Somehow this has become the motto for my TAB experience, and it’s been pretty amazing! This week I was back in classrooms at my school after what was an amazing whirlwind two-week vacation. In Germany, all schools get a fall break that is two weeks in length and during this time, I had the opportunity to explore Germany and the Czech Republic with my boyfriend who flew from Canada for a vacation. We went on walking tours, bikes tours, ate local food and of course got lucky enough to attend Oktoberfest in Munich sporting a traditional dirndl that I scooped up for a serious deal at a second-hand store in Hamburg. We explored castles, national parks, small Bavarian towns and big beautiful and edgy cities with rich culture! Now that it’s all over, I feel so incredibly fulfilled. Travelling truly feeds the soul!But all that travel talk aside, getting back into the swing of things in Hamburg this week was a wonderful reminder of how important relationship building is with students. While it sort of felt a bit like the first day of school again, as soon as I got there I was quickly reminded of how amazing the students are and how there was no barrier in them warming up to me again. I had the opportunity to teach a Grade 11 English class on grammar rules (without a teacher in the room – big steps as I really can’t speak German) and it was amazing! The students worked incredibly hard and I was so happy that they felt comfortable enough to reach out and ask me questions, even if the questions had to be in English. I feel like I’m really just getting into the swing of things at my school and in my classrooms and we only have two more weeks left! Where has the time gone!?
I am just finishing up my two week vacation and have been reflecting on all that I have seen and done in my German classroom. I have found the comparison to classrooms in Canada surprisingly similar. I guess I had expected things to either be extremely strict, or things to be extremely relaxed and inquiry based- but it seems that it is a balance similar to the classrooms that I have seen in Canada. Students sit in table groups, and are motivated to stay on track and be respectful by earning stars and fearing missing out on recess.
There are two differences that I have noticed though. The students have a lot of freedom when it comes to playing outside and the teachers are with their students for a full four years. I can see the benefits of allowing the students to run wild at recess, as it allows “kids to be kids”. I am very conscious of how the teachers around me react, and I try to set my standards to the same level- but I must admit that some of the things they do make cover my eyes and I have to force myself to stop from stepping in (like seeing kids going down slides head first and in long trains of students- yikes!). I can definitely see the difference that having the same group of students for four years has for both the teacher and the students. The students act like more of a family, and are more understanding of each others needs. They love their teachers dearly, and know the routines and expectations well. I do find that this system has made it hard for me to earn the students respect, as not only do I not know the language but they do not have nearly the same bond with me as they do their teachers.
I am making progress with the students though! My lesson on ‘Where the Wild Things Are” was a success. We focused on language comprehension and a small art piece, both of which the students enjoyed. My partner teacher was extremely helpful in helping me ask & answer questions about the story with the students, and was able to keep them in line when I was losing them.
Only four more days until I am back in the classroom- I am excited to see my partner teacher & students again!
Right now I am about halfway through my TAB placement and I can't believe the time is going by so quickly! Right now the German schools are on fall holidays, so i'm writing to you while waiting for a flight to Lisbon, Portugal! It has been amazing taking advantage of the ease of travel within Europe. Before the break I began teaching Math and Science a little bit, and I am also planning a few lessons in Science and English to teach the week that we return from holidays. Despite the many differences I have noticed between German and Canadain schools, the students are pretty much the same and I find myself considering the same classroom management and differentiation strategies in these lessons as I use when planning lessons in Canada.
This past week the other TAB students and I attended a football game! Hamburg actually has 2 different football teams, and we learned that the team that you cheer for is often also a political statement. The "left-wing" football club is called "St. Pauli", and this is the game that we were able to attend. It was interesting to see the various slogans printed around the stadium, on the merchandise, and even on the beverage containers that many people had bought. It was a very cool atmosphere, especially since we accidently bought tickets right next to the opposing teams section (it was maybe more entertaining watching the opposing teams fans than to watch the game at some points!).
We also went on a day trip to a nearby town called Lubeck, which was wonderful! The liason at the University of Hamburg was nice enough to take us and give us a guided tour, as he grew up in this town. Strolling the cobblestone streets, eating in the most adorable resturant, and visiting a marzipan store were the highlights. It seems like every little town in Germany that I visit is straight out of a storybook (actually....a lot of them are!). It is not hard to see where the Brothers Grimm found their inspiration for the classic fairytales we enjoy today, since every new town I visit has me seriously questioning "is this actually real?!".
In sum, Germany this week has turned out to be mostly football and fairy tale towns and I absolutely love it!
It’s been 5 weeks now here in Germany for me and I am really getting used to it. I initially thought that I would come here and learn how to teach and build relationships in a classroom where I could not speak the same language as my students. This I really have learned greatly about but I unexpectedly gained a new understanding and appreciation for exploration. Just being here has really taught me the value of travelling and being in an alien place.
If I translate this insight to my profession, I would equate it to going on field trips and learning outdoors. For some reason, so many of our classrooms are fixated indoors in the same square space for an entire year. It’s getting much harder every year to take a group of students anywhere outside that tight space. The euphoric feeling one gets outside in nature is second to none. Imagine if we could hold classrooms outside where the content is right there in front of the students instead of inside a book. If we learn about science, why not go find examples of it outside? If we learn about history, why not go visit some museums or monuments? If we learn about literature, why not go visit a reenactment or film? Every time I do one of these events on my own here in Germany, I get an amazing feeling and want to supplement what I learned by doing further research later. It might be possible to cause the same reaction with my students at home if they too get an authentic learning experience!
Hello! It is hard to believe that I am half way through my TAB experience. Last Wednesday was my last day at the school before our fortunate 2-week break. Being in a German school has been a great experience. There are little differences, such as in the way German’s write their 1’s and the latch-style backpacks of the students. The biggest difference has been the amount of freedom students get. They have a lot more breaks than we do at home, and generally students aren’t constantly watched as we do in Canada. Of course, there is supervision, but not to the extent that we have at home. Maybe teachers aren’t as concerned with liability as we are in Canada.
So far, the biggest challenge in my school experience has been with classroom management and discipline. I actually can communicate to a basic level with the grade 4 students and can usually get my point across to the Grade 1’s. However, I guess as expected from any students, there are a lot of behavioural issues and they usually don’t even listen to their German teacher. As you can imagine the difficutly I face as I can't speak German. I know that they understand me when I tell them to stop fighting, stop climbing, line-up – they just say No to me and laugh. Of course, due to the language, it’s hard to establish a relationship. And I think having a relationship is key in classroom management. Yelling isn’t my partner teacher’s style and neither is it mine. We’re both hoping that overtime, as a stronger relationship develops, they’ll listen more. I also try to use humour and positive reinforcement- so that has been helping. Mostly what I can do is repeat myself sternly and try to get the students to change quickly in the change rooms. Oh, that's another thing! Elementary students here change for gym class. It takes up like half of their gym time and the change room is the prime place for arguments.
Outside of school we’ve had a lot of opportunities to travel. Recently, our wonderful liaison took us on a trip to Lübeck (see photo below). It was a beautiful city with lots of quirks and marzipan. For this break I’ll be travelling to Italy (while trying to keep up with my courses!).
Life in Hamburg, Germany is getting much easier! The public transportaton is easier to navigate, talking to locals is becoming more natural, and I've finally figured out the best places to get authentic german food. But where I spend half of my weeks here is also becoming a very comfortable space for me to practice my profession!
At my school, I've begun creating relationships with the students in my classroom. They look forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing them. Although we cannot always communicate via language, we get our messages across with body movements and sometimes even just by grunting at each other! Through this abstract exchange I've gained the respect of my students enough to try new stuff in the classroom and be more effective with classroom management. It's astonishing how different a classroom atmosphere becomes when you are there as a stranger versus when you are there as a familiar face.
This experience really makes me wonder about the experiences new teachers and substitutes must endure. It takes time to build these kinds of mutually beneficial relationships. For me, it took 3 weeks and I could still go much further if I was able to speak in German to my students. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, I've really come to realize that effective teaching occurs second to building a trusting and respectful relatiosnhip between the teacher and the student. Now I'm sure that relationships can be formed quickly, as is the case for substitute teachers who are there only for a temporary period, but as a new teacher, I strongly believe now that if I am going to be effective in my teaching practices for an entire school year, it is extremely important that I build strong relationships with my students so that I can have them looking forward to classroom instruction and projects. A strong relationship has students wanting to come to class.
I can harldy believe that we have been in Germany for 3 weeks (and out of Canada for 4)! Life here is beginning to feel normal, despite being confused 80% of the time, and I am starting to get into a routine in both my home life and my school.
My roommate and I have settled into our apartment, finding our most convienent train stations, grocery stores, and routes to school. Now that classes have begun we have set aside time each week to tackle our assignments, so that we can leave time for travel on the weekends. I have been to Amsterdam & Berlin so far, with Prague, Vienna, Munich, Budapest, and Krakow still to come!
I am in my Grade 2 class Monday-Wednesday each week. So far I have just been observing lessons, and (trying) to assist the students with questions while they are working. My teacher typically gives group instruction, and then the students have work sheets/booklets to practice on their own. I have found helping them in Math is easiest, because we can both understand the numbers. Helping in writing has been hard, as I don’t know what they are trying to say. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays they have PE with the partner teacher, and I have been assisting with that as well. She is eager to hear ideas on keeping them active, so I have tried teaching some Canadian games.
This week I am taking my first attempt at teaching a lesson. I am doing a small unit on Where the Wild Things Are, focusing on language usage and getting them to do some art work. One of our students is moving and therefore changing schools, so I am thinking we could have a “rumpus” on his last day. I’m curious to see what the students behaviour will be like, as it is our last week before our two week vacation!
Having now spent almost 3 weeks in Germany (wow where has the time gone!), one thing that I have noticed is how everyone who speaks English, as a second language immediately apologizes for ‘their English not being very good.’ I have found this to be as common as Canadians saying ‘sorry’ in response to actions where they have not done anything wrong.
In Germany, this statement is especially common in the classrooms that I have spent time over the past three weeks. However, typically the speech following the apology is in near fluent and easy to understand English. This amazes me and started me thinking about what the reasoning behind this could be. At my school placement all the classes that I am in are English Bilingual classes and as such the students are expected to answer questions, speak and write in English, but many of them are hesitant to do so. An explanation for this hesitation appears to come from teachers having a heavy emphasis on proper and correct grammar. This is very difficult especially for those students who are still new to speaking English (Grade 5-7). I find this very interesting especially since it seems that almost all the students I have interacted with one on one at any grade level are capable of having a fluent conversation in English. For some students, I find that they need to gain the confidence to speak out even if they may not always speak correctly and that they can learn from their mistakes. With this being said, I am very impressed with the level of English that all my students are able to speak and understand and I have even learned a thing or two about how English works while spending time in the many English classes that take place at my school.
Another point on languages:
As a language learner myself, I am currently finding German to be an incredibly difficult language to pick up. I think that this is mainly because I literally, and figuratively can’t seem to wrap my tongue around the pronunciation! I've managed to successfully learn to say the following list, which is pretty small considering how long I have been here: hello or hi, good morning, bye, thank you, thank you very much, all good, and draft beer. I will mention that this is not due to lack of trying and I am able to recognize many more written words, I just can not pronounce them. Wish me luck!
That’s all for now! Tschüss (Bye)
P.S. I have attached a photo from one of my classrooms. I love how bright, lush and fresh the rooms feel with these windows! Also, you'll note the American flags - all English here is centred around American, Australian or British English and the students actually are expected to learn the different accents to help with their letter pronunciation and recognition.
Posted by Erin Davis on September 19, 2018 at 10:07am
I am absolutely loving Hamburg. I was a little bit homesick for the first few days, but I think it was more of just adjusting to a new place and a new routine - learning the train system, finding a grocery store, getting used to not always being able to communicate when I went somewhere. I can say I am fully adjusted now, however!
Here are some of my favourite things about Hamburg so far:
The St. Pauli fish market (Fischmarkt) - essentially a farmer’s market that opens only one day a week (Sunday) from 5am-9:30am. Here you can find fish sandwiches for breakfast (Parm had two!), rock bands playing Nickelback, adult beverages being served with the sunrise, and you can really get a feel for the history and culture of Hamburg as a port city.
Franzbrötchen - a Northern German baked good that is basically a cinnamon bun but made with croissant dough that I’ve been eating too much of.
Our German “buddies” and contacts - we were all given a “buddy” from the University of Hamburg to show us around and help us out in the city. They have all been so helpful! If we message them asking for a restaurant recommendation they respond immediately with great suggestions, or if we tell them we are lost they tell us where to go and what bus to take. We have all been able to hang out quite a bit and we have a really fun time with them. Also, our two contact people at the University of Hamburg have gone above and beyond to make sure we feel welcome - we got help with our monthly bus passes and a tour of the campus! It’s true that Germans as a whole can seem somewhat businesslike or even abrasive sometimes to us Canadians who are used to saying “sorry” for everything - but every German I have personally met has been nothing but kind and welcoming.
Amazing public transit - I can’t believe how easy it is to get around the city! There are multiple train lines and tons of buses that are so easy and efficient!
I’ve found that Germany has a generally relaxed sort of atmosphere, probably due in part to lots of people finishing work early in the afternoon.
CHEESE IS SO CHEAP!!!!!!
School - the bilingual school I’m at is wonderful. The teachers are very welcoming and helpful to us. I won’t get into it now since will be writing a full post about my experience in the school at a later time, but observing a German school has been super valuable to my teacher education. Plus, school usually ends at 1:10pm every day! Some days it goes until 3:30, depending on the class and grade - the students call them “the long days”!
The weather has been very warm - 30 degrees some days and maybe one or two days of rain since we’ve been here. Everyone says it is very unusual for this time of year and I am taking advantage of the nice weather by finding new walking routes and parks to run in.
Online classes are a pain.
I’m currently on a train to Copenhagen where I will be spending the weekend. See you later!
Hallo again! It has hard to believe that over 2 weeks has already passed here. I have settled in quite well and to honest it has been infinitely easier adjusting than my time in Korea! This is probably because there isn’t really a language barrier (most people speak English quite well), I am not isolated as I meet up with the other TAB students frequently and our awesome German buddies, my apartment is already furnished and finally I think the overall culture and norms are not too foreign for me.
My school has been extremely welcoming, and I have never felt out of place – as I so often did in my beginning months in Korea. Overall, the school does feel like a school and the grade 1s and 4s are as energetic and mischievous as you would expect from any child that age. There are some differences, which I will discuss in my next post. For now, I’ve gained some insights on language learning which I would like to compare with my experiences in Korea.
The Berlin Wall
I’ve been placed in an immersion school and am in a grade 1 and grade 4 classroom. My partner teacher speaks in both English and German. Mondays are English days and she usually talks in English first and gets a student to translate. These students can’t read yet and are just learning the alphabet, counting, colours, etc. To be honest, I am quite surprised at their comprehension! They can understand a lot of basic things, even if most of them can’t reply in English. Some have better comprehension than some of the middle school students I taught in Korea! In Korea, public school starts English lessons in Grade 3. They learn the alphabet, while learning vocabulary and while trying to get use to the phonemes in English. I’m starting to wonder if it’s better to just focus on comprehension first – instead of phonetics at the same time. I mean, naturally, kids learn their first language by first listening, then speaking, then reading and writing. Of course, Korean is completely different from English while German is more similar, so that is a factor as well.
My Language Learning
Before coming here, I did learn some basic German to get around and I found it much easier to remember things than when I was learning Korean. We have a similar alphabet and it’s much easier for me to remember words if I see it. However, after a few days here I realized that most people speak English and my motivation is now lacking! In Korea I was there for longer, was the only foreigner in schools and needed to learn Korean to get around – so my motivation was much higher. I had to learn Korean actively (studying in workbooks, making notes), but I find that I am learning some German passively.
I am finding that my comprehension of German is improving as a lot of words are like English. For example, “Vas ist das” – is obviously “What is this?”. I can’t produce German, but I do think I can understand a little. For example, today the grade 1’s were doing a math test and the teacher was speaking out the questions. With the pictures, I was able to understand a lot of what was being asked. As well, I was able to pick out adjectives – for example langer, klein – that I had learned before. Of course, this is limited. The grade 4’s were doing word problems in math. It was all in German and I felt so lost in trying to help the kids with these basic math problems! The kids spent a lot of time trying to translate the problem to me without focusing on the math. I dislike that feeling of not being able to fully do my job, but I'm doing my best.
Let me just begin by saying how much I LOVE Hamburg. This city is so fun, vibrant, diverse, and beautiful! They call Hamburg the 'Venice of the North' and it is not hard to see why. There is water everywhere. You can easily spend the day cruising around the Alster, smaller canals, or smaller lakes around the city. Although I have only been living here for 2 weeks, I feel very settled into my new 'home'. My buddy from the University of Hamburg has been so helpful and has helped me feel like a local by showing me around the city, taking me to local spots, introducing me to her friends, and inviting me to events such as an outdoor movie on the Alster.
It has also been wonderful observing and reflecting on the similarities and differences between Canadian and German
high schools. I have noticed a lot of big differences such as bilingual learning, and interdisciplinary subject content. Some examples are how students in the Bilingual program are instructed in English, but are often asked to translate what they have learned into German, make English-German vocabulary lists, and the use of textbooks and resources which are primarily English, but also use German mini-texts, vocabulary, and occasional instructional boxes. I believe this kind of bilingual learning is very beneficial to the students because as they are learning in English and expanding their academic English vocabulary, they are also learning in German at the same time. I have also noticed that the English classes are very interdisciplinary, and not at all similar to what I have experienced taking language electives in Canadian high schools. For example, the students are not only studying grammar and vocabulary, but rather the English classes look more similar to a humanities class where they study literature, global issues, economics, and politics (while also studying grammar and learning vocabulary). It is very interesting to observe this, as the students learn so much vocabulary because of the topics that they are studying. In one class I have been observing, the students are doing a unit on 'figure and famine'. Here they study eating disorders and why someone might develop an eating disorder, the differences in diet across various countries, and industralizion and importing/exporting. Here, the students were learning vocabulary related to all of these topics, but also discussed deeper topics which made their learning more meaningful and relevant to them. Another thing I LOVE about the school is how it is surrounded by trees and all of the classrooms have windows for walls. It is so refreshing to look around and feel surrounded by treetops!
I have also enjoyed using my spare time to travel! Below are some photos from my recent trips to Bremen, Germany and Gdansk, Poland! Tschüss!
What an incredible opportunity this is to be writing to you from Hamburg, Germany! I am very excited to be here for many reasons, both personal and professional.
While I am in Germany I hope that my understanding of the various ways that education can look and function will be expanded, and that my teaching practice will be improved by this new understanding. I hope that travelling and experiencing a new school system will enable me to broaden my perspective and begin to think about and conceptualize education and teaching in a new way, based on new methods, values, and procedures. I believe that looking for and reflecting on these differences will be of great benefit to me as I complete my last year as a pre-service teacher.
I am a very strong advocate for experiential learning, and I applied to this program with the intentions of learning as much as possible professionally through observation, experience, and reflection. I hope that immersing myself into a new culture will help me grow personally as well.
While I am abroad I can't wait to travel, try new food, and connect with local people to help me understand how life is different in Germany.
Finally, I hope that I will learn new strategies to teach English language learners, since the students that I will be working with are all in the English bilingual program.
I am so excited to begin this journey, and can't wait to update you all on what I have learned!
I have just landed in Hamburg 5 days ago and have had the best greeting any traveller could ever ask for. I was met at the train station by my buddy who graciously led me to my house in the city and directed me to the best place to buy groceries. Although I've been travelling through Spain and Berlin for the last 2 weeks, Hamburg has already become the highlight of my trip. The only thing more beautiful than the city landscape are the people that call this place home.
Settling in has been a breeze and makes the goals I had in mind, when I signed up for TAB, all the more easier to accomplish. The largest of these goals was learning how to communicate in a clasroom setting where my language is different from that of my students. With the classrooms at home becoming more and more diverse every year, I storngly believe that teachers need to enhance their skills and expand their toolbox so that they can help those students grow and succeed along with their classmates. Communicating and relationship building is a very large part of a teacher's job and it is exactly that experience I am seeking here in Germany.
With the help of my partner teacher, the students, and the local community, I know I'll come out of this program a much stronger professional.
What an adventure everyone told me as I was preparing to leave! Beginnings are always interesting. Some of them are exciting, some of them are difficult but one thing is for sure, that beginnings are always associated with change! As I prepared to leave Calgary, I spent countless hours on google maps checking out my soon to be home, and the street it was on. I searched different train and bus routes that would get me to the school I was placed at and I googled other practical information about how to get a SIM card, and where to buy groceries. I was moving to a new city for 10 weeks and it was going to be an adventure! It's not every day do you get the opportunity to study abroad and gain practical knowledge as well. I was excited for pretty much every aspect of the journey; the opportunity to teach and observe in German schools, to travel on the weekends and to experience and immerse myself in German culture.
Unfortunately, nothing prepared me for the emotions I felt when it was physically time to depart Calgary. I had to say “goodbye,” or as I prefer, “see you soon” to life my amazing partner, my very cherished dog, and my little home. I had no idea how hard this was going to be. Thankfully, it’s pretty amazing what a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel can do to reset your system and level out your emotions! After meeting up with the rest of the TAB group and sightseeing around Hamburg, the excited and anticipatory feelings and emotions quickly returned and I knew that I was in Hamburg for all the right reasons! I was super thrilled to be heading to my school the following day to finally see a German classroom – the whole reason I decided to apply for TAB in the first place. It’s clear that not all changes have the same results and the move to Hamburg was a change that came with many emotions, some expected, others not so expected. Either way, whatever this adventure throws at me down the road, I anticipate being able to face them head on and use them as lessons in personal and professional development and growth! Without hardship, we do not learn to flourish... so let the learning begin!
My name is Janessa and I am a student teacher participating in TAB this semester. I arrived in Hamburg two days ago. It’s been very busy, but easier to adjust than expected as I have a wonderful buddy who has been helping me. My only hiccup on the first day was thinking I was locked out of the apartment (with all my belongings inside) only to find that I wasn’t opening the door correctly. Today was our first day in the schools as well and the staff were super friendly. I’ve really felt so welcomed here!
I have taught abroad in Korea for a year, and when I heard about TAB I knew I wanted to participate. Teaching abroad was such a challenging and rewarding experience -I learned so much about myself and teaching. I decided to apply for Germany as I wanted to experience something different. Here are some of my goals and aspirations for this trip! I’m sure these goals are shared with many other TAB participants.
Learn about the German school system and contrast this with Canada’s system.
I think there’s a lot of benefits to learning about different styles and the way things are done. What I learn here I can incorporate into my future classrooms. This summer I have completed a research project – check out my blog here – where I was able to talk to TAB alumni about their experiences. I learned a lot about the differences and similarities in Germany, but I also know experiencing something is a lot more different than just hearing about it.
Gain more experience teaching English Language Learners and with elementary students.
I am placed in an elementary school with a grade 1 class even though I’m in a secondary specialization. After one day I can already tell you there are a lot more challenges with discipline and they have so much energy! Although I have taught ELL students before, I still want to learn how to communicate with such a young age group.
Teach without relying on technology
In Canada we use a lot of technology in the classroom – and although that isn’t necessary a bad thing – I think I rely on it too much. From my observations today, I can say that there are no smart boards or computers for the children in my classroom. I really would like to gain skills in teaching without relying on technology – as we all know technology doesn’t always work!
Immerse myself in a new culture!
Perhaps this is cliché, but I really do love learning and experiencing different cultures – which is why I like to travel so much. It really opens your perspective on things. I’ve already learned fun and quirky things about German culture. For example, if a man turns 30 and is not married his friends will continually make a mess (throw coins, garbage etc.) at city hall and he has to clean it until someone kisses him.
Posted by Erin Davis on September 2, 2018 at 12:48pm
I arrived in Hamburg yesterday! I left Canada a little over a week ago and travelled through Edinburgh, Oxford, and London before making my way over to Hamburg. I’m rooming in an Airbnb with Kerri and our flights got in at almost the same time, so our German buddies picked us up from the airport together. They were nice enough to drive us to our place and make sure we got in alright then took us grocery shopping… they told us stores are closed on Sundays due to a law from hundreds of years ago, so we really appreciated them taking us on Saturday!
Our group of Canadians went on a walking tour of downtown Hamburg today which was super informative. The guide told us the city had been destroyed and rebuilt tons of times in its history, from vikings to fires to WWII. The city itself is so beautiful, with trees and greenery everywhere and most people outside enjoying the lake in the evening. Travelling alone for a week has been a great experience and I can't wait to go back to the UK for the two week school break in October, but I found it was getting stressful in ways I didn't anticipate. I was constantly having to pack and unpack every couple of days in a new destination, and never really having a comfortable place to settle in was definitely harder than I thought. Once Kerri and I checked into our Airbnb (a basement suite in the Marienthal neighbourhood) I immediately felt more relaxed knowing I now have a place to settle into.
I’m excited to start in the school tomorrow and see what it’ll be like. Myself, Katie, and Shawnee are at Gyula Trebitsch Schule in the Tonndorf neighbourhood, but other than that we don’t know much about our classes/teachers etc. We’re going to meet with our school coordinator tomorrow to figure out a schedule for us. I’m hoping to observe some English/Social types of classes and see how those subjects are taught here. Other than that I don’t have many expectations necessarily, I’m just happy to do some observation at first and see where I can fit into the classroom.
I just arrived in Hamburg, after spending 4 days in Rome! This is my first time travelling alone so I am both excited & a little nervous! Luckily I am living with another U of C student, which should help with the culture shock :). We took a walk around our new neighbourhood last night and were pleasantly surprised with how many shops and restaurants there are, as we are in a rather suburb-y area. Our German buddies informed us that all stores are closed on Sundays, so they quickly took us to stock up on a few things before the shops closed for the weekend. Our AirBnB apartment is a great size, with friendly German hosts, and an adorable Labrador puppy living above us (which I am already scheming for ways to get him to come live with us instead!).
Tomorrow I start my first day in my Grade 2 classroom at an English immersion elementary school. Since I am specializing in Early Childhood Education, I am very excited to see what a German ECE classroom looks like. I have already noticed a difference in their education, as Drama & Socialization are included in their weekly class schedule and they are done by 1PM(!) everyday. Since it is an English immersion school my (extremely limited) German language skills shouldn’t affect my ability to assist my partner teacher too much; but I still hope to learn some of the language while I am here!
It’s hard to believe this experience has already begun, as I feel like I barely had time to think over it after such a busy summer; and I can already tell it is going to go by too fast!
A riveting topic for many, I'm sure. However, the observations and conclusions made in this simple topic are interesting enough for me to share. This topic directly relates to how well we take care of our surrounding environment and what kind of Earth we are leaving for the future - which I think is relevant for everyone around the world.
Garbage, Recycling, Bio-Garbage
Germans are efficient and pro-active with their garbage, more than we are here in Canada. People categorize their garbage to up to six categories! Recycling (plastic and such), compost, paper, glass, metal, and just garbage (anything that doesn't fit into any of the categories). When I visited the south, the family I lived with told me that one could face a fine for up to 120 Euros (177 CAD) if they place garbage in the wrong category more than twice. This varies area to area. There is also a special recycling category for items such as mattresses, wood, and other odd items. Germans take their waste seriously and are reflective of where everything should go - making sure that what is left behind is not damaging to the surrounding environment.
When I stayed with my friends during the Autumn holidays, I kept asking them in which bin the garbage goes. Usually, the conversation would be composed of me asking where each piece of garbage went and why. Sometimes, my friends would say, "that one goes into the special garbage, let me take that outside". Such conversations showed to me that Germans are more knowledgable of what materials things are made from and how they should be taken care of.
Even though we, in Calgary, have recently introduced compost bins, not everyone is using them, and not everyone wants to use them. We do have - almost - consistent recycling in our schools and homes, but Germans are still ahead of that compared to us. In schools, they have three categories of garbage that students actually use willingly and properly! Recycling, paper, and garbage. Some areas of the school had compost too.
I've noted that Germans are a whole lot more aware of the waste they produce that is a consequence of consumption. This reflects directly into how much they consume - or how little - and, if they do consume, they maximize the potential of that consumed item in order to reduce potential waste. After speaking with a few Germans, many expressed that they enjoy having Sundays as "no-consuming" days, because everything is closed. They were concerned with how we are going to keep up with keeping our environment clean while overproducing items for consumptions. They would like as clean as possible environment, but predict that we won't be able to keep up with waste-management if we continue to consume they way we do as a society.
In conclusion, I observed Germans being pro-active with waste reduction and prevention. From my experience in Canada, it would seem that Germans are a bit more reflective and aware of their consumption and waste - and we can definitely learn from them.
To end this post, I would like to place a video of a song by a famous rapper in Germany. His name is Alligatoah, and he raps about certain social issues to bring attention to them through a popular medium. Now, I know not everyone understands German, therefore the English lyrics are here. The video is also a great watch for it shows the trail we leave as individuals - something to think about.
One thing I can say for sure, after Germany I am much more aware about what I consume and what waste comes from that consumption.
I am back from Hamburg, and as comforting the snow may be... I would like to go back to Germany! Yes, really, my time there has transformed and moved me enough that I would like to stay. However, it is time to focus on the aspirations I had at the beginning and how they were met - or not!
The aspirations were: language development, school leadership research, further education research.
My language has definitely improved. I speak with greater confidence than before, and do not find it as stressful or exhausting to speak, listen, and follow in German. Depending on the topic, I do still search for words sometimes; however, I am more fluent than before. I was able to observe a few lessons led in German, and students got to hear me speak it when I was helping them - we had great moments of teaching. As in, they would teach me certain words that I didn't know, and I helped them with the assignments. The students enjoyed being able to teach me and were more open to feedback and help from my side.
School Leadership Research:
This is still in progress. I am awaiting a response from the vice-principal to my questions about student leadership within the school and community. Although, I did learn about how leadership is understood for teachers in the school that I was at. For them, it meant Professional Development and increasing their education and experience to reach new government recognition in terms of the pay scale. At my schools, teachers are required to complete a minimum of forty hours a year of Professional Development.
In terms of incorporating leadership in my lessons there, I was able to do so a few times. I had students focus on the language they use to describe their life and become reflective of it - in German and English. Describing your life through active words and actively changing and reflecting on the language that you use is one of the first steps to leading and controlling your life into a positive direction. The students quite enjoyed that - at the end of my time there many of them said that saying "I will do this" instead of "I will try this" has made a big difference in their everyday life and their outlook on it. A few students said that they feel more in control of what they do and what happens around them.
Further Education Research:
As for further research into possibly going to Law School in Germany - interesting, to say the least. To make a long story short, instead of Law School I would like to focus on furthering my education in a second teachable subject. I have learned, that in Germany, teachers are required to have two teachable subjects in their portfolio (so to say). Perhaps, I may write an exam to get a certificate for my Russian and that can be my other subject. I am still contemplating what exactly I would like to do for this second subject.
Overall, I look forward to finding out more information on leadership for students and taking what I learned in my German classes into my Canadian practicum.
P.S. I couldn't resist the baked goods. I had some every day.
I’m slowly adjusting to Calgary life, I just finished switching out my summer stuff with winter clothes. It feels strange sitting in my room reflecting back on what is now a memory. The TAB opportunity definitely provided me an incredible experience which supported my growth professionally and personally. My time in school allowed me to build relationships, understand difficulties ELL students face, and what I need to include in my future lesson designs in order to reach them as well.
The students were very sweet and although I couldn’t speak German, I felt well connected with them. I don’t know how that happened…Maybe it was because I wasn’t distracted by what they said, instead focused on body language and on what they did. I had the same experience with my roommate who couldn’t speak English. We connected well even though we couldn’t verbally understand each other. This just goes to show that I shouldn’t limit my interactions due to language barriers. It can be frustrating but it isn’t the only factor when it comes to connecting and building relationships. Plus, majority of our communication is made up of non-verbal body language. That brings me to my second highlight of this experience. The length of this program allowed me to get to know my roommates and the people I met along the way. It also gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different country and experience daily life in a different way. I enjoy travelling and have backpacked Europe and South East Asia but after this experience I’m considering living in one place for a longer period of time. Teaching aboard is also an option I’m considering after this experience.