Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

A new view of the world.

I had been terrified about this week. It was the first week where I would be leading parts of the classes. I had work to prepare for them and I had no idea how I would get my more difficult classes to listen to what I was saying.

How wrong I was. This week has been fantastic. I have loved all my classes, even the Fos te class, with 27 adult males! I had been so worried about noise levels but as it turned out, they were silent when I was speaking, they listened attentively and they asked intelligent questions about what I had discussed. I taught them about the Gunpowder Plot and how we celebrate Bonfire Night. They thought it was an exciting and interesting topic and I enjoyed the lesson with them. Ramona was really impressed too. She was pleased about how I naturally simplified my language for the lower ability group and said the topic I chose was exactly the sort of thing she had in mind.

My opinion of teaching has completely changed this week. There were always things that were attractive about it: the long holidays, the job security, the option to live anywhere. All those things weren’t enough though. I chose a language assistantship for this year because I wanted to do something different, not because I wanted to go into teaching. I only needed to be in school for 12 lessons a week, I would be paid and I would be out of the rat race of university for a year. It seemed like the perfect option. Now though, I’m pleased at the insight it is beginning to give me. There are some great programmes out there for getting into teaching back in the UK and the more I think about it, the more it appeals to me.

I have even experienced some of the dramas of school life this week. I am contracted to work no more than 12 lessons a week. The ministry recommend that we work no less than 10. In my first two weeks, I was entitled to an observation period. My hours were divided between my Betreuungslehrer and her best friend, 6 lessons with Ramona, 5 with Elvi, leaving one lesson free. Since then, my timetable hasn’t changed and since I like my classes, I haven’t suggested it should.

On Thursday, another teacher in English department interupted me in my lesson:

You are coming to my class tomorrow. It’s the 4th period.”

I’ll just check to see if I’m free… Nope, sorry. I have a lesson with Ramona.”

“Well, you have to come! I’ve already told them! So you are coming, yes?”

Well, no?”

It was so awkward. She had come into my class, undermined my authority and tried to tell me what to do. I was understandably cross. When I told Ramona after my class, she was furious. She marched into the teacher’s office to tell her her life story. I have a preorganised timetable, she cannot just have me in her class. If she wants me, she needs to talk to me and arrange it. I have one flexible hour but aside from that, I don’t have extra time.

The teacher wanted me to come into her class to talk about my family. This also made Ramona cross. What if I don’t want to talk about my family? What if I don’t feel comfortable about the class asking me intimate details about my private life? I am a teacher in the school after all, not a student.

I did go to her lesson. Ramona was actually off on Friday so I only had one lesson, in the 2nd period. I told the teacher that I would come to the lesson in the 3rd period not the 4th. She came and collected me from my office. On our way to the lesson she asked me if I had brought anything with me.

I haven’t prepared anything, you only told me about this yesterday.”

Yes, yes, I realise that.”

I had a bag with me and she kept asking me what was in it. I kept repeating that it was a textbook, which it was but she continued to relentlessly repeat the question.

When I got to the class, they were all sitting waiting. I had spoken to a few of them before when I helped out with Ramona’s ethik class on my first day in school. I was then asked to say something about my family. After that, the class were encouraged to ask me questions. When the questions were a little thin on the ground, the teacher asked her own questions. In the beginning, they were clearly to inspire the class. Later on though, she just got down and dirty and asked what she really wanted to know. She asked me if I wanted to get married and if I wanted children and how many. It was weird. I was embarrassed for her because her questions were so inappropriate.

I was in the lesson for the 3rd period, but the class was actually a double lesson.  As the students shuffled out for their 5 minute break between periods, I begun to pick up my bags and waited for the teacher to come over so that I could say goodbye. She had heard that I had actually taught another class the same text that she was going to be doing in the lesson. She had suggested that if there was time, I could ‘help’ her go through it with the class. As it turned out, I talked with the class for the whole of the agreed lesson and the teacher and I were more than happy with that. Therefore, I was suprised when the teacher approached me, when I thought she was coming to say goodbye, to double check that I was now going to go through the text with them.

“No, sorry. We agreed that I would only be here for the 3rd period. I have made other arangements.”

“Oh, of course. Yes, see you next week.”

This woman is trying to get everything out of me that she possibly can. She wanted me to teach her class. She hadn’t planned anything. She wanted me to just take over her lesson so that she could sit down and relax for the period. As I left, I told her to talk to me about my timetable if she was interested in having me in some more of her lessons. Her response was:

“Yes, I’ll talk to Ramona.”

Has this woman missed everything? I am a teacher in the school. I have a mentor who helps me out but it is my prerogative whether or not I want to go into her classes, not Ramona’s. She needs to put a request to me, in enough time for me to prepare, if she wants it to be considered. There are some classes which are going to be difficult this year. I didn’t realise that it was gonna be the teachers that were going to give me even more trouble!

Getting to know the politics of a school is half the fun though isn’t it and the truth is, I am enjoying getting to know other people around the school, even if I don’t look forward to being in any more of their classes! I had quite a lot of apprehension about school when I first arrived but now, it’s fun. Not every class is going to be fun or responsive. Not every teacher is going to be nice or welcoming or treat me as I should be treated. I can learn something new every day though and I can get something good out of every lesson. There is only one student I’ve come across who I don’t really like and she’s actually pretty good at English. Among the others, their ability is varied, some are very good and others can barely understand anything. Many are very easily distracted and they talk in class, but they listen to me and they say “Hello, Miss Benson!” whenever they see me. They are nice and aside from some distractions, they are keen to learn what they can from me. I wish I had made the most of the language assistants when I was back at school and I hope I can inspire them to make the most of me.

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