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hamburg (46)

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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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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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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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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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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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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2 Weeks in Hamburg

Hallo again from Germany! 

Let me just begin by saying how much I LOVE Hamburg. This city is so fun, vibrant, diverse, and beautiful! They call Hamburg the 'Venice of the North' and it is not hard to see why. There is water everywhere. You can easily spend the day cruising around the Alster, smaller canals, or smaller lakes around the city. Although I have only been living here for 2 weeks, I feel very settled into my new 'home'. My buddy from the University of Hamburg has been so helpful and has helped me feel like a local by showing me around the city, taking me to local spots, introducing me to her friends, and inviting me to events such as an outdoor movie on the Alster.

It has also been wonderful observing and reflecting on the similarities and differences between Canadian and German

high schools. I have noticed a lot of big differences such as bilingual learning, and interdisciplinary subject content. Some examples are how students in the Bilingual program are instructed in English, but are often asked to translate what they have learned into German, make English-German vocabulary lists, and the use of textbooks and resources which are primarily English, but also use German mini-texts, vocabulary, and occasional instructional boxes. I believe this kind of bilingual learning is very beneficial to the students because as they are learning in English and expanding their academic English vocabulary, they are also learning in German at the same time. I have also noticed that the English classes are very interdisciplinary, and not at all similar to what I have experienced taking language electives in Canadian high schools. For example, the students are not only studying grammar and vocabulary, but rather the English classes look more similar to a humanities class where they study literature, global issues, economics, and politics (while also studying grammar and learning vocabulary). It is very interesting to observe this, as the students learn so much vocabulary because of the topics that they are studying. In one class I have been observing, the students are doing a unit on 'figure and famine'. Here they study eating disorders and why someone might develop an eating disorder, the differences in diet across various countries, and industralizion and importing/exporting. Here, the students were learning vocabulary related to all of these topics, but also discussed deeper topics which made their learning more meaningful and relevant to them. Another thing I LOVE about the school is how it is surrounded by trees and all of the classrooms have windows for walls. It is so refreshing to look around and feel surrounded by treetops!

 

 

 I have also enjoyed using my spare time to travel! Below are some photos from my recent trips to Bremen, Germany and Gdansk, Poland! Tschüss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hallo! 
 
What an incredible opportunity this is to be writing to you from Hamburg, Germany! I am very excited to be here for many reasons, both personal and professional.
 
While I am in Germany I hope that my understanding of the various ways that education can look and function will be expanded, and that my teaching practice will be improved by this new understanding. I hope that travelling and experiencing a new school system will enable me to broaden my perspective and begin to think about and conceptualize education and teaching in a new way, based on new methods, values, and procedures. I believe that looking for and reflecting on these differences will be of great benefit to me as I complete my last year as a pre-service teacher. 
 
I am a very strong advocate for experiential learning, and I applied to this program with the intentions of learning as much as possible professionally through observation, experience, and reflection. I hope that immersing myself into a new culture will help me grow personally as well. 
 
While I am abroad I can't wait to travel, try new food, and connect with local people to help me understand how life is different in Germany. 
 
Finally, I hope that I will learn new strategies to teach English language learners, since the students that I will be working with are all in the English bilingual program. 
 
I am so excited to begin this journey, and can't wait to update you all on what I have learned! 
 
Tschüss!
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Moin!

I have just landed in Hamburg 5 days ago and have had the best greeting any traveller could ever ask for. I was met at the train station by my buddy who graciously led me to my house in the city and directed me to the best place to buy groceries. Although I've been travelling through Spain and Berlin for the last 2 weeks, Hamburg has already become the highlight of my trip. The only thing more beautiful than the city landscape are the people that call this place home. 

Settling in has been a breeze and makes the goals I had in mind, when I signed up for TAB, all the more easier to accomplish. The largest of these goals was learning how to communicate in a clasroom setting where my language is different from that of my students. With the classrooms at home becoming more and more diverse every year, I storngly believe that teachers need to enhance their skills and expand their toolbox so that they can help those students grow and succeed along with their classmates. Communicating and relationship building is a very large part of a teacher's job and it is exactly that experience I am seeking here in Germany. 

With the help of my partner teacher, the students, and the local community, I know I'll come out of this program a much stronger professional. 

Tschüss for now, 

Parminder!

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Hallo from Hamburg!


My name is Janessa and I am a student teacher participating in TAB this semester. I arrived in Hamburg two days ago. It’s been very busy, but easier to adjust than expected as I have a wonderful buddy who has been helping me. My only hiccup on the first day was thinking I was locked out of the apartment (with all my belongings inside) only to find that I wasn’t opening the door correctly. Today was our first day in the schools as well and the staff were super friendly. I’ve really felt so welcomed here!

I have taught abroad in Korea for a year, and when I heard about TAB I knew I wanted to participate. Teaching abroad was such a challenging and rewarding experience -I learned so much about myself and teaching. I decided to apply for Germany as I wanted to experience something different. Here are some of my goals and aspirations for this trip! I’m sure these goals are shared with many other TAB participants.

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

  1. I think there’s a lot of benefits to learning about different styles and the way things are done. What I learn here I can incorporate into my future classrooms. This summer I have completed a research project – check out my blog here – where I was able to talk to TAB alumni about their experiences. I learned a lot about the differences and similarities in Germany, but I also know experiencing something is a lot more different than just hearing about it.

  2. Gain more experience teaching English Language Learners and with elementary students.

    I am placed in an elementary school with a grade 1 class even though I’m in a secondary specialization. After one day I can already tell you there are a lot more challenges with discipline and they have so much energy! Although I have taught ELL students before, I still want to learn how to communicate with such a young age group. 
  1. Teach without relying on technology

    In Canada we use a lot of technology in the classroom – and although that isn’t necessary a bad thing – I think I rely on it too much. From my observations today, I can say that there are no smart boards or computers for the children in my classroom. I really would like to gain skills in teaching without relying on technology – as we all know technology doesn’t always work!

  2. Immerse myself in a new culture!

    Perhaps this is cliché, but I really do love learning and experiencing different cultures – which is why I like to travel so much. It really opens your perspective on things. I’ve already learned fun and quirky things about German culture. For example, if a man turns 30 and is not married his friends will continually make a mess (throw coins, garbage etc.) at city hall and he has to clean it until someone kisses him.


  3. See as many red squirrels as possible!

    I’m currently at a squirrel count of 3.

That is all for now!  Tschüss!

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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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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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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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