We had our first snow the other day! I think I was more excited than any of the kids in my class, haha. The above picture is in my room, facing out one of my windows. I haven’t taken any pictures of the base because I’m not sure I’m really allowed to. I’m gonna wait on that one til I hear for sure if I can or not.
Oh, I have so much to say. My plan was to update weekly, but since everything is still really new and exciting, I find myself wanting to tell you everything. So, I will.
It’s been an interesting transition to introducing these three new things in my day to day: Germany, teaching 2nd grade, and military life. Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start, when you read you begin with “ABC,” when you sing you begin with “do, re, mi”…).
As you know, we stayed at Elizabeth’s mentor’s house that first night in Vilseck. We went to school the next day, all jet lagged and exhausted, and were received with such warm welcomes. Every teacher, secretary, and administrator at the school already knew our names and literally everyone has gone out of their way to help us get settled. The main secretary took us to get housing on post during the school day (address and phone number in the right hand column of the page, check it!), then took us to Grafenwoehr (another post very close to Rose Barracks) to get military IDs (a very long process) and took us to the giant PX there (think small Wal-Mart without food). The next day the Vice Principal asked us to put together a list of supplies we need (silverware, pots and pans, towels, blankets, etc.), and today we received almost everything on our list. A very generous community indeed.
One of the teachers that works here, Mary, went to (drumroll…) Truman! She did her internship at Vilseck Elementary five (?) years ago, went home and taught near Kansas City for a few years, and then was hired back on as a paid teacher. Crazy, no? She, Elizabeth and I went out to eat at Zur Post (excellent and somewhat inexpensive German restaurant in Sorghof) where we filled up on Helles and cheese Spaetzle. Yes, it is essentially German mac & cheese, and yes, it is delicious. Are you at all surprised that I found my comfort food this quickly? 🙂 We asked Mary a million questions about Germany, Vilseck, Amberg (where she lives now), her experience with DoDDS, how she got hired, etc. It was great!
Ok, so TEACHING:
1. The kids are absolutely adorable. The school atmosphere is similar to American schools, but there are definitely some big differences. Lots of the kids are from places other than the U.S., which is really incredible. We are reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret as a read-aloud right now, and the setting is in Paris, France. We asked, “how many people here have been to Paris?” for an introduction to the book, and at least three-fourths of the kids raised their hands! They also have slightly different specials, like a Host Nation class where they speak German and learn about Bavarian culture. Spanish is also taught on Wednesdays, so these kids are crazy brilliant when it comes to language acquisition. Three languages before third grade! Get with it, U.S. schools; why aren’t we teaching a second language earlier than middle/high school?
2. My mentor teacher is one of the kindest and most interesting people I’ve ever met. She is from Guam and is married to a man in the U.S. army. She lives here on base, very close to us, and gives us rides to school every morning. (We only live about 10 minutes from school, but Vilseck mornings are very dark and very rainy-windy. And this genius didn’t pack an umbrella.) She’s gone above and beyond to teach me her ways, which I NEED to learn because her class is so independent! She has trained them to know the routine and daily schedule, and in the morning they come in, do what they’re supposed to do, and are on task pretty much all day. Also, she’s taking Elizabeth and me to Poland to go pottery shopping sometime in the next month or two. Boo ya!
3. So far I’ve been observing, working with small groups, taking them to and from specials and lunch, reading aloud every day, and giving spelling tests. I’ll start teaching Math full time next Thursday, and then slowly pick up every subject shortly after. My mentor is very ready to give me some/most/eventually all of the responsibility; she has 19 students (one new kid came just today!) and lots of them have IEPs and are pulled out of the classroom throughout the whole day. It’s pretty fluid, but still, having so many kids with so many different needs makes running a smooth classroom a lot harder.
Elizabeth and I walked off base and into Vilseck today; it’s about a 2 mile walk one-way, so not too bad unless it’s raining. Fun Fact: the train station (i.e., the reason we went into town) is closed today for a German holiday. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Sternsingers at the doors of houses and definitely didn’t buy train tickets to Bamberg as planned… But we did stop at Kreta, had onion and bean soup, and garlic bread with Tzatziki sauce. Of course we washed it all down with a Helles and a Radler. Well worth the walk into town, I must say.
Next weekend we have Monday off for MLK day. Off to Prague, or maybe Vienna!
P.S. Shout-out to my sister-in-law Jessie, who is still so pregnant! I can’t wait to see pictures of my new little baby twin nieces. Hang in there!
P.P.S. I have pretty stellar and ridiculously expensive internet hooked up in my room (which, by the way, is in the building where they house Officers… Very Nice!) so I’d love to get some use out of it. Skype me! Much cheaper than phone calls, ya?