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I’m English. Honest.

So my week starts on Sunday, because I blogged about my trip to Suhl already. Sunday was mainly spent either asleep or at the BC Café. There were board games, including one based on Bruges which I, more through luck than judgement, came second in. Later we played Werewolf, both in English and German, and I suck at Werewolf in both languages. Werewolf, for those of you who don’t know, is a game in which basically, you’re trying to stay alive, while by night, werewolves prowl the village, and by day, the villagers pick someone to lynch. I got lynched, despite being a good honest citizen. Up until the lynching part, it was fun. And to be honest, saying I told you so after they killed me was pretty fun too.

The weather on Monday was beautiful and I braved the sunshine in a skirt with no tights. And got a ton of disapproving looks. Which was fairly disheartening but hey, I wasn’t overheating, like if I’d worn my jeans. I also managed to forget my memory card so I couldn’t print off photos, which was the whole reason I’d gone into town. Well done me.

Tuesday I didn’t have to start till 12, because my first lesson wasn’t happening. Sadly, I forgot this and rocked up at school at 10. Whoops. In the classes I actually had, the kids were going over months and seasons again. They were pretty good, but some of the months have the same spelling in both German and English – it’s only the pronunciation that separates them –  and that tripped them up a bit.

Wednesday was a sport competition day. So I went along to the gym ready to take down points and stuff, but it turned out as the school currently has four, yes four, people on placement, they were at capacity for people to do menial tasks, so I spent a couple of hours catching up on the internet. While I‘m on the subject of placement people, they’re not allowed keys to the school. I think it’s because they’re only here for a month, but they’re not allowed keys. This means people older than me are not allowed keys, whereas I am. And the keys are important! Unlocks the computer room, the staff toilets, the staff room… Also, in the hierarchy of teachers according to the kids, I am no longer bottom. That’s right – I rank higher than placement people. The power’s going to my head.

After my free couple of hours, I had English with class 1/2b, talking about wild animals. Lions, tigers and bears, they already knew. Meerkats and hyenas, not so much. This led to Michael demanding to know how I knew it was called a hyena, to which Janek replied with ‘because she’s English!’. That is the correct answer. I am glad Janek answered for me though, because my answer was ‘Because I’ve seen the Lion King.’ Doing well.
Two hours before tutoring, I realised I had messed up making word searches. I’d put the answers to find in, but hadn’t filled out the other boxes with letters… So I ended up making them by hand. Thankfully the kids thought that was awesome. We did about sport and I almost managed not to mention Quidditch. Almost. I also had to disabuse Luka of the idea that girls can’t like football.

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Handmade wordsearches. I spoil those kids, I really do.

Thursday I was doing maths on computers with class 3/4c again. Was relatively painfree, though they struggle to multiply anything by ten. Or at least, as soon as you give them a number bigger than ten they can’t multiply by ten, while I’m sitting there, willing them to just add a zero at the end.

In the afternoon one of the teachers took my shopping for a swimming costume as an early birthday present (don’t ask, long story) and then that evening the majority of the staff went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant, to celebrate International Women’s Day which was last week. It was very odd being one of the few who actually understood the menu. And not having anyone take the mick because I ordered what I always order.

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These were adorable. And I want one.

In my first class on Friday, I failed at knowing the English names of spring flowers and then explained two worksheets about wild animals. It was a very easy going lesson considering the class I was with are usually at least a little disruptive.

My second class was about houses again. There was a myriad of worksheets for the kids to do and while they got on with that, I tried to translate a song I learnt from scouts, because it’s about an elephant and who doesn’t want to sing a song about an elephant? The upshot is I now have to sing in front of classes next week.

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Behold. The pinnacle of my translation career to date.

In my third and final class I was tasked with conversation practice with a class that invariably doesn’t want to talk. However, all of them did and did it well, and I was very surprised. In a good way. Even Jonnilee, who never wants to take part did. Either they were just in a very good mood, or they like me better/find me less scary than their teacher. Who knows.

On Saturday, I finally went to the Goethe Museum. Ilmenau is very proud to call itself a Goethe town and thus I thought maybe I should see what the fuss is about. For those of you who don’t know, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, playwright and politican during the late 1700s and early 1800s. His most famous work is Faust. He visited Ilmenau several times during his life and wrote a poem entitled Ilmenau, the only of his poems to be titled with the name of the place it was inspired by. It is from this poem that the town takes its slogan of ‘himmelblau’.

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Selfies with Goethe.

The museum was pretty interesting, helped by an audio guide in English and a lovely room steward who kept pointing things out to me and said I spoke very good German. The woman at the entrance was also surprised when I asked for the audio guide in English and checked that I was sure I’d rather have it in English.

I then spent the majority of Sunday in my pyjamas, sewing and watching films, because as I believe I have said once or twice, I am the coolest of kids.

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Procrastination, Perfect Children and Poetry Slams.

As you may remember from my last weekly update, I suspected I was getting ill. Thanks to this, Monday was spent in bed, feeling very sorry for myself and making endless cups of tea. Yes, even more endless than usual. Turns out I wasn’t ill. Just lazy and self-pitying. Ah well, what’s new?

Tuesday was a fantastic day, work wise. Since the Christmas holidays the kids have been brats. Like, tearing my hair out, why doesn’t Germany appear to have any penalty system in schools, why am I working in a primary school type brats. However, Tuesday was the day that 1) I convinced yet another class that Birmingham is where it’s at, not London, 2) I did conversation practice with six fantastic kids and ended talking about Indiana Jones and Assassin’s Creed, and 3) I was informed by one of the more rowdy kids that everyone at the school loves me. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it’s nice to hear.

Of course there was a Café meeting in the evening, remarkable only for how short it was. I also learnt that while there may come a day when Dad doesn’t stress out because I’ve phoned him, that day will not arrive whilst I’m living in a foreign country.

Wednesday was a busy day as always, though in my first class I was mainly decorative. However, for the first time I joined in with chants from the textbook. I have now heard them so many times I feel like I’m never going to forget them. ‘Lots of spaghetti on a big big plate’ is going to haunt me till I die. In my second class I did conversation practice again. Upon hearing they could ask me anything, the two groups had very different reactions. The first group wanted to know if I was married; the second wanted to know what I thought of lightsabers. Priorities.

In class 3/4c we went on a 2km walk, so the kids knew what one kilometer was like. For once I didn’t have to tell the boys off for messing around in the street. Wednesday was the turn of the girls. It would be great if we could go somewhere without the kids attacking each other.

In my final class of the day, we sang some more chants and then I had to ask what colours had been assigned to numbers. Don’t ask. And then I was free to go home and collapse before tutoring. This week in tutoring the kids staged a mutiny against playing Memory, so I now have to come up with new, innovative ways of getting them to practice vocabulary. I’ll work on it when I’m more up to date with sleep…Wait, no, then I’ll never do it. I’ll work on it over the weekend.

Thursday I had my two classes as always. During the first they had a maths test so I wasn’t needed, and in the second they were doing Geography, during which they do not need help. Except for me pointing out that Rio De Janerio is a city not a country. The rest of Thursday was spent procrastinating, mainly by reading ‘It Felt Like a Kiss’ by Sarra Manning, because when one of your favourite authors has a new book out, you’ve gotta read it as soon as you get it.

My first English lesson on Friday was cancelled, so I helped in two German lessons instead. I marked Maths tests and listened to the kids read. My second English lesson was about animal body parts, so ‘mane’, ‘tail’, ‘beak’ etc. The kids found it hysterical every time I said ‘schwanz’ aka ‘tail’ because, apparently, it’s slang. I’ll let you figure out what it’s slang for. I also got into a debate with two of the kids about whether elephants can fly. They were citing Dumbo, and were shocked that I knew what happens in Dumbo. I forget that to them I’m old and therefore can’t possibly know the plots of Disney films. Being able to argue in German that Dumbo had a magic feather and normal elephants don’t therefore they can’t fly is probably one the highlights of this year. My third and final class were repeating numbers and colours. At least they were meant to be – they were more interested in hitting each other.

But it was finally the weekend and I had plans. Saturday I was at the house of one of the teachers, the teacher of the infamous class 3/4c. We had duck and dumplings (a typical Thüringen dish, I’m told), watched a fairy tale film, wandered round the village in which she lives, played Uno. It was a very enjoyable day, even if I was on my best behaviour all day. It was a little like visiting someone else’s grandparents without your friend as a buffer. But her husband said I speak good German and was thoroughly impressed with my pronunciation of ‘ü’ so I guess the best behaviour was worth it.

Sunday I went to a poetry slam because I’m under the delusion that if I go to cool things, that’ll make me cool. It was pretty good – I understood 90% of what was said, so yay me. I’m just thankful I didn’t have to analyse it. As for my Sunday evening plans, I have a date with several cups of tea and Chicago. Partying hard as always.

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Of Children and Classes.

So Monday mainly involved lesson planning for tutoring. Having given the kids a test last week, which they aced, I don’t need to retrace introductions, family or descriptions. So I decided to move onto countries. It turns out I needed beolingus.de (a german dictionary site) at hand at all times while making work sheets, because I know none of the countries in German. I even forgot Spain. Which is Spanien. Ah well, it all worked out in the end.

Tuesday I had work as usual. In my first class, Vincent decided he wasn’t going to play ball, which led to me perfecting my “I don’t care who started it, I’m finishing it” voice. Ashley wanted to know if her name is English or American, and when I said it was an international name, she decided it was definitely American because of Ashley Tisdale. And then one of the other girls told me she has the exact same T-Shirt as me. I have the same T-shirt as an 8 year old. I’m not really sure how to react to that.

Of course, there was a Café meeting. Don’t really remember much about it, other than talking to Kim about Torchwood. And being shocked that someone I’ve spoken to once remembered my name.

Wednesday kicked off with me being asked to write an English poem on the board, which I did no problem. Fifteen minutes later I realised I’d written ‘Snowmann’ not ‘snowman’. In my defence the teacher didn’t notice that I’d capitalised the s and doubled the n.

In the next lesson I got to talk about my home town  and Birmingham again. I think the most interesting thing about that particular lesson is that whenever I write up ’26 000, 67 594, 1 085 400’ on the board and say that the 26 000 is the population of Ilmenau, and then ask what could the 67 594 mean, the kids always ask if that’s the population of England. I mean, I know we’re smaller than Germany, but come on.

I wasn’t with class 3/4c for lessons 3&4 because they had important German things to learn, so instead I was in two more English classes. Talked about breakfast some more. Got to go to classes I don’t often see. Was pretty chilled considering I found out on the day I was doing it.

And then finally, I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that the class I’m meant to be with last doesn’t have English then any more. As of this week I go to a different class. The kids love me. I mean, seriously, they were super excited to see me. This is a class I haven’t been in since October. Oh, it’s hard being a Foreign language assistant. (Note the sarcasm.)

Thursday, surprise, surprise, the kids had a maths test. So I sat there for 45 minutes looking ornamental. But then! In the second half, I got to do reading with the dyslexic boy, which was interesting. As I believe I have mentioned before, I do not know how to say every German word. Yet I’m trying to correct his pronunciation… But he did really well this week. So yeah.

Friday I talked about Birmingham to one of my regular classes and have persuaded them that it’s better than London, mainly because of Cadbury World. Some of them had heard of Aston Villa FC, which was surprising to me, but then again, I know nothing about football. My two football facts are 1. Wolverhampton Wanderers are also known as Wolves (I thought they were different teams for the longest time) and 2. Dortmund sometimes play in yellow (I know this because I thought they were Hufflepuff). Another thing I mentioned about Birmingham was its’ partner cities. These include Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig. Now, I don’t know for definite, but I’m pretty sure the reason there’s two German cities in the list is that Frankfurt was in the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) and Leipzig was in the GDR (German Democratic Republic). I asked the kids why they thought there were two and got some interesting suggestions (and was also asked why anyone would partner with Leipzig). But it was the teacher who eventually suggested that it was because of the FRG and GDR. Guess the kids haven’t reached that bit in history yet.

My second lesson was technically cancelled, but I’d been told to go to one of the other English classes instead. So I did. But that teacher had no idea I was turning up, and was teaching about nature and animals (auf Deutsch) when I rocked up. She asked if I was there to do English, and I said yes, and she left me to it. I ended up asking the kids their names, their ages and where they’re from and then singing head, shoulders, knees and toes with them, before the teacher realised that I didn’t have anything else to do with them and came and rescued me. Basics, I’d been told she would be expecting me and she wasn’t. So it was a bit of a surprise for both of us.

My last lesson I mainly spent telling boys off for battering each other. And telling kids it didn’t matter who was the last in the line. Seriously, why is that so important to primary school kids? I remember it being important when I was little as well. Madness.

Friday night I went out to paint the town red. Well, I went out to hang out with people, maybe do some drinking and dancing. It turns out that the best wine is free wine, boys can say problematic things in Germany as well as England and I can’t dance to hip hop. And apparently my pronunciation of Scheiße is spot on. Must be all the times I hear the kids at school say it.

Saturday was spent alternating between tidying and watching tv. Seriously. That was my day. And very enjoyable it was too. Sunday involved helping with the tidying up operation after a brunch put on by the BC Café. I got to meet a couple of new people, practice speaking coherent German to attractive people (not my strong suit) and generally stress out about whether the reason I was failing at tasks was because my German wasn’t good enough or if the instructions I was given weren’t good enough. Turns out it was a little bit of both.

Sunday evening I hung out with Ausama and horrified him by the pronouncement that I don’t like olives. Think I reassured him by liking cake and wine. But there was a good ten minutes of discussion about why I don’t like olives.

And as my final note on the week, Therese’s been ill most of the week, as has her boyfriend, though happily they are now better. But our flat’s reputation as a plague house may have to continue for a while longer, as I think I’m getting ill. So if my weekly update for next week is essentially ‘I felt blah the whole week and didn’t really do much’ I apologise.

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Kids, who’d ‘ave ’em?

Happy weekend, dear readers. The sun is shining, I got ten hours sleep, and as long as my iTunes doesn’t decide to wipe my library again, it’s going to be a lovely day. Now, as I mentioned, I’m headed to Berlin to tomorrow, so I’m going to catch you all up on my week now, because the kids have been…annoying this week. And by annoying I mean, alternately horrific and amusing.

So Monday, as ever, was lesson planning. This week it was a lesson about Birmingham and Walsall, which mainly involved wikipediaing the populations and comparing them to Ilmenau. For your reference, Birmingham: 1,085,400. Walsall: 67,594 (in the built up area). Ilmenau: 26,070. Then I did the ARD shift with Hauke (His actual name’s Felix, but apparently the BC Café has an infestation of Felixes). Was all fine, though I would like to take this opportunity to say that everyone does the ARD differently. I mean, there are certain things that everyone does, but no-one does them in the same order and then there’s things that only some people do. It’s a little confusing, and also means my most used phrase is always ‘what do you want me to do now?’

Tuesday I was at work and witnessed exactly how little discipline there is in German schools. Or maybe just in mine. Two 8 year olds got in a fight, and I mean, one of them was swinging around a key on a bike chain like it was a nunchuck type fight, not a your hair looks stupid fight. You know what happened? They were told off, and the parents were told. But that was it. Maybe I’m remembering primary school wrong, but we would have at least been sent to the headteacher for that. Maybe even lost playtime as well. Possibly, if it was a repeat offence, got detention.  These things do not exist in Karl Zink Schule. Which is awkward because now three teachers have asked me what I’d do, and I’ve had to go, well, *this* would have happened, but apparently you’re not allowed to do any of these things.

Wednesday is my longest day at school, but with one of the English teachers out sick this week, I only had four classes not five. The English classes have mainly been about the weather. The kids find ‘fog’ hysterical. Because they think it sounds like ‘fuck’. Wednesday also means my two hours in German/Maths with Frau Hilbert’s class, but this week, we went on an excursion. We saw the oldest post office in Ilmenau (no longer a post office, it’s a chocolate café), a house were Goethe lived, the chronometer (you can find out about that in this blog post) and then Frau Hilbert took it upon herself to explain to me why there’s a plaque of Jewish names in one of the town squares. Spoiler alert – it’s commemorating the Jews from Ilmenau who died during the Holocaust. Something, shockingly, that I already knew. (As a side note, some of the children were shocked that there were “German names” on the list, and it was very hard not to try and explain the whole ‘1) Hitler legally defined Jewishness so you might not have been a practicing Jew but would still have been considered a Jew, and 2) many Jewish people were fully integrated into German society, because, you know, they were normal people, and therefore didn’t necessarily have “Jewish names”.’ But I feel I’d be best leaving it to their teachers.)

Tutoring happens on a Wednesday and this week we recapped describing people. To aid this I took Guess Who? with me, which we ended up playing for half an hour. Firstly, because it’s an excellent tool to teach about distinguishing features, and secondly, because what I had planned only took them twenty minutes.

Thursday I spent two hours sitting at the back of a class, watching while they did a test. I was so much help that day. They really needed me there. (Note the sarcasm.) I really shouldn’t complain. Having so many friends who are FSA (Fremdsprachassistenten – Foreign language assistants)  I see many stories on Facebook of people going in and being kept hanging around for hours before they’re told they’re not needed (Also, I think if someone collated FSA’s facebook statii as a book, it would be fantastic. Someone make it so. And give me money for the idea.)

Friday, as anyone who’s my friend on Facebook or follows me on Twitter knows, I called a girl Emily. You wouldn’t think that would be such an issue as her name is Emily. But no. I said it in my English voice and she huffed back that “I’m not *English accent* Emily, I’m *German accent* Emily.” Which led to me thundering back ‘I’m sorry, I’m not German.’

To fully explain the scenario, she’d just thrown something across the room at one of her classmates. So I said her name as a warning. Clearly she knew who I meant, otherwise she wouldn’t have replied. And the German for Emily is something like ‘em-MI-li’. The differences between the English and German pronunciation are very subtle. It’s like I can’t say Vincent or Robert auf Deutsch. So yes. I also have a problem with this because the children can’t say my name. And yet I answer to all the variations they use. I know, I know, I’m an adult blah blah blah. But honestly.

Friday was also the day I discovered that 19 German eight to ten year olds taking it turns to say ‘sausages’ really warms your heart. One of my classes I doing about breakfast and their teacher told them to go and read out the vocab to me. ‘Sausages’ it appears is a difficult word for Germans to say. And they looked so frustrated when they messed up half way through the word. They all managed it in the end. Even if it meant I spent half an hour just saying ‘sausages’ over and over. The other word they had difficulty with was ‘honey’, which came out as ‘hon-ayyyyyyy’, which made them sound rather gangsta.

Which brings us to Saturday. My plans for the day are not grand. Perhaps finish watching series 4 of Being Human (I’ve been marathoning it this week). Pack for Berlin naturally. Maybe plan out next week’s tutoring. But whatever I do, I’m sure it’ll be a decent day. And I hope yours is to.