Thursday, October 4, 2007


"Schulferien" means "school vacation", which means I've been at school, uh, a few weeks now. So I should probably tell a bit more about that. Plus I have to tell about my French class.

Mondays and Tuesdays I walk to Rothenbühl Gymnasium, about a 20 minute walk. I have six classes a week at each school, but they are always spread out with Freistunden, so it's not like I go to school, put in three hours and go home. No. I'm usually there at 8:00 a.m. and get home around 12:30 or 1:30, depending on the day. The classes are really really varied. German students stay in Klassen, which means they're divided into classes they stay with throughout the day and for years. So let's say the 10th grade is divided into 3 classes. Some might be worse at English, in general, and the teachers make comments like that, "oh this class isn't as far along as the other classes..." It's strange, because in our schools of course there are individual students who don't progress like the others, but you have a new class, a new beginning every year. Also, at Rothenbühl some classes are "sport" classes because they have extra PE hours. So they're generally rowdier (and made up of more boys).

And at the DFG there are some classes which are all German classes, some which are integrated and some which have more French students. So this also affects their English abilities. One difference I've noticed is that the German students participate more, and the French students (similarly to Americans, I think) are brought up to just listen to the teacher, take notes and not question what's being said. One English teacher (who's French) confirmed this to me and then said, "Yeah! Sometimes I try to provoke them [the French students] and I'll just say horribly wrong stuff to see if they say anything!" During that class hour one German girl didn't believe the teacher that it was "to try on" clothes and not "to fit on". "But why are they called "fitting rooms"?! she said. I confirmed that the teacher was right, and the teacher told me she thought that was a good example of the Germans mistrusting their teachers...

And within any class there are a few who are really interested and participate and ask questions, and a majority which doesn't really care. So that's rather challenging to deal with. If you have any ideas about issues that might interest German all means let me know.

In a few classes I prepared a handout about brand names and advertising slogans (it has to do with their unit right now) and gave them some examples from American culture that all Americans would know. For example, we don't even have a name for "Band-Aid" except the brand name (or for "Velcro"), we call tissues "Kleenex", lip balm "Chapstick" and there's no other way to describe "Scotch Tape," is there? So I thought that would be interesting for them to know, especially since they have the same phenomenon in Germany (Tempo is Kleenex, Labello is Chapstick, Tesa-Film is Scotch Tape.)

Some classes seemed really interested in American high school schedules, as they don't mix up classes at all they also don't choose electives like we do. In Germany you would never have a class with ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders. So I put together a sheet on Registration and had them make some sample schedules. They recognized the differences right away and I think it was a good exercise. Again, in some classes more than in others...

After their break I will have to talk about Halloween, so, again, any suggestions would be appreciated!

About my French was really interesting. It was a "refresher course", so every evening for 2 1/4 hours for a week. The teacher was a native French woman and all the other participants were German. It was a crazy mix, from the woman next to me with a Gucci handbag to a music teacher moving to Paris to me, l'Americaine. We read one text on "The French Paradox," about how the French eat more cheese, drink more wine and exercise less than the Americans, yet are healthier... And the teacher didn't believe me that the Americans also smoke less! Europe is coming around though, at least legislation-wise. They are starting to impose more smoking bans, such as in Germany now, where you can't smoke in public buildings any more.

My favorite lesson was the wine lesson. No joke one evening our lesson was "how to read a French wine label". Another favorite: a lesson on l'apéritif, the French tradition of drinking a sweeter alcohol before dinner/going out. I have already experienced this a few times with friends here and I looooove it. The teacher made the joke that the French might invite someone over for l'apéritif if they don't know them very well and want to test out the waters before they invite them over to dinner. She compared this to the German Kaffee und Kuchen, which is also usually afternoons before dinner. Ha. Love it. Again, I love the US but sometimes I think we're seriously lacking in traditions. Our only drinking traditions seem to be binge-drinking in college. Sad.

Okay, my two weeks of vacation begin! Will arrives on Monday and we're flying to Vienna for three nights. Pity him...the day he arrives in Germany we're taking a bus, a plane, a bus...and arriving in Vienna at midnight.

By the way, the weather here has been gooooorgeous. Today it was in the low seventies, it's been warm and sunny every weekend, some rain on the weekdays, but I can handle that.

Tonight I am going to settle in, watch a little "Germany's Next Top Model" (yeah that's the German title) with Heidi Klum...

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