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Thanks Max-Eichholz-Ring! 

I'm been home now for just over two weeks. I been in class for just over a week. And I been doing just fine every day. Going abroad was a great experience and I loved most moments of it but nothing beats the feeling of coming home to friends and family, lying in my own bed, and eating my mom's food. But none of that would have felt as good if I never left. A lot of people talk about culture shock but honestly I wasn't shocked. I adjusted just fine. However, what shocked me the most was the vibe, the experiences, and students at school. 

Students are students. The only thing that changed was the language they spoke. Almost a year ago, I wrote my primary reason for applying for the TAB program and that reason was having the opportunity to experience educating when I could not communicate via language with my students. This is a reality for many students who come to Canada and are not immediately able to speak English to their teachers. It was an experience that will definitely be an asset when I encounter these type of students in my future classrooms. ELLs make up a large population of classes all over Calgary and most Canadian schools. There are many reasons to sign up for TAB but this was my biggest reason and can say without a doubt, TAB delivered!

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Reflections

I’ve been home now for two days and have had some time to reflect and adjust to jet lag. I came home through Los Angeles (pro tip: flying in and out on a Friday and a Monday is way cheaper than all at once on a weekend) and had a nice little beach vacation before coming home. When I stepped off the plane in Calgary it was -9 and snowing, which I was not too thrilled about.

Now that I’m home, I’m getting things together for when we start Field III next week. I have mixed emotions about it. I met with my partner teacher today and am already switching gears from teaching mini lessons in Hamburg to real lesson planning and long term teaching here. I am excited to get into a new routine and meet the students I’ll be working with, but I also already miss the teachers and students from Hamburg.


I’m still getting German ads on my social medias and I miss it terribly. I was happy to see my family, drive my car, buy groceries that I know what they are, and use a good washer and dryer, but I’m over the novelty of being home and I want to hop right back on a plane again. What I’m most happy about with my TAB experience overall is that I really feel that I didn’t take a single thing for granted and I made the most of my time. I travelled to nine countries and seventeen cities in ten weeks, had a great time teaching and learning at my school, finished the online classes with good grades, and made it through seventeen flights and countless trains and buses without any disasters. I believe I took full advantage of my time in Europe, and I could not have had a better experience. Tschüss, Germany.

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Dear future TAB'ers!

Dear future TAB’ers:

I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this opportunity is! Get out there and do it! Whether you’re concerned about money, being away from home for an extended period, apprehensive about adjusting to a new country or just not sure if the experience is for you, fear not! Take the risk, submit your application and I know you’ll thank me later!

For me, this experience was filled with immense personal as well as professional learning and I truly believe that travelling exposes you to learning opportunities that are unavailable to those who choose not to travel. These opportunities cannot be replicated and must be experienced first-hand!

Here are my tips for any future TAB student heading to Hamburg, Germany:

  1. You will walk lots. On average I walked 8-12km per day. Bring comfortable shoes!
  2. Ensure that your accommodations are close to a U or S-Bahn line that has more than 1 train line at it. This will make your life much easier for getting around Hamburg.
  3. Learn German before you leave Canada. I would have LOVED to have been able to speak the language a bit better and I think I would have created relationships quicker with my students. If you are able to, take a German language class.
  4. Take advantage of your weekends – take a train, plane or bus to another city for the weekend! France, Poland, Holland and Denmark are all close enough for weekend trips!
  5. It's humid and when it gets cold, it feels really cold! It can also rain a lot!
  6. Don’t stress about the dress code at your schools, it’s really casual! It was not uncommon for teachers to wear jeans, converse and a sweater. Teachers and students have a bit more of an informal relationship and think the dress code reflects this!
  7. Don’t worry about your online classes, they will work out! At first, they will seem overwhelming but they will all come together!
  8. Take every opportunity you have to explore and adventure! The 10 weeks will go faster than you could ever imagine!
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Goodbye, Germany!

Well, it's official. My time in Germany has come to an end.

I am so sad to be leaving Hamburg, but as I reflect on all that I have learned and done over the past 11 weeks, i feel so grateful to have had this opportunity. I have learned so much from German schools, and have noted many huge differences between Germany and Canada. Some of the most notable differences that I have observed between German life/schools and Canadian life/schools are: 

  • Work/School-Life Balance: I wrote a separate blog post on this topic already, but it really did amaze me how different this was. Classes ended around 1pm on most days, allowing students and teachers more time to do homework and prep work while still enjoying their extra-curricular activities, families, and home lives. 
  • Standardized testing: While Canada seems to be moving away from standardized testing and emphasizing differentiation and multiple means of assessment, I experienced the opposite in my time in German schools. Students wrote tests fairly often, and their exam to graduate high school takes 5 hours to complete. 
  • Language learning: Unlike in North America where you can drive for days before reaching a city where English is not the dominant language, Europeans and Germans are surrounded by other languages. Clearly learning all of these languages would not be possible, so English is emphasized as a  "universal language", and students can travel to many countries (not only English speaking countries) to practice using it. Students also learn other languages such as Spanish, Italian, French, and Latin. Compared to my experience with second/additional langauge classes in Canadian schools, the motivation, skill, and desire of the students to learn and practice was drastically different. 
  • Curriculum/content: I experience students discussing very liberal/mature content in class such as various forms of sexuality, difficult relationships/family conflict, and eating disorders. The way that teachers and students engaged with these topics was incredible to observe and also nothing like I have ever experienced in Canadian schools. 

Of course there are many other aspects of German life and school that I have observed, experienced, and learned from, however the above have been the most notable for me. I have also come to realize that students, no matter where they are from, are largely the same, and that classroom management is not different. I found my grade 7 class in Hamburg to be strikingly similar to the grade 7 class I was with last semester in Calgary during my practicum. On my last day in schools in Hamburg, my grade 7 class signed a Hamburg flag for me to take back to Canada to remember them by (see photo below!). It was so sweet and I will definetly never forget them. 

Otherwise, I feel so grateful to have been living in Germany and travelling around Europe these past 11 weeks. I have been lucky enough to have visited 28 cities in 9 countries since I arrived, including Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Above being a tourist, I have learned more than I could have imagined about the history and culture of each of these places.

Reflecting on my time is bittersweet, but I am ready to head home and finish up my degree.The things I am most looking forward to back in Canada are: 

  • A shower with temperature settings other than "boiling hot" and "basically ice water" 
  • a pillow top mattress!!!!!!!!! 
  • TIM HORTONS 
  • My car 
  • My boyfriend 
  • And of course beginning practicum and meeting my grade 4 class on Tuesday!

I have attached a photo of my layover in Northern Ireland, and of the last day of school in Hamburg. 

 

For one last time, tschüss!

 

Last day of school, HamburgGiants Causeway, Northern Ireland

 

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Last Days in Hamburg

As I sit in the Hamburg airport waiting to board my flight back to Canada, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic that this wonderful opportunity and experience has already come to an end.  I am so grateful to have had the chance to live, teach and learn abroad and if I’m being completely honest I’m not quite ready to go back to real life just yet. Remember that last post where I mentioned my life was essentially a derivative of ‘school, work, travel, repeat’? .. Well, I’d be happy sticking to that, for just a bit longer!

But alas, all good things must come to an end and I’ve been busy packing up my things in my Airbnb, doing last minute European shopping (which, might I add, is fantastic!) and enjoying time with the amazing people I have gotten to know while in Hamburg. Over my ten weeks here, the teachers at my school grew to be more like colleagues rather than just professional acquaintances, and our Germany buddies turned into what I’m sure will be friends I keep in touch with for years to come. With this being said, our goodbyes were instead sure to keep in touch and see you soon!

While packing, memories flooded back of all the amazing experiences I’ve had while in Hamburg. A few of my favourites include spending Sunday mornings at the St. Pauli Fischmarkt. The area by the waterfront in Hamburg comes alive with a particular buzz from 5 am to 9 am and the thing to do is to eat one of the many varieties of fish sandwiches accompanied by a beer! The old hall has live music and it is packed with people who are singing and dancing! You can also pick up souvenirs and fresh food from the many vendors

Another favourite was spending time wandering around and relaxing near to one of the many waterways and canals present in Hamburg. The Alster was by far my favourite. I think one of the most unexpected things that I enjoyed about living in Hamburg was how easy and convenient the U-Bahn and S-Bahns were - Hamburg’s public transit. Trains came every 5 to 10 minutes which made travelling around the city super simple! I was also quite lucky that the train station, Berliner Tor, that was near to my Airbnb had about 7 different lines at it.

 

A final favourite actually happened on my last night - I got the opportunity to attend the first Christmas Market that opened in Hamburg! It was quite small but I absolutely loved how it really felt like I had stepped into a winter wonderland. They served piping hot mulled wine in Christmas mugs, as well as many sweets and even had a fake snow blower and a skating rink! It was the perfect way to spend my last evening!

Well, Hamburg, it’s been a slice!

Tschuss!

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Final Thoughts

It's hard to believe that my time in Hamburg is coming to an end! There were times during the trip that the days seemed to lag and I was missing home, but now that it is actually time to pack up and go, it seems the two months have flown by. I can honestly say that my entire TAB experience was amazing, and I can't imagine how it could have been any better. Now that it is time for me to head home, I have been reflecting on the things that really made the trip memorable:

1. All of the amazing people I have met while in Hamburg. Both the liasons through the Unviersity of Hamburg and our "buddies" were incredibly welcoming and friendly from the very beginning. They were always willing to offer suggestions and show us around, and even introuduce us to some of their friends. I really can't imagine what our time would have been like here without them. 

2. My partner teacher and her Grade 2 class. The teacher I was partnered with was so passionate about teaching, and completely open to me participating in the classroom however I wanted. She was a great brainstorming partner when it came to lesson planning, and was excited to hear/share ideas. I gained so much experience and knowledge from working in her classroom, and I am so grateful for the extra teaching practice. Her students were sweet, bright, funny, and curious- I had a very hard time saying goodbye!

3. My TAB group. I was placed in Germany with a group of peers that really made the process of being away from home so much easier. They were great resources to sound ideas off of, vent to, and share embarressing foreign moments with. It was so nice to have friends that not only reminded me of home, but were so fun to be around.

4. The ability to travel to so many places. One of the biggest selling points for being placed in Germany, to me, was the ability to travel to surrounding countries. I really made the most out of this opportunity and got to see/do so many amazing things. I am coming away from this experience having learnt a lot of new history and perspectives. 

In my previous degree I had the opportunity to participate in a similar program where I would have been placed in Scotland for a semester. I ended up being elected into a student council position, so I turned down the offer. I had always slightly regretted this choice, so I am so grateful to have had this chance to fulfill this dream. I know that my time spent in this program has made me a better teacher, and has taught me a lot about myself. 

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

My time in Germany is coming to an end. I had my last day in school this week and our teachers were so nice to take us around Hamburg on our last day! Visited the Elbphilharmonie and the harbour. We also said goodbye to our Buddies and our liaisons who have been so wonderful during this trip! I don’t like saying goodbyes, but I hope I do see everyone again one day. Now that it is the end, I would like to reflect on the goals I had at the beginning.

Learn about the German school system and contrast this with Canada’s system.

Check! This opportunity has absolutely expanded my knowledge on the German school system! It has made me appreciate Canada in some ways - such as that we don’t split students into different streams by grade 4 (which I think is way to young). Also it’s provided insight on ways to improve. The school I was in was more relaxed and the students had more freedom than Canadian students. I think the shorter days would be beneficial to learning!

Gain more experience teaching English Language Learners and with elementary students

Check! Although I had experience with ELLs as I taught in Korea, I had never taught ELL students that were this young. What a new and difficult challenge that was! I was actually surprised at their comprehension level of English. However, they were kids, fought a lot and there were a lot of behaviour issues. I found it challenging to try and resolve issues between the students. I’ve learned that body language and visuals was one good way. However, the students were more comfortable with their German teacher so I accepted that it I couldn’t fix it, there was nothing wrong with me asking for help.

Teach without relying on technology

Somewhat Check! There was a lack of technology in my classroom - which may be a good or bad thing. However, the students mainly used workbooks, small games and the chalkboard to learn. They were only learning basic numbers- so it was definitely possible to teach without technology. If it’s a higher level class, like biology 20/30- I think it’s more difficult/ less engaging to explain without the use of other media. I would have liked to see this in a secondary school setting, but have discussed it a bit with my friends who were in the secondary school.

Immerse myself in a new culture!

Absolutely Check! I’ve had such a wonderful time here living in Hamburg and I’ve travelled to so many new places! I’ve really learned that there are so many different cultures even within Germany and the different states. My German friend even said North and South are pretty much different countries. I have such a high appreciation of diversity and hope to take this to my future classrooms.

See as many red squirrels as possible!

Currently at a squirrel count of 18! I have a few more days in Munich before I fly home - perhaps I’ll see more. :)

One thing I've learned in all my travels is that it's less about the place but more about the people you're with. I'm very grateful for all the old friends I was able to see, new friends I made (TABers and German buddies), and teachers and students that I worked with. What I'll remember most about Hamburg is the people. I’m very grateful for this experience. Thank you to everyone who made this happen!

Tschüss!


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Leaving Hamburg

Today was my last day in Hamburg. I woke up a little under the weather from a fun last night out with our German buddies, walked in the nice October weather to the Rewe grocery store to stock up on German food to bring home, got my last franzbrotchen, went for my last run through the fairytale woods near our airbnb, finished packing, and said goodbye to Germany. I’m now on a flight to Paris, where I will have a day layover before flying home. I am sad to be leaving Hamburg, but now that I’ve accepted it I’m feeling ready to get back home.

 

I don’t really know how to bring together all of the incredible things I’ve been able to see, do, and experience in the school as well as travelling. During our last few days at school here the teachers and kids were all so sweet to us. I was gifted a city of Hamburg flag signed by a class of rowdy grade 7s, one of my partner teachers told me her grade 11 class will miss having me even though they’re “too cool” to admit it (and I’ll miss them too!), and one of my grade 10 classes individually wished me well. I miss all of the kids already, and especially the teachers! Each teacher I was with was so welcoming and helpful. I really feel like I have made not just professional acquaintances, but real friends too. 

 

We had the opportunity to sit down with someone from the University of Hamburg to discuss our time here and talk about the differences between the Canadian and German school systems. We had overwhelmingly positive things to say about the ways German schools works, and I’ll just list a few of our main points/observations here:

 

  • A healthy work/life balance is very important in Germany. Teachers work really hard just like teachers do at home, but from what I saw they had to do less of their work at home.
  • The subject matter (in my secondary English classes anyways) seemed to be much more relevant and engaging to students. For example, instead of studying a poem by John Dunne that students might not connect to, they would study a poem about a teenager having a difficult relationship with their family, etc.
  • Most of the curriculum seems to be very modern and updated frequently. Students learn about relevant current topics like LGBT+ issues and things like that.
  • It seems to be part of the youth culture of Germany that most people really want to speak English well. Older students especially almost never had to be reminded to speak English to one another. They definitely take learning languages (not just English!) more seriously here.
  • Students will stay with their same class throughout every subject for all of secondary school - this creates a kind of “family” type of community in which they all know each other and their teachers really well. This could also potentially be a drawback, but I personally didn’t see much social isolation.
  • German standards seem really high, and there is a general sense that you can always do better. This has pros and cons of course, but overall I thought the students were much more advanced for their age that Canadian students.
  • There is a big focus on standardized testing - not very frequent, but the standardized tests the students do write seem to be extremely important. These tests are usually 4-5 hours long.
  • I personally noticed a general sense of camaraderie in each class, probably from being together for so long, and saw that most students took real ownership of their own education.

 

If there is one big thing I’m able to take away from my time in Germany, it’s that although classrooms and languages and subject material and teaching styles might be different all over the world, kids are all essentially the same no matter where you go. I saw so many of the same struggles, the same victories, the same small acts of rebellion and finding one’s own identity from the kids here as I have at home. It was actually sort of grounding for me if I was ever feeling the stress of being in a foreign country to know that the students were one constant I could count on, if that makes any sense.

 

It’s hard to condense everything I want to say. I’m planning to post one more entry after I arrive home and have some time to decompress and reflect. Moin moin from Hamburg, for the last time.

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Stop being comfortable

I took my final walk around the Alster today. The wind was blowing, the rain was coming down, the air was cold, the water in the lake was thumping against the boats, and the scenes were absolutely beautiful. Many times over the last 2 and a half months I missed home, my friends, and my family. I was counting down the days to when I would board my plane and fly back to comfort and reality. But today was the first time I felt like I was going to miss Hamburg. In this last week, I realized how truly fortunate I am to have been able to call Hamburg my home. The relationships I’ve built, the experiences I’ve had, and the moments I’ve shared with so many friends can’t really be expressed in words. The memories I’ve made here will stay with me for a long time and nothing can take them away from me. I was looking forward to my return home but now I’m counting the remaining days and trying to make the most of them. I’d like to end this post with some advice. Live your days like every day is special because before you realize, your days will run out. Get out of bed, take advantage of your good health, don’t be content, and do as much as you possibly can. You may never get the chance to walk around the Alster again.  

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Math isn't the same!

Hallo everyone! I apologize for being behind on my posts! We had a 2 week break from the schools, so I took the opportunity to travel to Italy which was beautiful and so warm! Here's a picture down in Sorrento.

 

When we came back there was a lot of work to do and we've been busy with our courses and being in the schools! I'd like to talk about the signifcance of math class for me here. I am in a grade 1 class and a grade 4 class. Usually, with the grade 1's I am able to help them with numbers as they are just counting and learning the basics. However, in grade 4 class I struggle with helping the students with math - even though their English is better. You know that saying "Math is the same in every language"? Well, it's totally wrong.  Math involves so much language! So much of the grade 4's math homework I don't understand as I don't understand the German word problems. Some of those with a higher level of English are able to translate for me, and then I'm able to explain the concept. However ,others have a lower level of English and I think it just confuses them more to try and do math in English! A lot of them are struggling with the basics, so maybe it's best if they just focus on the math concepts first before learning the English. Anyways, it makes me feel quite useless to not even be able to do Grade 4 word problems. This provides a lot of insight into what an ELL must feel. Perhaps in their first language they are able to do math problems no problem, but with all the English entertwined it must be so frustrating. 

Anyways, that's all for now! It's hard to believe we only have a week left!

Squirrel Count: 13

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Work/Life Balance in Germany

Guten Tag, readers! 

The schools here in Germany just finished up the 2 week autumn holidays, which means I also just finished my 2 week holiday to Paris, Portugal, and Bavaria! I can definetly say that I had no complaints about working on my online classes and lesson planning from my hostel's rooftop, oceanview patio in Portugal! Seeing the fall colors in the Bavarian Alps also made me feel like I was back at home in the Rockies! I am back in Hamburg now and it is starting to hit me that in only a couple of weeks I will be back in Canada beginning practicum with a grade 4 class (this will be a huge change from my current placement in the German high school!) Below are some photos of my amazing vacation!

Neuschwainstain Castle (top) Bavairan Alps (bottom)Beach in Cascais (top), Pena Palace (BL), Views of Lisbon (BR)

With my return to Canada on my mind, I have been reflecting on one of my favorite parts of German life so far, which has been the work-life balance that I have observed in this country. In Germany, I have learned that the standard amount of vacation time is 5 weeks! Also, in Hamburg stores are not allowed to be open on Sundays except 4 times a year which are referred to as "open Sundays". At first this was extremely inconvenient for me, but I have really learned to appreciate this "day of rest". Doing errands isn't an option so it is a perfect day to spend relaxing, exercising, and with friends. Something else I have observed is that most school days, students only go to class until around 1pm (Canada should really adopt this....). Overall I have found the balance between work and life to be of a huge value here, and it is very different than in Canada. This is one of the things I will really miss about Germany. 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Making the Most of It

Only 2.5 more weeks left in Germany before we head home! I spent the past two weeks traveling Europe, and came back to Hamburg ready to slow down & sleep in my own bed. During the two weeks I visited Prague, Vienna, Munich, Budapest, and Krakow. While traveling I had a ridiculous amount of amazing experiences, from bathing in beer at a beer spa in Prague, to celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, and paying our respects at Auschwitz near Krakow. I spent way to many hours on the bus, and participated in at least one walking tour in every city. This opportunity to explore the world was something that I did not think I would get to do for a long time, but TAB made it possible. Even though I am starting to feel homesick, I just have to keep reminding myself to make the most out of the time I have left. 

 

View of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge

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Coming Home to Hamburg

It’s hard to believe there are only two weeks left until it’s time to leave! These past few weeks have gone by so fast and I don’t ever want to leave Europe. Still, there are a few things I miss about home… queen sized beds, FILTER COFFEE (why is this so hard to find here?? Almost everything is espresso or instant coffee. I just want a Tim’s dark roast with milk please and thanks), driving, not hanging my clothes up to dry, friends and family, etc., but if I had my way I’d stay in Europe indefinitely!

 

Even now as I write this I’m looking out an airplane window at clusters of tiny towns and villages, none very far from the other, on my way back to Germany from Poland where I spent the last few days in Krakow. Travelling has been a huge part of my time here. I’ve visited Edinburgh, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, London (three times!), Berlin, Copenhagen, Korsor, Malmo, Paris, Amsterdam, Ireland Krakow, and my last trip next weekend will be to Frankfurt/Mainz. Our school schedule has really worked well for me - I’m at the school Monday-Wednesday 8am-1:10pm, which gives me the afternoon and evenings to get homework and errands done, and I’ve been travelling pretty much non-stop otherwise. 

 

German schools have a two week break in October and I spent eighteen days going London - Paris - Amsterdam - London again - Ireland, and my mom joined me for ten of those days which was awesome. I’ve been basically living out of the same backpack for weeks - my “travel clothes” are leggings and a thin hoodie, and I pack the same one pair of jeans, two shirts, a heavier hoodie, a jacket, and that’s it. If there’s one thing I’d recommend it’s to find a travel clothesline! I’ve saved a lot of space by washing a few clothes instead of bringing more.

 

The schedule I mentioned of being in schools three days a week and having four days off to do whatever has been really ideal for me. The best part about it is when I come back after a weekend, it feels like Hamburg is kind of a home to come back to. Travelling so much has been absolutely amazing, but there are definitely parts that can be hard. I find that I get stressed after more than a couple days of living out of a backpack and just not having my own space to spread out and relax in hostels and airports and train stations. But when I come back to Hamburg, I’m coming back to somewhere familiar where I know I can do laundry, charge my laptop, cook a meal, and decompress for a few days. I love taking the S-Bahn from the airport to the familiar Hasselbrook station, stopping at the Edeka or Rewe for groceries, walking down the familiar sidewalks, past the Greek place, turning left at the roundabout, crossing the bridge by the Kleingartenvereine, saying hello to our airbnb dog, and coming back to a place that has become my home away from home.

Participating in TAB has been beneficial in so many ways. I already feel prepared and relaxed about going into Field III because I’ve had a lot of times in classrooms both observing and teaching (and all ELL!). I feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself after having to rely on myself and my own problem solving. It’s been very humbling realizing that when you don’t speak the main language, you have to rely on the kindness and patience of others a lot more than you’d think, even when doing something simple like asking to buy ten stamps in bad German and having to sign-language your way through a lot of interactions.

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time in Europe, it’s that I can definitely see myself living and working abroad someday. Now that I’ve crossed a lot of places off my bucket list, it’s just added more that I want to see!

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Work, Travel, School, Repeat

“Work, Travel, School, Repeat”

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!?

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Teaching in Germany

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!

-Kerri

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Fairy tale towns and football?

Moin moin everyone! 

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!

Tschüss! 

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Get out there!

Moin!

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!

Bis Später!

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Challenges in Classroom Management

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!).

That’s all for now!

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Getting used to this!

Moin!

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. 

Bis später!

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Settling into Life in Hamburg

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!

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