The First School Visit

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the school I'll be teaching at for the first time. Technically, I don't have to begin working until Sep. 6, which is the Friday immediately after my orientation in Cologne ends. But since I had the time available, I wanted to take the opportunity to see the school, meet my mentor teacher and begin to get a feel for what my actual work will be like. 

My boyfriend Sven was still around the day I was visiting the school, so I asked him to come with me to help me find the office where I was supposed to meet my mentor teacher -- having never been to a German school before, I was worried they might have a different layout or look from American schools, and perhaps that finding the main office would not be intuitive. To some extent, I was correct. I mean, it looks like a school, but the layout is not quite the same as American high schools -- there wasn't a clear main entrance or front office, which is probably in part because German schools have not suffered an epidemic of school violence like the United States have (and thus, they're probably not as concerned as American schools with making sure visitors are funneled past the main office when they enter a school building).

Anywho, once I found the right office they called my mentor teacher, Evelyn, and she came down to meet me. We had already exchanged many e-mails over the summer, so it was wonderful to finally meet her in person. She's very nice, and I'm excited to work with her. She teaches science classes in addition to English, so I came with her to her 6th grade biology class. I was just there to observe and thus sat off to the side, but Evelyn did introduce me at the beginning of class, and it was clear the kids were intrigued by having an American in the class (they even clapped for me!). The lesson itself covered the basics of the respiratory system, so I even got to learn some new anatomical vocabulary.

At the end of class, I walked up front to stand with Evelyn, and as the kids were getting ready to leave the classroom, they began to group around the front desk, giggling and looking at me inquisitively, clearly wanting to interact with me but too shy to do so. Evelyn encouraged them to ask some questions, and a couple asked me what my name is and how old I was. They were clearly so excited to have the chance to interact with an American, and the whole exchange was adorable and extremely gratifying.

The next class she took me to was an English class she was subbing for. These kids were older, probably 14 or 15, which meant that I was not nearly as cool to them as I was to the 10-year-olds. Evelyn gave the kids an assignment to ask me questions to learn about me and then to write a couple paragraphs about me. They asked questions like where I was from, had I been in Germany before, what did I like about Germany, etc. One girl asked me how much I paid to go to university in the US which I thought was an interesting question, and I wonder what they thought of me upon learning that my family paid $10,000 a year for me to go to school, whereas you might only pay 500-1,000EUR a year in Germany.

Beyond the two classes, the day was a whirlwind of new faces as Evelyn introduced me to all of the other English teachers with whom I will be working. I can guarantee I will not remember any of their names the next time I see them, so hopefully they will be patient with me. We also started to sketch out what my regular work week will look like, and somewhat unfortunately it looks like I will have to work both Mondays and Fridays. This means I will have less flexibility in being able to travel on weekends, since I can't really do a three-day weekend. I realize I'm there to work, not to travel, so there's no point being too upset about it, but... alas. This means for example I won't be able to take the Oktoberfest trip that I was planning with my boyfriend, which I'm pretty bummed about :(

All in all, however, I'm glad I finally got to visit the school and that I have a better idea of what to expect on my first "real" day.