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.

Settling into Normality!

Hallo Alle! I felt like it had been a while since we I last posted, so I thought it was time for an update! Oh the busy life of an university erasmus student with all the work …exploring 😉

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Townhall Graz

No I’m kidding there is some work element involved in this year abroad lark!.. I promise! Though it would be foolish of me not to make the most of all the opportunities to do a bit of sight seeing!

I feel like I am getting into the swing of things now with university classes, in fact it is quite crazy to believe that I have been in Austria two months already! They did warn me that time would fly by, and they weren’t wrong! Although I do think I have managed to settle in well and discover some of Austria and beyond already!

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The Bittersweet Reality of a Year Abroad!

Whilst in preparation for the year abroad, the concept of culture shock was mentioned, but I guess you never really know what to expect from it, until you are actually experiencing it for yourself.

Whether it’s not being able to find your favorite food, changes in the way people greet each other, or even the local lingo; there are many challenges that test you when settling into your year abroad! Now of course, I’m not trying to say that I don’t still love it here, because I absolutely do; but I just really wanted to do a post to make sure that people, especially future year-abroaders, don’t get the impression that everything always goes to plan or that there aren’t any bittersweet realities to the year abroad experience!

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A day trip to Slovenia!

Evening dear readers,

Well it has been a busy few days indeed! First things first, Friday was the last day of my intensive German course, which meant only one thing – the end of course test! Which actually wasn’t that bad at all (surprisingly). We had a listening, grammar, writing and reading test first (then ‘Jause Pause’ break for coffee – as always), then finally a speaking test which was done in a group, where we had to pretend to be a family arguing over where to go on holiday! Interesting, but strangely got into it haha! Much more fun somehow when arguing in German! Overall think it went fine, and in all honesty as long as I get a fairly decent grade I will be happy, because just what I have gained from the course personally, outweighs any grade I receive for how well I know my ‘der, die, das’ declensions! It was a great three weeks though and I am so glad that I was part of it, to get to know so many lovely new people, who I really hope to keep in contact with! A few of us have applied to do the next level of the German course in the semester, so will definitely be seeing a few of them anyway.

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First Month of my Year Abroad!

In all honesty, I cannot quite believe that it has been a whole month since I tentatively stepped down from the plane and my Austrian adventure began! (And boy has it been a roller-coaster ride!)

There have been times when I’ve questioned ‘whose silly idea was this year abroad business anyway!?’, but there have been times where I can truly say I have felt like the luckiest person in the world! Sorry for the cheesiness.. 😉 but it’s absolutely true! This is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, travelling just over a thousand miles on my own, finding a flat here, getting to know other students, attempting to speak the local lingo and most challenging of all trying to integrate with a new culture!

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Is this really happening!?

I am finding it rather hard to believe that I have been here nearly two weeks already! It has all been such a whirlwind of meeting new people, finding my way around and settling in to a new lifestyle. This last week especially has been a challenge in that I find myself constantly questioning if this is all really happening!? If I didn’t make the choice to pursue languages at school or further on into university then I would most likely not have this opportunity!

Earlier on in the week I got to meet my mentor who I have as part of the Erasmus/international student scheme here at the university. Last year in Lancaster I was a mentor for some international students from Hong Kong, and I found it interesting that in a strange role-reversal situation, I was the one requiring some direction! 😛 We met up by the university main building along with another Erasmus student who I have got to know really well, and we went on a mini tour of Graz and the university buildings, which are absolutely stunning! The university is the second-oldest in Austria, established in 1585, so many of the university buildings have such historical and architectural beauty.

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