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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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Week 7 - No signs of slowing down!

I left off my last post speaking about the Independence referendum that took place in in Spain on October 1st. Well, the aftermath of the referendum has been quite messy leading to large protests and strikes across Spain. Those for and against the independence of Catalonia made sure that their voices were heard over the last two weeks. It has been interesting to be a bystander to such a historic event, but it is hard to watch as this issue carries on. Inevitably, there will be people hurt no matter what the course of action is. While an official call for independence hasn’t been made, the President of Catalonia has until tomorrow night to decide his course of action. I am sure that most of Spain will be holding its breath.

 

On a much lighter note, in these last few weeks I have realized just how close countries are to each other in Europe. It has really made me appreciate being here and has made me, in a way, envious of the people who live here. It is quite easy to go from one country to the next or even to experience vastly different cultures within the same territory! Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Nice, France. While I was there, I got to experience French culture AND travel to Monaco and Italy in the same day. Once I traveled from one state to another in the matter of an hour when I was in the U.S. and I thought that was pretty cool. But within a day I was able to travel to three different countries all situated along the French Riviera. I jumped on a train with my passport, but I didn’t need my passport. I went from one country to another without showing my passport to anyone. That is a completely foreign idea to me. Everywhere I have ever gone, someone has asked me for some form of I.D., but not here. It is an experience that I’ll never forget and am so thankful for. On the way back from a small refugee town in Italy, we pulled into the first stop in France. Officers came on board and pulled every African and North African off the train without even asking for their travel papers. This really concerned me, but I was told that this was something that happened on every train ride. Thousands of refugees from Liberia and North African countries attempt to get into France via train after taking a boat ride into Italy. It was shocking to me, but I suppose not everyone has the freedom of movement like I have been afforded. You can’t help but be thankful for your freedom after seeing something like that.

 

While in Barcelona, I had the chance to visit Parc del Laberint d’Horta. Several famous French and Spanish architects created this classical wonder over the course of nearly 200 years. The park is a beautiful estate that once belonged to a family who graciously donated it to the city of Barcelona. It was truly a sight to behold knowing that each element of the estate was carefully crafted. The hedge maze is the main attraction here. While it is the tail end of summer and now moving into fall, the grass was not as green and the bushes and trees have begun to shed their leaves, it was still an incredible sight. There were photographers all over the park taking photos of nature, of newlyweds, and of each other for, what I believe to be, social media purposes. I am glad that I had the opportunity to visit the estate.

 

As for school, I will say that, while I have been ill and have missed a few days of teaching, I am having a difficult time adjusting to the relationship that the students have with their teachers. The students seem eager to learn and to take part in planned activities, but they continuously speak over both myself and other teachers. Initially I believed this to be because I was new and the students weren’t quite comfortable with me. But now, almost five weeks later, the students are speaking over me in class to and even higher degree. In my observations I have noticed that the teachers seem to allow this kind of behaviour, and I am not one to preach at all about how a teacher should manage their classroom and so I won’t. I have accepted that this is how the teacher-student relationship works at this school, however I have been working on my own classroom management skills and the teachers have been kind enough to give me some leeway in this department. Explaining that, culturally, in Canada students do not speak when the teacher is giving instructions or when other students are speaking. They seem to be responding well, and I have noticed that they are much less likely to talk over me when the teacher has left the room. I never wanted to be a “mean” teacher, but I realize now that I have limits to the loudness of a classroom and high expectations for the respect that students have for their teacher and fellow students. If anything, I think that this experience is preparing me to manage a classroom and that’s a skill that I didn’t expect to focus on while in Spain. That being said, the students are so bright and curious. I absolutely love the idea of being a teacher, now more than ever.  

Adios for now mi amigos! Xoxo

Love,

 

Hana K. 

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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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