Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week 1 DONE!

This week was my first week at the International School of Düsseldorf, and I have to admit, it was REALLY fun! For someone who has never read my blog before, you will soon see, that I am a huge teacher geek. For those who've known me, this will come as no big surprise. The relief factor is so huge, words cannot even describe it. I was so petrified and stressed out about starting school that even one of my friends here told me that she could see a difference in me after a week because I had chilled out significantly! PHEW!

It is so great to be at a school again that values my professional opinion in my own classroom and just leaves me alone to do what I need to do! I was able to spend all of my classes this week getting the relationships, rituals, routines, and BID-NESS taken care of that I know, especially as a middle school teacher, are so important to having a good year!

Part of this week included teaching "Thinking Routines" and I have decided to make a quick procedural poster for each one that we'll do. So, the next time we do one of them, I can just quickly say the name for it and the kids will know what I mean! This (naming the routines and making posters of them) is something new I am trying this year as I think about making things as transparent as possible for the kids. And, since many of my kids are English Language Learners, this also provides a visual cue for things that might be a bit abstract. I don't put the poster up until we've talked about it and practiced the routine. 
Every day this week as I was getting excited about things and sharing my excitement with people, they would say "Welcome to an international school!" For example:

1. My largest class has 21 students. (Yep. You read that correctly. WHAT? I know.)
2. My kids ALL (and I mean ALL) say thank you when I hand them a paper.
3. Our cafeteria has a SALAD BAR and the food is actually cooked ON SITE!
4. I have an interactive white board, and asked for a document camera and VOILÀ...there it was!
5. ALL of my kids come with school supplies. (Even markers, scissors, glue, etc.)
6. Almost all of the kids speak AT LEAST three languages and have lived all over the world.
7. Kids seem a bit more accepting of differences because they're all inherently very different given that they are from/have lived all over the world.
8. The average stay at the school for kids is only about 1-3 years so they've all experienced being new and are extremely willing to help out other new kids, more so than I have ever encountered before.

Does it feel like I am cheating on public education? Yes, yes it does. I feel a little bit ashamed to share all this stuff with people who have had their class sizes increase to ridiculous numbers this year. But, this is what I am doing for at least the next two years, so I'll just apologize in advance if it seems like I am rubbing stuff in...I'm not trying to, just sharing my experience!

Our schedule is going to be hard for me to get used to from a memory standpoint. I cannot remember which class is coming in next, let alone what I have planned for that hour. I have toyed with about 5 different planning/organizing/documenting systems this week and think that I might have gotten one down. I had planned on trying to do it all in my ipad, but alas, I am a pencil/eraser girl.

This is my 9-day schedule. Instead of 5 day weeks, we have a 9 day cycle that goes by cycle day instead of week day.  The thing that I really like about it is that because the day of the week doesn't matter but the day of the cycle does, I see different groups on the last period of a Friday pretty much every Friday! Ultimately, this seems like it will really improve my instructional capacity.
Now don't get me wrong, it has not been all roses. I am expected to unit plan with some people who are not super happy that our head of department is requiring us to start from scratch this year. I can see why this would irritate someone who has been teaching a long time, but for me, it is nice because I am never good at teaching from someone else's unit/daily plans (hence one of the many reasons that I was always having issues at my English school) and so I like that I am given opportunities to do backwards-design unit plans from the very beginning. I think I've come up with some cool assessment ideas but it is really hard to share them with people who are not constructivist in the same way that I am.

Here's a link to a definition of Constructivism if anyone is wondering what the heck I am talking about....

Because I see all teaching/learning through the lens of inquiry, discovery, and constructivism, sometimes I have a hard time (and by sometimes, you will know that I really mean ALWAYS) planning with people who are not this way. I have been tested mentally already and am trying to apply some of my Cognitive Coaching strategies instead of just being a brat (like I would prefer to do though it is not very professional) and throw my hands up while saying "FINE! I'll just do it my own way and don't care what you want to do!" But, we are expected to do things together so I will continue to try. The good thing is though, I am FULLY supported by my head of department (UNLIKE last year...uh...just the thought of her makes smoke come out of my ears) and the school administration seems to think like me about assessment based on the book that they gave us at our staff training. And, just to demonstrate the extent of my nerdiness, you can know that, yes, I already read most of it. 

So, as week two begins, I am trying to actually plan some real content lessons and creating/searching for a lot of resources because I will be teaching some things that I have never taught before. I do have solid amounts of time during the school day to get stuff done (those white boxes on my schedule) so I am really trying to use that time the best that I can.

And, don't week wasn't all about school! I have some workout buddies (FOR FREE) at school. A few of us are just moving the tables and doing some Body Combat-esque videos which is perfect for me as I am in the hole about $2 million after having been unemployed for so long. Not sure what my gym situation is going to be but I will wait a bit to figure it out. For now, I am really enjoying the after school workouts and am having almost as much fun doing it as I would at an actual gym!  Plus, I don't have to go anywhere.

This weekend was pretty fun. Our administrators put €400 toward a bar tab at an outdoor café near school so we all went there after school on Friday. Saturday I did some farmer's market shopping, had lunch with my only non-school friends Barbara and Todd, got a pedicure, and went out to dinner with some new friends from school. The weather was DELIGHTFUL (like Southern California) on Saturday so I was out and about outside downtown a lot. Everyone else had similar ideas and it was very busy around town.

This was one of several "party bike" options that one can rent to ride around Düsseldorf.
If you want to drink any beer, there are literally options about every 2 inches (I should say centimeters since this is Europe but then it would be 2 inches X 2.54 centimeters = the distance one must travel in Germany to find beer!)!!
Another party bike! My Dutch friends said that is a Dutch invention that has since been banned in Holland because people would get wasted and fall off! If the Dutch are banning something, you know it must be dangerous! I think it still looks pretty fun. This is a bike/bar for about 12 people!
Yesterday, along the Rhein River, there was a random marching band. Hilarious.
Also hilarious is that my phone autocorrects the word "Rhine" to "Rheumatic!"
"Wine on the Rheumatic" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as does "Wine on the Rhine!"
Today I have been getting myself prepared for my week through the never-ending doing of laundry and lots of school-related activities. Not having a dryer SUCKS OUT LOUD! I really like my apartment. I can't remember if I have said this yet, but I do. Having my own place again is GLORIOUS! And, apparently, a lot of people here have a cleaner for hardly anything so (WHAT? WHAT?) I am hopefully going to have one too! What's not to like about that?!?
This is my room! You will notice the lack of any knick-knacks. That will come later.
I am still working on things like lightbulbs!
I have, at least, gotten a few frames and figured out how to print pictures so my house has some personal touches! 

If you've hung in through this whole post, thank you. I have been really busy during the week but am going to really try to make sure that I get to it on Sundays! I would really appreciate it everyone I know could have a blog so I too can keep up with the minutiae of your life as well!

To all of my CBMS peeps...I will be thinking about you this week! I still do not like starting a school year (or really working in a school at all) without you! I miss "the gauntlet!!"


Diane Lauer said...

I am so glad you are going to continue your blog - I love it!!!!! Happy new year to you and best wishes on your new adventure!

karifornia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karifornia said...

I am so thrilled that your week went so well! I look forward to week 2 updates. Let´s collaborate this school year.

Karifornia said...

So thrilled for you and looking forward to week 2 comments. Let´s collaborate this school year, one IB school to another....

Anonymous said...

Liz -
I am so glad that you are feeling excited and positive about your new experience in Germany!
We miss you in Colorado and look forward to your visit at Christmas!
Anne and Gordon

Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog as I was researching bike sharing in Dusseldorf and clicked on your flower bike photo. You hooked me with your adventure story. I did a similar thing 30 years ago - in Deutschland und Norway - then went on to my architecture professional career in Chicago. You won't regret this ever.
Stay curious. Stay off the beer bike.