germany (55)

Garbage in Germany

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.

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Let's Review

Hello from Calgary, 

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.

Language Development:

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. 


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Hamburg Germany TAB experience in a nutshell

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. 

Danke für alles!
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Home Sweet Home

Finally back in Calgary...

Still kind of adjusting to the time difference... and the snow. I have woken up at 4:00am every day since I got back to Calgary, for those of you who don't know me, you won't know that I am NOT a morning person so this is extremely odd for me and I am not sure I like it. However, it will make getting ready for practicum a whole lot easier next week since I wake up wide awake at 4:00am! I am definitely not a fan of the snow, nor was I ready for it... Hamburg rains a lot, and it got to me sometimes, I got a bit down when the weather was bad for a long time and I didn't think I would actually miss the rain, but the rain was definitely much more manageable than snow already. Obviously this is something I will just have to get used to, since I chose to live in Alberta on my own accord! 

As I think back to the last 12 weeks I spent abroad I honestly cannot believe it is already over. Besides missing an entire season in Calgary, nothing has changed! I don't know exactly what I was expecting to change, but I definitely thought I'd come home to a new Calgary for some reason. But I didn't its home sweet home! My dog was super excited to see me, I think she thought my Fiance had gotten rid of me for good, she kept looking at him and the look on his face was "oh my goodness I can't believe you brought her back" as she would run back and forth between the two of us not sure if she was more excited to see me or thankful he allowed me to come home.

Now that I've been home for a few days I have had some time to reflect on my time abroad. I learned a lot in a variety of ways, I learned how to work more with ELL students, I learned from some amazing teachers how to engage students in great lessons, I learned a lot about being independent and living and traveling on my own, I learned a tiny bit of German and so many other amazing things. This opportunity taught me a lot about being in the classroom, and I have a lot of new valuable skills I wouldn't have gained any other way. I am really looking forward to using these new skills on the classroom next week and in the future.

To finish off my time abroad I went to Scotland, this was amazing! Edinburgh has a rich history and I learned a lot about the cities past, the royal family, different battled against England and much more. The time in Edinburgh was yet another reminder of how much one can learn while abroad and solidified to me the importance of learning and traveling. As a teacher I think it is so important to be a life long learner and what better way to learn about the history of a nation or a new culture than fully immersing yourself into one?

Everyone keeps asking me to tell them about my time away, or what my favourite part was and honestly, it is so hard to even begin telling them! I don't know where to start... the beginning of my time abroad feels like so long ago, but also feels like it was only yesterday. Instead of telling you my favourite parts I will share with you some of my favourite photos of my most impactful moments.

Thanks for following me through my adventures! I hope you enjoyed tagging along for my journey :)

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Final Thoughts

I arrived back in Calgary on Sunday, so I have now been home for 3 days. Although I didn't experience any really intense reverse-culture shock coming from Germany, it has still definitely taken a bit of time to get used to being back in Calgary. For one thing the snow and negative temperatures were definitely a shock to my system, although admittedly I am glad to be back in a city that experiences way more sunny days than grey cloudy days. One thing I didn't expect to find challenging about moving to Hamburg was the weather, however I quickly learned that I much prefer to live somewhere with more sunshine than rain (even if that means it's -20 degrees!). It was really nice being able to experience fall for a bit longer than I am used to in Hamburg though and I was sure to spend my last few days appreciating the pretty fall colours before coming home to the snow. I am slowing getting used to the fact that people in grocery stores and coffee shops (and everywhere else) in Calgary aren't going to speak to me in German and that I won't need to try and respond to them in the very little German that I know. Language learning was something that I found difficult during my time abroad since we had no structured formal German language lessons that really pushed us to learn the language. Teaching lessons for the students' English classes at the elementary school also meant that most of my interactions with the students and teachers were in English. I was thankful that most places I went in Hamburg (and other cities in Germany) had at least one person who spoke English so I never felt too trapped in not understanding the language very well. However, I also feel that because of this I wasn't necessarily pushed to learn the German language to the extent that I had hoped. Being so busy with university coursework, spending time in the classrooms, and exploring Germany unfortunately left little time for me to really focus on learning the language. This has made me realize that the next time I travel abroad I definitely want to push myself more to develop better language skills in the language of the country I am in. Surprisingly another big adjustment has been getting used to driving everywhere again, since I was only getting around by public transportation (buses, trains, and trams) for the past 10 weeks. It feels oddly strange to be able to get into my car and drive to exactly where I need to be and not worry about having the correct transit ticket for the length of my journey! I have also been struggling to stay up past 6 pm, so hopefully the jet lag wears off soon...

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on my time spent in Hamburg and all that I learned from my TAB experience. While it is difficult to put into words everything that I have taken away from this experience, I know that it has truly been an invaluable one. Having the opportunity to get additional hands-on experience in the classroom in a different country than Canada was an eye-opening experience that helped me feel more prepared to handle any uncomfortable situation I may find myself in in future classrooms. As I mentioned in a previous post, I truly think one of the most valuable lessons I took away from my time in the classrooms was how it feels to be an individual in a classroom who does not understand the language that the majority of teaching is being done in. Even though I was teaching mostly English classes I also sat in on some classes taught in German. In addition, the majority of teacher-student and teacher-teacher communication was done in German. I believe that being in this type of environment really helped me better understand how many ELL students feel in our classrooms at home and how I can help them feel more comfortable, just as the staff and students did for me. While I was a bit intimidated at first about being put into a classroom in a foreign country where the main language spoken was not English, I surprised myself at how easily and willingly I took on the challenge and made the most of my time there. I am coming away from this experience more confident in my abilities as a teacher and in what I have to offer to my students. I am also coming away more aware of the ways in which I can constantly learn from my students and better my teaching. Working alongside a few very supportive English teachers at my school in Hamburg helped me develop some improved teaching strategies for working with ELL students that I know I will be able to take forward with me into my last two practicums and my teaching career. I am very thankful for how friendly, welcoming, and supportive the staff at my school were throughout my time there. They truly made my experience so much better. My last day at the school was filled with goodbyes from the students of the grade 2 and grade 3 classes that I had the pleasure of teaching. Both classes made me a big card with their names, drawings, and little notes on it and presented it to me while sharing things they enjoyed about our time together, along with well wishes for the future. It meant so much to me to see that I had made an impact on the students even in the short time I had been there, and it was so great to hear about their favourite things I had done with them (making a lemon battery was at the top of the list for many students!). Although I was sad to leave them, the bittersweet goodbyes reminded me of the importance of building relationships with your students and the impact that teachers can have on their students.

My TAB experience was also a huge personal growth opportunity for me. It was my first time living away from home and my first time sharing an apartment with a roommate. On top of all that, I was in a foreign country! This experience really helped show me that I am capable of being a much more independent person than I originally thought. Living abroad, traveling, and exploring a new city taught me that I am more open to adventure and new experiences than I once thought I was. I am happy to say that I came home feeling proud of the fact that I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and made memories that will last me the rest of my life. I wouldn't change my experience for anything!

Thank you TAB, the Werklund School of Education, and the University of Calgary for the truly once in a lifetime opportunity! I know this experience and all that I have learned from it will be something I look back on frequently throughout my career. I will miss Hamburg but feel comforted by the fact that I have such fond memories to look back on from my time spent there.

View from St. Michaelis church tower

Grade 2 class

Goodbye card from the students

Enjoying the city lights of Hamburg one last time

Home Sweet Home!

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Back in YYC...

Hello Readers!

I am safely back in YYC and freezing (haha!). It was interesting returning because I felt like my time in Germany was over so quickly that it was only a dream. Obviously, many people have asked me about my trip and if it was worth it, etc. I have found that actually discussing my learnings and the experiences I had in my school actually helped me realize how valuable the experience was. I have realized that I learned even more about myself and about teaching than I had originally articulated or thought. It's very evident now that I am also a slightly different person than I was when I left. I feel more confident about my abilities and my strengths and more eager to learn more. I am so excited to start my Practicum now as I feel I have been thoroughly prepared, both mentally and emotionally. 

As I reflect back on my experiences in Hamburg, I feel as though my time with the people and the students has made me a better person and this will be the most lasting impact from this journey. I have become more open-minded, more self-aware, and more appreciative of the people around me. I learned a lot from the German people, including how to be plainly honest without being rude, and how to accept each person as they are, regardless of their appearance. I miss a lot of parts about Germany already---the green landscape, walking everywhere, the cheese croissants for breakfast (of course!) and it will be hard to return to the same routine that I had here before I left. The one thing I have enjoyed about being home is seeing everyone again and having them tell me how much they missed me. I've never been the type of person to think that people aside from my close family will miss me if I leave so it's nice to return to such encouragement. It makes you appreciate the people that surround you that much more when they express how much your presence makes a difference in their life. 

I am excited to utilize some of the new teaching strategies I've observed in Hamburg in my upcoming Practicum. I'm most curious to see the difference between how Canadian students perceive Germany and if they are curious about my experience there. My students in Germany were extremely excited and curious to know anything and everything about Calgary and how school is here, so I am curious to see if Canadian students are the same or not. I really hope I can do my German students justice in describing their country and their culture as their main wish in their goodbye notes to me was: "Don't forget about us and come back soon!" A part of me does want to go back because I've never felt so accepted or appreciated by a group of students in such a small amount of time. I wonder if I'll ever experience that same level of connection with my students in my upcoming Practicums...

One thing is for sure though, Germany is a beautiful country and the people inside it are impossible to forget!

Thanks for reading my posts and stay warm this winter! (I'm already bundled up twice the regular amount trying to adjust to the 25 degree temperature change!)


Karlynn Peltier 

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Once university officially started for Hamburg, Markus our liaison invited us out for coffee and a historical tour around the University of Hamburg. In the following week we received invitations to university seminars and brunch with members from the faculty.The monthly brunch designates time for students completing their Phd and members from the department to take a small break from their individual research. The brunch provided an opportunity for me to exchange learning experiences and meet other students in the field. I wasn’t able to make it to all of the things our liaison had arranged, but Jessica and I were lucky enough to visit Professor Bonnet’s seminar on Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms. 

The course was about English learning and language acquisition in a multilingual diverse classroom. Interestingly, the seminar was facilitated by four members of the faculty. For each session they alternated between two facilitators to engage with the class. Although only one spoke at a time, the others contributed their perspectives and knowledge throughout the session. I thought it was valuable and good to see collaboration and discussion among people delivering the course. The seminar started with defining and differentiating multilingualism and plurilingualism. That was followed by an activity that required us to think about whether or not languages we speak are a part of our personality and identity. We each got two minutes to think to ourselves and then we were asked to share with someone new. 

Lastly we were asked to summarize what we learned from our buddies and share that information with two other students. Our classroom was very rich in diversity, the people in my group spoke more than two languages! In my group we had students from Poland, Spain, and Nigeria. It was pretty exciting to meet individuals from different parts of the world. To end the activity we went around the room and had each group share their discussion with the rest of the class. One student shared her current experience of learning Vietnamese. She explained how she had to address her boyfriend’s grandma appropriately and use specific terminology for each members of his family. This experience enabled her to appreciate and understand respect for elders and others by learning the language. Her experience made me realize how obedience and respect for elders is deeply embedded in the Chinese language as well. In the Chinese language it is important to address people accordingly, this includes consideration of the individual’s age, gender, generation, relation by blood, and paternal or maternal sides of the family. I completely agree that respect is important in social interactions within a community. However, from personal experience it is also important to remember to speak up as well. Overall it was fascinating to see how language goes hand in hand with culture, personality, and identity. I’m glad we visited this class and wished there was more time to go to the other ones.

My last few days in Hamburg included Dim Sum with our TAB members and dinner with one of the student I met from the brunch. The Dim Sum was pretty good, I can't read Chinese nor can I read German, I was thankful that there were visuals in the menu and that my broken Cantonese was comprehensible! For dinner our group was also quite diverse, one girl was from Greece, another from Mexico, my buddy was from the Netherlands and her friend was born and raised in Germany with Turkish roots. We exchanged personal experiences of life in Germany, learning experiences, the crap economy, embarrassing stories, and what we plan to do with our lives. I was moved by the passion and determination this one girl had on being an educator in low socioeconomic areas. As cheesy as it sounds, it is about making a difference even it means changing one or two lives at a time. The Mexican dishes were great but the night just went by too fast!

In addition to Markus’s tour of the University, our liaison also arranged a day trip to visit Lübeck his home town. By day you are in the present and by night the cobblestone streets takes you back in time. I enjoyed the Brick Gothic architecture and the background stories that came along with it. The few things that stuck out the most for me from this trip is even though the area is protected by UNESCO an organization that protects world heritage sites. Modern design shopping centers and hotels were being constructed in the old city anyway. Another thing that I found shocking is the amount of flooding this place gets. Markus told us that he had to take off his shoes and roll up his pants to walk through water in order to visit his friend one time. And that residents have to slide panels into these grooves to prevent water from getting into the house. One of the worst floods from the Baltic sea occurred in 1872 the water level was almost the same as my height!

In the afternoon we headed over to Heiligen-Geist-Hospital which use to house seniors who had no families and individuals who need to be cared for. For lunch we went around to the back of the building and walked into a place which use to be an underground potato cellar, the main ingredient they use is potatoes and goodness it was delicious! I worked on my plate but I wasn’t making any progress there was so much food! When Jessica cleaned her plate Markus said that the sun will come out tomorrow. Haha he explained that it was something his mother would say to encourage them to clean their plates. Afterwards Markus shared how Germans celebrate the Christmas holidays. I absolutely need to come back to experience Christmas! Christmas use to magical when I was younger and we use to put up the tree. With everyone being so caught up with their lives we use the holidays to just relax and by relax I mean no Christmas dinner and large parties.

This trip was memorable and Markus makes a great tour guide, he would lower his voice to match the context of his stories so we could have the full experience. I appreciate everything the people here have done to make this experience that much more. I have been waiting for symptoms of homesickness but I got nothing. I think this simply means I would like to stay a bit longer!

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Field trips and lessons

Before the autumn break, I was invited to go on a class trip to watch a film from Hamburg’s film festival. I have noticed groups of children use the transit with their teachers and it just seems tremendously stressful! The students I was with were around nine years old and although they were an older age group, I was still sweating bullets every time we crossed the road. Throughout the commute I couldn’t help but to think of the worst, that’s why I did headcounts multiple times just to make sure we were all together. I realized it was my first trip off school grounds in which I would be in a different role. This gave me a glimpse into what it’s like to be in this role out in the public community and placed things into perspective. The feeling was almost comparable to that “I am not a student and not yet a teacher” idea. Overall the trip to the theatre was a success, minus one washroom emergency.

My teacher loved class trips to the theatre as a child and she wanted her students to also have that experience. She felt that it was important for students diversify their experience and gain exposure to films other than those released in movie theatres. She pre ordered tickets for The Ballad of Tibet a foreign film directed by Zhang Wei with English subtitles. As we waited outside the students were showing concerns of the age recommendation from the posters. The recommended age for the film we were about to see was ten. The pamphlet showed specific age recommendations for ages eight, nine, and ten.  I couldn’t understand why it mattered but it was interesting to see how concerned the students were. Perhaps their parents closely monitor what they’re exposed to? On the other hand, the student translating the whole commotion was telling me how he just watched American Horror Story so I guess it just depends. Once we were seated, my teacher explained to me that we were sitting behind the translator for the movie. Her role in the theatre was to read out the script for each character in German, so that young audiences who couldn’t read English can also experience foreign films. I wasn’t too sure how this would work out but it did! After the film the our students talked about cinematic elements they picked up. The amount of details they picked up and the level of comprehension they expressed was impressive. 

As for teaching experiences, I’ve learned that the ability to be flexible with your lesson plans is crucial when you’re working in any classroom. Scheduled plans shift, things come up, know that they may need you to teach a few days earlier or a day later. And sometimes they may not need you at all because they’re writing a test. I was suppose to teach on a Thursday, due to school events I was notified on the day of if I could teach after my first period.

Since the topic was in my field of interests it was easy to whip up a sample during break time and teach the next period. I decided to get all interdisciplinary and combined previous science lessons with the film we had just watched. During the lesson we revisited characteristics of oil and water, scenes from the film, and created visuals depicting their experience using oil pastel and watercolor. Once finished the students shared their work and discussed their thoughts on the film and their artwork. I was once again blown away by their insightful thoughts on obstacles and challenges a person may encounter and the concept of perseverance. 

Yesterday was my last day of classes and the day came too soon! I enjoyed being at the school and teachers were genuinely supportive and welcoming. Even though I couldn’t comprehend the language I truly appreciated the efforts students and staff made to communicate with me. On my last day the class paused and sang a traditional German song farewell. I wish I could stay just a bit longer! Anyhow I should sleep soon, our trip to Lübeck is tomorrow! I’ll have to share the rest in the next post. 



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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Hallo from Hamburg for one last time! I can’t believe that I will be heading home in 3 days. Time has gone by so quickly! While I am excited to go home, see my family, sleep in my own bed, and squish my cat and dog, I feel incredibly sad to be leaving. This has been such an amazing experience, and I have taken so much away that has helped me grow as a person and a future teacher. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach at a school in Germany. Thank you Gyula Trebitsch Schule; it was so hard to say goodbye. I learned more about how to design engaging lessons, building relationships, and teaching ELL students that I will consider in my future teaching. The students really enjoyed lessons with a lot of varied activities as well as lots of pictures. The biggest feedback from students was the need for us to speak slowly. Positive feedback from students was how happy and energetic Steph and I are. During my last practicum, I wasn’t partnered with another student teacher. However, team teaching is on the rise in Calgary, and being able to collaborate with another teacher to plan and teach is another amazing experience that I gained from my time in Germany. It was such a pleasure to be placed at the same school as Steph. I really enjoyed planning lessons and team teaching together.

Living in another country has been incredible! It’s been eye opening coming to Germany as I have spent time in countries where the culture shock is obvious: Israel, Turkey, Jordan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Burma for example. It was definitely an adjustment when I first moved here, but it wasn’t obvious culture shock, as Hamburg is similar to Calgary in many ways. The difference in culture is a lot subtler. People are less/not friendly and don’t openly display emotions. Grocery shopping was really stressful the first couple of times because you have to pack your groceries and pay at the same time, but people behind you start immediately moving into your space even when you haven’t finished packing your groceries! I have never experienced this kind of stress at a grocery store in Canada. Also, people are often completely silent on transit. An entire crowded bus full of people in Hamburg; you could drop a pin and hear it. It took me a couple weeks to adjust to this, but I am definitely looking forward to the friendliness and happiness of people in Calgary. (Although I heard that there is a snowfall warning – so we will see how happy and friendly people are). I was informed that the weather in Hamburg is similar to Vancouver. In my mind I had an idea of what that would be like, but I was not mentally prepared for this much rain! I grew up in Calgary where most days are sunny with the odd couple of days of cloud. In Hamburg, it rains ALL THE TIME with the odd 1-day of sun. My trip to Italy was definitely needed to recharge and feel the sun again! I didn’t realize how much the rain would affect me, but I am looking forward to coming back to Calgary to get away from this rain. (Again – snowfall warning so maybe not mentally prepared for that either).

I have travelled alone a lot, but prior to TAB I had never lived abroad. Before coming to Germany, I was worried about how to go grocery shopping? What will I cook for myself? Where will I get my face cream and shower gel? I lived alone for 5 years in Calgary and Edmonton, and living in Hamburg hasn’t been that much different. I can cook, clean, and look after myself. I love being alone in my flat, staying in, and watching Netflix with my dinner. Also, I absolutely love my flat in Winterhude. It’s close to everything but quiet at the same time. I will definitely miss this place that I’ve called home for the past couple of months! I am incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity. I learned so much and will be a better person and teacher because of this experience. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye. Vielen dank Hamburg! Auf wiedersehen! Tschüss! 

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii - a dream of mine to see since taking Archeology 101 in my undergrad. 

Positano, Amalfi Coast - an absolutely magical place. 

Sentiero degli dei, 'The Path of the Gods', Amalfi Coast - breathtaking scenery along this hike. 

The Elbphilarmonie, Hamburg - one of the largest and acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. Also, 700 million euro over budget! 

One last sunset on the Alster close to my flat, Hamburg

Grade 12's working on their 'society' poster.  

Grade 6 silly pic. 

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Saying that I have six days left in Germany seems unreal...even more unreal than it was to say I was coming here six months ago. 

I feel like this journey has taught me so much about what type of teacher I want to be and strategies I plan to include in my practise that I had never thought of before. My partner teacher here is very passionate about team teaching and collaborative teaching strategies in the classroom and seeing the benefits of this within her own class has been fascinating. It had never occurred to me to merge group work with multiple teachers in a classroom, but I've witnessed some of the benefits of merging these two techniques such as: more support for English Language Learners (ELLs), more opportunities for formative feedback, and longer classroom discussion because the students are in smaller learning groups. Furthermore, I've gotten to witness and be a part of cross-disciplinary collaboration between teachers. Teachers at my school spend much less time planning lessons and researching, which may seem risky to some, but instead they spend time collaborating and spending time talking to each other. The teachers at my school are highly collaborative and aim to provide their students with a more authentic learning experience that is focused on real-world problems, applications and authentic knowledge they can use every day. The usefulness of the knowledge versus the knowledge itself is much more important, which is something for me to consider going into teaching. It's important to gather perspectives from others and always put into perspective the usefulness of what you are attempting to teach your students. I don't know if I would feel comfortable completely adopting this method for myself, as I think adequate Lesson and Unit Planning are essential for achieving course outlines and ensuring authentic assessment, but I do think achieving a balance between planning and collaborating are something that needs to be considered. I have seen in my Practicums that departments in High Schools rarely collaborate on interdisciplinary projects or themes. This not only serves to segregate the disciplines, but also makes it more difficult for these teachers to collaborate during staff conferences when required. The value in simply spending time getting to know your colleagues and doing regular cross-disciplinary knowledge-building and sharing is something everyone benefits from. 

As far as cultural differences and language barriers are concerned, I haven't really experienced much difficulty since being in Germany---therefore Hamburg has felt much like my second home since arriving. However, last week our water pipes in our second-floor apartment become backed up and our kitchen and bathroom water was draining into the apartment kitchen below us. The tenants below us are refugees and not only do they not understand English, but they do not speak German very well either. Consequently, we had quite a difficult time trying to communicate with them to figure out a) what was happening, b) what we were going to do about it, c) how this issue wasn't really our problem since we are only renting this apartment via Air BnB, and d) how we plan to proceed to get the problem fixed. We had to use a lot of basic German keywords and the Google translate app and eventually we came to some type of understanding, although we're still not totally sure if they understood any of what we said (haha!). The experience got me thinking about how difficult it would be living in a country where you don't speak either of the languages spoken and a simple problem like this occurs. How would you contact someone to get it fixed? The man of the house had already dismantled the whole sink to try and fix it himself, we're assuming because this is how he would have done it at home, however, here you are supposed to contact the Building Management company who owns the building to deal with the issue. Therefore, even societal norms can interfere with your process of assimilating into a new country. We managed to get the pipe fixed the next day and the Building Manager, who spoke fluent German and English (thank goodness!) was present. This experience provided me with some insight into the small struggles that new immigrants in any country faces, which will help me relate to these students in my future classrooms. 

Now for the fun stuff! Over the German "Autumn Holidays" I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam, Croatia (Dubrovnik and Split) and Rome. All of them were equally wonderful and unique for what they had to offer and each had their own rich history. Rome in particular was fascinating because I have a Minor in Greek and Roman studies from my Undergraduate Degree, and experiencing the places and stories I had studied and read about for four years was so satisfying and enriching. It made me realize the value of witnessing and experiencing knowledge instead of just learning about it from a textbook. There's something so special about being somewhere when you already know the backstory, you already appreciate it, and then you get to touch it and experience it because it's real. This stresses the fact that some of the best ways to authenticate knowledge in my future classrooms would be to give my students as many opportunities to experience things---to "do" instead of only "observe". We often get so lost in trying to cover all of the content we forget about how much deeper student understandings can go if we just emulsify them in an experience instead of getting them to just read about "what it's like".

The other cities I traveled had some similar experiences like in Amsterdam at the Anne Frank House---it's one thing to know about Anne's story, but to actually stand in her bedroom in the "Hiding Place" and see the pictures she put on the wall, you realize just how real her story is, it makes her come alive

As far as going home, it will be hard to return to real life again. These two months here have felt like I've been in some wonderful fishbowl---a far off land where nothing can touch me and I'm free to explore and discover as I wish and I can happily ignore what's going on outside of the fishbowl (back in Calgary). I am excited to return home to my family and friends, but the "real life" aspect about returning to work is not so appealing (of course haha!). All-in-all, I feel extremely blessed that I was able to embark on this journey and to gain some valuable insight into teaching that I wouldn't have been exposed to at home. 

See you (hopefully) soon Hamburg! 

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Last 10 Days in Hamburg

Well the countdown is officially on... Only 9 more days until my plane touches down in Calgary signifying that my TAB experience has come to an end. I am amazed by how fast time has flown by while I have been abroad, but looking back on the past 9 weeks makes me realize how grateful I am to have had so many wonderful experiences both inside the classroom and out. I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the German culture and seeing how different things such as food and accents are between Hamburg (the city I am living in) and other German cities such as Berlin and Munich. I have also had the opportunity to visit a few smaller German cities and am looking forward to one more day trip planned with our liaison from the University before we leave!

The students in Germany have been on a two week Autumn holiday since October 13th, which means I have had the opportunity to do a little bit of traveling while focusing on our online course work. I had a wonderful time exploring Amsterdam and a couple of cities in Croatia - it was great to be able to take advantage of how close we are to other countries here in Germany and see a little bit more of Europe! I have been spending the last week of the holiday back in Hamburg working on course work and exploring more areas of this city that I haven't seen yet. I want to make sure I take it all in before I have to head back to Calgary!

This week Carrie and I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at the University of Hamburg thanks to arrangements made by our liaison. The seminar was titled Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms and it was a class of master's students studying to become teachers, in addition to also studying English and one other subject (German, Russian, Economics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.). The professor and students were all extremely welcoming and eager to include us in discussions, which was really wonderful. The basis of the course was essentially exploring the topic of English learning in multilingual classrooms from both a linguistics point of view and an education point of view. During the seminar we discussed topics such as the difference between multilingualism and plurilingualism, the difference between language acquisition and language learning, and how the idea of transfer plays into the learning of a language. We also discussed the following two questions: Do you think the languages you speak are part of your personality/identity and why? Have the languages you speak influenced your idea of language learning and your teaching so far? It was really interesting to hear some of the students answers to these questions and see how different they were from mine since I only speak English while many of these students speak a minimum of three different languages. I realized that I don't really consider the fact that I speak English a part of my identity when I am at home (because everyone else around me is also speaking English), but living abroad for two months has shown me that traveling to foreign places makes the language I speak a larger part of my identity. This is because there is often a larger diversity of languages being spoken and/or sometimes English is not the dominant language spoken in a certain country, therefore making the fact that I speak English something that is different from those around me. Reflecting on the second question brought me to the realization that one of the reasons that I have often felt slightly uneasy about my ability to support ELL students in the classroom is likely because I never had to experience the types of learning struggles that they do with I was in school since my schooling was always taught in my first (and only) language. This has resulted in me sometimes feeling unable to really understand how ELL students feel in the classroom and how I can best help them succeed. Reflecting on my time in the classrooms here in Hamburg makes me see that I have learned a number of important lessons. I believe that one of the most important of these lessons has been broadening my perspective in terms of better understanding how ELL students often feel in classrooms back home when they can't understand what is going on or what their teacher is explaining. The classes I have specifically been teaching are taught in English, however I have sat in on some German classes and the majority of between lesson instruction/conversation happens in German. Learning how it feels to not be able to understand and engage in many of the conversations that occur in the classroom has been an eye-opening and important experience for me. I feel like now once I go into classrooms back in Canada I will have a better appreciation for the struggles that my ELL students are facing, in addition to being able to utilize some of the techniques I have seen teachers utilize here. For example, students seem to love singing songs and reading stories out-loud together as a class, so these are things that I see myself utilizing in my own classrooms to help engage ELL students in their English learning.

My time in Hamburg has been invaluable in providing me with both personal and professional learning experiences, and I am going to be very sad to leave this wonderful city and the students that I have had the pleasure of teaching. However, I am also looking forward to getting back to my family and friends back home. Participating in TAB and having the opportunity to get more hands-on experience in classrooms has made me feel more prepared to enter into Field 3, so I am also excited to begin my placement in a grade 1/2 classroom!

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Hallo Hallo!

Guten tag blog readers!

I absolutely love my current reality here in Hamburg, Germany! I walk to school and when I can I take the route through the gardens. People who don’t have gardens can buy a piece of land and do gardening designated areas. It is beautiful and a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life. As for school I am placed at an English immersion school for students grades K-6. The school is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity and families from  various socioeconomic backgrounds. There are full time teachers however majority of the staff are part time. I was told that a few years ago children only needed to be in school till 1pm everyday. It wasn’t till recently hours have been extended to accommodate working families. Students are usually in school from 8am till 4pm. On certain days parents are allowed to pick up their child early if they disagree with the amount of hours their child spends at school. The other reason for why some students leave early is so that they can attend grammar schools. Unlike elementary schools in Calgary, teachers at this school are assigned to teach more than one grade. Although the schedule can get a bit messy and confusing, I can see how this can be beneficial for the teachers. The opportunity allows teachers from different experiences exchange teaching strategies and classroom management. I like this idea because not only are you no longer alone teaching a class, you also get a different perspective from someone else. This also benefits the students because they get more exposure to different adults and teaching styles. The other thing Jessica and I found interesting is the school has their own sub list. When a sub is needed they will call someone who is already familiar with the students, the staff, and the school culture. Sometimes there could be more than two adults in a classroom, it seems as though there could never be enough help for everyone. 

In the last couple of weeks I have been volunteering in classrooms grades 2,4 and tutoring two grade 3 ELL students. The opportunity to work with ELL students individually was an eye opening experience. My grandma use to teach English grammar to me as a child, the experience was textbook based and terribly dry. I don’t remember much content but I do remember waiting for her to doze off. Contrary to my experience I wanted to make sure my time spent with the two ELL students was as engaging as possible. One of the students can’t sit for very long so to accommodate we ended up doing a mix of charades, flash cards, and short stories. I used google translate throughout my time with them but I ran into problems where they couldn’t understand the word even though it was in German. For me this experience reveals how challenging it can be for both ELL students and teachers. Despite how hard acquiring a new language can be, more exposure and practice always helps.

My main partner teacher is inspiring, I’m lucky to be learning from her and since we have common interests that makes the experience even better. I originally wanted to see Kassel Documenta 14, an art exhibition that occurs every 5 years but I was on the fence about it. After hearing more reviews from her, I packed my things and took off  for the weekend to check it out myself. The event was larger than expected and the line ups for popular galleries was approximately 1-2 hrs. It wasn’t too bad of a wait mainly because I got to meet new people and artists along the way. I was fortunate enough to be there on the day artist Marta Minujín placed the last book on The Parthenon of Books. The redistribution of banned books began the following day. The Parthenon of Books is a sculpture made up of 100 000 forbidden books which stands on the exact site where the Nazi’s held book burnings in the past. It talks about censorship in literature and freedom of speech in relation to historic events and the present. I was lucky to have been a part of this and glad to have seen the works from artists all over the world. 

I have never lived on my own so roommates is a new thing to me and honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I’m living a WG lifestyle and that basically means shared accommodation for students and people who are working. My first roommate was from Pakistan we got to know each other well in two weeks. The roommate who replaced her is Russian but raised in Germany. He had to take off because

he got accepted to a public medical university. I truly miss both of them but I’m glad we met. My current roommates are from Russia and they don’t speak much English or German. It was funny because the two ladies tried to speak very slowly in Russian thinking that I would be able to understand them. It didn’t work haha but it made me realize what I sound like when I speak very slowly to my ELL students. Just because you’re slowing down it doesn’t mean it makes sense to them. My roommates are jolly happy people, I enjoy their company even though I can’t understand a single word. The other roommate that has been here since I got here is from India. He’s quiet and just recently opened up about his life. My personal experience with diverse individuals has so far been positive and eye opening. Oh and the cleaning lady! Alright so we have cleaning ladies that come in every Wednesday to vacuum and tidy up our flat. I'm not a complete slob but I leave things around sometimes. It's just funny because although they're the cleaning ladies I find myself frantically cleaning before they are here haha. 

They’re more like inspector ladies to me. As for living conditions, I am currently living without a microwave! It’s not too bad and probably better that way but it is an adjustment. I live in an apartment and use the communal washing machine in the basement. It’s also good to keep in mind laundry doesn’t dry the next day because it is more moist here. 

Anyways that’s all for now, thanks for reading!


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Project Week in Germany

Last week was the last few days of classes before the two week holidays started for students in Hamburg. In my school, many students worked on what is called “Project Week”. The class that I helped out in spent the week working on their presentation skills with the end goal being - you guessed it - a presentation. The whole week was in German, and thus provided me with a wonderful opportunity to communicate with students in their language in a classroom setting.

Students split up into groups and for the first two days worked on their rhetoric skills, such as, oration, mimicking, and facial expressions. Within individual groups, I assisted students with their rhetoric - using my background in theater and drama - and they assisted me with my German when I would get stuck. Students enjoyed being able to teach me and were - somehow - more excited to try out my suggestions when sharing their mini-presentations with the class. I noticed, that to a student, it is important to not only be able to relate to the teacher, but also feel like they have something to teach and share with the teacher.

On the last day, students were presenting their final presentations to the whole class. Their teacher gave them the option to present in German or English, and most chose German because they wanted to “be able to communicate a lot more ideas and thoughts.” During these presentations, I worked together with one student on helping them (and others) assess the current presenters. It ended up being quite interesting because when I didn’t understand a section of the rubric, I would ask the student to clarify for me what it is and their reasoning for giving them the evaluation that they did. This made the student reflect on why they gave such a grade and sometimes they even changed it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience that provided me with an opportunity to not only work on my German, but also help students with peer assessment.

I am now visiting my friends in the south of Germany. I am in a very secluded village that is surrounded by three forests, sheep fields, and cow fields. A few days ago, I stumbled upon Kulning through a Swedish blogger that I follow. Kulning is a Scandinavian form of music that is used to call different animals (wild swans, cows, goats, geese, etc.). It originated in high mountain pastures and was most often used by women. Sometimes, this call is used to scare away wolves, bears, and other predators. It's very similar to Yodelling. I would like to learn how to do this (yodel and kuln), so tomorrow I am going out into the fields early in the morning and doing my best to call the cows and sheep! 

P.S. Last Friday, I ended up in Switzerland without realizing it. I took the train down to south of Germany. The night train was the most direct and cheapest way to get to my location. My only switchover was in Basel; when I first looked at my ticket at the beginning of my journey, it didn't register in my mind that Basel was not in Germany. When I arrived, I couldn’t figure out why I was not able to understand anyone’s German there (they speak Swiss German) and why there was so much French. I thought I was still in Germany. Looking on the map, I saw that I was in Switzerland, 10 minutes away from Germany, and 10 minutes away from France… By foot.

Photos: German WWI Monument ("Germany must live, even if we have to die.); Port of Hamburg. 


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Guten Tag!

Each time I sit down to write these blog posts I have 2 initial thoughts, 1) where do I start?! and 2) how has it been two weeks already?!

As I have mentioned in almost every blog post thus far and I will repeat again now, I cannot believe how fast this experience is flying by! It feels like just yesterday I was crying at the airport saying goodbye to my Fiance and best friend for the next three months.

In the past few weeks Alex and I have been doing a lot more teaching, which she mentioned in her post! We are so lucky to be working together to create lesson plans and see them through. I cannot imagine being in the classroom with anyone else, Alex and I have a great system going and I am sad we only have ONE DAY left in the classroom! That's right folks... one day! In Germany, it is Autumn break now, meaning the students have two weeks off and so do we. I am super excited to get to travel a bit more of Europe, I am off to Poland and Austria, but I am missing our classes already.

It is hard to believe that in just three weeks I will be back in Canada, fighting jet-lag and trying to do laundry (trying because its my least favourite chore).

As I reflect on my time spent abroad I can't help but think of how amazing it has been for me! For starters I have never lived on my own, I went from my parents house to a house at my university with 4 other roommates to living with my Fiance, this has given me the opportunity to find myself, completely independent from roommates or parents and it has been wonderful. I am quite a chatterbox at home, my Fiance and even my dog would probably tell you I never stop talking... I love being around people and have never been over great at being alone. However, throughout my time here I think I have grown in many ways. I now appreciate the silence of my own space, I love filling my alone time with reading, lesson planning and attempting to do homework! I also would never have dreamed of eating out at a restaurant on my own in Canada, and I will admit when I first got to Europe it was awkward for me, but now I love it! I bring a good book and order a beer and its the perfect night out.

For the next three weeks I am hoping to really just appreciate the small things before this time ends. When I think of returning to Canada this really feels like the calm before the storm and I want to enjoy as much of it as I can before I get back.

I am going to keep this post short and sweet and leave it at that! It is hard to believe the next time I post I will be back in Canada. Until next time readers...

Below are a few pictures of our classes

Grade 12 - creating their perfect society

Grade 6 - class photo

Grade 5 - classroom agreements to protect children's rights after a children's rights lesson

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Halo/Buon Giorno

Moin moin. Another two weeks have flown by in Hamburg! Steph and I have been teaching the grade 12 English bilingual class. Through the study of society, we have been building students’ skills in how to write a summary and characterization. We showed the film Into the Wild to discuss the concept of society and why an individual might reject society. Students then practiced writing a summary for the film and a characterization of the protagonist. One class we prepared an adjective worksheet related to the film to help build students’ vocabularies. We provided a word bank with words such as concerned, lonely, fearless, and selfish. We then provided a sentence with blanks such as “it was very blank when Chris did not contact his parents”. The worksheet seemed straightforward; however, students struggled to determine the ‘correct’ words to fill in the blanks.

We soon realized that the activity was straightforward to us because we knew the intent of each sentence. It was a great teachable moment because we were able to show students how fickle the English language is. It’s not incorrect to say “it was very lonely when Chris did not contact his parents”, but the word that best fits that sentence is selfish. I used to struggle with reading comprehension tests in school. All the answers are correct, but you have to choose the most correct answer from the perspective of the test writer. In English, the context, intent, and situation control the correct word choice.

One student made a sentence that involved calling the boy next to her smelly. The teacher disapproved and told her to make another one. The student then made a sentence calling the boy stupid. The teacher calmly told the student that we are a nice class and don’t speak that way before sending her to another room for a time out. I was incredibly surprised because the student in trouble is normally incredibly sweet. This seemed so out of character! When I asked the teacher after class where that came from, the teacher just laughed it off. She explained that the student just has a crush on the boy. This made me think back to our Individual Learning Theories course where we learned how behaviour, emotion, and cognition are inextricably connected. It’s so important to understand students’ emotions because it affects their behaviour when learning. In this case, the teacher did not need to escalate the situation because she understood the emotion behind the behaviour.

I prepared a lesson on Buddhism for the grade 6 religion class because the partner teacher found out that my Mother is from Myanmar (Burma). I struggled to prepare this lesson because Buddhism is such a complex topic. How do you engage grade 6 students in learning such abstract concepts? How do you teach grade 6 students the concept of suffering? I planned a short presentation explaining key concepts and included some personal pictures of me at Buddhist sites in Myanmar. However, most of the lesson involves a number of different activities. I planned a map activity for students to learn the countries where Buddhism is present, a breathing exercise for students to learn about meditation, and a matching activity for students to learn about different Buddhist symbols. The class is an hour and a half long, but I have no idea if we will be able to get through all the material planned. I also don’t know if the students will fly through everything. This is still something that I am working on in lesson planning; how do you gauge how long the lesson will take? Advice I’ve heard is that it’s better to over plan, so I’ve prepared a longer matching activity that could go into the next class.

Students have a two-week school break now, so that means we also have a break! I am currently in Italy and the warm weather and sun is amazing! Until next time!

Pictures: University of Hamburg, Pantheon, Colosseum and Constantine's Arch, Trevi Fountain 

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Guten Tag!

It is crazy to realize that I am already just over the halfway mark of my TAB journey. I honestly can’t believe how fast time is flying, it seems like as soon as I started to feel settled here in Hamburg someone hit a fast forward button!

Over the past two weeks I have been enjoying the chance to interact more with the students in the classes I was placed in at Schule Vizelinstraße. Since I have settled in and am now feeling more comfortable in the classrooms, I have also had the opportunity to teach a few more lessons in the grade 2 and grade 3 classes. The grade 2 class is learning all about birds in their English ‘Topic’ class (which is similar to a science class). The teacher put me in charge of creating lessons and worksheets on different types of bird feet and different types/purposes of bird feathers. Although these sound like they would be fairly simple lessons, I have quickly come to learn that no lesson is as straightforward as you think it will be when you are teaching students who have a much lower level of English language skills than you are used to. I have realized the importance of speaking slowly and clearly, repeating myself A LOT, and checking for understanding often by asking students to explain a concept we just covered. My time in the classrooms has helped me realize that even though the majority of students in my classrooms back in Canada may not be English Language Learners, it is still necessary that I make the effort to ensure my ELL students understand the lesson or instructions because otherwise they will just get left behind. Even if you think your instructions were crystal clear, a lot of the time they likely weren’t to an ELL. It is interesting to see how some of the students in the class act as translators for others since their English skills are more advanced. This is very much appreciated by me since it is definitely awkward for me sometimes when I ask a student a question in English during an English lesson and they respond back in German – which I cannot understand. It has been exciting seeing many of the students warming up to me and being eager to try to talk to me in English and ask for help during classwork time. Some of the girls have even become determined to teach me one of their hand clapping games that they play during recess, which seems to be essentially a German version of Stella Ella Ola. The students are so sweet and friendly, which definitely helps to make my time spent in the classrooms even more enjoyable.

English wall in the Grade 2 classroom - everything they are learning about birds!

I have also had the opportunity to join a few of the grade 6 French classes. These have been interesting to see because it is an extremely small class, with only five students! Due to the small class size classroom management is really not an issue and the students are well-behaved to begin with because they are interested in being there. The teacher explained that at the grade 6 level French is one of the options they can choose from and can only be in the class if they already have high English skills. Assessment in these classes is much more prominent, as each class begins with the students writing a quiz on vocabulary that they learned the week before. The class is very much directed by a textbook, as the teacher tests the students on vocabulary page by page.

This week I was invited to join another English teacher for a smaller group English lesson with a group of 6 grade 3 students who have stronger English language skills. We went to the library and read through a story, each student taking turns reading. At the end of the lesson we worked through a worksheet of some basic reading comprehension questions. Afterwards the teacher asked me how I thought the lesson went and if I had ideas for improving the structure. I really enjoyed having the chance to discuss this type of small group learning structure with the teacher and bounce ideas off of each other!

These past two weeks have also involved some more traveling around Germany! I traveled to a town called Schwerin, which is about an hour and a half train ride from Hamburg. Here I explored the Schwerin Palace, which was very beautiful, and had a relaxing day wondering around the pretty streets and lakes in the sunshine. I also traveled to Munich for the last weekend of Oktoberfest! I really enjoyed Munich and it was interesting to see how different the southern part of Germany is from the north, including the way the accents sound! I had so much fun getting to experience the Bavarian cultural event that is Oktoberfest and it is definitely something I will never forget! While in Munich I also visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which was a sobering and eye opening experience. Having learnt about the events of World War II in high school social studies classes, it made everything feel much more real and emotional being at the site where some of those atrocities were carried out.

Schwerin Palace

Sitting around one of the many lakes in Schwerin

Marienplatz in Munich (New City Hall)

Oktoberfest tent

at Dachau Concentration Camp

Taking advantage of a sunny day in Hamburg!

Thanksgiving dinner with a few fellow TAB peers!

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Only 3 weeks to can't be over yet!

Hello Readers!

I can't believe I will be teaching in a classroom in Calgary in one month already! The time is going to so fast and I was just starting to get to know my German students in the classes I've been a part of. In the last couple weeks, I have seen some small towns outside of Hamburg, such as Scherwin and Luneberg, and Munich for Oktoberfest. Tomorrow, my roommate and I will be embarking on our big trip over the German Autumn Holidays! We will be visiting Amsterdam, Croatia and I will be continuing on solo to see Rome before the holidays are over. We are so blessed in Germany to have this additional time to enjoy Europe! My partner teacher has also connected me with a great overseas contact here who works in Interdisciplinary Learning through STEM Science Experiments. I learned so much in our short afternoon together about teaching lower level Science students and fostering curiosity in students to pursue Science as a career. Our partner teacher has been so open to sharing her expertise and contacts with us, she has been a great role model to me on how to maintain and seek out professional relationships with colleagues in the future. I hope that down the road when I have a student teacher that I will be able to offer them this plethora of information and contacts she has blessed us with. 

It is becoming more real though that our time here is almost over and the whirlwind of events is something I will still be contemplating and processing after I return home. Something that has continued to make me feel secure here is even though I am an ocean and thousands of kilometers away from home, the students here, the classrooms and the atmosphere of a school has not changed that much. I never imagined myself teaching overseas because I was doubtful that the classroom culture would be the same---and for the most part I enjoy the cultures of classrooms at home very much! However, I have found here that the students get excited about the same things, still require you to connect and respect them, and still desire to share their interests and their dreams with you--even if you aren't from here yourself! Therefore, teaching overseas is now something I feel I should live out at some point in my career. Furthermore, their different social norms here have transferred into different teaching practises than I have witnessed at home---strategies I can't wait to try and adopt into my own practise. It stresses the fact that as a teacher we should always seek out opportunities to be a guest in someone else's classroom to witness new strategies, challenge our own assumptions, and be challenged to try new things in our own classroom. I will miss my German students here very much, but I am looking forward to putting my learning into practise during my Practicum at home starting in November!

I know this one has been short and sweet, but I will have more to inform you of upon my return from Rome! 

As always, I have included some travel photos below.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving YYC!

Karlynn Peltier

Sherwin Palace (Scherwin, Germany):

Rathaus Munich (Glockenspiel):

Oktoberfest (Munich):

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1 Month in Germany

Hallo from Hamburg!

Moin moin! Another incredible two weeks has flown by in Germany! I visited Munich one weekend and saw the magnificent Neuschwnstein Castle. Built by Ludwig II in 1869, this fairytale palace inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Continuing with visiting Disney landmarks, I also saw ‘The Little Mermaid’ statue in Copenhagen. Something that I found really interesting about visiting Bavaria compared to Hamburg is how incredibly different they are! When I was in Berlin, I went to the German History Museum and was really surprised to learn that Germany only unified in 1871. United Germany is younger than Canada! Prior to German unification, many different German-speaking kingdoms existed such as Prussia and Bavaria. Hamburg was a sovereign city-state. Understanding that separate kingdoms and city-states existed for much longer than unified Germany helped me to understand that regionalism exists despite Germany being a smaller country than the province of Alberta!

These past two weeks I have been very fortunate to be able to lesson plan and team-teach with my fellow TAB student. One of our partner teachers asked us to prepare a lesson on the Palace of Versailles for the grade 8 Social Studies class. I was extremely excited because as a future secondary Social Studies teacher, this is a lesson that I would potentially teach to future students. I also visited Versailles 7 years ago and am really fascinated by the palace and its ‘Sun King’. However, I was a little nervous to prepare and teach the lesson because I’ve only taught grade 10. I was unsure how complicated and in-depth we could go with a younger age group. As well, this grade 8 class has behaviour problems such as trouble staying on task and being disrespectful to the teacher. It was intimidating trying to plan a lesson bearing these in mind.

We kept the ‘lecture’ portion of the lesson to less than 10 minutes, and the rest of the class students worked on different activities. We decided to include many activities in our lesson that would keep the students busy. I included pictures from my trip to Versailles, and I’m always surprised that students actually like it when you bring personal connections to the lesson. The main activity of the lesson was students working in pairs to read an information packet that we had prepared on different aspects of life at Versailles. Each pair was given a number that corresponded to a specific aspect such as food or palace hygiene. Students made a mini poster and presented to the class to teach their class.

It was incredibly difficult finding information on the different aspects about life in Versailles that was suitable for ELLs. We had to simplify and change a lot of wording as we anticipated that students would struggle with words such as extravagant and sovereign. When we handed out the information packet, we made it very clear that students should ask us for help if they didn’t understand words or phrases. I was really pleased that students were comfortable asking us for help, and it was great practice explaining concepts such as ‘etiquette’ to ELLs. We also tried to use information that would be interesting to grade 8 students such as how people at Versailles would go to the bathroom on the lawn because there weren’t enough chamber pots at the palace. We wanted the students to be able to connect with the material and find it interesting and funny.

Overall, I was really pleased with how the lesson went because students were more on task than I anticipated. We received positive feedback from our partner teacher, and she particularly liked that we included many activities to keep the students engaged. However, it was very tiring preparing this lesson because we had to do so much preparation and research. I can see how each lesson you teach cannot possibly include this many activities because you do not have the time to prepare this much for every class you teach everyday!

Until next time!


Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen 

Nyhavn, Copenhagen  


 Rare sunny day in Hamburg on the Goldbekkanal, around the corner from my flat 

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Where has the time gone?!

I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by!

In Germany, we have a Holiday next week and there is no school Monday to Tuesday, so I have a half week... and then two weeks from now it is Autumn break and we are off for two weeks! I am starting to realize that I only have roughly three weeks left in the classroom!! I have really been getting to know the students and the routine and after a few weeks I am feeling a lot more confident and comfortable in the classroom. Alex and I have had the pleasure of being able to teach a few lessons, since I am an elementary specialization, it was hard for me at first to find my place in the grade 6-12 classes. However, I have worked through my nerves and it has proven to be amazing! I am starting to thoroughly enjoy being in a classroom with the older students. It is much easier to relate, have conversations and explain connections between their schooling and the world around them. And not to mention, much easier to speak to them because they actually know a bit of English...

I have been continuing to work on my German, although I still cannot speak much, I am starting to understand a lot more. For example, when my family speak German, I am able to pick up on what they are saying now. I answered my cousin who asked his girlfriend a question in German, I hardly even realized I had answered a question I shouldn't have even understood. We had a good laugh and this was when I realized I am actually learning more than I think. I am also starting to pick up on what students are saying about me in German, mostly they tell each other that they can speak German because I don't understand... today a couple of students noticed I chuckled a bit when they said this (in German) and got wide eyed looks on their faces, they realized I understood. This is both good and bad, it is good because now they might think twice before talking about me in German hahaha, but it is bad because now they think I understand everything and they try to speak to me in just German.

I am starting to miss some of my regular food from home... I have been craving sushi for about a week now, and although they have sushi here, everything I have found is pre-made and extremely expensive! I don't want to cave for bad sushi! I also really, really, really, REALLY want some franks hot sauce!! I LITERALLY put that on everything... I almost got to the point where I asked for my Fiance to bring my a bottle in his suitcase when he came to visit. Super markets are small here, and each time I go I become more aware of the fact that it is because they have way less garbage available! Which is good, but so hard when you are craving chips and salsa or something. I thought talking about missing these foods would make me feel better, but now I am just hungry and my cravings are worse... I'm starting to realize I talk a lot about food in my blog posts... Beyond this, I luckily have not been too home sick! However I am desperately missing cuddles with my dog still and cannot wait to get home and spend a day on the couch with her!

The past few weeks I have been spreading my wings and exploring small towns around Hamburg! Luckily this past weekend we had some great weather, perfect for exploring so I went to Lubeck, home of marzipan! I got every flavor of marzipan they sold as I was totally unaware of how many flavors there are and felt that I needed to try them all! MMMM.. I also went to Hohn, where some of my family lives, and they took me out to, Rensburg, Friedrichstadt (a cute little town with Holland style buildings) and Sankt Peter-Ording, where we stopped by the North Sea! And finally Karlynn and I took the train to Luneburg to explore some old architect and relax in the salt-water hot springs. Again it is absolutely amazing to me to see how each town and city is completely unique from the last. Each beautiful and exciting in its own way. I cannot wait to see what the last half of this experience holds!

 Dip in the North Sea                                                                Rainbow of Marzipan! (don't be too jealous friends)                My Cousins and Fiance :)

One of the best parts of living in Hamburg is reconnecting with my family! I have an Aunt and Uncle and two cousins who have lived in Germany my whole life. They have been very close with my family since I was very young. Sadly after my Omi passed away we lost contact for a while and it was harder for both families to travel... now I am able to reconnect with family that is able to teach me things about my Omi that I never knew and share special memories with me. It is really special to me. My cousins are just a few years older than me, and we become great friends over the past few years. This is the third year I have seen them in person but we connected on Facebook about 5 years ago. It is great to talk to this side of my family, get to know them and spend time with them in person rather than just online! This experience is beyond special to me for so many reasons but most importantly for bringing me closer to my family!

Lubeck                                                              Luneburg                                                                                                             Friedrichstadt

I am really looking forward to my last few weeks and hope to teach some more lessons, continue to learn new skills in the classroom and add to my understanding of German! This experience has been incredible so far and I will never forget the memories I have made thus far and continue to make.

Thanks for reading friends! Until next time...

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Through a Student's Eyes

For one lesson this week, I pretended to be a student in a high school biology class. Not just any student, but a student that has limited language abilities - a language learner. I used to be an English Language Learner myself; however, it was at the primary level and it has been several years since I have struggled in a class because of my English. I thought it would be a good idea to do this to get a perspective of an older language learner in a more complex class. My German is at an intermediate level. I can keep a basic conversation going, but some complex topics are difficult to engage with. 

I sat at the back of the class and paid as much attention as I possibly could. Here is what I learned. 

It takes a large amount of mental energy to stay faced in class. Listening to the teacher lecture, then give instructions on the assignment was difficult because the teacher used a large variety of new vocabulary that I did not know. Sometimes, the teacher spoke too fast for me to be able to understand everything. This slowed my comprehension down to the point that by the time I had translated everything that was said in the lecture, the assignment for the day was already being given out - I had missed the instructions. 

Lucky for me, the instructions were written one more time on the assignment sheet - a large help! My next challenge was reading through the information part of the sheet (apart from the instructions) that was meant to accommodate the assignment. This was high school biology class, the information was on the genetic code, amino acids, and proteins. I was a little overwhelmed. 

Students were given approximately fifteen minutes to complete the first two parts of the assignment. For me, the time twas split between translating words that I didn't know and then actually working. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough with my dictionary and I didn't complete the given task in time. The teacher moved the class along to discuss the last part. 

When it came time to work on that last portion, I was a little frustrated. To complete it, I needed to understand everything on the sheet - which I didn't. The translating became exhausting and the fact that I was slow was annoying me. My brain felt trapped because in English I could do all of this, I understood, and I succeeded. In German? Not so much. This was a great reminder of how ELL students feel back home during our more complex lessons. The language barrier gives you a feeling of being trapped in your own brain.

At the end of the lesson? I was not finished, the teacher explained to the class that if you were not done, it is homework. 

Later that day, I spoke with five teachers about differentiation and what do they do if a student in their class speaks minimal to no German. They responded that they provide dictionaries, let students do what they can, and most importantly, pair them with stronger students who have the patience to work with a partner that needs extra help. In their experience, this has worked well. 

All in all, this gave me a good perspective (and a not-so-nostalgic reminder) of what it is like to have limited language skills and being trapped inside of your head. As tough as differentiation can sometimes be to plan or to figure out on the spot, it is crucial for the success of language learners and other students who may need help. 

To keep a few things in mind: I was introduced to the class as a teacher from Canada here to observe, not as a student (although one student who came in late mistook me for one). Because of this, I sat on my own. My situation could have been made easier if I was working with someone. This shows the importance of not letting ELL students be stranded or strand themselves. Obviously this was a basic experiment that I tried out mostly in my head, as I didn't ask the teacher to treat me as one of the students.

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