Hello family and friends! I am so excited to share this amazing journey that I am on with you! I have the opportunity to go to Berlin, Germany and Werne, Germany for a little over three weeks. Here, I will be learning all about the schooling and culture in Germany. I can’t wait for this experience and all it has to offer!
What a week of student teaching! I student taught with two other fellow student teachers at Marienschule Herbern (an elementary school in the area I live in). We taught 1st through 4th grade, and for each grade we were given a different topic and prepared lessons to teach about the topics. We were given a classroom on the third floor of the school where we stayed for the entire week and each class came to us. Here are some pictures from inside our classroom.
We had Monday off school because it was Labor Day weekend in Germany, so our school week started on Tuesday. On Tuesday, we taught 1st, 3rd and 4th graders. 1st graders were taught about pets and 3rd and 4th graders were taught about Kentucky. On Wednesday, we taught the 2nd graders about days of the week and 4th graders about Thanksgiving. On Thursday, we talked about Mother’s Day and made crafts for all their mothers. On Friday, we talked about American Patriotic Holidays (4th of July, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day).
Since the school didn’t have wifi or any form of technology, we had to figure out a way to engage students without using technology (something that is new to us). We made PowerPoints over each topic and shared the PowerPoints with the students using our own individual laptops. We split each class into 3 groups, and then went over the material with each group. This allowed for the students to get more individual attention, which was extremely important since most of the students struggled with speaking English. We also used a lot of songs during the classes to engage the students. This got them up and moving around, while learning at the same time. They all really enjoyed singing the songs. This week was difficult as we were teaching students who knew very little English, but extremely rewarding at the same time! The students were so sweet and really eager to learn. I can’t believe our time student teaching abroad is over. It’s true what they say: Time flies by when you’re having fun!
After a week of student teaching in a German school building containing 5th-12th graders, I’ve seen many similarities and differences between German schools and American schools. I’m just going to jump right into it and tell you all about the schooling here! First of all, elementary schools are only 1st-4th grade. Kindergarten is for children ages 3-6. 5th-12th graders are all in one school together here in Germany.. This was the first thing that really surprised me! Most of the students in Germany ride their bikes to schools instead of taking a bus, walking, or having their parents drive them. The school I’m at even has a parking garage just for bikes! In Germany, teachers switch classes instead of the students switching classes. Each class has their own classroom and they stay in that classroom and different teachers come to them. This means no teacher has his/her own classroom. I found this really surprising! Another thing that really shocked me was that in between each class, teachers and students have a break! The first break is 25 minutes and each break after that is at least 5 minutes. In that break, teachers go to the teachers’ lounge and students can hang out outside or inside the building. This was really nice! The students automatically know when to go to their class. They go immediately to their classroom, sit down, and wait for the teacher to arrive. When the teacher enters the classroom, the students greet the teacher by saying, “Good morning madam/sir or Good morning Mrs. ______/Mr. ______.” I absolutely loved this and found it very respectful. I quickly realized the students here are extremely respectful to both their peers and adults in the school. A lot of the classrooms in the school still have chalkboards, which was new to me because the school I student taught at in Bowling Green only had whiteboards and ActivBoards. What is really crazy to me is most of the schools don’t have wifi. That shocked me because a lot of the things I did with the students during student teaching required internet access. This really made me think outside the box of ways to engage students other than using technology. This has also made me realize how lucky we are in our schools back at home to have the privileges we do, like having internet access in the classrooms. The school schedules are very different than school schedules in America. Students end their days at different times of the day. Sometimes they might go to 7 classes, and other times they might only go to 4 or 5 classes. This means a lot of the time, they go home at 1:15 unless they have afternoon classes. They usually only have afternoon classes once or twice a week. Another difference is that they keep their school building unlocked all day. This is very different than America because in America, you may only enter school buildings by checking in through the front office first because all other doors are secured and locked. The last difference I found is many students go home for lunch instead of eating at school. There is at least one similarity between schools in Germany and schools in America. All the teachers come ready to teach everyday with a smile on their face and genuinely care about each and every one of their students! Whether you’re a teacher in Germany, the United States, or somewhere else, your main job is to love and care for all your students and teach them what they need to know to become educated and successful adults later in life!
This was my first week of student teaching and my first week in Werne too. The first day of student teaching was eye-opening. We followed Heike around to her different classes that she teaches at the Anne-Frank-Gymnasium (grades 5-12). We went to her 5th, 6th, and 9th grade classes, and it was very interesting. They start out each class by standing when she enters the room and they greet her by singing “Good morning madam.” The students are very respectful to her, and do not make a peep when she is talking. One similarity is that every 5th grade student at Anne-Frank-Gymnasium has an iPad, and every fifth grade student at the school I student taught at in Kentucky had a Chromebook. I enjoyed having simple conversations with the students the first day because I was able to get more experience working with ELL students, and they were able to practice their English.
Day 2 was different from day 1. I didn’t have any class scheduled to observe the first two periods, so a teacher came and asked if we wanted to observe her class during that time. We agreed, so I started out by observing an 11th grade German class. The teacher made the students speak in English as much as they could so we were able to understand. It was interesting to see that environment since I’m always in an elementary setting. After, I went to observe a 5th grade English class. The students practiced asking questions in English by asking me and one other student teacher about our lives. The rest of class was spent working on giving directions. The other student teacher and I went over common phrases to use when asking or giving directions in English. We used what we learned during student teaching in Kentucky, and applied it to the classroom in Germany. We first said the phrases, then they repeated the phrases after us, then we choral read the phrases, and then they said them independently. Using this technique worked really well with the class. We were done by 1:15, which is something new for me. I was different, but I really liked it!
Day 3 was so much fun! We went to the elementary school I will be student teaching at next week, Marienschule Herbern. The school puts on a circus show every 4 years as a project, and we got to watch their practice. The practice went really well, and all the kids did such a great job! After school, I went home with Taylor and her host dad and sister took us to Schloss Nordkirchen, a beautiful castle in the town of Nordkirchen. He then took us to a small family-owned café near the castle. The night ended with a delicious meal that my host mom made, and watching Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup Semi-Final. That day a lot of fun!
Day 4 was spent working with 5th and 6th graders during their English classes. After school, I went with two other student teachers to Lünen, a town about 20 minutes away from Werne, and we went shopping in their city square for a couple hours.
Day 5 was my last day student teaching at Anne-Frank-Gymnasium. Next week I will be heading to the elementary school where I’ll be teaching 1st-4th graders (can’t wait!). I spent my last day with 6th and 7th graders. In 6th grade, we talked about the Roman Baths. They spent time researching the place by going onto Google Earth on their iPads and taking a virtual field trip (great idea that I want to use in my future classroom). In 7th grade, we talked about fictional texts. They read several fictional texts and answered questions about them on a worksheet. We went over the answers in class. It was a great last day at the school! Tonight we are celebrating Shelby’s (a WKU student teacher here in Germany with us) birthday at her host parents’ house. This weekend I am visiting the Netherlands and Cologne, Germany. I can’t wait to blog about those when I get back. I will also be writing another blog soon about the similarities and differences between German and American Schools! Tschüss!
This week has been one of the most exhausting, yet exciting weeks I’ve ever had. If I’ve learned one thing from traveling abroad, it’s that jet lag is real. After 10 hours of flying on Monday and Tuesday, we finally arrived to Berlin, Germany. Our contact, Heike, and WKU Modern Languages Department head/co-leader on this trip, Dr. McGee, were waiting for us at the airport and took us to our hotel.
Once we dropped our bags off at our hotel and freshened up, we went to get breakfast at the train station. My first time paying in euros was a bit nerve-wracking, but I’ve quickly become accustomed to using euros. We then went to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was absolutely beautiful inside.
When we finished exploring the church, we visited the Bellevue Palace (the residence of Germany’s President). That was pretty neat to see! After, we walked to the Tower of Victory. It took walking up 288 stairs to make it to the top, but the view was so worth it. We then walked to the Brandenburg Gate.
Once finishing up our sightseeing for the day, we were finally able to take a mini nap and go to our first German restaurant. I ordered a Currywurst (bratwurst with curry sauce) and fries, and it was delicious!
Day one was complete, and I was finally able to get some sleep. We woke up on day two, ate a full breakfast at the hotel, and got started with our day. We spent most of our day at two different museums, The Story of Berlin and GDR. While walking, we saw this beautiful Pentecostal Church (pictured below). We didn’t figure out the name of it, but it was definitely worth taking pictures of. We finished our day at a craft brewery, and everything about dinner was amazing.
Day three was spent at the Reichstag, and this was probably my favorite part of the trip thus far. We got a VIP tour of all the government buildings, and I can’t even begin to express how amazing it was. We got to see behind closed doors, and insight into the daily life of Mrs. Merkel (Chancellor of Germany).
Day four was more somber than the rest because we visited the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany. It was difficult to see what despicable things the people of this camp went through. It did help that we all went together, and were able to talk about what we saw afterwards.
This basically sums up my first week in Berlin! I can’t believe my first week is almost over. It has flown by! On Sunday we leave for Werne where we get to meet our host families and start student teaching! Stay tuned to hear how my first week of international student teaching goes!