As promised, here are all the details about my very first day at work!
While the orientation was exceedingly helpful in providing me with information about what to expect this year, there were a lot of things that could only be answered once I began the actual job. What sort of dress code I would be expected to uphold, if I should address my coworkers with the formal “Sie” or the informal “du”, whether I should let the students know that I speak any German or not. So, while part of me wished that the orientation could have lasted longer (great food, great scenery, great company) I was anxious to actually begin and see what the deal was.
After spending an excruciatingly long time trying to figure out what to wear for my first day, I hopped on a bus to begin my trip to school. Then I hopped on a train. Then finally hopped on a final train. It takes me an hour to get from door to door – I figure I’ll be reading a book per week with all the time it gives me! While Sebastien and I had done a trial run the day before, complete with locating the secretary’s office, it was about 20 times more intimidating to approach the school when there were a ton of kids running around. But I headed straight to the office, and it wasn’t long before I was found by the English teacher I had been communicating with. He introduced himself in English, and we started going over forms and the tasks that I have to complete such as getting a German bank account and registering my address. It’s a bit frustrating that the registration office is booked for a week solid, because I first have to register my address before I can get anything else done! But as of next Monday I can officially get the ball rolling on other things.
The staff there immediately made me feel welcome; I was introduced to various teachers as they were coming in and out of the office, and I was told right away to address people informally with the “du” tense. I had a meeting with the principal, head of the English department, and another teacher to sort out some of my working details. They were surprised that I could speak any German, and the principal was very complimentary at how good my language skills are. We sorted out my schedule for the semester, and I have been given Fridays off so that I can travel or do other things. The earliest that I start work is 8 am, and the latest time I leave at is 1:15.
At the orientation, the program manager had told us that teachers would be very excited to have us there to talk about our cultures, and we should make sure to speak up about anything else we wanted to get involved in. He said that some people in the past got into the band program at the school, or taught the kids about British sports, and some of them would join in on German classes. I definitely underestimated how true this would be! Everyone was very enthusiastic, and I’m pretty sure all the English teachers are fighting over me. The head of the English department recommended that I hold an English speaking class in the afternoons, where we can read a book or watch a movie and discuss it together (of course one teacher figured that the class will only have one or two students in September, and become full when it’s almost exam time). I mentioned that I play bagpipes, and was told that I should definitely take part in a show that will be held in December.
One aspect of the high school I’m working at is that it has a few partner universities – including the university that my boyfriend attends. I’m not sure exactly how this connection works, but when I mentioned the fact that I want to either take a German class at a university, or else join in a German class at the school, the principal was very accommodating. If I decide on what sort of class I would want to take at a university, he could get in touch with the department there to help me out. As for taking German at the school, there is apparently a student from France that is getting private German lessons with one of the teachers, and it would be possible for me to have one on one time with a teacher. And last but not least, I asked if there was any chance that I could volunteer at the school’s library. I’m planning on applying to a Masters in Library Science when I’m back in Canada, and I could use a bit of experience! They told me that the high school does not actually have a library, but they could possibly get in touch with one of their partner universities and see if I could work there. In regards to all of these different things, I’ll have to wait and see how they’ll pan out – but I was absolutely blown away at how willing they were to get me as involved as possible! It made me feel so incredibly welcome, and I’m so excited to start getting into the rhythm of things. Also, I found out that I will be receiving a student card, which will get me a huge discount on my bus pass from now on. Considering that my transportation was one of the larger expenses I was prepared to budget for, I was very happy to learn that!
After some of those details were sorted out, I was shown around the school and told a bit about it; the school is for grades 5-12, and while they don’t have a particular designation as an “Arts School” or “Science School” they do offer Honours classes and a wide variety of sciences. I will be working with grades 7-10; apparently the grade 8s are learning about Canada right now so I should try to prepare an entire lesson based around that (yikes!!) and present it to several grade 8 classes. This week I will do a ten minute introduction of myself for each class, and then spend some time observing what all goes on. I guess often I will do “partner teaching” with the main teacher, which sounds good to me. I have been given my schedule, and tomorrow I have one class from 8-9:30, with grade 7s. I have to be at the school at 7:30, so it looks like I’ll be waking up around 5:30 to prepare for a 6:20 bus. Luckily I won’t be starting quite that early every day!
When I left the school, I was feeling quite confident that this year is going to be a great success. Here is the photo I took as I was leaving:
When I looked up the website for the school, I saw a photo of it in the fall, with yellow leaves on the trees…I’m really excited to see fall in Germany! I always love summer, but this year is going to be so full of new experiences.
On Friday night, I went out with Sebastien and his friends – it was great seeing them again! One of my friends from the orientation also came out, and it was a lot of fun chatting with him in German. I’m very determined to learn as much German as possible this year, and insist on people speaking with me in German instead of English most of the time.
As for what else is in my immediate future: tomorrow after class, I am going to do a free trial at a gym in downtown Berlin, to see what I think and find out if I could afford to continue going there. I’m a bit anxious about trying to communicate with people in German without Sebastien around, but we’ll see how it goes. Also, on Wednesday I will be attending an orchestra rehearsal, and reviving my long dormant bass-playing skills. Sebastien’s mom has kindly invited me to join her orchestra, and I’m excited (and nervous!) to see how it goes. At the orientation, we were told to say yes to everything we can, so I’m off to a good start!
Wow, that was a lot of writing, and unfortunately I couldn’t think of a lot of visual aids to add. But if you’ve read all the way to the end, I am so extremely appreciative! I’ll be sure to write again soon 🙂