I am so excited to spend the next three weeks student teaching abroad in Germany! I’ll use this blog to share pictures, memories, and information that I learn about the education system.
This week was our first week at the elementary school called Marienschule. We were pretty much given our own classroom on the 3rd floor and the teachers brought the students to our room. Camey, Lauryn, and I taught 1-4th grade all week. We planned and taught all of the lessons which was a little bit of a surprise as we thought we would mainly be helping the teacher. The school gave us the topics they wanted us to cover in advance and we created lessons around these ideas. It was a valuable experience and really taught us to be flexible. Sometimes we had to totally change things at the last minute and just go with it. The 1st graders only started learning English in February which was difficult. The other grades knew more English but it was still a struggle to communicate simple tasks so we had to use a lot of songs, pictures, and movements to try to get the students to understand. While at times it was really difficult to try to get our point across it was a lot of fun. To communicate required effort from not only us but from the students as well. We taught 1st grade about pets, this required lots of songs and a lot of animal noises. 2nd grade learned about the days of the week. 3rd and 4th grade learned about Kentucky and US holidays such as 4th of July, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day. We also made Mother’s Day crafts and patriotic crafts.
It was difficult having no technology in our classroom, we had a chalk board to use and different colored chalk. We found ways to use technology, such as breaking into centers and showing PowerPoints with many pictures on our individual laptops. The school it’s self didn’t have Wi-Fi so we had to be really on top of our planning and make sure that everything was saved to our computers in advance. I can’t believe that this was our final week student teaching but I am so excited for what is to come. For now, we are off to the Netherlands for the weekend!
On our final day in Berlin we took the train to Potsdam. We broke up into teams and had a scavenger hunt through the city. Our scavenger hunt took us to the Dutch Quarter, the smaller Brandenburg Gate, the Nauener Tor, to famous cafes, and to the Sanssouci Palace. While we didn’t actually complete all of our tasks in the scavenger hunt, we did do some great shopping and took a lot of pictures. Our week in Berlin was a memorable one, from all of the beautiful and historic places we saw to realizing mid-week that I accidentally brought all of my roommate’s jeans, had none that fit me, and having to frantically go buy new ones. It is definitely a city that I want to visit again someday.
I am now staying in the adorable little village of Herbern. It is just a few miles away from Werne where our school for this week, Anne Frank Gymnasium, is located. It was really interesting how different the schools are from schools in the US. The students at this school are so much more independent than any school I’ve ever been to in the US. The students have class for 90 minutes, then a 25-minute break, 90 minutes, then a 20-minute break, and then 55 minute classes. I really liked that the students get these longer breaks in-between classes. That is something that I have never experienced in the US, rather kids are running to class to get there on time in-between classes. I really liked this system because it not only gave the students a chance to get their energy out but gives the teachers a break as well. Another difference in this school is that the teachers don’t have one specific classroom. The teachers rotate to the students, rather than the students rotating to the teacher like in the US. This means that the rooms aren’t as personalized and decorated at this school as they are in many classrooms in America. There are usually maps on the wall, posters from class projects, calendars, and a few crafts. One of my favorite features of the school is that it has a parking garage for bikes. Just imagine the shock on everyone’s face when we discovered that fun fact.
Being in this school and in Germany in general has given me a whole new perspective on ESL children. Having people all around you speaking a different language and having no idea what they are saying is a very interesting experience. I’ve found that is really easy to zone out because you have no idea what’s going on. I feel like sometimes we expect our ESL students to pick up at least a few English words just by being immersed in it all day, but I fully understand why they often seem not engaged. When you have no idea what’s going on around you it is hard to put all of your energy into trying to decode the words being said. Luckily, the kind children at this school start yelling English whenever they see us coming in order to find someone that speaks good enough English to help us with whatever we are trying to do. I can’t imagine how some students I’ve met feel not being able to understand a single word all day at school. Thankfully, there are 9 other American’s with me who look just as clueless as I do. I really liked sitting in on the English classes because I find it amazing how efficient they are at teaching English. When I took Spanish at school, I feel like we learned the same things every year and we never really progressed much past basic conversation. In 5th and 6th grade these students can hold a pretty impressive conversation. I had a great week meeting the students and staff at AFG and can’t wait to start in our elementary school next week.
After many long and boring hours of traveling we finally made it to Berlin at 7:30am Tuesday morning. It was a cold and cloudy day but we kept moving to keep us awake. We learned quickly that the people of Germany respect crossing signals. They don’t just run out into the road, they stop and wait for the light to turn green to walk. During our walk we saw an old church whose roof had been bombed off by the Allies, climbed all 200+ steps of the Victory Tower, walked to the Brandenburg Gate, and did a little souvenir shopping before dinner. On Wednesday, we went to the Story of Berlin museum and learned about the Berlin from the time it was founded until present day. When we left it started snowing and we had to make a quick stop to buy hats and gloves because we were not prepared for it to snow. Everyone in Berlin can tell that we don’t belong here because of how clueless and unprepared we constantly look. We then took a train to the DDR museum which was about the way of life in East Germany. It was really interesting learning about the differences between East Germany and West Germany. After dinner, which was at an amazing brewery, we visited the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery was really cool because it was different parts of the Berlin Wall that have been painted by artists to commemorate the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall. Thursday was one of the coolest days in Berlin because we got to tour the Reichstag building, which is home to the German Bundestag or the Parliament. We got to take pictures in the room where Parliament meets and then we went upstairs to the dome that looks over the city to take more pictures. It had one of the most amazing views that I have ever seen. We even got to take a tour of the building with the staff of a Representative in Parliament which was amazingly cool because of all the different stories we were told and all that we got to to see. On Friday, we traveled about 45 minutes to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp which was pretty intense. It was hard to believe that such horrible things actually happened where we were standing and that in reality it happened not all that long ago. We took an audio tour that allowed us to move at our own pace around the camp. While listening to the information and first hand accounts being told, there was also information to read inside the buildings. I think it’s a place that everyone should experience at least once to realize the magnitude of what happened during the Holocaust. We then went back into the city and saw the Holocaust memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. I never realized Checkpoint Charlie was literally in the middle of the road. We ran out to the median and fought through the crowds to take pictures. We soon realized that the men dressed as soldiers charged you to take pictures so we took some selfies on our own and ran back across the street. It has been a fun, tiring, and adventurous few days and I can’t wait to see what it to come.