Thursday, 30 June 2011

Focke Museum

Today was the last school trip of the week (and school year for that matter) with three classes visiting the Focke Museum.  I have never been here before and nobody could tell me much about it but it was actually quite interesting.  I still don't know what Focke is - we think it's a company name.  The museum is actually a little random.

The first section of the museum (the bit we had a guided tour of) is an old Bremen thatched farmhouse that was completely dismantled and rebuilt at the site of the museum.  The guide explained a lot about how life was when these houses were orignally built and how the animals and people all lived in there.  There was even a hole in the top of the house so that owls could get in and live there - so that they would in turn get rid of the mice!

We also saw the old baking oven and well in the farm garden as well as the building where all the tools and carts were kept.  It was really interesting- it almost made me want to become a farmer!

The main building of the museum had all different kinds of exhibits based around Bremen and Germany.  We didn't have as much time there but what I did see was good.  I'd like to go back without 90 pupils and spend some time looking around properly!


Yesterday I had my first experience in a real Freibad (German outdoor swimming pool).  It took us an hour to get to the pool but it was worth the travel.  The complex had a number of indoor pools and slides as well as the outdoor pool to keep the kids entertained.  We set up camp by the outdoor pool.

It was actually surprising how the kids just got on with things and we had relatively fewer injuries and complaints compared to the two days before.  We expected it to start raining at lunch time but that held off until the evening so I braved the ice cold water myself and it was actually very refreshing.  I'd really recommend it but it's best to go at a quieter time.  The elderly ladies who were there for their aqua-aerobics were less than impressed by our group crashing their party.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Town Tour

So today ten colleagues accompanied 100+ pupils around Bremen.  We started off at the cathedral at 10am.  One of the five tour guides didn't show so we had to put two classes together.  Unfortunately this didn't make things easy for us or the guide as the kids quickly got distracted or bored.  The 30 degrees weather didn't help either and most of them are not used to walking far - although through the town centre and Schnoor is not exactly far.

Some of the information I had heard on my last tour but there was a fair amount of new information too which was interesting and I understood much more on this two hour tour with 40 kids than I had on a one hour tour with four adults so my listening skills must be better - which they should be after almost a year here!

Following the two hour tour, we spent an hour in the park where the kids could do what they liked (within reason).  Most were happy with this.  You would think they all would be considering it was a day out of the classroom, but no.  The other surprise of the day was that 12 year olds find it necessary to wear tights in thirty degree weather!?

Tomorrow is the open air fun pool which could be interesting if the weather changes before the predicted 12 noon.  We shall see....

Monday, 27 June 2011


Well Projektwoche or Project Week has arrived with a bang.  I've been looking forward to this week for a while.  With the exception of today, I get to start an hour later every morning and instead of teaching lessons, supervise pupils carrying out their projects.  Being attached to year six, I feel especially lucky as their topic is 'Free Time in Bremen'.  Today we were at the Sports Park near the Werder Bremen stadium.  As many of the year group are skaters, they loved this and the others found some sporting activity to occupy them, even if we weren't impressed when they decided on a water fight twenty minutes before getting back on the tram to school.

On the whole, a good day was had by all.  The sun shone (a little too much for some - we had one case of sun stroke and one with sun burn that I know of) and we hardly heard from the kids for three hours.  The fresh air was great and I enjoyed discovering a new part of Bremen.

Tomorrow I am on a town tour of Bremen city centre.  I have done one before but I'm looking forward to it all the same.  The forecast is good and I should work up some points for the walking.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Saturday Update

It's been another mad week at work - teaching most of my last lessons for this school year (just one left), experiencing the wrath of certain parents and starting the planning for the new school year.  Also, we got the contract through on our new flat, I booked the car in for the final preparations for our trip to England and finally spoke to my Gran who has been moved out of the hospital to a temporary care home until she gets her strength back enough to be allowed home.

This week I have stayed the same on the scales.  I was a little disappointed as I thought I had done quite well although tracking went out of the window midweek, but it's better than another gain.  

Next week is project week so I'm out on a few trips with some of my year six classes and also saying goodbye to my year tens who leave school this week. 

Friday, 24 June 2011




“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

Thursday, 23 June 2011

German Schools

My first year here in Germany and in the German school system is drawing to a close.  It is only about a year since I heard I had the job and my perception of German schools at that time could not have been more different to what it is now.  Most people who have studied German or been lucky enough to take part in an exchange should be aware that in Germany pupils don't wear uniforms and each class has its own classroom and the teachers move around school, unlike in England.  Indeed this was the extent of my knowledge a year ago and I've certainly learned the hard way since the staff here assume that things are the same in England, and to be honest I can't blame them because I would have acted the same if the situations were reversed.  So here are some of the things I have learned:
  • Parents have many more rights and access to schools here.  I was shocked to have a parent sat in with the class one day but when I asked, was informed it's normal.  If I didn't want her there, I had the right to ask her to leave.  I didn't do this as I have nothing to hide but I was on edge the whole lesson.  One advantage is that the pupils, especially her child behaved better than ever, the disadvantage is the heart of yesterday's blog.  When parents criticise the way you teach and can be quite confrontational.  I felt quite threatened yesterday as I was outnumbered because the 'spokesparent' for that class was also there.
  • There is less structure among the staff.  There are Heads of Departments but they do not tell you what to teach beyond following the book and as a teacher I have been pretty much left to my own devices all year.  Instead, staff work more in year groups.  I work in every year group but as I have three year six classes, I joined that year team.  The meetings are pretty regular (every three weeks or so) and cover a range of pastoral and academic areas.
  • Dress code is much more casual for teachers as well as pupils.  A year ago, I could never imagine myself teaching in jeans which I now do every day.
  • Rules are less restrictive.  I'm still undecided on how much I like this one.  At first I was extremely careful about not touching pupils as it is a big no no in England.  However, when pupils refuse to leave the classroom when asked or even worse, put themselves or others in dangerous situations, it really is a necessity and since observing colleagues doing the same, it's become a regular thing with the younger ones.  (The older ones are generally too big and I still apply the rule of not putting myself at risk).
  • This one I love - last year, I was often required to cover PE lessons and there always seemed to be an injury in the course of the lesson.  There was a school nurse but the sports fields were so far from school that I often worried about the response times and requested to take a First Aid Course.  I was told however, that the school had a policy of not sending all teachers on First Aid Courses because they were only insured for certain people to practice First Aid and there was too big a risk of being sued!!  In the Autumn I found out the German Policy and for once, I like their system of organisation and common sense:  Every teacher has to take a First Aid Course at least every two years and the only thing a teacher can be sued for in an emergency situation is doing nothing.  Simples.
  • The latest difference I have learned has been based on the exams.  Pupils don't take GCSEs here.  In the equivalent year group, they take written exams in English, German and Maths and a speaking exam in one other subject of their choice.  Not only this but I was surprised to discover that I would be running, invigilating and marking the English written exam myself.  Whereas in England, I am not allowed in the exam room, shouldn't be invigilating and never see the scripts of my pupils, I do all of that here.  Then I assign the final grades, which aren't only based on the exam!  It's a big responsibility.
Well the list isn't exhaustive but these are some of the biggest lessons I have learned this year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Like Mother Like Daughter

Yesterday, I had my first run in with a German parent.  It was my 'bad' class and a pupil who has been playing up a lot recently.  In fact, the last two lessons, I had to kick her out for repeatedly shouting 'penis' across the classroom despite repeated warnings. 

So, at the beginning of yesterday's lesson (well, I say beginning, they come to me from science so are always five minutes late anyway), the said pupil comes up to me while I am writing on the board (I was writing what is going to be on the test tomorrow in case your interested, they weren't) and asks if she and a friend can go to the toilet.  I said no, they couldn't go together.  At this point, she flipped out and started shouting about how unreasonable I was.  Eventually she went to sat down and quietened down.  

A few minutes later, there were already a few names on the board when I caught her talking over me again and wrote her name on the board.  At this point she flipped out completely and started screaming across the room, so I asked her to leave.  She refused so I had to send for her class teacher to come and remove her.  I don't know whether he sent her back in or she chose to come back in but she did, and proceeded to sprawl across the table and cry at full volume.  Eventually her friend, after telling me what a mean teacher I was for ignoring this behaviour (even though I had kicked her out at this point so she could technically go to the toilet), took her outside and called her mother. 

So the end of the lesson comes around and I am faced with said girl, her mother and the parents' representative for the class.  I let her give her side of the story first.  Unfortunately, they weren't so gracious in giving me the same respect.  When I explained her screaming fits, the mother was a little disappointed but when I explained that it's a school rule that pupils don't go to the toilet during lessons, and that while I am prepared to bend that rule if pupils are unwell, I still don't feel it requires letting two pupils out of lessons at the same time, she couldn't understand.  Apparently the school toilets have no locks or toilet paper, and while I have sympathy over this, it doesn't change the rules.  Because I admitted that I wouldn't relish the prospect of going to these toilets either, they felt that proved I was wrong, even though I never leave lessons to go to the toilet even when I'm ill, never mind asking a colleague to accompany me!

In the end, when the mother started shouting at me too, and I realised where the pupil gets it from in the first place, I told her she could make an appointment to see me with the class teacher or head present but I was going for my lunch.  She marched off to the class teacher who told her every teacher had the right to have their own rules in the classroom and sent her packing.  I was really shaken and upset at the time, but I think I'll handle my next run in when it does happen.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Saturday Update

Well it's been a slow week this week.  After a nice long relaxing weekend, we had a lovely dinner with friends on the bank holiday, making our favourite recipes and playing darts.  Then it was back to work for a short three day week that didn't feel so short.  I managed to get two of my year groups' grades in and the rest are to be done next week!  It's been a week of ups and downs with three family members in and out of hospital.  It's times like these that make me feel how far from home I am and I've been wondering all week if I need to drop everything and get back but touchwood, things look to be improving slowly but surely. 

So, having indulged in wine and chocolate to abate the stress and worries of the week, I was surprised to have only put a pound on this week and am starting the week with a renewed energy and resolve.  It will be another shorter week with all classes cancelled on Monday for the oral exams.  As mentioned, the main work target will be finishing the grades before reporting time.  And now it's less than four weeks to our England trip.  I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Race for Life 2011

Now that England is booked, I've started seeing what's on while we're home and what we can fit in while we're back and this morning I discovered that the Race for Life in Wakefield is taking place on the Sunday that we are back.  I walked the Race for Life three years ago at Temple Newsam with my Mum and two years ago we walked it in Harrogate.  (I had planned to at least jog it that time but having been off work with the flu for three days before the event, I figured it was enough of a risk walking it).  I'm not sure what happened last year but this year we are taking part in Wakefield.  I would like to jog it this time and am going to get some practice in this month but Mum has just had a hospital stay with a nasty midge bite to the leg so watch this space...

As in previous years, I plan to take part in celebration of my Grandmother who received her five years all clear and is living proof of the good work that charities like Cancer Research UK are doing.  Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky - it seems hardly a week goes by without hearing of someone else suffering or losing their battle with this horrific disease and much work remains to be done until a cure is found.  If you would like to sponsor me, you can do so here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

27 things...

I've been thinking about my 30 things list a lot lately and considering that I have already crossed eight off, I've decided to change the whole thing.  I'm now doing 27 things before I turn 27 and I'm going to come up with a new list after that.  So with eight crossed off, you can now see that I have 19 things to fit in to ten months.  Here's to a great ten months of more new things!

 Bake bread - done!
Drive a tractor - done!
Eat Oysters
Finish my MA
Finish Reading Emma - done!
Get a Bra Fitting
Get back to Goal ... and stay there!
Go Camping
Go skinny dipping
Grow a mini garden
Have a facial
Have an Appy Feet pedicure
Join a French conversation class - done!
Learn to salsa dance

Pay off a credit card
See a 3D movie
See an opera
See Shakespeare in the Park
Take a Motorbike Trip
Take a road trip - done!
Try a yoga class
Try Scuba Diving
Try shooting - done!
Try sushi - done!
Visit another capital city (Paris, London, Edinburgh, Berlin and Rome done)
Watch 24 in 24!
Watch Gone with the Wind - done!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Saturday Update

It has been a good week this week...without pointing and measuring I have lost 2.5lbs since Sunday!  It's just been sensible eating and a bit less snacking.  Also more exercise with all the walking and cycling over the last week or so.  I also think this nice weather helps as I feel less hungry when it's hot and the gluten free is going well too.

It was a tough week back at school after the short week last week and in fact I was under the weather and off work yesterday.  So I am resting now and making the most of my weekend so that I will be back in fighting form next week for another three day week.  i can't believe how fast the weeks are going by now, I really don't know where the year has gone.

It's been a busy week from waving off our visitors on Monday morning, booking our trip back to England and signing and sending off our new flat contract things are moving along nicely!  Next week we are looking forward to a nice dinner with friends, a short week at work and maybe even another bike ride.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Face Mask Time!

Doctor Nico has recently found a new calling in cosmetics and this week sourced some good value clay from Morocco for use on skin.  It is said that the royal family there have their own mine for their personal use of this clay in cosmetics.  Here are the results:

Not pretty maybe, but there was a noticeable improvement in skin afterwards!  Try it!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Passport Fun

As I mentioned, I received my brand spanking new passport this week - it only took five weeks, arriving just three days after I told them I'm travelling!  Typical...just as well I put a date a month earlier than I needed it.  I could have sent the application back to England and got it quicker. 

To be fair it is lovely, lots of lovely blue pages with pictures of birds on them and a new electronic chip in there.  It should be nice for what it cost really.  The thing is for how much I will use it in ten years, I don't mind paying that money but then the first thing they tell you in the letter and the passport is that it's not even your property!  What's that about?! 

My tips on getting a new passport:
  • Start the application process early.  (I started this at the beginning of January to get mine in June!)
  • Read the passport photo requirements carefully, the last thing you want is a delay because of that.
  • Find someone reliable to countersign your pictures (thanks Mr T)
  • Send the application well in advance of when you actually need to travel and tell them that you are travelling earlier that you are just to be sure, as they seem to ignore this information anyway.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

England here we come!

After receiving by brand new (and not cheap) passport this weekend, I finally got round to booking our trip back to England this Summer.  We will be home between the 13th and 24th July but as a special treat for Nico's birthday and to break up the journey, we are spending two nights in Whitstable in Kent.

I've never been to Kent before but I'm really looking forward to it.  As you know, I've been really getting into cycling recently and there's a great cycle path to Canterbury, called the Crab and Winkle Way, so we plan on hiring a couple of bikes (or even a tandem!) for a day and making the trip.

Any other tips on what to do there?  I'm also looking forward to spending some time at home and with family and finally booking that Appy Feet pedicure with my best friend (it's a present for her birthday which was in January!)

Monday, 6 June 2011

These boots were made for walking...

So this week I got some new shoes for my birthday - thanks Mum! - and decided to break them in on Sunday when we went to see our new flat.  (Yep, we got the flat we went for last week, two balconies and the whole top floor for us!)  Unfortunately, I didn't take my old shoes with me and the weather reached 30 degrees yesterday.  You can see the results below (don't look if you're eating)

I'm going to give it until the blisters go down and then try again.  I've never gotten along with flip flops but I need some summer shoes and yes, a pedicure...  I have to recommend compeed blister plasters though - they are amazing!

The Saturday Update

A little later than usual again, I'm postponing the weigh in until next week after this little visit and another week of the Weightwatchers but on the gluten free diet.  I know I haven't done well but I am completely inspired by this weather and all the Summer clothes I now have here that I need to get back into.  We also walked a hell of a lot this week again, with a new record of 7.9 points in one day!  Today, it's back to Earth and work with a bump and being very good with fingers crossed for Saturday.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rediscovering Bremen

This week I am expecting another visit and so will hopefully spend the next four days rediscovering the city again.  I have a couple of new things planned.  First of all, last time we missed out on the English tour of the town hall and in ten months here, I still haven't been so I'm hoping to get that booked in.  

The second is a little curiosity I heard about yesterday and haven't been able to find during my brief research since.  Apparently there is a mouse in the cathedral that the old mason apprentices working on the building had to be able to name the location of in order to pass their apprenticeship.  It's one idea we are throwing around in thinking what to do with year six in project week - how long will it take them to find it?  Apparently though, it is in an area that is often cordoned off from the public so it is highly likely that I may get in some bother (again) this weekend...we will see.  Since the cathedral is manned by older people, I'll risk it.

Here's hoping for some exciting posts over the next few days!