Whew, it’s been a busy first quarter!! I wish I could have updated you all sooner, but starting my first year of teaching at a new school with a new (international!) approach to learning and getting hired the week before school started has kept me very busy up until now.
Where to start? I suppose I’ll begin at the beginning, of sorts. If you’ll remember, I moved to Germany after graduating from Curry without a job lined up, but with the intent of subbing at my new home’s nearest international school with the hopes that an English teaching position would open up in the next year or two. I felt this was a good plan especially after networking with a former alumnus who’s been at the school for over a decade. She introduced me to the middle school principal and took me on a tour around the building. As the school year was quickly approaching, I felt confident that I would have enough work between subbing and some curriculum development that I was still completing remotely for a student travel company with which I worked over the summer.
Then, less than two weeks before the start of school, I got a phone call from the high school principal. She wanted a second interview with me, as it seemed a position had opened up after all. The interview went extremely well, and within four hours I received a phone call with a job offer! The very next day my contract was signed, and the day after that I was sitting at a Biergarten enjoying a Hefeweizen with my new coworkers. (Yes, this was part of our new teacher orientation schedule set by the administration.)
Since then, it’s been a rather whirlwind quarter, to say the least.
I started off being given three sections of English Language B (i.e. strict English language courses) at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels, one EAL support course, one Advisory (i.e. homeroom) group, one SAP (i.e. students with learning disabilities) group, and one “Theory of Knowledge” course. This came to somewhere around four full preps and three half-ish preps with no overlap. (I say half-ish because I was given EAL, SAP, and Advisory as a first year teacher because they’re thought by some people not to have any prep work, but I’m still always prepping for them, just to a lesser extent that my English classes.) The best (or worst) part about the load was that English Language B is a new course offering for this year, and so I was given it without any prior curriculum to work from. I do have two coworkers in the department with whom to plan. However, they weren’t much help after day two for a variety of reasons.
But I survived, as all good Curry grads do. I drafted my curriculum for the year to the best of my ability, wrote as much of my first couple of units as I could, and read through the 3-foot high stack of IB curriculum manuals given to me in my various departments. Things were stable for about a week.
Then, my EAL course was taken away from me and combined with another teacher’s section so that mid-October I could get a 9th grade English Literature course. Luckily, I walked into a department that had a fully prepared curriculum and began with a book that I had experience teaching last year as a student teacher (To Kill a Mockingbird). I like to tell myself that I wouldn’t have accepted such a major shift had the conditions been otherwise, but let’s face it: New teachers sometimes get a lot of crap and often get the rug pulled out from under them at one point or another. It just happens. And so I probably would have been forced to take the course one way or another. On the other hand, I really, really wanted English lit — so I took the course of my own volition no matter the cost.
And luckily, I have the best set of new teaching friends from around the world who have supported me and with whom I can commiserate. This great group of people started their first year at the international school with me, and hail from Germany, the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. They’ve helped keep me sane through the stress of it all, and they give me the intellectual support I need to challenge my practice. I would have most certainly had an emotional breakdown or two by now had it not been for them.
And of course, having amazing kids to teach has helped, too. My kids are all over the place, from rowdy 6th graders to 11th graders who think they’re too cool for school. They are all brilliant (mostly over-achievers) from Germany, Japan, India, China, South Korea, Poland, the U.K., the U.S., Russia, Turkey, and dozens of other countries all around the world. I want to tell you all about them, but I think that will have to wait for some additional posts. I actually have a lot of topics that I want to cover, including assessment, student travel, learning disabilities, language and literature, and so much more! But at the risk of making this post too fiendishly long, I’m going to leave off here and pick up again with another post. (I promise it won’t take me so long next time!)
If you have any suggestions for topics or questions, leave them in the comments.
And to celebrate this fine Halloween season, please enjoy this lovely Alphorn player made out of pumpkins from the Ludwigsburg pumpkin festival.