As you know by now, I have a brand spankin new job!! Woo hoo! But even more wonderful to report, this is the first job I've had in Germany that I actually like!! This is majorly cause for celebration. And now to totally sweeten the deal, the icing on the cake is that I can actually say that that I don't even just like my job, I LOVE this job. Sure, it has its stressful moments. But every single job does, and I find these aren't too often for me here. I feel happy, filled with joy, and a sense of purpose, as well as a sense of intellectual stimulation in getting up each day and going to my place of work now on a daily basis.
One especially cool thing about this job is that I can truly be myself there. I can let the animated, slightly goofy and silly, warm and approachable, excitable, emotionally sentimental, imaginative sides of myself really come out and show more vividly within this particular place of job position (whereas, when working at a job in say, an office, most of these traits wouldn't really fit in well there and would be required to be more subdued).
My official role is titled Teaching Assistant. I am the second teacher in the classroom. I switch back and forth throughout the day between three different classrooms and thus, work with three very different women. All three of them, I really enjoy working with and feel we work well together. My schedule is essentially reminiscent of a block schedule one receives in high school, which is broken down into 45 minute blocks that fill the day between 9am and 3pm. After each 45 minute block is up, I usually move to a different classroom (though I only work with these same three women, in each of their three classrooms throughout the day). I have one or two "free" or "prep" periods sprinkled within the day, but otherwise I am within one of these three classes.
When I am in the classroom with any one of them, it is one of these women (she is the teacher in that classroom for those kids) and I am the second teacher within the room. The major differences between us include that the teacher gives our final grades (I cannot do this) and she plans the lessons. Those two main differentiation's aside, we have similar roles.
The neat part about my always being in the same three classrooms is of course that I get to know all of the children over time. I spend time closely with about 60 kids (there are around 20 in each class). I know all of their names, I know the basics about each of their temperament and personalities by now, just by watching all of them carefully and taking time to chat with each of them whenever I can.
When I am in one of the classes at any given time, I have found myself doing a variety of different activities with the kids. I often run writers workshops with them, which involves me taking 3-4 kids into the back of the classroom with me, we all sit together at at table, one of the children reads their story out loud, and then I lead the group in giving feedback. I might ask the kids, "Ok, so what was great about Alex's story?" They will respond, giving charming and sweet feedback (in their often not-quite-grammatically-correct English) such as "Oh, I loved your talking about food, it sounded amazing, now I'm hungry!!" Then I ask the kids, "Ok, and what sort of feedback can be give Alex to help improve his story and make it even more great??" Then they give this feedback. Also very cute, including comments such as, "well, he talked about his day in the park and seeing pigeons, but what color were the pigeons? What did they look like??" Oh man, cute. Because, don't nearly all pigeons actually look generally the same?? ;-) Sweet. This is an example of them grasping for some sort of "constructive criticism" to give their classmate he-he.
Upon them concluding their feedback, I then ask them something like, "Ok guys, so lets try and amp up our vocabulary. The word "good", how can we make it even better? Lets juice it up a bit," as I smile around the table at each of them with animated enthusiasm. One of them might respond "uhhh...ummmm...great??" "YES!!! Great!! That is a perfect word. Now lets amp it up even more. Whats an even better word then great??" Then one responds, "ummm...uhhh...super??" "Yes!!! Super!!! Another fantastic word. Also guys, how about the words "awesome"?? or "outstanding"? I watch their little hands scribbling down the words in their notebooks excitedly.
Another activity I have been doing with the kids is math games. Though sometimes I am given direction by my co-teacher, much of the time I am able to play any game with them that I like. I often do multiplication or division equation relay races. The kids ask me, "Miss English?? Is this timed??? Is it a race?" I look at all of them and smile mischievously. "Oh yeah, its a race. And the winner gets something sweeeeeeeeet." They all break into excited chatter before I quickly say "Shush! Get ready! Get ready!! Game is starting in 3...2...1...NOW!!!"
While doing a math workshop with the kids the other day, I found myself seated with three boys. We were doing an activity that required matching multiplication equations with the corresponding answers. We went through them once together before I felt an imaginative light bulb go off over my head. I leaned in to the three boys, an anticipatory smile on my face, and asked "Hey, do you want to do something super fun??? How about we try it again, but we make it a world record contest attempt??? Lets try and do all of them in less then a minute!!!! Think we can do it??" The boys eyes widened and smiles lit up with excitement. "Yes!!! Yes, yes, lets do it!!!" they responded. I got out my stopwatch and told them, "ok, ok, shhhh, get ready. Are you ready for this??? Its going to be intense, guys. We have to concentrate. Oh, and the one other caveat??? We are going to do it in total silence. Ok, so three....two...one...GO!!!" And together, our hands darting around the table as we laughed and whispered, the math game had taken on a new energy and excitement to it.
I have children approaching me in the halls, calling out to me, "Miss. English!!! When are you coming to our class next??" "What are you doing, Miss. English??" "Miss. English, I have something to show you!!" "Miss. English, I saved you a cupcake from my birthday earlier!!" (The last one obviously being my favorite one to hear ;-p haha juuuuuust kidding. I love all of it). Every time, this puts a huge smile fills my face. I feel so flattered, happy and honored by it.
From 3:45pm-5:15pm every day (except for Thursdays), I am one of the people present in the after school program for the kids. I am there to do two things: watch the kids in the after school program (make sure they are safe, playing nicely with one another, not getting into trouble with one another or on the playground, etc), and play with the kids some of the time too.
A few days ago, I found myself in the middle of the game Apples to Apples (one of the funnest party games ever, no question) with roughly 6 or 7 other kids from one of my classes. This was a BLAST. We were all laughing hysterically at the answers the judge was reading aloud (which all of us had supplied), the kids were grabbing my leg affectionately saying "Miss. English!!!! Whaaaaat??? No way!!!! She isn't going to choose yours." I smiled back at them, throwing up my hands in mock exasperation and said "what??? I had to do what I had to do to get a point." At this moment, our Head of School, Mr, G, walked out the door as he was heading home for the day. He looked over at us, stopped and watched for a few moments. Then he approached us, knelt down next to me, smiled warmly and said "Brooke, what you do is wonderful. Really. Its very special." My face flushed and my heart raced a little bit, I felt such warmth and joy after his compliment. How incredibly cool.
Last week in the after school program, a lovely little girl whom I have grown very fond of approached me. She disclosed to me that she and another little girl were playing a game called Horse Races. The two of them were the horses, competing in a race. They needed three judges, "so would you be one of the judges, Miss. English?" they asked. Of course, I told them. "But actually, if you want me to, I can be all three judges as well." Their eyes widened in realization, slight confusion and relief and they said "Oh!!! Yes, ok, great!!" The first little girl was off, galloping around in a circle along the soccer area, until she came back around roughly one minute later and stopped in front of me.
At this moment, I launched in to my dramatic impersonations of three different judges. My first judge was a man with a heavy Russian accent, with flamboyant hand gestures and funny observations about the horse. My second judge impersonation was a woman, fairly easygoing and lavish with her praise. And my third judge was the impersonation of a Scottish man, complimentary and cool. As I impersonated each of these judges, speaking in heavy accents and making animated gestures to match that particular judges personality, I noticed suddenly a small crowd of kids forming around us, watching, interested, smiling, both in terms of how I was acting and what this game might be. This was really, really cool. I felt a sense of satisfaction and joy radiating inside of me as I watched this happening. Then I boomed in my best announcers voice "Annnnnnd we have a forth judge here, Davidooooooo." (This was my way of pulling one of the kids who was watching us, David, into the game. His face lit up and he agreed to play along as a judge too).
The last really interesting aspect of this job to me is one of my classes in particular. One of the three groups I work with is particularly challenging. While all of them are wonderful individually, within the classroom, a number of them tend towards being combative with one another, misbehaving, provoking one another often, and even a few of them tend to sometimes be dismissive and rude towards the teachers (my colleague and I). I had been told going into this class that this group in particular was an incredibly difficult one.
The first few days, I observed the action, just watching how they interacted and observing what my potential concerns were, both about how they treated others and even how a couple of them reacted to their educators. Then, I decided to step in a bit more and increase my involvement in this arena. And I began to notice a difference.
This group tends to get unruly and difficult as a collective whole, and on a number of occasions I had watched my colleague struggle with this because these kids are particularly challenging. Then I decided to stop watching and step in as an additional support in this area. One afternoon in particular, I walked into the room and observed a bit of chaos and thought to myself, hmmmm...I wonder how quickly I can put a stop to this. And I felt really proud that the answer ended up being, fairly quickly actually.
I announced to the kids, "Hey guys, see the behavioral chart on the wall???? Anyone who is talking when Miss ___ is talking?? I am dropping you down to yellow immediately. No questions. No more warnings. Consider this your collective warning." After that moment, you could have heard a pin drop. This was pretty neat. And there have been a number of other moments like this since. I feel a sense of protectiveness, towards both the students, as well as my colleague/co-teacher, in terms of stepping in and then seeing a noticeable shift and change in the class right then. Its a pretty neat thing.
So in general, I LOVE my job right now. Its such a good fit for me, in terms of my personality. And even the challenging side of it is something that gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and a happy rush.
WOO HOO!!!! On the FINALLY finding a great job here in Germany!!!! I am having a wonderful time at this school thus far.