feeling dumb and ineffective today.

After school, I took the Katzer family up on their never ending, open invitation to stop by whenever and joined them for lunch. I love being at their house and I always leave feeling happy. With four daughters under the age of 13 running around, its always a good dose of family time.

I indulged in a pizza delivery this evening for the first time and watched this weeks SNL with an IPA a bought in Berlin that I realized, after drinking half, had expired. So, mostly a win of an evening. And now I'm writing this post. And wondering if I am going to lesson plan before falling asleep......

Anyway, I feel this nagging obsession to feel like I'm telling the whole story on this blog, and it somehow never feels like it even captures the essence of why I love my life here. My mission for the next month is to capture those moments in writing.