I have been back in the States for 11 days, but it still does not feel real. I have tried writing this blog so many times, but I am not ready for my wonderful adventure to be over. Not only did I explore Germany for two and a half weeks, I also went to Paris and Amsterdam with two of the girls from the program for some traveling of our own. I am officially on a traveling kick and need to plan my next adventure as soon as possible.
When I first arrived home, I had to try to get adjusted as soon as possible because I had to go back to my normal routine. Driving for the first time since being home was something I needed to get used to again. I definitely miss taking the subway and the train everywhere! I also kept slipping some German words into my daily conversations. When you hear the German language every day for two weeks, it is hard to let go of. As difficult as that language was to understand, I am going to miss hearing it every day.
Living with a host and teaching in a German school helped me grow as a future educator and as an individual and were the two most important parts of this trip for me. I emailed my host a few times before going to Germany, but I was still extremely nervous to meet her for the first time and stay in her home for two weeks. I live at home and commute to school every day, so I have never really had the chance to live on my own before. There is no better way to become more independent than to live on your own/with a host in a different country! She showed me what it is like to live in an apartment in your 20s in Germany; what they ate every day, how they spent their afternoons/nights, and she showed me that we were not so different. I miss my host dearly and she made me feel so welcome in Germany. Not only did I become independent by living with her, I was also able to take the trains everywhere and explore the city on my own. I never thought I was going to be able to do this, but I am so proud that I did. I truly stepped out of my comfort zone on this trip and I am so different from the shy and nervous girl who left for Germany in June. Germany changed me for the better and I am so happy and proud of the person I have become.
Teaching in a German school was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I sat in on almost every subject taught in my host’s school, and I am so blessed to have had that opportunity. I was able to see multiple different teaching styles from all of the teachers at that school and I have learned new management skills that I cannot wait to try in my own classroom. I have also learned so many incredible ways to teach students English. As I have said in my previous blogs, I had the chance to feel what it is like to be an ELL in a general classroom. After experiencing this, I want to make sure all of my students feel included and have an equal opportunity to succeed. I learned many new ways to teach English to ELL’s that I am going to practice and try out in my future classroom.
Studying and teaching abroad is an opportunity that I think every student should experience. I am so blessed and thankful to have had this experience and I have grown so much during my three weeks in Europe. I just want to thank every single person that helped me go on this adventure, and I cannot wait to see where I go next. Thank you all for following my blog during this once in a lifetime adventure.
Until next time,
"There's the whole world at your feet"
During the last few days in Stuttgart I had the opportunity to visit a Waldorf school. When I went to the Aurora Waldorf School back home, I instantly fell in love and could not wait to see the Waldorf School in Germany. The Waldorf School in Germany did not disappoint. Just like back home, I felt so happy and comfortable in this school the minute I walked in. We observed a 4th grade math and music class and took a tour around the school. The students sing during every lesson, draw a lot, take woodworking classes, learn to sew and knit, and are given so many opportunities to succeed. The motto for a Waldorf school is to teach students to learn using their head, their heart, and their hands. The students become so confident over the years and feel pride in the work that they do. I hope to bring back some of their teaching styles and their motto to use in my own classroom in the future.
During my last day at the school, I was in my host’s 3rd grade English class. For the past few days, they have been practicing asking questions in English with a partner, but today they asked me all of the questions they learned and tried to understand my answers. After I answered their questions, they were trying to teach me many different German words. I loved how excited they got when I would repeat the German words (in my terrible American accent) and they would help me say it correctly. Every time those students saw me throughout the rest of the day, they would run up to me and start teaching me different German words. I have had so much fun with the students the past two weeks and I cannot believe Friday was my last day. I have learned from all of the teachers at the school and I hope to use some of their activities and styles in my future classroom. I feel that this trip has helped me grow as an educator, especially when teaching English language learners.
“Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it”
Hallo! I have less than a week left in Germany and only one more day left in the schools. I cannot believe how quickly time has been moving and I am not ready to say goodbye to this beautiful country. I am also going to miss being in the school with all of the amazing students and teachers!
I have had the opportunity to observe during multiple classes, but I have really learned a lot during English lessons and German lessons. I have seen English lessons in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade and I am blown away by how much English even the younger students already know. They practice their English a lot and many of the older students can have full conversations with me in English. I went up in front of each class and talked about schools in America and the students could ask me anything they wanted about America or about the schools. They were all so interested and wanted to practice their English skills when asking me questions.
Starting in 1st grade, the students begin learning English phrases like “Hello my name is…”, “I am _____ years old”, and “I am from _____”. They also learn numbers, pets, hobbies, and many different other English words and phrases. They sing songs to help them remember some of the English words, and the students are really succeeding. Even in 1st grade, the teacher’s try and only speak in English to help the students learn as much as possible.
During the 6th grade class, the students read from passages, learn about topics that are relevant to their lives, and do many different fun activities. Watching the students read passages almost perfectly made my teacher heart very happy. The students also do interviews, which is when two students talk back and forth trying to buy something or having a conversation about their day. The teachers want to teach the students English that may be relevant to them someday and the students love doing the interviews. The students and the teacher kept asking me how they sounded and if they were pronouncing everything right and I could not believe how much English they had learned already! Some students even start taking Spanish, Latin, or French once they are fluent in English.
Sitting in on a German class was an experience that I will appreciate throughout my career as a teacher. As I sat in the back of the room listening, I tried understanding what was going on and what the teacher and the students were saying. They did not use English once, and to be honest, I was beyond confused. I actually started to get a headache from trying to follow along and understand what was going on. This opened up my mind to how English language learners in America must feel. They are being thrown into a completely different environment surrounded by peers who do not speak their language. I felt confused and left out during the entire lesson, and I am sure many ELL’s are feeling the same way. I want to make sure all of my students always feel included and I want to find a way to keep the ELL students involved and welcome in my classroom. I had a small glimpse into what these children go through every day and I am so grateful for that opportunity. I have learned so many amazing ways to teach students English, and I am going to make sure that all of my students are getting the education that they deserve.
I am so sad that my time in Germany is almost over, but I am living in the moment and loving every minute of it!
Since the last time I have blogged, I have been able to explore more of Stuttgart and I spent the weekend in Munich. In Stuttgart, I have learned how to take the tube (the subway) to the city from my host’s house and back, and all places in-between. I feel confident being on my own in a completely new environment and I feel very independent. Being able to go to the city and walk around on my own has really helped me break out of my shell. I used to be afraid of being on my own and afraid of change, but now I embrace it. I am doing the things I fear most in a completely new environment and it is changing me in the best way. I am so incredibly thankful that this trip is allowing me to find myself and appreciate everything life has to offer.
In Munich, I had the opportunity to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. This was an extremely powerful and heart-wrenching experience that I am never going to forget. As I was walking through, I kept thinking about how I was walking where they once walked; I was in a place that was once so terrifying and horrific. I walked through the gates that they had to walk through, I walked into the bunkers, I saw the prisons that some were kept in, I saw the execution sites, I walked through the gas chamber, and I walked through the building where they were cremated. I felt emotionally drained and sick to my stomach walking through the memorial site. I am still in shock that this actually happened. Genocide is an important topic that I will eventually have to teach students in the future, and as I was walking through the memorial site, I found myself thinking about how I am going to teach children to respect and accept people of all different cultures and races. This seems so simple, but it is extremely important. This experience is going to stay with me for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful that I had this opportunity.
I only took pictures from the outside to respect those who lost their lives.
After being in a place that was so traumatic and took the lives of so many people, I just want to say that I am incredibly thankful for the life I have. I am thankful for my family and friends at home who I miss dearly. I am thankful that I am in Germany doing what I love the most. I am thankful that I get to travel with the most amazing professors and group of girls. I am thankful that I have such a wonderful host who has made me feel so welcome in Stuttgart. I am thankful for this wonderful experience. I am so, so thankful.
Tuesday was my first day in the school. On my first day at the school I taught the students a little bit about schools in America. I talked to two 1st grade classes and a 3rd grade class. I printed out pictures and explained some of key points about our schools. The students did their best to follow along using the pictures I showed them and gestures. The students were very interested about America and American schools. I am so happy that they wanted to learn so much about America and were so excited about me being in their classroom.
Schools in Germany are similar in some ways and different in others. Let me tell you what I have noticed so far in two days.
Goodbye for now!
I am finally in Germany!!! I survived the 8 hour flight with little sleep but I did get to see a beautiful sunrise. I was exhausted when we arrived Friday afternoon, but I knew we had a full day ahead of us to explore Berlin. We saw the line where the Berlin Wall once was, Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag, and many more beautiful parts of Berlin.
The Holocaust Memorial was extremely powerful. The Holocaust Memorial is in the heart of Berlin and has 2,711 pillars of all different heights; no two pillars are the same. The pillars are a monument to the murdered Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. As you walk through the pillars, they begin to grow taller and the ground starts to go lower. You start to feel isolated and are surrounded by pillars and silence. As I walked through, I thought about all of the Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust and how absolutely terrifying it must have been for all of them. I cannot even begin to imagine what they went through. The pillars did not include their name, but it gave each person a personality by making sure not one pillar was the same size. Over in Tiergarten only a few minutes away from the Holocaust Memorial, there is another pillar. This pillar is sideways and a little bit different from the others. This memorial is for the gay men and women that were prosecuted and murdered and to remember the injustice against the LGBTQ+ community. If you look through the glass there is a video playing of same-sex couples kissing. Seeing this pillar hit close to home. Being a gay woman I understand that many people judge me or do not understand how I can be in a same-sex relationship. Knowing that people were prosecuted and killed for loving someone is terrifying because this was not that long ago. In many other places around the world, this is still considered a crime. I love that they have the video inside of the pillar to normalize the fact that gays and lesbians are just regular people and it should not be shocking to see a same-sex couple kissing.
During the rest of our stay in Berlin I have learned how to use the trains (and even managed to get back to the hotel without John), explored many beautiful places in Berlin, and ate so much delicious food. I have also struggled with the language because I do not know much German. When we were out for dinner our waiter came over to the table and started speaking to us in German. All we could do was look at him, confused. I feel as though this is how ELL’s feel in America. They are in a completely new environment and are hearing a language that they do not really understand. I am glad I got to experience this because I will now be able to somewhat relate to my students. I am sad to say goodbye to Berlin but I am very excited to explore Stuttgart and begin observing the classrooms. The next time I blog I will be in Stuttgart with my host! I hope you enjoy some pictures from our weekend in Berlin.
Since my first blog I have been preparing for Germany by working on my lesson, getting everything I need while in Germany, talking with my host, and packing. I also had the opportunity to visit the Aurora Waldorf School. The idea of a Waldorf school comes from Germany and allows students to be more creative and free spirited throughout school. The feeling I had when walking into the Waldorf School was a feeling I cannot explain. I have never seen a school quite like a Waldorf School. There were acres and acres of land for the children to run through, singing and movement throughout the lessons, art work everywhere, and there was a feeling of happiness and comfort throughout the whole school. The students are still receiving the curriculum that they need, but in a more creative and fascinating way. I am more excited than ever to visit a Waldorf School in Germany.
Fernweh is a German word with no direct English translation. This word means an ache for different places and the craving for travel and that is exactly how I have been feeling these past few months. I have been counting down the weeks, days, and hours until I would finally be on my way to Germany. Tomorrow I will be getting on a plane at 11:30 at night to finally be on my way to this once in a lifetime adventure. I cannot wait to finally be in a German classroom, meet my host, and explore the beautiful German culture.
I am ready to begin this adventure.
Can you believe it? Only 45 more days until the experience and opportunity of a lifetime. In less than two months, I will be traveling to Germany to observe and teach in an Elementary school, live with a host family, and immerse myself into the beautiful and incredible German culture. I have always wanted to study abroad, and when I saw the flyers and emails about the IPDS Germany trip, I knew this was the program for me. Being able to teach and do what I love in another country, learn new skills about working with students from a different culture, and getting to completely explore one of the most beautiful countries in the world is an opportunity that I am so thankful for.
I have never traveled outside of the country (except to Canada of course), and I am very excited but also extremely nervous. How much can I pack? What am I going to do on an 8 hour long flight? Will my host family like me? Will the students understand me? I know the moment I get off the plane in Germany all of my nerves will fade away. There are so many things I am looking forward to doing and learning once I arrive in Germany, and I cannot wait to use this blog to document all of the incredible opportunities that this program has to offer and all of the experiences that I will have.
Hallo, ich bin Sarah!