Teaching, Trials and Tribulations

“Do you speak German?”, “Can you say Oachkatzlschwoaf”, “Do you like tea?”, “Does it rain there?”, “Do you know the queen by the way?”; just a sample of the many questions I’ve encountered over the past few weeks as ‘Katie’ aka. ‘the english one’. 

Before embarking on this teaching venture I was not sure quite what to expect. Many people had told me before about their own experiences, yet I still struggled to envisage how it would be for me, because I had never done any teaching before this. For that reason I thought I would collect together a few trials, tribulations and experiences from the past few weeks to advise future assistants, for memories sake and purely for the hilarity of some situations.

  • Be prepared to introduce yourself..fifty times over..

Firstly, I’ve lost count now of how many times I’ve walked into a classroom and done the introduction routine. Some teachers may want you to go straight into a topic or not take up too much time but whatever happens, one way or another you have to introduce yourself. I teach thirteen classes a week in two schools (week A and week B) and plus a few extras that have been swapped and changed on occasions, so I wouldn’t hesitate to say I’ve done the ‘Hi, my name is… and I come from…’ routine at least thirty times. My drawing of the UK has gone from bad to worse; to the point of some students questioning, ‘what is that exactly?’… which provided some amusement at the very least.

  • Prepare to be interrogated..

Students are curious. Very very curious. About just about everything in your whole life. There was no way I could have possibly prepared for some of the interrogations concerning everything from hobbies, pets, family, languages, rain, tea, royals to english butter, boyfriends and brexit. Truly I feel I’ve heard it all!

  • A chance to learn..

As the school system is different here in Austria this means that many things vary in the types of schools and their curriculums. Students can choose from a younger age what focus they want on their studies, which means that some high schools have different focus areas and specialities. For example my schools both have a business focus, which means that some topics are somewhat unfamiliar! In the past few weeks I’ve covered all kinds of topics, from advertising and branding to business ownership models (the one time I wished I remembered anything from GCSE business studies..) and marketing. This means that I’ve had to do a fair amount of work and research to make sure I’m informed enough to be able to then discuss a topic thoroughly enough with the students. Obviously this has proved challenging in some cases, but actually it’s good that I get a chance to learn some things too!

  • Expect the unexpected..

There is sometimes no way to prepare for the everyday trials and tribulations that teaching throws at you, and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and deal with whatever gets thrown your way. Things can’t always go as smoothly as you would hope. Especially concerning technology..when you plan a lesson on tourism and want to show a video, then the sound doesn’t work be prepared to provide a voice over commentary.. yes this happened, but I’d like to think my commentary did the Welsh tourist board justice! Aside from that there are many things that have been sent to try and throw me off guard; whether that’s rowdy students or the casual attitude towards swearing in the classroom, some things can come as a bit of a shock at first. Once I asked a class what they would do if they were a millionaire and one student shouted ‘I’d spend it all on drugs’.. needless to say my facial expression perfectly encapsulated my response. Not impressed.

Overall these past few weeks have been quite the rollercoaster! I’ve surprised myself with how much I’m actually enjoying it all; yes it is daunting at first to stand up in front of a class of 15-19 year olds who think they are too cool for school and be presented with the task of motivating them, but in fact once you get on their level and don’t take things so seriously, they will respond eventually! Honestly most the time you just need to make a bit of a fool of yourself, make them laugh, be real and make them feel comfortable enough to talk to you! It also really helps if you can get them talking about topics relevant to them and something they identify with; the other day discussing cultural differences with an A-level class I asked them if they had any tips for dating in Austria and I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, worked a treat!

I feel so lucky to be here and have this opportunity; feeling like I actually might have some direction in my life! Schau ma mal… 🙂

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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.

Year Abroad Take Two…

And so it begins..! I hereby commence graduate life. Which actually means see you later, I’m off.. again!

Final year went by in a flash, quicker than any other of the past four years, that, in short, amassed to a very big sigh of relief on results day. Leaving Lancaster has become somewhat of an emotional affair and I’m not one to deal with goodbyes particularly well. It isn’t just a case of moving away from a place, it’s the end of an era with all it’s ups and downs, experienced with the best of friends and all within a tight knit community. Life at Lancaster was like having a second little family and I will miss it dearly. Maybe I’ll be back in the future.. who knows!

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Graduation Day 13/07/2016

Yet from endings new beginnings shall blossom. Everyone is going off in different directions and finding their paths in life, and though undecided about exactly what I want to do in the future, I’m attempting to try the ‘take every opportunity possible’ policy. Which translated actually means I don’t have a clue so I’m just leaving the country..again. Well who would deny the chance for a second year abroad?! Not me! As part of my degree I already did one year abroad studying at Graz University in the south-east region of Austria, and this year really gave me a renewed, positive outlook on life, which I really treasure. (All blog posts can be found by clicking here or on the third year abroad tab above). Some of my happiest memories and biggest adventures fulfilled this year which is why I decided to do everything in my power to get back there asap!

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Year Abroad Scrapbook

Therefore I am pleased to announce that mid september I will be flying back to the beautiful austrian city of Graz to work and live as a (kind-of) functioning adult! I will be working as an English language teaching assistant with the British Council and I’ve even managed to secure a room back in the same flat I lived in on my year abroad… I know you couldn’t write this.. I hardly believe it either in all honesty! It seems rather ridiculous, I mean, of course upon leaving I always said that I’d be back sometime, but never did it actually occur to me that this would work out how it actually has. A very bizarre state of affairs if you ask me! Anyway the job, as I said will be as a teaching assistant, and I have been placed in two schools pretty much right in the centre of Graz, which is fantastic and knowing the city so well already I really feel like I will just be able to slot back into the ‘Grazerin’ life with fewer hurdles than the first time! Of course it is going to be quite a different experience this time, but I’m so excited for it! I’ve been in contact with teachers at the schools and have already started planning some ideas and collecting bits and bobs to take over with me. Meanwhile over the summer I’ve also managed to get a job so it’s all systems go with saving and sorting for the next month and a bit.

Over the course of the year I will endeavour to post as much as possible about all my new, exciting experiences and travels. Sure I may have fit a lot into my last year abroad, but I’m certain there is much more I have left to tick off my list! Click the follow button in the sidebar to keep up with my latest ventures and updates.


Katie Louise

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Yes, The Hills are (still) Alive! : Stories of Salzburg

Those of you who follow me on various other social media platforms will probably know half the story of which I am about to tell. Yet I feel it entirely deserving and owed it’s own special blog post. Therefore ladies and gentlemen, the hills are truly and most definitely still alive, I give you, the splendour that is Salzburg.

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Salzach River and Hohenfestung, Salzburg

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Next Stop – Slovakia

It seems rather too much to conceive thinking about how quick the time has passed, yet in desperation for making the most out of what time is left, I’ve opted for a so called ‘let’s just book it and get out of here’ attitude. Austria is small and bordered by eight different countries, all reachable by simple and cheap train journeys. I would be rather foolish not to take advantage.

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Therefore…Vitajte v Bratislavy…Willkommen in Bratislava…Welcome on and all to Bratislava!

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