Why have I never been to IKEA before?

May 3

After school, Ann Lundy (who is now a great friend of mine – shout out to all of you who told me we would be friends) and I had lunch at the AFG school cafeteria before heading to the town hall in Werne. Here, we had the Mayor’s Reception. We were greeted by the Vice Mayor, who said many kind words of welcome to us and wished us a great rest of our stay here. We had pictures taken by local journalists, and the next day, we were in the newspaper!

After the reception, I went home with Beulah, another student teacher here from WKU, and spent some time at her host family’s home. After that, some of us student teachers got to go on a tour of the palace at Nordkirchen, which is located just a few minutes from my host family’s home!

 

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The back courtyard area of the castle

 

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May 4

After school on Thursday, all of the student teachers were invited to Ann Lundy’s host family’s home for a book reading. Jutta, Ann Lundy’s host mother, is a well-known children’s book author, and she read part of one of her books to us. Heike also provided all of us with a copy of one of her books. While we were there, we also had cake and coffee (I never say no to cake and coffee!) Jutta also signed each of our books!

May 5

Yesterday was one of my favorite days at school. The first class that I was in was a 6th grade English class. The students had finished their presentations, which I enjoyed on Wednesday because they all seemed very comfortable and confident speaking in front of the class. On Friday during this class, they started a new topic: Bath, England. In their English classes (where they learn British English), they not only learn the language but also about the different locations in England and around the world. The lesson started with looking at images in their textbook about the Roman baths in the city of Bath. They practiced speaking about the pictures as a whole class and as partners or small groups. The teacher also showed a short video about the Roman baths, and during the video, I told the teacher that I have actually visited Bath, England while I was studying abroad at Harlaxton a few years ago. After the video, I got to share my pictures and talk to the class about my visit to the Roman baths and to the city of Bath. The students seemed to enjoy hearing about my first-hand experience there, and I hope that it added to the lesson!

Overall, the students at AFG all seem very serious about their studies. In Germany, the schools are set up differently. I do not have a full understanding of the system, but after a certain point, the students go to different schools based on their abilities and dedication to different studies. The students at AFG, and other gymnasium schools, are all very good students. During the lessons, the students are typically very engaged. The sixth graders, and some of the other younger grades at AFG, all have their own iPads to use for school. The teachers incorporate the individual technology, as well as the smart boards located in certain classrooms, to engage students and to enhance their learning.

Additionally, the students here learn not only about their own country and culture, but they also are taught about countries and cultures all over the world. The students here seem to have a very good understanding of the interconnected world and how each country impacts the world. Every student seems to be very open to other cultures and to students from other places. On the first day at the school, one of the students in the fifth grade class we were in said that the AFG is a school without racism. I thought this was an amazing comment, and it really shows that the students at this school have a deeper understanding of the world. I think that it is amazing that students are taught this not only by their teachers but by their culture as a whole.

 

Yesterday after school, Ann Lundy came with my host family and I to IKEA! I have heard so many great things about IKEA, and my first IKEA experience was all it was cracked up to be! We also had lunch at IKEA! I got the schnitzel and fries, and Ann Lundy got the meatballs and mashed potatoes. We ate half and then switched, which was the best decision so that we got to try both dishes. My host family bought several lamps and small pieces of furniture for their home while we were there. While walking through the maze of wonderful displays of furniture and decor, I wondered why it took me so long to finally visit the wonderful world of IKEA! I really should have taken a picture there to commemorate the trip. I am already planning my first IKEA trip when I return home!

After some time at home, I went with my host family to the next door neighbors’ home for a birthday party. Someone grilled many different kinds of meat, including chicken, pork, and, of course, sausages. I have learned that no German party is complete without sausage! I enjoyed my time at the birthday party, and I got to talk to several of the ladies that live around here! Everyone has been so nice and willing to speak English to me or translate some of what is being discussed.

May 6

This morning, I FINALLY GOT TO WEAR MY CHACOS. It has been so cold here, and today it is finally in the 60s! Earlier, I went with Sarah, my host mom, to the grocery stores in town. I also got more chocolate to try and to bring home (YUM). I am definitely going to enjoy the amazing weather today!

Tomorrow, I am going with a few other student teachers to Cologne for the day!

I can’t believe that my time here is almost over. We fly out early Tuesday morning, and we will be back in Nashville right before dinner time! It will be a very long day of traveling, but it will also be good to be home at the end of the day!

My German Birthday

April 28

Friday was my birthday, and it was definitely a birthday I’ll never forget! My day started out having breakfast with my host family, and my host mom’s mother and niece came over to sing “happy birthday” to me! Later at school, I was in a sixth grade class, and the class also sang to me! It was so sweet to be treated so warmly all morning! After school, Ann Lundy came home with me to spend the afternoon before the birthday party that my host family threw. Shout out to Ann Lundy for helping us clean and get everything ready for the afternoon!

Most of the other student teachers came over for dinner, and we all had a great time together!

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I am so thankful that my host family invited all of the student teachers over to celebrate my birthday! It was a great night, and we all played Catch Phrase for hours! (I have never seen a group of people more intense about this game!)

 

April 29

On Saturday, Beulah and I took a train to Hamburg to meet my cousin Haley! We got checked in to our hotel and went out for dinner! The hotel was right on the water.

 

April 30

After breakfast Sunday morning, we walked through the Fish Market, which is a HUGE deal in Hamburg. Apparently it happens every Sunday during the summer months.

 

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This picture shows just a small portion of the market! It was very crowded, but I am glad that we went for part of it. It starts at 5 am and ends around 9:30.

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Haley and I in our new blanket scarves!

After the market, we walked and took the train into town, and we sat by the water for a while. Hamburg is a city on the river Elbe, so the views of the water were beautiful and made for a great weekend.

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We visited “Kunsthalle Hamburg” or the “Hamburger Kunsthalle”, an art museum that covers seven centuries of world art. We spent several hours in the museum before stopping for lunch. We also visited the town square, where there was a small demonstration to support France as they prepare for their upcoming elections. Many people had European Union flags and balloons to show their support.

We also got to see the town hall while we were in the square.

For dinner, we had the most amazing fish. Because it is on the water, Hamburg is known for amazing seafood, and I was told not to leave Hamburg without trying some!

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After dinner, we spent some time in the hotel in the rec area downstairs, which had coffee, tea, and a large TV with a pretty big selection of movies. There was a German movie or mini-series on TV, and even though we couldn’t exactly tell what was happening, it was fun to watch for a while and try to decipher the plot line!

May 1

This morning, Beulah, Haley, and I set off for the train station pretty early to say goodbye to Haley as she returned to Prague. Our train ride back to Münster was only about 2 hours, and Beulah’s host mom picked us up and dropped me off on their way home. I had lunch with my host family, and I have part of the afternoon to relax. May 1 is a holiday in Europe, so most people are celebrating in some way! Some people go for bike rides or go for a walk. Later, my host family and I are planning on going for a walk, and we might stop for ice cream at the market going on in town (YUM). This long weekend has been both exciting and relaxing, but I am also excited for the next few days back at the school!

I can’t believe that in a week from tomorrow, we will be heading back to the States!

 

Ms. Newton makes it to Werne!

April 22

On Saturday, our group traveled to Postdam, which is just outside of Berlin, to have a scavenger hunt! The purpose of this was to get a feel of the city without having a regular guided tour. We were given a booklet with our tasks and a map of the city, and once we got to the train station, all of us took off! I was partnered with Camey, and we called ourselves Team Harlaxton because we both studied at Harlaxton during college! Team Harlaxton found the first item in the list, the Film Museum (pictured below), and then we set off for the Dutch Quarter (also pictured below). On the way, we saw a band playing at a festival that was going on in the city.

 

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Film Museum

 

 

Throughout the scavenger hunt, we visited the Nauener Gate, the original Brandenburg Gate (we saw the bigger, more famous one in Berlin), and the Sanssouci Palace. At each stop on the scavenger hunt, we had to take pictures with the WKU Red Towel.

 

I really liked doing the scavenger hunt because it was a much more engaging way to visit the city and see the most important aspects. It also caused us to ask people in shops or on the streets for information, which allowed us to get more personalized information from people from Potsdam. This would be a good idea for a field trip with a group of older students. Obviously, it would need to be a much smaller area, but the idea is definitely one that I can use in the future for my own classroom!

Here are a few more pictures from around Potsdam!

 

April 23

Sunday was our last morning in Berlin. After breakfast, we took a train to Werne, which is the town where our school is. On the train, I got to read and take a quick nap! I also had a snack that I had bought from the market in Berlin. The snack was called “Jumpys”, and they are small kangaroo shaped puffy crackers! They were cute but also delicious!

Once we arrived in Werne, my host family picked me up! I had been emailing them back and forth for a few months, but it was so nice to finally meet Sarah, Matias, and their daughter Paula, who is 1! Paula and I have become great friends over the last few days here!

When we arrived at their home, we had afternoon coffee and cake (a tradition that I am bringing home to the US). We walked around and met many members of Sarah’s family and went on a walk to the castle that is a short walk away from their home. The kids were all feeding the ducks at the water.

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After having pasta for dinner, we watched a movie (in English), and spent some more time getting to know each other.

April 24

Tuesday was our first day at school! We are at the Anne Frank Gymnasium (AFG) in Werne, and my host mom is a teacher there! The family lives a little outside of Werne, so it was nice to have a ride to school with her.

For the first day, we all went with Heike (the coordinator of the program) to her classes. There are many differences between German and American schools, and one of the first things I noticed was that the teachers do not each have their own classroom. Instead, the students stay in one classroom, and the teachers go from room to room to teach.

Another major difference is that the AFG has students from 5th through 12th grade, and the classes are not all the same each day. Additionally, the schedule is different. There is a 90 minute class and then a 25 minute break. This is followed by another 90 minute class and another 20 minute break. Then there is a 45 minute class, a 5 minute break, and another 45 minute class. After this is lunch, and students do not have to stay at school for lunch. Many students live very close by, so many of them go home for lunch. Lunch is 45 minutes long. Also, some students or teachers may not have classes after lunch, so not everyone stays at school the entire day each day of the week.

Heike’s first class was 9th grade English, and the students were learning how to write cover letters. All of us student teachers got to help small groups of students start their cover letter. I enjoyed working with students and getting to know them a little bit! I also liked that this was something that students in 9th grade were learning because I did not have practice writing cover letters until just a few months ago as I began applying for jobs! I wish that we had learned things like this in high school so that we as American students could be even more prepared for job applications.

In Heike’s next class, she had 5th grade English. These students were learning directions and had created a map on the smart board that had locations and street names in a town they called “Creative City”. In this class, they practiced asking for directions from place to place and giving an answer. In her 6th grade English class, we all sat in a circle with the students and discussed things we like to do, places we would like to go, and food that we like to eat in Bowling Green. I was impressed with the abilities of both classes of students!

The last class before lunch was a religion class, and the students in the class gave us tours of the school. I liked that she had the students show us around because it gave us a chance to see the school and ask the students questions about their experience at the school. All of the students seemed to be very fluent in conversation with us.

At lunch, my host mom and I both had no more classes for the day, so the two of us left school to come home. After stopping at the grocery store (grocery shopping is hard when you don’t know any German words), we had lunch at home, and I played with Paula for a little bit. They decided to take me to Münster for the afternoon, which was about 35 minutes away. In Münster, they showed me some of the main attractions. The town hall was very beautifully built, and there was a church which had cages hanging in the air, which were used as a prison of some sort. They put people in there to make an example of the person and to try to show others what would happen if they did something that was considered wrong.

We stopped and had coffee before visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. My host parents got me an English version of the book about the cathedral, which was very helpful to learn about the cathedral.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral in Münster

I helped prepare dinner that night, which was potatoes, carrots, and sausage.

April 25

On Tuesday morning, I finally got my schedule for the week! Several of us went with a German teacher to her 11th grade class, and she was nice enough to hold the class in English for the day so that we knew what was going on. The students had just finished reading “Foust”, a very famous German play. The teacher and students explained the play to us, and the students began discussing who in the story was at fault the most for all of the deaths in the play. I was very impressed with their high-level vocabulary in English. The teacher wrote on the board the reasons that the students were saying, which helped the students stay organized. She also instructed them to take notes from the discussion. The teacher was very engaging and did a great job of keeping the students excited about the discussion. She did a lot of questioning and scaffolded her questions, which are techniques that we have learned in our education classes.

My next class was another 11th grade class, but it was an English class. There were many more students in this class. There were 27, which is around how many students were in most of my student teaching classes in the States; however, I was told that most classes at the AFG are only around 20. I do like the smaller classes better because it helps the teacher get to know the students more, and it allows for more individualized instruction.

In this class, a group of 6 students gave a presentation about India, which is the topic of study right now. I like that the English classes have a focus on other countries as well as their own. I was very impressed with the fluency of the students in their portions of the presentation, and I liked that the presentations were a good way for public speaking practice, as well as practice of their English skills. It is also more interesting for students to do their own research and present it for the class than to always have the teacher instructing. While the groups taught, there were 6 students in the class that were providing feedback for the members on a feedback sheet. I liked hearing the students give each other constructive critiques on how they could improve and for what they did well on. The students also took notes on a handout while listening to the presentation. This helped all students stay engaged during the class.

My other class of the day was an 8th grade English class. I loved being in this class because it is the grade I was with during the rest of the semester of student teaching! The teacher was wonderful, and she did a great job of keeping students engaged during the lesson. She had good control of the class, and she had a good personality that helps with this age of students. The class was broken up into several activities: teacher questioning and discussion, a portion to work individually, a portion to discuss, another portion to work with a partner, and finally the last few minutes to work with a bigger group. This helped the students stay on topic and working during each of the smaller portions of time, which is a really good strategy for this age group. The strategies I learned during my education classes are very similar for this age group! She also used good handouts with short reading passages and guided the students to make a Venn Diagram during part of the lesson to compare German and American high schools. I took lots of notes on the teacher’s strategies, and I will definitely be revisiting these notes as I start planning my own lessons.

After school, my host mom took me to Dortmund, which is south of Werne. We had a nice afternoon spending time in the city! There is a building which is used for many different purposes, but it had a nice lookout at the top that displayed the entire city.

Last night, we picked up dinner, and I tried dönner, which is similar to a gyro. It was very delicious and very filling!

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April 26

Today at school, I observed two 11th grade English classes. During the first one, the teacher went over a test that the students had just taken. She went over some of the mistakes that were common for the class. She also provided me with a copy of their exam, which allowed me to see that the test had a reading portion, a writing portion, and a listening portion. This really tested their ability in many different ways, which is a really great and effective way of measuring what students know.

The other class was the same 11th grade English class from yesterday.  There was another presentation about India by a student who visited a few years ago. The students were much more interested in this presentation because the student talked about her own experiences in India and connected them with the content. She also showed her own pictures, which was very interesting! The students asked many more questions after this presentation, which showed they were interested and engaged in her presentation. I will definitely be using presentations when applicable for my future classes because of the benefits for all students.

This afternoon, I had a late lunch with my host family and had some time to rest and to blog. My birthday is on Friday, and my family is planning on throwing me a birthday party and inviting all of the other student teachers! I am SO excited and grateful that they care about me and want to make sure my time here is wonderful. Another student teacher and I will be traveling to Hamburg for the weekend, and we are going to meet my cousin Haley who is staying in Prague for a year! I am so glad that I am going to get to see Haley after long months of planning to see each other while I am in Germany!!!

I have only been at the school for a few days, but I can already tell that I am learning a lot and that this trip is going to have countless benefits for me in my future classroom!

 

Berlin!

After what felt like three days of traveling, our group finally landed in Berlin sometime after 7 am Tuesday morning.

It was much colder in Berlin than expected, so I am thankful that I threw a sweatshirt and coat in my bag at the last minute before departing! After getting picked up at the airport by Heike (teacher at the school we will be at and director of the WKU/Germany partnership) and Dr. McGee (a WKU professor), we took a bus and a short walk to our hotel. We had a short time to change clothes and prepare for the day ahead. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a cafe in the train station (it was roughly 2 am at home and my body was SO confused), and then we set off!

Our first stop was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which had the top bombed off during the war. The inside was beautiful.

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The church was also open for people to enter, and I am so glad that I got to spend a few minutes inside the beautiful sanctuary.

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We walked by Bellevue, which is the official residence of the president of Germany. Dr. McGee taught us about the German government, and the similarities and differences between our nations’ government systems. Being a Middle Grades Language Arts and Social Studies major, I loved getting to know more about the way the government is currently run in Germany!

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Next was the climb up the Victory Column. My legs could never have been adequately prepared for this. My muscles are still aching from the two hundred and some odd steps that we climbed. (Am I a wimp? Maybe.) It was a very small, spiral staircase all the way to the top. There was one stop at a lower level, which I was hoping was closer to the top. But alas, I still had so much to climb. I am so glad that I did it though because it gave some amazing views of the city!

Here is a picture of me smiling through the leg pain!

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We walked down the road to the Brandenburg Gate via a scenic path that many bikers and walkers were on. The Brandenburg Gate once was inaccessible because it was located by the Berlin Wall.

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We had a few hours of down time (NAP TIME) at the hotel. We did make a quick stop at the grocery store/market down the street, and in my tired state, the only thing I picked up was a variety pack of chocolate. Not a surprise.

After not sleeping in what felt like forever, I enjoyed a nap that held me through dinner.

Speaking of dinner! Dinner the first night was wonderful. I enjoyed schnitzel, which was what everyone told me to try when I came to Germany.

Day 2: April 19

I FINALLY slept, and I felt like a real person again on Wednesday morning. After a delicious buffet breakfast provided by the hotel, we embarked on “museum day”. First, we visited The Story of Berlin museum, which was honestly my favorite museum I’ve ever visited – both as a teacher and as a student. Heike had provided us with questions to answer as we went throughout the museum, and there were three different levels of questions. As we went through the different rooms, there were many different ways to engage with the material to be learned in that room. There were videos, pictures, audio recordings, artifacts, drawers of items and clothing, etc. This, paired with the different levels of questions (such a good way to differentiate), was definitely a great way to stay engaged in the museum! I got to learn about and experience centuries of German history, and it was good to have a different perspective on world history by reading it from the German perspective.

Below are a few of the pictures that I took while I was in the museum.

As we left the museum, IT STARTED TO SNOW. I was SO not mentally prepared for the snow, but I was glad I stuck my wind breaker in my big purse so that I could put it on to add an extra layer of warmth. Also so glad I had gloves. My cold little fingers would have fallen right off! After a quick lunch, a few of us stopped and got hats at Urban Outfitters. (My new pink hat made an appearance in many pictures through this week.)

Next was the DDR Museum, which was a museum about the history of East Germany. Before dinner, we had a few hours to walk around that area. A few of us visited some shops in the area and stopped to take a few pictures.

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The group reconvened for dinner, where I tried Spätzle.

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Our group also shared this delicious dessert. It was devoured SO quickly.

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After dinner, some of us went to the East Side Gallery, which displayed artwork and graffiti on a portion of the Berlin Wall that was left standing.

 

Day 3 – April 20

Day three was government day. We visited the parliament building, which was a very beautiful building! We walked in the glass dome on top of the building, which provided more information about Berlin’s history and spectacular views of the city.

The parliament building is in this picture below.

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The glass dome and some of the pictures I took from up there are shown below.

 

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The glass dome is to symbolize the transparency that the government has. The building and all that goes on inside belongs to the people. We also had a tour from a member of parliament’s staff, and they took us to a variety of areas around the building that tours normally do not get to see! There was artwork all around the building, which added a great touch. Something like ten percent of the budget goes to artwork in parliament.We got to learn more about Parliament and the happenings inside the building.

Below are a variety of pictures that I took on our tour.

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In the afternoon, we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial, which displayed large images and information about the wall. There were markers in the ground to show how houses had the wall run straight through them, and there was a portion of the wall left up to show the different levels of barriers that were put up on the east side of the wall.

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There were stories of escape and videos about taking the wall down. It was interesting to learn more about life in the East and the decision to remove the barrier between the two.

Dinner was pizza, and the group made a trip to Primark to shop around. I also stopped again at the grocery down the street to get more chocolate (a necessity), snacks, and a Fanta (much better in Germany than the US).

Day 4 – April 21

Today was our trip to Sachsenhausen, which was once a concentration camp that is now a museum/memorial. It was a very surreal experience to walk down the road to a place that so many men, women, and children walk into but did not get to walk out of. We were given a map of the camp and an audio guide. In a small group, I took my time listening to the recordings and learning more about the conditions there.

We went inside the barracks and listened to some audio recordings of men who spent time at Sachsenhausen. We listened to audio recordings, which also provided us with a name, picture, and their occupation. Being able to put a face to it really hit hard. It makes it even more impactful when you see the face of a person who had to endure this place and the conditions that were forced upon them.

The most emotionally heavy portion was the section of Sachsenhausen where people were executed. I am honestly still processing the whole experience, but this particular section, as well as the infirmary area, will be something that will take much more time to deal with and process.

I am so glad that I had the chance to visit Sachsenhausen, and I think that it is an experience that I wish more people had. It truly has already changed my perspective on a lot of things.

We also visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The purpose of the memorial is to symbolize how everyone in the Holocaust was different but that they were all treated the same and were all treated like criminals.

After the memorial was a quick stop to Checkpoint Charlie, which was the crossing point of the Berlin Wall between the East and West sides.

 

We had about ten minutes back at the hotel before dinner, which is pictured below. It was jägerschnitzel and was delicious!

I am currently back in the hotel room enjoying free wifi. Tomorrow will be our trip to Postdam! On Sunday, we will be heading to Werne, which is where we will be staying with host families and going to the schools there! I am very excited for these next few days in Berlin and the time that we will spend in Werne!

I apologize for the super long post, but we have done a TON of very cool things here the last few days! I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and I promise there will be more soon!