Back to school

Meißen, 20th of November

Kingsley on his first day at schoolMan muß jetzt Deutsch sprechen! One has to speak German now! Kingsley starts die Schule, school, Imogène starts her Kindergarten, I start das Unterrichten, teaching, and Anne starts her immersion into die örtliche Gemeinschaft, the local community.All up at 6am! Kingsley's Grundschule, primary school, starts at 7.20am. We all go as a delegation. Der Direktor, the Headteacher, and das Kollegium, staff, are waiting in front of the school to welcome the children. The sight of our car with its British number plates creates quite a stir! Poor Kingsley is crawling under the weight of Schulbüchern, school books, and one cushion that every child must provide for his chair. He gives me a sad look as I leave him with his Lehrer, teacher, and Klassenkameraden, classmates.

SchultütenImogène settles very naturally into her new environment, even though she seems to be a little puzzled by these other children who neither speak "en Français comme Daddy" or "in English like Mummy".They finish at 12 noon, so it is not long before we get their first impressions: "Yes, that was cool!" and "Imogène likes Kindergarten" - said beautifully well.In the photo you see Schultüten, lit. "school bags", filled with sweets and school materials which each child receives on his or her first day at school.

Wrong class-room? Wrong planet?

My first teaching day feels so weird: 25 impeccably behaved 14-15 year olds, absolutely silent, no displays on the walls (not allowed – would damage the paint). I am taken by surprise and at first I think I might have stepped into the wrong Klassenzimmer, class-room - or even the wrong planet! I start with a few icebreakers, some of which involve moving around the classroom, but my students seem to be affected by a strange paralysis and for the first time in ten years of teaching, I am rapidly losing my confidence. I have planned quizzes, games, text comprehension activities and the pace is very fast; I try using some humour but end with 25 blank expressions. I finish the lesson exhausted, thank the students for their co-operation and I am about to go and throw myself into the river Elbe when suddenly they all stand up and rap the tables (the academic equivalent of applause). They're now all smiling and some even come to shake hands and thank me. Now who's looking confused and puzzled?

Birthday and bruises

swimming poolThanks to an extended summer and shorter school hours, we continued to enjoy outdoor activities, particularly paddling in streams and rivers or diving in the lakes. But one day at an outdoor pool as I try to get changed with the precarious privacy of my towel, I feel a sudden excruciating pain at the lower levels of my body and discover that a very aggressive red ant has mistaken my rather private parts for a Bratwurst! I swing in agony while my family wriggle with laughter ...A couple of weeks later on my birthday weekend, I am persuaded by colleagues at das Sportfest, the sports day, to take part in the 200m relay race. The last time I ran was to catch a train for my wedding back in 1990 so you can imagine how keen I felt. Anyway, just before the finishing line, my legs decide to play a trick on me and I fall with all my weight at full speed: my whole right side is badly burned and bruised and I can hardly walk but this is nothing to what my ego has to endure when die stellvertretender Direktorin, the Deputy Headteacher asks me to smile as she takes a couple of snaps for the display in our Lehrerzimmer, staff-room!

Sent by: Frederic


José Hélio Pontes Lima 2005-09-06

I really enjoyed reading your journals. I particularly identified myself with the way you described your first day at school. I sometimes feel like that, like losing my self-confidence, but it's awesome when the students come after class and shake our hand. It feels great to know that the students appreciate your effort.

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