Field trips for teachers

disclaimer: this post was written on Friday, and I forgot about it until today…oops

Today I went on a field trip, but no students accompanied me. Once a year the teachers of my school go on an outing together. They invite all the retired teachers and choose a destination and design a program around it. In the past they have gone as far as Dresden and Nancy France. This year they choose to have one day outing in the area immediately surrounding the city. The program was designed around the idea that they have been recently christened a “Biospherereservat,” which appears to mean that they are trying to converse the remaining nature and develop more ecologically friendly farming and urbanization processes.

We started the day at the school with a presentation about the new standing of the city and some bio-bread and some Apfelsec, which was kinda like strong champagne made with apples, what more could you want at 9am?

After the presentation we walked to the old steel factory where it began raining and it didn’t stop the rest of the day. Keep in mind that the last week has been like mid summer over here, and today the temperate dropped and the rain moved in, what bad luck. We quickly saw all the outbuildings and heard about how terrible life was as a steel worker and then retreated from the rain. We moved on to a bio-farm, or organic farm. There we saw the cows and pigs, and an adorable kitten. Needless to say I have no idea what was talked about, I spent the entire time playing with or cuddling the kitten. It was suggested that the kitten return with me, but alas she had to remain in her barn. Oh and we ate some more very good bio-bread, with quark(quark unfortunately does not exist in the US, but it is a bit of a cross between cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt. Odd but tasty.

Then we went to a little town in the area and toured  it. I know nothing about this town either, because in between the cows and the town a little old retired and somewhat crazy old teacher decided I should be her companion for the remainder of the day and talked to me about random subject during the entire tour. Plus I was ridiculously cold by this point, as was my little old lady who had not brought anything to keep her dry and was wet clear through. I tried to keep her under my umbrella, but she wandered off a lot and refused to take the umbrella with her.

Finally we went to dinner where I sat next to my little old lady and across from a very old Nun. The three of us had some unusual conversations, but for the most part I think we all understood each other.  I had some darn good spatzle with vegetables and some very tasty sparkling apple juice! A very successful meal in my opinion.  I only returned home about twenty minutes ago, or quarter to nine my time, so it was really a very full day.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves and I was impressed that almost every teacher came, even though it was not required. It was also interesting to note that field trips with teachers operate about the same as with kids, there was always someone in the back making jokes during presentations, and everyone seemed to get amnesia when it came to remembering their dinner orders, resulting in one of teachers going from table to table and telling the others what they were going to have for dinner, a fairly amusing sight to see.  Anyway TTFN, and all you teacher types out there should think about adopting this most interesting tradition.


Are there Bath tubs in America? Life with Short people.

As you know I am living with small people this year, which leads to some interesting conversions like if we have bathtubs, babies, and chestnuts. Coralie so far has been fairly pleased to discover that we have these things as well. However, sometimes I don’t think she believes me. She loves to explain simple words to me, like Spielplatz(play area) which she seriously informed me is the area where you can play. I think she doesn’t believe we have play areas, or play grounds in America.  The other cool thing about living with the short one is the interesting vocabulary I am learning. It seems to be the norm to call your child mouse with some other word attached ex: climbingmouse, messymouse, freshmouse and so forth, and this does not seem to be limited to this particular family as I have noticed with other people’s kids too.  As a result I have started to think of children as some sort of overgrown and yet very cute rodent.

I also spend a lot of time with medium sized people(middle schoolers) and they too have some interesting questions. Most commonly I am asked if I know anyone from Hollywood and if I have been to New York. I disappoint them in both respects. But sometimes I get unusual questions as well, such as which airline did I fly to Germany on and do I know so and so in Kansas.  Today I was left alone with 24 sixth graders and only told to teach them alphabet. Naturally, it does not take an hour to learn the alphabet and most of them already knew it anyway. To my shock they asked if they could use the remaining time to read an English dialogue about school supplies.  Then they wanted to practice their math! I never imagined that 6th graders could be so motivated! I also had a lot of fun with my 7th graders this week, I have a classroom now in one of my schools and groups of about 10 to 13 students come to me for the hour. I taught the 7th grade groups two games, “Go Fish” and “I like people who..” “Go Fish” was a huge hit, especially among the winners. “I like people who” got a bit chaotic, but the kids had a blast and apparently pleaded with the teacher to get to go again the next week.

Anyway life with the short ones is good, but with any luck I will soon meet some people my own age. I got the information to enroll at the local university, so I think I’ll go try out some of the classes and social activities, especially considering that I have an excessive amount of free time, which is currently only utilized for napping purposes.  A more productive day could be something to consider.

First Week of Teaching

Hi everyone,

I have had a particularly interesting week, as it was my first week in the actual classroom! I have 13 classes, with 12 different teachers and over 300 students. Something tells me I may never learn all of their names!

The school system over here is very different from the US system, so a quick overview for those who aren’t familiar with it.  All student attend kindergarten to 4th grade together. At the end of fourth grade the teachers and the parents have a conference and decide which level of schooling the child will continue with. There are traditionally three levels, although some states are merging the lower two. The lowest level is the Hauptschule, and it is a basic education for students who will work as laborers and service employees. These kids go to school until the are 16 and then enter the work force. . The next level is the Realschule, which also runs until the kids are 16, however it is a slightly higher level of education and generally the students then attend some sort of technical school for an additional two years and then enter the work force. The highest level is the Gymnasium and it runs until the students are 18 or 19 depending on the state. This path is designed for kids who will go to the University and get white collar jobs. They attend school longer each day and study at least two foreign languages and higher levels of math and science. These students get the equivalent education in the Gymnasium as a first year American college student.

There are a few other differences as well, for example all students take Religion classes and the day only goes until 1:00 and then the students go home for lunch. Other differences include that the teachers move from room to room instead of the students and that students are expected to stand and greet the teacher and remaining standing until they are given permission to sit. Discipline is little stronger, but there is still the normal school chaos.

I work with students in the Realschule and the Gymnasium(the 2 highest levels). normally these student begin taking English in 5th grade. However, because of the proximity to the French border, they take French instead.  So most of my students are beginning English this year. I have 7 classes of beginners, two second year classes and four third year classes.  The younger kids are really excited to be learning English, but they have a ton of energy that needs to be focused on something and generally it is not their lessons.  The 10th grade or third year students all have an oral exam at the end of the year they are working towards, so my job is to get them talking during class and ready for the exam.

By far the most interesting class I had was a group of beginning 6th graders who have so much energy you feel like your in the middle of a tornado. I walked in ahead of the teacher and the room was utter chaos. They looked at me as an unwelcome intruder on the territory and stood ready to defend their turf.   i simply refused to budge or answer any questions, which definitely annoyed them and when the teacher walked in two or three immediately shouted, “who’s that!” It turns out they were extremely excited once they learned i was an American and they spent over a half an hour asking me questions. I then prepared to step aside while the teacher did her lesson, but she looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and informed me I would take half the class for the rest of the hour. Then handed me a book and pointed to a page and sent me into the lions den. I glanced over the page, had no idea what they were supposed to do and so made up an activity on the spot. It filled the time and I think honestly that’s all the teacher cared about.

Starting Monday I will have half of every of class and work with the kids on supplemental material, but I definitely had nothing planned for Friday! So far the other classes have gone really well I have worked with groups of four or so on introducing themselves and some basic things about America. Monday’s planning is counting games with the little ones and partner interviews with the older kids.

Other than classes, this week has been pretty uneventful. Coralie and I are cooking together she helped me make a Pizza and sugar cookie cut outs which were a huge hit. Alexa is to the point where she no longer hesitates to come to me and she stood completely on her own yesterday, which was pretty exciting. I met Christoph and Nannettes friends Karin and Marcus and they are super nice. Karin is in love with Halloween, so she and i are planning a real Halloween party complete with pumpkin craving and candy corn, which none of them have every had before! I for one am looking forwards to it!

Also thank you all for your great comments, I love getting to read them! If you ever want to e-mail me directly my address is

TTFN as Tiger says!

Back in the Bert!

The First part of this post was meant to go online last night, but do to unexpected sleeping it appears slightly later than intended.

I have arrived back in St. Ingbert and officially begin work in the morning! But before that happens and I get caught up in posts about the schools and so forth, a quick update on the last two weeks or so. I have limited to no internet during this time, so sorry for dropping off the face of the earth!

I went and meet Babsi (Babsi is a a former exchange student that has become a part of my family) in Passau after spending a day in St. Ingbert. We had a great time. It was a bit of an international gathering. Babsi also had visitors from Turkey, Portugal and France! The two girls from Portugal were extremely impressive. They planned to ride their bikes from Passua (Southern Germany) to the capital of Romania! They planned on going over 100 KM per day. I admire their ambition, but I wasn’t inspired to imitate them!  We got to meet and hang out with lots of Babsi’s friends and I had a great time with them. They were so nice and willing to speak English with all of us foreigners! Of course we also visited her parents in Massing and it was wonderful to be able to see them again, listen to Anton’s Piano skills and enjoy Irme’s cooking!

After many adventures in Bavaria I went further south and met Liz(another Salzburger) in Salzburg! We were able to stay with one of my professors in her guest apartment. She is so sweet and made us Breakfast and dinner every day! It was great to be back in the Burg and the first day we nearly walked ourselves to death trying to see all of the sights we missed! We even stopped at our old dorm and met up with two of the teachers. It was great to be back, but everything is so different now, they are even remodeling the train station!

Finally Liz and I took the train to Köln for orientation and training. We spent the night in a hostel with two other Salzburgers and then meet everyone else the next day. The most dramatic event of all happened while we waited to meet as a large group. A man who was visiting the Cathedral died suddenly. We assume he had a heart attack. They did CPR for a long time, but weren’t able to save him. It was horrifying to watch and what really made all of us think was that after they had cleared the body away it wasn’t twenty minutes before unknowing tourists were sitting in the exact same spot eating ice cream, laughing and enjoying their trip.

After everyone had gathered together we took a bus out of town to a conference center out of town. There we meet the people who will be living closest to us. There are three Americans in Saarland, but apparently there are also a lot of British that we did not meet at the orientation. We worked in small groups to plan lessons and present them. We learned a great deal about getting a visa and how we are getting paid and of course some information about the school system in our regions.  In the evenings they opened a bar up for us and we all gathered and just relaxed. I meet a lot of really great people that I hope I will have the chance to visit over the year! I returned to St. Ingbert tonight where my “new grandparents” picked me up at the train station and brought me home and feed me large quantities of cake! I think that Germany may not be good for my health! Then later they feed me another  large and delicious meal. Christoph returned this evening and took me on a quick tour of the town so that I could see where to go in the morning. The school is not very far a away and after tomorrow I can choose to get a ride early in the morning with the grandfather or go later by foot. I am really excited to see how everything goes in the morning and which students they will have me work with!

We now return to current content, AKA stuff from today Sept. 10th.

So I went to the schools this morning and everything went really well! I meet the Principal of the Gymnasium(higher level school) almost immediately and he was extremely helpful. he introduced me to the other teachers, figured out my schedule, helped me open a bank account and showed me the best place to buy Wurst in St. Ingbert! After touring the school and city with him I went to my other school the Realeschule(Mid level school) and met the principal there as well. He too was really helpful, although I think by the end of the meeting we were both only thinking about lunch! I also met one of the English teachers with whom I will be working and we set up a plan for which classes I will work with. In that school I will work with the 7th graders who have had absolutely no English instruction and the 10th graders who have to pass an oral exam at the end of the year. I think it will be really great.

Also cool is that they have smart boards in their classrooms, which means I can hook up my computer to the board and it is like one giant screen you can write on. I am really lucky that I will be working in a private school. It is totally different from private schools in the US, here it is still state funded. However, they also receive additional funding from the Church, so they have all the modern technology. Also they do not put up with anything from their students, they have the right to kick any student out, so the kids are a little better behaved than in the others schools.

I am really excited for my first weekend in St. Ingbert. I hope everyone is doing great in the states/where ever you are reading this from!