All things Autumn

A night off lesson planning, a chance to sit down with a cup of tea and write. Finally! Here’s an update on the past few weeks..

Stepping in front of a class for the first time when you’ve never done it before is kind of daunting to say the least! As tempting as it would be to say that the past couple have weeks have been about settling in and easing into the school routine, well this really wouldn’t be true at all. I have, in fact, been thrown in the deep end in some respects, but actually that has been the best way to get straight in there and get going!

As I am placed in two schools here in Graz I spent one week introducing myself to all the classes in one and then spent the week after doing exactly the same in my second school. So for 20-odd classes is was a case of “Morning everyone! For what seems the fifteen hundredth time let me draw you a map of what’s meant to be the UK and tell you my life story” For the first three or fours times it’s fun and exciting, but each time after that I felt a bit like a broken record stuck on the same track. Although having said that the bewildered faces when I spoke Welsh could never get old! Most students interestingly didn’t know Wales was a country and many thought Welsh was a dialect of English. So I was glad that if anything my Welsh A-level had stood me in good stance to rectify this unfortunate misunderstanding. I had feared that it would be difficult to fill a lesson with the compulsory ‘Hello my name is..,and I come from..’ things but actually it proved more than successful, as to my surprise students were generally very curious about, well, just about everything, from questioning me on Brexit to asking how much tea I drink, to whether all British people eat salted butter and what brand of lipstick I was wearing that day, I truly heard it all!

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The past week has been my third week of the term and that has meant I have been teaching “for real”, as opposed to the relaying my life story spiel. If I’m honest I wasn’t quite expecting to have quite so much responsibility from the get go, but I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed having some freedom with the class, being able to take a topic and create some kind of activity to get the students engaged! It’s been a challenge for sure, I mean when it’s your first time teaching and all the direction you are given is ‘Could you do a lesson on marketing?’ when you’ve never studied anything to do with marketing in your life, that’s quite intense. Yet once I put my mind to it a little and got creative, I actually managed to put together a half decent lesson which even the real teacher complimented, so I guess I must be doing something right?! The classes I teach in range in ages from 15-19, which is good because I get to do some more fun topics as well as some more complex topics for the older students preparing for their exams. In all it’s been a pretty chaotic time settling into the routine of school life, especially the early morning starts.. at 7.45 it takes a few more layers of concealer under my eyes before I look like a presentable human being.

Aside from school business the past few weeks have also been about tying up some last admin bits and bobs.. bank accounts, registration and all that jazz, which I fear is still not entirely complete…(Why so many forms Austria?!) and really just settling back into life in Graz. Autumn time has officially arrived here much to my delight! The leaves are turning all shades of yellow and orange and it’s now acceptable to put on a wooly hat, so I’m very happy about that. I’ve been busying myself with walks by the river in the afternoons and seeing all the locals on their afternoon runs is definitely having its effect on me! Never before have I felt quite so determined to master a weekly exercise routine so I don’t stick out like the ‘unfit Brit’.

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All in all I’d say things are going pretty swimmingly; probably more so than I ever expected. The students and teachers at school are all so welcoming, and as soon as I got a place in the staff room to put my stuff, I felt like I belonged. Aside from that, I mean, look where I get to live! Back in the grünes Herz Österreichs, nestled in the city surrounded by mountains and green and all things austrian thus wonderful.

Life is good.

-K.

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Guess who’s back!

Well seen as I have been in Austria for approximately two weeks now, I thought it was about time that I got down to documenting a few things that have been going on.

My journey began once more at Manchester Airport when I once again stayed the night at Premier Inn before flying early the next morning. It still meant an early morning start but at least I could get some mildly acceptable amount of sleep before the journey. Plus, to quote Miranda..I do love a good hotel room. I ordered pizza, made full use of the tea and coffee, then watched X factor from the bath with a facemask on. Perfection.

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Above the clouds

My journey here this time was considerably simpler than the last time, involving only one flight from Manchester to Vienna then a train journey down through the mountains before arriving back in Graz. There was something quite homely about stepping down to the familiar platform and knowing which bus to take and what ticket to ask for etc. it made me really appreciate the fact that I wasn’t doing this for the first time. Returning to my old flat and flatmate was also just the best, it felt like I’d never left!

I wanted to document my journey in a fun and different way so I video blogged some bits and pieces along the way!

The next few days I spent attempting to sort out my room and some laborious admin but in fact I spent a lot of time wandering round the city, taking pictures and pretending that I was here for the first time taking in the beauty of Austria. I got strangely emotional in a way whilst walking through the centre; when I left last time I said that I would be back one day, but deep down I was never quite sure where life would take me! All I knew was that I fell for the city and Austria itself so it was certain I was going to do all I could to get back!

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Rathaus/Townhall, Graz
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Uhrturm, Schlossberg

After a week of settling back into austrian life it was time to head off up north to St. Pölten in Niederösterreich, an hour or so from Vienna, for a week of teacher training. We stayed in a big youth hostel type place where we shared a room with another teaching assistant and we had the chance to meet everyone who would be working in Austria too from the UK and the US. There was, however, no danger or no chance to be shy about meeting people as that evening we were involved in a crash course folk dance workshop. By which I mean a group of almost 80 or so young people, most with two left feet, embarrassed ourselves and were, for the most part, a bit of a lost hope. Nevertheless it was a bit of fun and there’s no better way to break the ice than to be forced to Waltz with strangers…

Most of the training week, however, did not consist of dancing, but we actually had to learn something and figure out how we were going to survive the next year as teaching assistants! This meant lots of classes, discussions, activities and even a morning for test-run teaching at a local school. Overall it was an invaluable few days away, not just because we got to meet everyone and make some friends but also because most of us came away saying how much more confident we felt about the coming year! I got the train back on Friday around lunch time with a couple of other teaching assistants also living in Graz, which was admittedly quite funny to see their excited reactions to the picturesque scenes out the window as we wound round the mountains.

After an intense week it was somewhat a relief to be back! Yet we knew that there were only a couple of days left before we started teaching for real! A daunting, yet mostly exciting prospect…More news about that to come soon!


Katie Louise