Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ich muss wirklich anfangen, Deutsch zu lernen. Jetzt.

I am back from Düsseldorf and would say that it was a very successful trip overall! I met all the key players at my new school, toured the city using public transportation, and most importantly, found an apartment! I guess I'll break this post down into the essentials of what I figured out while I was there. 


This is the balcony in the summer. It is 15 m X 3 m
and will be like an extra room when the weather is nice.
 My apartment is a one bedroom, 750 square feet, furnished place located in the Golzheim area of Düsseldorf. Now, 750 square feet (70 square meters) might not sound like a lot to people with actual houses, but it is bigger than my house in Fort Collins by almost 50 square feet! So, for me, it will be plenty big. And, it will be able to accommodate guests who can even have their own bed! 

It is on the seventh floor (with an elevator) and a basement storage room that is big enough to store a bike (which comes with the apt) and anything else I accumulate, which, knowing me, will be a lot of crap. I'm glad I won't have to store my skis in the kitchen like in my FC house! And, I might even be able to be organized enough to change out my winter and summer wardrobes from storage to my closet. Doubtful, unless my friends Tami and Natalie come visit and systematically organize me like they have done for my classroom in the past! 

Golzheim is a neighborhood just north of the main downtown area of Düsseldorf and it is on one of the main tram lines. It will only take me 5 minutes to walk to the tram and then a 10 minute ride to school. In the other direction, it is a 10 minute ride to downtown where there is pretty awesome shopping (even couture if I suddenly win the lottery and drop half my body weight), and most importantly, lots of restaurants, bars, cafés, and people. Though I do enjoy quiet, dark neighborhood pubs with "regulars," sometimes it is nice to get to see a variety of people. I really like the location as I wanted to be in a quiet neighborhood that was easily accessible to both work and downtown. I am also glad that it is on the seventh floor so that I won't be bothered by street noise like I am here in England. After living on the manoir in France, out in the country with blackout shutters, living on a busy street with street lamps outside is like never having nighttime. 
YAY for my own place again!

I am basically buying the entire apartment's contents from the previous occupant who is a teacher at ISD too. She is just moving to a different apartment but she is buying the furniture at her new apartment. It will then all belong to me and if I want to change it, I can. The couch is brand new- half the "L" is a bed while the other half has storage under the cushions. The kitchen isn't awesome, it has a pretty small oven. I don't think I'll be making a 20 lb. turkey in it or anything but if I have to make a giant turkey so badly I just can't take it, I'll find a big roaster or something like we always use anyway! Maybe I'll master something like Cornish Game Hens- that is more the size we are talking! 

I was also able to open my bank account (I now have accounts in three countries even though not one of them has much money at all...awesome) and so all of the internet, etc. will be set up when I get there which just makes my life so much easier.  I am really excited to have my own place again. I don't do well with a roommate which has nothing to do with the actual person, I just don't like having to live in someone else's house with all of their stuff and their pictures, etc. 

Anyway, I will have plenty of room for visitors so everyone is welcome! I have even already bought a folding cot bed from IKEA from another teacher so there will be plenty of beds and my mom just bought me a load of towels at Cosco that they'll bring over in April. I realize that Germany has towels, but when your mom offers to buy them for you and you are unemployed, you DO NOT say no. 


Looks like a school to me!
I spent two full days at the school and think that I am really going to like it there. I think it will take me some time to get past the small class sizes. I was helping out in a sixth grade class and it felt like a day at CBMS when we had half the kids out for swine flu since there were so few kids! I will NOT be complaining, I just think it will take a bit of time to get used to! 

Here's what is going to be really crazy for me though- basically I get to design the curriculum in my classes. WHAT? I know. I have always loved curriculum design and if I have ever wondered if it something I can do, now I'll know. The IB program is made so that it can fit on top of any district, state, school curriculum (Curricula? Which one is plural?). It is really flexible and just basically gives you very loose parameters (until you get to the 11/12th grade classes because they take specific exams). For example, if one district teaches science where they do a little bit from all branches of science in each year, the program will work the same as if you had just biology or just physics for the year. The thing that is different at this school is that they don't have a curriculum to lay the program on top of because they don't have a governing agency like a district or state-level making decisions for them. So, it is teacher-directed. Some people hate this, but I love it as I basically just decided everything was teacher-directed at CBMS anyway! 

This is going to be pretty exciting for me because it will really challenge all of my skills. And, it is about as opposite as you can possibly get from my English school where they told me basically what to teach on which day- which is like being a substitute teacher every single day. I had a several-hours long meeting with the head of science and he seems to be an abstract-random thinker. I am super concrete-sequential and it seems like maybe the department could use a really organized person to help them get some things down on paper. Are you surprised- I volunteered already to be that person?!? I already secretly picked out a blank wall in the office where I can see a big sticky-note organizer going. They don't have a scope and sequence (even a really general one like the one I'd been ignoring at Con Ball for the last six years) and when I asked him if he knew which topics were taught in which grade level, he got into a semantic discussion about "What, really, is a topic?" Oh boy. 

So, as it stands, I have some REALLY general essential questions (What is a scientist? is the one I'll be starting with) and I am going to try to at least plan one MYP (Middle Years Program- the IB program for 6th-10th grade) style unit before I get there so I can get lots of feedback from the MYP Coordinator (who is my kindred teacher-geek spirit and we totally bonded already over our love for Nancy Atwell and TED talks). I have a feeling that at this school there won't be someone coming in and criticizing every nit-picky thing that is going on in my classroom like in England. And, the head of science informed me that I can take however much time I need setting up my rituals, routines, and expectations...phew! By the way, I found out that I will have three preps- two sixth grade, two seventh grade, and one eighth grade class. 

The teaching schedule seems quite reasonable, actually. We are on a 9-day cycle. Within that 9 days there are a possible 63 teaching periods. A full-time contract is for 43 periods (but with 5 sections, I will only have about 35 science teaching hours in 9 days while those extra hours are homeroom and duties) and we have lots of built-in planning and meeting time. I love me a school that values collaboration and gives the time to do it and have been told by everyone who matters that they are really excited to have new people to add new ideas. The MYP coordinator told me that there still are a fair amount of really traditional teachers there (which was a little disappointing because I just assumed everyone would be like me since I felt there was really stiff competition to get the jobs- but tenure is tenure is tenure) but since I can basically do what I want in my own classroom, it doesn't really matter that much on a day to day basis. 

They are sending me to a big IB training in Atlanta for a week this summer so I feel like I will be really well-prepared when I get there. And, I am SOOOOOOO glad I spent a few days there to at least get the lay of the land before jumping in with both feet. Starting a new job, in a new country where they speak a different language, can be a bit stressful, so at the very least, I know how to get to school even though I still haven't really found my way around the 4 buildings!


I think the main reason I am glad that I went to visit is that I got to see what a nice, livable city Düsseldorf is. First of all, the airport is extremely conveniently located to pretty much everything and it is not going to be a giant ordeal getting there. It is a relatively small city (seventh largest in Germany with a population of only just over 100,000 but that doesn't include surrounding areas) and since it is built along the Rhine River, the city is a long North-South strip. 

I bet this is super-crowded on warm summer evenings!
Can't wait!
The downtown area is called the Altstadt (Old City) and when the weather is nice, it has miles of sidewalk cafés along the river. A lot of the city is new-ish after World War II but it still looks quaintly European in my opinion with cobblestone streets and nice architecture. There are some more modern looking buildings too but no 50-floor skyscrapers or anything. It is also extremely green (in terms of color- not sure about ecologically yet but did see lots of recycling bins around!) and has many parks. There is a huge park right by my house! And, there are sidewalk bike lanes on the big, main streets so you can ride around and not feel like you're going to be run over. I only made the mistake once of walking in the bike lane before I figured out what it was! 

I just had a really positive overall feeling from the school, the city, and all of the colleagues I met. Having already known I was going to move there since January, I have been getting a little bit antsy, but at least now, I can visualize what I am getting myself into! I definitely need to get started really studying German- at least so I can know what I am ordering at restaurants. Not surprisingly, I learned the words for white wine and red wine (Weißwein and Rotwein) right away. As it is an extremely international city, I know that there are many people who speak English, so I'll be able to survive without fluent German. However, I felt like a moron and I felt extremely impolite not even knowing basic words. 

Now I stay home in England not spending any money until Thursday when I fly to Copenhagen for 5 days to visit my family there. I decided that was an acceptable expense for myself since I have a free place to stay. :) I can justify just about anything. And then, two weeks from parents arrive! I am so excited to see them! We are going to tour around this part of England for a few days and then head to the Cotswolds (think that movie, "The Holiday" with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet and that's the type of places we'll be visiting) for several days. We're also going to go to Stonehenge because really...why not? AND...I'll be driving. Yikes. I was most afraid of roundabouts and now that I have driven in France, (even though you go around roundabouts to the left in England) I feel pretty good about it. The weirdest part to me is just sitting on the other side of the car and shifting with my left hand instead of right. 

So, there you have it.

Ich bin wirklich aufgeregt, um nach Düsseldorf zu bewegen und auch wirklich froh, dass so etwas wie Google Translate existiert!

Auf Wiedersehen!

1 comment:

Paula said...

What a lovely life you lead! I'm very happy you're in such a good teaching situation now. Your students are in for a treat!