Mittwoch, 8. Juni 2011

Werkrealschule

As I had mentioned before, Monday and Wednesday we went to the last of the three tracks, a hauptschule, or as this state calls it, a werkrealschule. This school is a little different than a traditional hauptschule because part of it is grundschule and the other is a hauptschule. This means that there are students that attend the school from 1st through 4th grade and then afterwards some stay and others move on to a realschule or gymnasium.

Over the course of the 2 weeks visiting the other schools we had heard from the students at the realschule and the gymnasium thought of those that go to the hauptschule. Students from the gymnasium were by far the most critical of the students in the hauptschule. They characterized them as not as smart, often having behavioral/ discipline problems, not motivated and generally not caring about school at all. The realschule seemed to have the same general consensus as well but some said they had some friends that went to a hauptschule. Although they did mention that they have had issues of some students from hauptschule starting fights at the bus stop.

After hearing these at time harsh view of this type of school I was eager to go to the school and see if there was any truth in what the students from the other school had to say.

The first classroom I observed in was a 10th grade classroom. They had just finished an exam so they had planned a “class breakfast” with drinks, pretzels and pastries. The students seemed a bit more reluctant to speak English with us than some of the other we had talked with before, but I would say that was the only difference.

Although, the second classroom I observed in, I can not say I felt like it was the same case. I would say this was by far the most difficult class to watch and sit through. As difficult as it is to admit I could definitely see in this classroom where some of the bad reputation of the hauptschule might come from. Just being in the class for the 90 minute period I definitely felt stressed. I honestly don’t know if I would be able to teach in that classroom everyday. Basically the class as a whole was pretty disruptive. Although I feel like I should qualify in saying that there were a handle of students that were paying attention and honestly seemed to be trying to learn. There were several students that were talking across the room repeatedly while the teacher was trying to present the lesson, even after being asked to stop by the teacher. Some students on the other hand didn’t say a word; instead they just sat there the whole time. One boy I was watching sat there the whole class period and not once took notes, looked at his book or did anything the teacher told everyone to do.

I could tell that the behavior of the class as a whole was wearing on the teacher’s patience. She did her best to control what she could control, but the class was not settling down. I sensed that this had an effect on the atmosphere of the classroom as a whole and not just the ones that were misbehaving. Even those that were trying to pay attention and answering questions the teacher asked didn’t get much positive reinforcement from the teacher for their correct answers. I could see how this was discouraging to the students who were trying to learn despite the actions of their classmates. We spoke with the teacher after the class and she told us that what we saw was pretty typical of a class in a hauptschule.

After the rough first day at the werkrealschule, I a little less than excited about spending another day at the school. But the experience Wednesday was quite different than what we experienced Monday.

The first class I observed in was a 9th grade class. The class had just finished up with exams as well so the teacher didn’t have a lesson planned for the class. But the teacher was nice enough to give us a little taste of what class like was like. He showed us part of their English test they took then had the student work on a math worksheet. Finally the class demonstrated a math game that they play. The game was similar to the game of around the world. Essentially two students face off and the teacher gave them a math problem. Then the student that answered correctly the fastest wins and the other student sits down. The winner continues to answer questions until they are beat and then they sit down. Most of the students seemed pretty enthralled with the game and to be having a good time. After the game was over we answered some questions the students had and then the teacher let them play “Just Dance” on the Wii.

The class seemed very receptive to the teacher and respected him. The teacher told us how there was only 3 students missing from class, which he was pretty surprised about since it was the end of the year and they had already finished exams. Then again I would say that would be pretty good in any school in U.S. as well. I really enjoyed the teacher/student relationship I saw in this classroom. It was easy to tell that the teacher was really in tuned with the students needs. He could tell that for the most part the students were mentally checked out already. So he used different techniques, such as the math game, to still make the class period productive. Then afterwards he recognized that they all needed to blow off steam and he let them play the dance game. I really had a lot of respect for the teacher and how he managed his classroom.

The teacher mentioned to us that at times teaching the class can be rather difficult because of wide age range of students. A few of the students were as old as 17 or 18 because they were required to repeat grades. He also told us that there was a wide range of ethnicities in the classroom. There were a lot of Turkish students. There were also some students from France, Spain and Italy. Only 2 or 3 students were actually from Germany.

The second class I observed in that day was also fun. The class was reviewing the “will future” tense and the all took turns saying what they were going to do on their holiday. After, they took a quiz over the tense. Once everyone was finished they continued with presentations they had started before. When the presentations were done, we all sat in a circle and the students asked us questions. Some how we got on the subject of money and so we showed the class what some American money looks like. One of the boys wanted to trade euros for an American dollar. He was pretty persistent so finally Sarah agreed. I’m pretty sure she made the boy’s day.

After the class ended we talked with a few of the teachers and the principal again. One interesting thing to point out would be that all of the teachers at the werkrealschule talked about how they didn’t like the current school system. They focused on how things were in the process of changing and that they weren’t exactly sure what would come of the change. While on the contrary, the teachers and the headmaster at the gymnasium said they liked the system.

Another really interesting thing one of the teachers talked about was how Germany’s history has influence on how schools are run. For example, there are not any schools in Germany where students are required to wear uniforms. This is because there is still fear and overwhelming precautions in order to prevent any form of extreme militaristic control. The same is true with displaying a German flag. It is not common for Germans fly a German flag in a school or at home. They flee so far away from any idea of nationalism because of the extreme history they have had with it. I think this is interesting because it is so different than our culture. In America we are exactly the opposite. Everything is about being “Proud to be an American” and showing support of the “Red, White and Blue.”

I could tell that the teachers we talked with really loved what they were doing. Despite the difficulties they may encounter in this school, they clearly had a passion for teaching. Of course this is essential for any teacher but I think it requires a whole another level of it at a school like this. Hats off to them!

Samstag, 4. Juni 2011

Neuschwinstein and the ALPS!

So yes, I am already home, and it may seem kind of silly to keep catching up with the last couple days of the trip, but I'm going to anyways lol.... Plus this one I've already had typed up on my computer but just hadn't had a chance to upload it till now. So here it is:
Rise and Sine! Bright and early! We headed out from the hotel at about 7:30 in the morning. It was a little over an 2 hour ride to get to the castle. Since we were all still sleepy we mostly slept the whole way there. It has gotten to the point of the trip where I think we were all just tired all the time. I am pretty sure that when I get home I will sleep for a week straight! But our nap on the way there was just what we need to get us through this fun filled afternoon.
The naps only lasted until we began to see the mountains out the window. This was so beautiful! I never would have imagined I’d ever see anything like that. But here we are, staring out the windows that these beautiful mountains.
 
Neuschwinstein Castle tucked away in the mountains, gave us a little sneak peak of what we would see later that day.
Finally we arrive to our destination. Before we head to the castle, it was time for a hike! We all took a Gondola ride up one of the mountains. It was so cool!
   
 
So we got up there and just took the unbelieveable view. There was a path to walk up, so we proceeded up the mountain some more on foot.
 
 

We kept walking and walking and taking pictures. Until we reached this sign.
I’m not sure the word for word translation, but pretty much it says that from here on out the path can be dangerous, there may be falling rocks and if you are in the least bit nervous about proceeding you should turn back now. Oh and that if something were to happen to you (aka should you fall and die) they can not be head responsible. Yikes!
I think if we were all to be completely honest after reading the sign and seeing the path ahead of us we were all getting a little more nervous. But still we moved on. At this point we were no longer just walking up the path. Oh no, we were hiking up the Alps, no big deal
 
So we kept going and finally met up with Tony, Olaf and Tristan who had left us in the dust a long time ago. Unfortunately we didn’t make it up to the top of the mountain (where the cross is) because as we were climbing we could hear thunder rolling in the background. But we got pretty close!
So now for our descent down the mountain. Much easier than walking up, that’s for sure! Also a little quicker since we wanted to make sure we got back before the storm hit. Which we did, thankfully! Everyone was hungry after our hike so we stopped at the café on the mountain .After we ate, we had to unfortunately wait for quite awhile for the weather to clear up before they would let us take the gondola back down. They are very cautious about not allowing people to ride the gondola if there is any lightning, for obvious reasons.
 
Once we finally were able to ride back down, it was off to our next stop! Neuschwanstein! Or also know as the Cinderella Castle. Ooo! The weather was taking a bit of the turn for the worse, but at least we made it through our hike.  And the tour of the castle is indoors of course so it worked out just fine. The best part of the castle tour was the ride to the castle. We took a horse drawn carriage up to the castle! I felt like such a princess!
Once we got up to the castle, we had a bit of time to wait until our tour so we walked around the gift shop. And you will not believe what I found. Remember how I said I found a little purse in Munich that I wanted but wasn’t able to get when I was there? Well I found (not the exact same one but) a similar one. So I indeed bought it as soon as a saw it.
  
It was finally time for our tour, so we stopped our touristy shopping and followed our group to the castle’s entrance. Sadly as soon as, we got in they told us we couldn’t take pictures. So unfair right?!? But I did snap a picture of the no pictures allowed sign… I felt like such a rebel.

The tour was alright. It was much shorter than the tour in Ludwisgburg. It was only maybe 30 minutes and our tour guide didn’t seem to give us all that much historical background about the time period or the royal family that lived there. 
What I did learn though is that the castle was never completely finished. The whole second floor was left uncompleted because of the death of King Ludwig. The family lived there for less than a year before the King’s death. Afterwards, the building was property of the German parliament and made open to the public.
There was one very unique room; it was the King’s cave room. And it legit was constructed to look like a cave. It was kind of creepy if you ask me, but apparently the room was constructed specifically per the request of King Ludwig. This room was used as part of the argument as to claim King Ludwig’s insanity, which coincidentally occurred right before his death. Scandalous? Sounds like it to me.  
<3

Donnerstag, 2. Juni 2011

WerkRealschule and “Mercedes Benz Museum”

I am terribly behind on my posts, yet again… but the last couple nights on top of getting back kind of late I have also had terrible luck with my computer. Clearly technology and I just do not mix well at all. But now it is working, somewhat fine (crossing my fingers) so I will try and get as much posted before it either freezes again and/or I fall asleep. I am hoping I get everything updated and posted before I leave!
Anyways, back to my adventures….
Monday we were back in the schools after a weekend full of adventures and field trips. But that’s quite alright because this is exactly what this trip is for. The school we were visiting was the third track of the German school system, the hauptschule. This is where the students with the lowest test scores or who are slower learners go to school. Although in Von Vutenburg they have gone away with calling the school a hauptschule. This is mostly because the word hauptschule has over time grown quite a stigma of being a school for students that are not very intelligence. Instead of hauptschule, the school is called Werkrealschule, which essentially means “hands on schools.”
It was really interesting to finally visit this school because we had heard a lot about the school during our observations at the other schools. Some things were similar to what I expected but there were also a lot of differences as well. I will talk more about the school in my post for Wednesday, this way I can talk about my observations on Monday and Wednesday all as one post!
After the school visit, we had a trip to the Mercedes Benz planned. Well funny story… apparently museums are often closed on Mondays. So here we all are standing outside of the museum looking all sad. L
(will have to hunt down that picture.. can't find it )
But we all took turns taking pictures in the model of a Mercedes race car that was out front.
                        
Cool picture I must say but obviously no where near as cool as it would have been to go inside. But depending on how the rest of the week goes we may have time to try and make it back there before we had back home. Crossing my fingers!
Well now that our plans to go the museum fell thru, it was on to plan b, ice cream of course! We are all very easily pacified, I swear we are 5 years old some times, Ice cream solves all problems. Afterwards we went to the grocery store and got supplies for our picnic later that night. This was almost as awesome of an idea as the ice cream! We got some cold cuts and cheese from the deli, some grapes and then some bread from the bakery. So now that we had the perfect ingredients for a yummy picnic, we just needed to find the perfect location. And we knew just the place, The Castle!
Yes, that’s right we had a picnic at the castle! It was so perfect. We did have to walk back up the 313 steps but I mean we were about to have a picnic in the middle of a medieval fortress so the steps were nothing.  So we enjoyed our lovely food, and then Bettina met us up there to some class work. I have a proposal, “Eastern can we just move all of our classes to being held at a castle? Please and thank you!
So after class we headed back to the hotel and went to bed. We had an early morning the next day. Neuschwanstein Castle and the Alps! EEK!
<3

Montag, 30. Mai 2011

Lake of Constance

Sunday we hopped in car and drove about an hour and a half to the Lake of Constance. It is the biggest lake in Central Europe. Our first stop on our day trip was to the monkey habitat. This was the cutest thing! So these monkeys are pretty much the luckiest little buggers ever! They lay around all day and sit and wait for people to feed them popcorn. What a life!
                           
                                
                                
                                  
From top to bottom: Me, Vanessa, Sarah and Tasha all feeding the monkeys popcorn
Before we went in the workers made sure to inform us that WE COULD NOT PET THE MONKEYS! I am sorry but I feel like telling us not to touch them is like telling a kid in a candy shop to not eat anything. This was so unfair! All I wanted to do was pet and cuddle with the little monkeys. But apparently they think we are really bizarre dressed monkeys that have cooties.  So I had to settle with just feeding them.
But still aren’t they cutest thing ever?!?!
  
Nappy time for this one!
             

Besides for the monkeys there were also ducks! Baby duckies! Here is a ridiculous cute video of a mother duck getting food for her ducklings:
video

The ducklings were all fuzzy and fluffy looking. Awh!
After the monkey habitat we walked over to the lake. It wasn’t a beach like area with sand, it was all grass, and then an area of rocks before the water. Speaking of the water, it was FREEZING! And most of you know how I am with cold water… yeah, not so great… So I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any further than my ankles in the water. But that was quite alright with me. We then laid out in the sun for a bit. It was nice to relax and catch some rays. Before we headed back to Esslingen we got some ice cream. I had a green apple flavored, it was yummy!
Oh and I suppose I didn’t mention what we ate for lunch. We went to a nice café by the beach. The food was really delicious. And I must say, between the 7 of us, we have seemed to have gotten this ordering food in German down packed! We walked into the café and asked a question in English and the waitress gave us this look like, “Oh my gosh, the don’t speak German, what do I do?!?” But both us and the waitress survived so all is good. I went out on a limb and tried something I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but the risk was a success because it was very good. I knew it was a steak (because it said western steak, genius right?) and I had recognized the word for onions (zwiebel) as well as the word for bacon (speck). So steak onions and bacon couldn’t seem to bad, and in fact it was awesome. Okay I did not actually eat the onions, but it gave the steak a good flavor. Also it was served with seasoned potato wedges. All in all a successful meal. J
So we headed back to the hotel and later in the evening ventured out to food and then it was off to bed.
<3

Sonntag, 29. Mai 2011

The Day we all hit a wall

Okay so now we are at Saturday. In the morning we went back to the Grundschule (the elementary school) because they were having a summer fest and the principal invited us to come and check it out. We were supposed to dance with the kids, you know the dance we practiced with kids in their gym class, but (thankfully) when we got there the dance teacher was busy getting all the students ready so we didn’t end up dancing with them. OH DARN. Really with all the parents watching, I was content with just watching. But the kids dance was cute!
                              
Their choir also performed a few songs.
Their theme of the fest was the four elements: earth, water, fire and wind. So they had a man that was breathing fire. That was pretty cool.


After the singing and dancing the kids put on a performance of a German fairy tale. Although none of us could understand what they were not saying nor could really see because there were so many parents. So we decided to head back to the hotel. Our plan was to be productive the rest of the day. We were going to do some blogging, then check out this street fest that was near by and then take the train into Stuttgart and go to the zoo…. But that did not happen, oh no. We got back to the hotel and laid around a bit longer than planed. We did actually look around the street fest for awhile. Then we came to the consensus that most of us really weren’t at all feeling walking around the zoo.
I feel like we have all hit a wall, a wall of exhaustion. So much walking and tours and fun! So as where a week ago, even if I was tired I would have still wanted to GO GO GO… now I just want to go take a nap! Which is exactly what I did… a two hour nap to be exact! I know that probably seems lame but we have been going non stop since we’ve got here. So I think the nap was the best decision for all of us.
After our lovely nap, we all got ready for dinner and going out for the night. We were going to meet up with Ina again tonight since we didn’t the night before she again had to work early in the morning, so that was a no go. Still we got spiffy-ed up so after a very yummy dinner at the café by our hotel we decided to walk around the park for a bit.
Well when you are in Germany and you are a group of giggle girls speaking English you kind of stick out like a sore thumb. So while we were talking a group of guys .. oh wait correction: boys, they were most definitely several years younger than all of us, came up and started talking to us, or trying to at least since they spoke only a little bit of English. But anyways they were friendly and found it cool to be talking to Americans. Like they’ve never seen Americans before... jokes… But they had some very interesting stereotypes and opinions about America.
1. They get there idea of cops in America from the Simpsons, fat, blue hair and eating donuts all day. They said this is why there is crime because the cops are too fat to catch the criminals…. Okay.
2. They think we don’t like England because of the Revolutionary War… I thought that was kind of interesting.
3. They love Obama and hate George Bush… no comment there…
4. Again with the Gangsters and crime in Chicago
5. And American girls are beautiful, but we all knew that! :P
I think it’s really cool to see how other people view our country. Well here is a group of our new German buddies. None of us were really ready for the picture to be taken but its all I’ve got so here it is:
                                 
You really don't need to completey speak the same language to laugh and have a good time.
They kept calling me sunshine :)


<3

Ludwigsburg

                                                
Friday we went to the Castle in Ludwigsburg. Our tour guide told us (and we could tell by our aching feet) that this is the longest castle tour in Germany. The tour was about an hour and a half. There are over 400 rooms in the castle and we saw 70 rooms…. Imagine if we were to see all of them… Eep! Well the castle was really pretty. Not only is it the longest castle tour but it is also supposed to the most authentic and well preserved castle.
              
 It is decorated in Baroque and Rococo (says the tour guide).
It is decorated in Gorgeousness (says me).
I won’t ramble on in this post and instead just show you some pictures:
                                   
                                                    
The King's quarters. Seems like a tiny bed, right? Well it is, especially if youre around 7ft tall like one of the kings was.
 
This was the queen's quarters. The striped chair is the chamber pot... cool right?
This is in the theater, they would bring pull the chandeller up through the whole to light the candles.
 
There was a room of all mirrors... You know I just couldn't resist!
Okay so this has nothing to do with the castle but I'm throwing it in here anyways. These cigarette machines are all over. There's one place where you swipe your driver's liscense to prove you are old enough to buy them and then another place where you insert money or a credit card. Cool Huh?
                                         
After the castle tour we went to this fairy tale park. You walk around to different stations and watch/ look at different displays of German versions of the grim fairy tale stories. They seemed very similar to American fairy tales. There was a Cinderella story, little red riding hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Rapunzel. Although, some of the stories seemed maybe a little more violent or less cheery than the American stories.  Sadly I ran out of batteries half way through the park. But here are some pictures of the different stations that I got to before the camera died.
                              
Rapunzel, and a couple is taking their wedding pictures next to it... awh!
Guess what this one is?^^^


All day we were battling the off and on rain, again… thankfully I have learned my lesson and had both an umbrella and a jacket. Look at me, I’m learning!
We finally finished at the Fairy tale park and took the train back into Stuttgart. Ina, Bettina’s friend’s daughter, who is 18, so around our age, came with us and we did a little shopping. Okay maybe shopping is the wrong word. For me it was more like, look at all the wonderful clothes I wish I could buy lol. We also got crepes at a crepe stand. It was delicious. I got one that was banana and nutella. YUM!
Later that night Ina was supposed to show us a club that her and her friends go to. Woho party with the locals! But she had to work at 5am the next morning and after walking around we were all pretty tired. So what better alternative than FOOD! We got a doner again, well because it’s that awesome.  Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and SLEPT.
I <3 sleep.  
<3