Sunday, 1 March 2009

9 teaching weeks left? what the heck?!?!

How on EARTH do I only have 9 teaching weeks left? that is RIDICULOUS! Guess it's time to start really enjoying my time here and not moping in the basement because its raining for the 40th day in a row or something ridiculous!
I want to go to Stuttgart and see my friend G...
In other news, I've read
God on Mute
I Kissed Dating Goodbye
Let God Write Your Love Story
Let Me Be a Woman
because of said hiding in the cellar raininess, let me know if you want me to blog on them :)
More soon

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Update and the German School System

Well, I've been putting this one off for a while, had an incredibly incredibly busy couple of months with a recurrent tonsil infection and trips back and forth home to try and sort it out. In the same way that it took me a while to mention the breakup on here, I also drastically put off mentioning a new relationship! Its been on facebook for a while, but I guess here is where I do more emotion venting and it feels more personal, but what with today being valentines day and all I guess for all those who read this (and apparently you exist! thanks for the comments, I doubt I'd have made time to update if I didnt know people ever checked back) its time to announce the arrival in my life of Jon. I'm not hugely desperate to publicise my private life so suffice it to say, I've known him since I was born, he's none of the things I thought I wanted and everything I now realise I needed in a relationship and despite the difference and craziness of jobs (he's in the royal marine band service) it's all pretty good on that front :)
So anyway onto the juicy stuff, sarah's first real blog on anything other than the rather dull intricacies of her life, the wonder (haha) that is the german school system!
As most of you probably know, I'm working this year as a foreign language assistant in 2 schools in Hamburg, Germany's second largest city. After 6 months (eek) now of working, I'm beginning to really get a feel for teaching, but also to get a feel for the system. For those not as well versed in German education as me (where have you been?! hehe) the basic system is as follows:
Grundschule (Primary School) is started at 6, and finished at 9. They're not expected to know how to read or write when they start, and go to Kindergarten from around 4 if parents need them to be somewhere during the day.
Then the 'fun' starts. They then get streamed into one of 3 schools, a Hauptschule, a Realschule or a Gymnasium. Very basically explained, a Gymnasium is a grammer school equivalent, which is finished with Abitur (the leaving exams needed to enter Uni) at age 19, a Realschule is a mixture of academic and vocational subjects which is finished with Realschuleabschluss (exams which leave vocataional further study or apprenticeships as the next stage of study) at age 16 and Hauptschuleabschluss after which one is supposedly qualified for apprenticeships at the age of 14.
Which school you end up in is supposedly decided by your teacher. However, as I've been realising it seems that it is decided far more by your social background, parent's level of education and ethnic background (there are huge amounts of 1st generation turkish immigrants in Hamburg.)
I work in a Gymansium, and a school for the physically disabled which runs from age 6-19. This mixed (understatement) job means that I work at both ends of the educational spectrum here in HH (abbreviation for Hamburg). Turns out as well as being streamed in terms of academic ability, everything is dished out according to this school system; Gymnasiums get the lions share of funding, the teachers have to train for 2 years extra and then earn WAY more than their contemparies in the other schools. Facilities, books all get progressively shitter as you work your way down the system. The impression one gets is not of a streamed system giving everyone the chance to perform well due to teaching tailored to their academic level, but rather a sink or swim mentality where the brightest get the most support and Hauptschule closely resemble a place to lock disruptive teens for 5 hours a day while their parents work.
My flatmate K works in a Hauptschule, on her first day she went in and the kids were hitting each other round the head with chairs, the teacher simply walked back out of the room shut the door and said 'we'll come back in 10 minutes and see if they're still doing it'.
My special school is even worse off, the teachers and the erzieherinnen (we don't have an english word for this, each class has a teacher who's academically responsible for the kids and an erzieher(in) who is responsible for them pastorally, making sure they know how to sit and eat and behave etc) are atrociously paid, they're all clearly there for their love of the job and the kids but the pay of the erzieherinnen in particular is just a joke.
Remembering that this is a school predominantly for the PHYSICALLY disabled, imagine how shocked i was to discover they don't even take Haupschuleabschluss, and the majority will end up working in a furniture workshop. These are kids who in y4 can talk better english than my kids in y5 at the grammer school, so long as you can get past their speech impediments. ARGH its outdated and unfair and ridiculous and frustrating.
And then when I say that the special school is ridiculous, consider that my grammar school which is 'selfresponsible' and in Hamburg's top 4 schools, has 2 OHPs per building and 3 computer rooms of 15 computers for a school of 1000 pupils. Its in the wealthiest bit of HH too, the parents will just call up and take their kid's entire class climbing or iceskating or whatever at like 2 days notice! Odd stuff.
I've got more school rage, and will save it for later this week, as I now know people are reading!

S x x

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Manic Manic New Life!

I'm so sorry it's been so long! I guess settling into a new job, new country and new friends never really left me with time to blog even if I've been reading all of yours and facebooking like a demon! Life here has settled into a pattern pretty well now, i have prettified my room and really made it feel like home (read: bought a cheap sofa on ebay and plastered the walls with Uni photos). Work is going great, pretty intense considering how early they start but really enjoyable and leaves me with most of the day free for hobbies, I've started learning samba drumming which is amazingly good fun! In a church and cell which has been great, just getting settled in now which will always take time I guess! I've got a few blogs in the pipeline along the lines of: The german school system and how much RAGE it gives me, having read 'I kissed dating goodbye' a bit of an opinion airing and some more on just settling in and learning to live and entirely new life! If anyone hasnt already given up checking, check back soon! xx

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Moin Moin aus Hamburg

I'm here!! The year abroad is well and truly begun... eeeeeeee! I flew out a week ago yesterday, and life has been an absolute blur ever since. I'm going to try and keep up to date on the blog, not least so that I can look back when I go home at the end of the year and remember just how it feels to be new in a new country. Eek!
Hamburg is great, it feels so friendly because it's broken into districts, you wouldn't know you're living in Germany's second city. My house is lovely, I'm living in 2 rooms in the converted cellar of an 'einzelhaus'- meaning detached house, pretty normal for the UK but far less so for Germany. I live with 3 girls, a trainee teacher (S for the purposes of the blog), a trainee occupational therapist (C) and a landscape architect (U). I've been gradually beautifying my room, slowly as cash is thin on the ground until my erasmus form arrives and my deposit from Austria is paid back into my bank account. I need to nag my flatmate about new lights (most of them are broken) and a wardrobe, but I have a bed a desk and 2 chests of drawers which is good. I got a bedside table and bedlinen at Ikea the other day plus 3 plants which have made it feel a lot more like home.
I had to travel down to Cologne to have a 3 day training course in a Monastry last Sunday, I travelled with my friend Rich from Uni who's also an assistant (125 euro gone, like that! on the train tickets.) We met up with a couple of other assistants who are working in Cologne, and ended up in a bar with Germany's oldest pnuematic steam orchestra (for orchestra read accordian and tuba player made of wood with pumpy cheeks). You should hear that belting out 'Sex Bomb' by tom jones (it was one of the very few things on the song card I'd ever heard of).
The training course itself was OK, incredibly intensive, with the worst imaginable glutenfree food (one day all i got was cornflakes for brekkie, potatoes for lunch and rice for tea. its like anti-atkins) with copious amounts of overly detailed lectures on health insurance and the vagueries of the German school systems (all 16 of them!!) It was really good to get to know the other assistants though, that part was really fun, theres around 30 of us in Hamburg which should make for some fun nights out. That said, it'd be really easy to slip straight into that social circle so I'm trying to make myself get to know my flatmates which is tough because one of them talks even faster than me in dialect!!
Germans are so blimmin organised. I had to go register my address at the 'bezirksamt'- like a district office, where I was given a really complex form and a deli-counter esque tag and told to wait my turn. Then having got past the beauracratic hurdle of my complete lack of prior address within Germany, I paid into a reverse cash machine (it took my money (6 euro) instead of paying it out) and was officially angemeldet (registered) with a jazzy piece of white a4 to prove it! Closely followed by buying a german mobile for 15 euro which i'm pretty sure doesn't work. Followed by drinks at the alster pavilion (wikipedia it, i can't be bothered) with the other assistants, it was a pretty cool day all in all.
Which leads me onto today's fun and games. Got up at 5.30 am to go to an icelandic horse tournament as part of some duty-induced flatmate bonding. My horse Vocab has increased 200% at least!! Did you know icelandic horses have the most gaits of any horse? me either. But after 3 1/2 hours of watching, it transpires that they can 'toelt' sa well as walk, trot, canter and gallop. Anyway, once the flatmate who was participating was knocked out (she came 17th in case you're wondering...) and C and I were well and truly frozen to our cores, but bonding quite well, we got to go to the second bit of the day- Kartoffelfest; think Oktoberfest, but for potatoes. Surprisingly a great afternoon, lots of chips plus beautiful scenery, loads of tiny german children doing wholesome farmy activities, baby piglets allover the place and a nice bio farm shop with a glutenfree section which I would have patronised if it were not for the chronic lack of money! Then back to the tournament in time for the pairs fancy dress competition (2 horses, 2 people dressed as a pair, so bride and groom or princess and pea, tied together with toilet paper which can't break) before home for communal veggie stew and rice. (with more sheeps milk schnapps)
Look at me and my wholesome Germanic life. I don't think I've ever had so many new experiences in one day, roll on starting school on Monday! I want to go to church tomorrow, but I'm dead on my feet so am catching up on some much needed sleep!!
much love

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Gin, Germany and Educational Theory...

So I'm curled up in a big comfy armchair, drinking a gin and tonic and continuing my (admittedly still pretty self-centred) musings. I know I'm blogging a fair amount about me at the moment, but a) its summer so nothing hugely interesting is happening and b) I'm kind of enjoying sitting down and taking a good, long hard look at myself. It's been too long since I last did it.
First things first, I have a house in Hamburg and am flying out on Friday which is pretty exciting. Hopefully I'll settle in and meet people pretty fast, I'm going to be blogging my goings on on here rather than on my travel blog as I don't think it counts as travel if you have a job, a housing contract and flatmates (with goats).
Secondly, I'm pretty much over my "I'm going to live in a hole and join a convent because it's easier' stage, and am taking my first tentative baby steps towards acknowledging that I am capable of liking other people and that that isn't a bad thing, or going to end in tears immediately. Admittedly there have been a couple of pretty unpleasant encounters with guys in the past couple of months, the last one being pretty recent, but this leads me to the 'educational theory' part of the post.
If you've ever done psychology or education, you'll have come across the educational theories of Piaget and Vygotsky. Basically they sat down and considered what drives people to learn, and one of the things that they realised was actually discomfort is a huge factor, for example the discomfort of shuffling around on your bottom is what drives you to copy mummy and daddy and get up and walk. This actually ties into my ideas of christian ideas of suffering in an odd way, and it's driven back home again some thought processes I was having when I was ill at a lesser level, that suffering in the short term can actually lead to greater happiness or fulfilment in the long term.
Which is why I'm telling myself that even the bad experiences, dishonesty and abuses of trust that have happened over the past couple of months have been positive- I've had good friends around me to pick me up and keep me going, and I've become a lot more savvy and less naieve as a result.
I think I'm just on such a steep learning curve with the breakup, knee, granny and move abroad that much as I appreciate how that discomfort is making me grow, I'm a bit fed up and would like to be comfy and not growing, just for a while.

Promise a blog not about me will hit soon! Might even hit the last 2 chapters of God on Mute.

S xx

Friday, 29 August 2008


Sorry for the delay. I am indeed complete rubbish but you can see my travel bloggage through facebook if you care that much about what I got up to in Vienna!!
So. Have slowly got my head around singledom much more slowly than I thought initially I'd take. Its been especially odd because we were together so long, noone my age really seems to have anything useful or relevant to say. I feel like if I hear one more 'when I broke up with my boyfriend, it was terrible, we'd been together 4 months and...' I'll actually scream.
Which leads me onto the title of this post. I've decided that my relationship was like having stabilisers on my bike. Comfy and easy and safe, but stopping myself reaching my full potential or 'top speed' as it were. So now i'm stabiliser free, and racing along, admittedly with a lot more chance of falling on my arse, but having a hell of a lot more fun along the way. Thats not to say I'm not scared out of my head. Hopefully this will go soon!! :)
Off to Hamburg tomorrow- EEK!
S xx

Monday, 23 June 2008

Exams, essays and midnight beaches

Again a long gap, that's what 7 exams and 5 essays in under 3 weeks does to you! sorry, dear non existent reader!
Exams were OK, essays will be finished by Thursday (I had knee-related grounds for extensions) and then Sunday morning the excitement begins... I fly to Vienna!! woop woop! a month of teaching english and chilling out with (hopefully) lovely people!
Have nipped home for a couple of days to really purge my room of crap in an attempt to make the amalgamation of my Sheffield stuff and residual Norfolk rubbish less of a chore. Met up with some school friends which was lovely, we ended up having a bbq on the beach in the dark- SO much fun!
Have to dash again, will do the God on Mute post when I've retrieved it from under my bed and attempted to finish the last 2 chapters!