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.