Monday, February 29, 2016

February Highs and Lows 2016

Usually I start this "Highs and Lows" post early in the month and add to it as the month progresses. Not so this month, in part because I was gone for two weeks teaching beginning German to a group of American exchange students from my home town. Then again that's a totally lame excuse because I had my laptop with me the whole time.

So here we go.


  • continuing to teach my Syrian and Eritrean students. Every day is still an adventure, and they make me want to do my best as a teacher!

  • another weekend trip to Breisach to celebrate the 85th birthday of M's father's cousin's husband.

  • stocking up again on wine from the Kaiserstuhl on aforementioned trip to Breisach.

  • teaching the exchange students in Esslingen. The class went better than I'd hoped - because of the students! They were great, fun, interested, and eager to learn. We spent 1.5 - 2 hours in the classroom, and then we went on walkabout to do some "hands-on" learning: each had to buy part of our picnic at a different store, they bought stamps at the Postamt and pens at a Schreibwarengeschäft, we stopped at a Blumenladen and strolled through a Friedhof, we went to an acquaintance's home for Kaffee und Brezeln, I gave them a "secrets of Esslingen" tour, they bought S-Bahn tickets from a DB Automat and we took the train to Plochingen to see the town and visit the Hundertwasserhaus, and they competed in a Schnitzeljagd (scavenger hunt) by asking strangers for help finding various buildings and spots in Esslingen based on the "Esslingen Memo" game pieces they carried with them.

    The photos below are posted with permission!
buying Wurst for our Picknick

after their Schnitzeljagd

This plaque shows all of Esslingen's Partnerstädte, and they all have
a foot on Sheboygan - their Heimatstadt!

buying Briefmarken from the Automat at the Postamt

posing with mannequin heads wearing hats

"Here! Let us help you!"

Hundertwasserhaus, Plochingen
  • afternoon catnaps during the 2 weeks in Esslingen (since January I've been teaching during nap time!)


  • hearing that things didn't go too well in the DaF class while I was gone. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but we just began again this afternoon and will push on to the end of the class. We only have one more month!

  • this teacher fail: I was a Schwarzfahrer! I don't use individual S-Bahn tickets often enough, and I forgot that they need to be stamped in a machine on the platform - there's no machine in the S-Bahn! The kids were on a group ticket and had theirs stamped on the bus we took to the Bahnhof. But I had an individual ticket and forgot to validate it!
    I squeezed a "teachable moment" out of it by telling them what to do if that ever happens to them and a conductor comes onto the train: Go up to him right away and tell him you think you made a mistake. Being proactive might get you off the hook, though I don't know.    Shame on me!!
    • Smiling because they are not Schwarzfahrer, unlike their teacher!
  • returning to my "Englisch-AG" today after a mutli-week absence and being reminded why I was glad to leave the teaching profession. The kids are all nice as individuals, and there are only eight 8th and 9th grade students in the class, but their behavior together as a group is annoying as hell. I had multiple flashbacks to what it was like teaching in Wisconsin - two boys who can't stop touching each other, two girls who are playing keep-away with another's pen, one whining about being cold, two laughing at every answer other students gave, one telling me (after I told him he's welcome to leave and return to his regular class if he doesn't want to listen and learn) "I'm forced to be here. My dad is making me learn English." and so on and so forth.

    I have been spoiled with my four Americans and my Syrian and Eritrean students. They are there because they need and want to learn German, and therefore behavior and "classroom management" are not issues. I feel like a good (and the luckiest!) teacher when I'm teaching them. Today at the AG I wondered why on earth I'm bothering continuing to show up there twice a week. There are two answers to that:
        1. because I said I would.
        2. because there are two kids in that class who are well-behaved and want to learn.

Other Fun Moments

  • being called "hypercritical" on another blogger's comment section. This was fun because I think the person meant "hypocritical". He was commenting on holidays in Germany - for instance All Saints' Day - which is a federal holiday here. He said anyone who takes that day off but doesn't go to church is "hypercritical". I tried to explain that everything is closed on such holidays, but he still insisted it's hypercritical to not attend church if you're not at work. Of course, going to work on such a holiday would amount to breaking and entering, since all stores and businesses are, in fact, closed for business, and most of us don't have a key.

    I also got to use a great line from The Princess Bride: "This word...I do not think it means what you think it means."

    The irony is that I probably am hypercritical - but in this case not hypocritical.

  • one of my American students explaining why she needs frequent WC breaks: "I have the bladder of a puppy." 
Hey, look at that! A whole "Highs and Lows" post without any mention of food!

I wish you all a good start to March!


  1. LOL I hope you quote the Princess Bride to that blogger!!

    1. Oh, it wasn't the blogger! It was some guy commenting on her blog. And I did use that quote in response to the guy. I don't know if he saw my reply, but it doesn't really matter.

  2. YAY Princess Bride quote!
    That puppy is adorable.

    The "walkabout" lesson to practice German is a GENIUS idea! I wish my Deutsch als Fremdsprache teacher had thought of that when I was on my year abroad! We mostly learned things that weren't particularly useful for real life.

    1. Yeah...The Princess Bride just begs to be quoted, and frequently. :-)
      The beauty of teaching the language in the country - going out and interacting with people on the street, giving names to things we see everyday... My refugee students want grammar, grammar, grammar - which I thoroughly enjoy as well! - but I think I need to get them outside for a walkabout. Perhaps next week!

  3. I laughed out loud on the Princess Bride quote! Haha!!! Reading this makes me want to study German even more....

    1. Very good! I'm glad whenever I can encourage someone to learn German! It's challenging, but worthwhile. It seems everyone loves the Princess Bride!! :-)