Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

It’s come from top sunshine, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s snowing again. It started bang on time too, just as the weather report had predicted. Granted, at the moment, I have little to complain about. The snow is very wet and is not settling. It is just very cold. It doesn’t bode particularly well for my flight home in just under a month (YAY!). A flight on the 22nd December doesn’t leave a lot of room for error if my flight gets cancelled due to bad weather either. Thankfully, Ramsey is coming before so if all else fails, at least we can both make our own, unique Christmas, even if it will be ohne an oven! I am SO excited about going home though. As you can tell, the weather is miserable and the Christmas markets, whilst beautiful, just don’t have the same attraction when it’s raining. I have just been reminded that Young Apprentice is on tonight though. Some wonderful person at the BBC (unfortunately probably due to poor ratings) has also moved the start time to 8pm so that I don’t have to stay up late to watch it. Glorious.

Getting up early is taking it’s toll and I am exhausted all the time. On the days when I am able to sleep in, I sleep until 10 and wake up refreshed. I usually have a pretty productive day (after wasting time until I’m able to justify ‘brunch’ and not getting dressed for a few hours) and I feel altogether human again. I had thought that I was used to the early starts that come with working in a German school. My working day on a Wednesday is over by 9.10 and I am home before I would have been out of bed on my days off. Today was my longest working day so far. I started at 9.30 with a double lesson finishing at 11.05. The lesson was a lot of fun and we even got to watch some stuff from ‘My Family’ and it made me feel at home which was nice. I then had a free period. Having brought my computer for a different lesson, I had figured that I would watch an episode of Doctor Who or something. I need the internet to do my essay and I am completely unable to use the school computers. Apple Macs in German? Blows my mind into smithereens. And not in a good way. My plan for the future is to avoid them wherever possible after nearly being reduced to tears in frustration last time I used them when I managed to inadvertantly delete all my work for my next class.

There was a slight flaw in my plan. I got my laptop out of my bag to find that I had managed to leave the flat without my computer charger. As I needed to show a slideshow in my next class, using my laptop until it died wasn’t really an option and after a few rounds of hearts, it was time to pack it away. What to do now with the hour I have left?! I had cut out and photocopied the adverts a class might use next week. I had made a neatly presented plan of what I am getting Ramsey for his birthday (be excited Kechacha 😉 ) and I had decided to not bring my book this morning as I already had enough to carry. I was unlikely to get a moment to read it on the tram. I eventually realised that I had my Ipod in my bag and managed to watch Doctor Who on that but even then, I was waiting to go to my next lesson.

The class is one I usually really like. They should be my most difficult class and whilst they do get a bit restless sometimes as there are so many of them, they usually respond really well to what I do with them. This week I had prepared something on my hometown, complete with a slideshow of photos and a photo of my family. I had already delivered this lesson with another group and it went down really well. Well, it didn’t bomb today, by any means and there were a few questions at the end, but they just weren’t that interested. They were talking and I struggled to get them focused. Despite the last photo being of my family and that staying on the screen, they asked no questions about them. There were two sensible questions:

“How many people live in your village Miss Benson?” and

“Do you have any pets?” “What does ‘naughty’ mean?” Yes, the naughty question was in reference to my description of my cat. He’s misunderstood. Honestly.

They are interested in me and what I have to say. I don’t know if me not being in the first period was the problem but today, it seemed that they were more interested in other things. It’s not a big problem, I’m going to them in the first period next week anyway and I think the change of timetable threw both of us, but I do hope that it’s better next week.

After the lesson, I had a meeting with Ramona and Elvi about next week. It has now been timetabled in as a regular slot for us to discuss things and so I know if I need to prepare anything. The timetable has been changed due to some problems which a teacher has had with my timetable. She decided to go straight to the headteacher instead of just coming to talk to me about it so now things have been completely changed and frankly, I much prefered how it was before. However, the small changes Ramona and I made have made it significantly better than what had originally been proposed.

The truth is though, that today was really hard work. I know, I’m complaining about very little. I had only one extra hour and it was a meeting but, as much as I do watch the clock a little in lessons sometimes, having almost an hour and a half to entertain myself made the whole day seem sooo much longer. The new timetable means that I will be in school for 5 lessons on a Thursday and one meeting. That means leaving nearly an hour later than I left today. Now, the truth is that it is just a regular school day but when I am only working in 12 lessons, having 5 on one day makes it seem monstrous.

I think my frustration here is really this: I had a timetable I liked with classes I enjoyed working with. Due to a teachers inability to just talk to me when she had an issue, directions have come down the food chain in such a way that neither myself nor Ramona can do anything about it. I think it’s unprofessional. It has taken freedoms away from me that I am perfectly entitled to. It has been explicitly made clear to me that whilst I can be asked to work the 12 lessons (between 10 and 12 is recommended) the classes I work in are essentially my choice. If I don’t like the class or the teacher, I do not have to work with them. The school is not paying for me, I am being paid by the Ministry and they stand on my side of the fence. This right has been totally undermined by this teacher’s behaviour and I was gobsmacked to hear about what decisions had been made about me without me having any knowledge of a conversation even taking place. The thought that the teacher in question didn’t even think to tell me in the two occasions in which she saw me only makes it worse. I feel as though all my autonomy has been taken. I hate the way she treats me. I hate it even more because of the difficult position it has put my other collegues in, collegues I get on with and who fight in my corner, when they can.

Right now, I feel like I haven’t slept for a week. I barely ate my dinner and I have struggled to keep my eyes open since I walked through the door earlier. Although I love Ramsey, I resent the fact that he can slip into seriously good sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. I just can’t do the same. If I nap, I feel terrible until I sleep through until the next morning. That’s why I have denied myself that ‘luxury’. Sometimes, I fall asleep quickly. Other times, my head races and I’m not comfortable and every tiny sound sounds like an explosion in my head. The silence is isolating too. I am so aware of being alone when I turn my computer off and unplug my fairy lights. I often get up a number of times to check that the door is locked. Of course it is, it always is. I can’t wait until the thing keeping me awake at night is excitement about Christmas. 15 days. I’m counting down on my fingers and toes sunshine.


1 Comment

  1. Julie Benson

    Oh Emma you sound really down. Chin up about the work situation. Not long till you’re home & Ramsey will be there soon. Sending lots of love xxxx

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