Getting a Freelance Work Visa in Berlin- the Letter of Intent (AKA the Bane of My Existence)

Hey, people in my computer. The past two months have been a whirlwind of bureaucratic red tape, unsolicited phone calls, and agonized waiting. As horrifying as this process is, remember that I’m in a country that welcomes immigrants. Whenever I think about that, it reminds me that it’s probably a LOT worse for people trying to get into the US. I was lucky to be born there. You guys, be grateful if you have an American passport and stop being so damn xenophobic. That shit is annoying.

Anyway, immigration is an immensely complicated topic and there’s a lot to say about it. What follows is a rant about just one of the many requirements for the visa application if you’re a freelance English teacher in Germany.

***

After the CELTA course (which ended in the middle of August), I was so exhausted that I pretty much collapsed in on myself like a dying star. I slept at least 12 hours every day for a month afterward, which is probably because I had only been getting three hours of sleep a night during the course. This felt familiar, and I gave myself that month to recover. Sure, I hardly ever left the apartment. Sure, the whole point of moving to Germany was to improve my German and I’d spent all my time so far speaking English with other English speakers. That was fine, since the plan was to be here at least a year. I had plenty of time, and the CELTA course was so, so intense. I needed to rest before I could function as a human again.

Then, around the middle of September, I suddenly started freaking out about getting my work visa. At this point, I had already been in Germany for two months, which meant I only had a month left to get my work visa (Americans can enter the EU as tourists and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. A visa is required for anything longer than that). I hadn’t started looking for teaching jobs. I hadn’t tried to figure out what kind of health insurance I needed. Despite my grandiose plans of living in Germany as a freelancer, I had done absolutely nothing toward getting the work visa that would allow me to stay here.

In order to apply for a work visa, you already have to have been offered a job. In the case of freelance English teachers, you need a letter of intent from at least three different language schools. The letter of intent is a document stating that the language school is interested in hiring you as a freelancer and should also state how much they’ll pay you and how many hours they want you to work. It’s not a legally binding contract, but it still isn’t something a school director will just hand out to people. In addition to applying for a job, you have to ask them to go out of their way to help you, the foreigner, stay in this country.

And so began a furious, panic-fueled campaign to apply to every language school in Berlin in under thirty days.

It was a demoralizing process. It might be different in other parts of Germany, but Berlin is extremely competitive (probably because it’s an awesome city and EVERYONE wants to be here). A lot of language schools won’t even consider someone unless they are an EU citizen or already have a work permit. Why would they go out of their way to help me when they could just hire a British person instead? (as of now, November 2016) There were so many times when it seemed like they were interested in what I had to offer, but then changed their minds as soon as they learned that I needed a work permit. All I needed was those three pieces of paper and the nightmare would end, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to help me.

slender-the-arrival-teaser-trailer_9

At least I knew what to expect from him.

Image via pewdiepie.wikia.com

I got so sick of being told, “Sorry, can’t help you. Come back if you figure it out.” The thought of another day filled with begging, indifference, and rejection was almost enough to make me want to give up and go back home.

To put things into perspective, I applied to over thirty language schools in Berlin in one month. Each time I applied somewhere, I put their information with the date I contacted them into an Excel spreadsheet. Every day I would look for more schools to apply to, either by emailing them my CV or by going in person. Once I’d done that, I would follow up with a phone call two weeks after our initial contact.

Over thirty language schools, and not one of them called me back.

I’m told that’s how it is here. Language schools receive tons of applications every single day, so you have to scream to get any attention. If you don’t scream loud enough, you must not really need the job.

That month was tough, but through it I learned how to steer the conversation toward my work permit instead of bluntly asking for a favor. I used to work in a hospital, so if I was able to find the school director, one of the first things I would ask is if their school offers medical terminology classes. That opened up the conversation so I could talk about my past experience and what I could offer the school. It gave them a very concrete detail that made me stand out from the dozens of faceless emails they had to sift through every day. I’ve worked a few office jobs, so I would also ask about classes on business English and corporate communications. Then, after I’d gotten their attention and made them think about how I could benefit their school, I would ask if they were willing to write a letter of intent for me to use on my visa application.

I still got rejected a lot, but even as they told me “no,” a lot of school directors said that I should stay in touch because they really thought they could use me. And even though I heard “no” a LOT during that month, I only needed three people to say yes.

I think the biggest challenge was not giving up. There were days where I had to fight just to get myself out of bed in the morning. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t take another phone call that ended in rejection, but the only way to find out if the next school would help me was to call them. Even though the last three calls I had made put me through to a bored-sounding receptionist who had probably thrown my resume in a drawer somewhere and forgotten about it, the next one might get me a job interview.

That’s exactly how I got the three letters I needed. Despite the overwhelming rejection, despite being told over and over again by receptionists, “Well, if they haven’t contacted you by now, they’re probably not interested,” I still kept putting myself out there. By consistently sending out applications, going in person to harass the school director, and following up with phone calls, I was able to secure an interview on top of the three letters of intent (I’m still waiting for one school to email the letter to me, but that’s a whole separate issue).

The first one I got came as a complete surprise. By then, I was used to school directors losing interest once I mentioned the work permit. I had gone to apply to a school in person and had already asked the school director about the kinds of classes they offered. I sat in front of his desk in my spiffy interview clothes, bracing myself for the inevitable rejection as I told him about the kinds of classes I would be able to teach, when he glanced down at my resume and said, “Oh, you’re an American. Do you need a letter of intent for a work permit?”

This was the complete opposite of every other conversation I’d had so far. He said he could have the letter ready for me in a week, and then looked concerned and asked if I needed it sooner. At that point, I wanted to leap across the desk and sweep him into a huge bear hug.

This process was stressful and dehumanizing, but I learned so much from it. Even though there are tons of schools whose policy is to not lift a finger to help a freelancer (even though their business depends on freelancers), there are also good, compassionate people out there who will treat you as a human being.

The tricky part is finding them.

***

As of right now, I still haven’t officially applied for my visa. During the panic phase in September, I went on the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) website and was able to book an appointment for November 17th. That was over a month after my 90 days as a tourist were up, but because the appointment was booked within those 90 days, I was allowed to stay until the appointment.  That bought me an extra month to get everything I needed.

That helped ease a lot of the stress I was feeling.

I’ve heard other Americans say that when they tried to do the same thing, there were no appointments available at all. I got lucky. Cthulhu be praised.

wp_002457

I think if I hadn’t been able to book the appointment at the immigration office, I would have shown up without an appointment before the 90 days were up and just hoped they would give me an extension on the paperwork I was missing. I’ve heard horror stories about people who didn’t have an appointment having to show up at 4 am to get a place in line, and still not being helped until the afternoon. Obviously that’s not ideal, but if my options are to have one shitty day at the Ausländerbehörde, or give up on everything I’ve worked for and go back home, then it’s no contest.

 

Posted in Living in Germany, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Execution Hedgehog, the Diplomat

Hey, Internet. The hedgehog is still alive, even if she’s been hiding under a rock for the past month. Between dealing with immigration bureaucracy, a breakup, and looking for work, the writing department of my brain ist schon wieder kaputt. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of wacky foreigner stories once life stops exploding in my face.

Until then, here’s an old one I wrote a few years ago. It’s about something that happened during my freshman year of high school. I hope you enjoy it!

***

I used to run track in high school.  I ran all three relays and did both the high jump and the triple jump.  On one memorable track meet, it started raining right before I was supposed to run.  They usually call off track meets if they see lightning, but the rain had only just started. Like responsible adults, the people in charge decided to ignore it and hoped it would go away. There had been no lightning so far.  What was the worst that could happen?

The rain didn’t stop.  I was dressed in my track uniform, which mostly consisted of purple spandex, and I (and all of the other runners) had been standing on the track in the bitter cold while they were deciding whether or not to cancel the event.  Finally, they decided that making teenage girls dressed only in spandex run on a slippery track in the middle of a downpour is a really good idea. I was so cold that my fingers were numb.  The pistol went off and I ran, doing my best to ignore the freezing drops of water that were hitting me in the face.  All was fine until I hit the curve of the track.  As I hit the curve, my feet slipped out from under me and BAM!  I fell and skidded on my side across the next three lanes.  I ended up with a bloody elbow and an area about the size of a tennis ball just below my hip where the skin had been scraped off.  Since I had crossed out of my team’s designated lane, we were disqualified from the race.  I was sent to the trainer’s office so they could bandage me up.

I was fine with this.  Sure, I was irritated that we had lost the event and I was cold, bloody, and wet, but I had no problem with the trainers at my high school.  They were good people who cared about the students, and we were lucky to have them.

The problem was that there were other students also being treated in the training room when I went in.

The training room was basically an extra space in the football team’s locker room that had been crammed with an ice machine, four benches, two stationary bikes, several cabinets full of medical supplies, and a desk.  This was their workspace, and I often felt bad for the trainers who had to spend all day in there.  It was cramped, and there wasn’t much room for privacy.

I became acutely aware of this very soon.  The scrape on my hip had to be cleaned and bandaged, which meant I had to lower my shorts so the trainer could do his work.

In full view of the other students.

The trainer was nice; he took me to the corner and tried his best to hide me from view, but some of the students saw what was happening.  One of them was a boy who also ran track.  As the trainer was cleaning the gravel out of my hip, I happened to look up and see this boy grinning at me as if I were his half-naked birthday present.  It felt like a bright, lecherous spotlight were shining on me the entire time.

I practically sprinted from the training room as soon as the trainer was finished bandaging my leg.  My injuries still stung, but at that point I would have ripped off my bandages and rubbed a fistful of gravel back into the wound if it meant getting away from that guy and his hormones.  Fortunately, the rest of the track meet went smoothly; the rain eventually stopped and all of the other events went without a hiccup.  I even got a medal for the high jump.  All was well.

Until the following Monday at track practice.

I was warming up on the track field with one of my friends when I noticed the guy from the training room walking toward me.  No, not walking.  Strutting.  I could see the self-satisfied smirk on his face from halfway across the field.

Great.

Ok, here he comes, I thought.  Just stay calm and defuse the situation. Don’t do anything weird and it’ll be fine.  I did my very best to appear aloof as he swaggered toward me.  When he finally arrived, he slowly looked me up and down, as if I were a piece of meat for him to enjoy. The feeling of his eyes on me made my skin crawl.

“Hey,” he said. “You’re hot.”

“Your MOM!”

He visibly recoiled, looking extremely confused. I can’t say whether it was because of the screeching of my voice, or the fact that I aggressively complimented his mother. Either way, he turned around and walked away without another word while my friend was doubled over on the grass, laughing at me.

Situation defused.

Posted in Shenanigans | Leave a comment

The Drunken Beard Trimmer Incident

NOTE: This post gets pretty graphic. If you don’t feel like reading about my pubic hair, please stop here.

However, if you DO feel like reading about my pubic hair, please continue.

Enjoy! =)

***

As I mentioned before, I have trouble with hair removal because I have really sensitive skin. After the traumatic experience of using the Horrible Machine on my pubic hair, I decided that no, I will not remove it. If anyone is granted access to that region of my body, they’re just gonna have to deal with it. It’s my body and I will not apologize for it.

Still, the hair gets itchy.

I tried trimming it with scissors, but it was very labor intensive. It turned out that it was hard to get into a position where I could both see what I was doing and manipulate the scissors without cutting off my labia.

So I bought a beard trimmer. It seemed like a very practical solution, but I was pretty intimidated. I had never used one before, mostly because I’ve never had a beard. After I bought it, I opened up the package and carefully read the instructions. I charged it, took it apart, examined all the pieces, and put it back together. I was now an expert. I didn’t have time right then, but I told myself that, sometime soon, I would have the best trimmed pubes Germany has ever seen.

I put it back in the box and it stayed there for three weeks.

Like I said, I was intimidated.

Then, for some reason (at about 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon), I decided I was officially Done With Adult Stuff, and proceeded to drink approximately all the whiskey over the next few hours.

It was great. I spent the rest of the afternoon sprawled on the floor of my bedroom, alternately doing the robot and contemplating my life choices while listening to stuff like this:

*This song is mostly a jagged electric blue spiral, shot with flashes of black, metallic gray, and yellow. There’s also a sound in the chorus that makes me think of Doctor Who and it makes me so, so happy.
**If that sounded completely insane to you, here’s a link to my post on synesthesia.

A few hours into this funk, I made an important realization. True, eventually I might have to go back to the United States and be a waitress until I die, but that didn’t mean I was helpless now. There was something very important that I had yet to do, and now I had time to do it. The thought of getting up off the floor was daunting, but I made up my mind: If there’s one thing in my life that I have control over right now, it’s the length of my pubic hairs. LET’S DO THIS!

I pushed myself up, grabbed the beard trimmer and stumbled into the bathroom.

I reread the instructions, just to make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I undressed, stepped into the shower, and went to work.

I was definitely gonna have to clean the tub, but compared to the Horrible Machine, it was fantastic. I was halfway finished in what felt like no time at all. This was such a good idea.

I decided: Drunk Hedgehog is super good at operating machinery.

Then I felt something snag.

I switched the trimmer off and froze. Nothing happened. Nothing hurt. Still, I thought I should check to make sure everything was intact before I kept trimming. I reached down to feel where the trimmer had snagged. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but when I looked down, my fingers were covered in blood.

PAT. PAT.

That was when blood started dripping into the bathtub.

Labial wounds bleed a lot, you guys.

As I watched more blood spatter against the porcelain between my feet, I wondered how I was gonna fix this. I had put some paper towels on top of the washing machine, but that was on the other side of the toilet. I really didn’t want to leave a trail of bloody footprints and hair stubble across the bathroom. Even if I did leave the tub, my landlady had what looked like a well-loved, brightly colored bathroom rug next to the bathtub. It had probably been in her family for generations. I supposed I could take a giant step from the bathtub to the tile on the other side of the rug, but that seemed like a huge risk. I would probably drip blood on the rug as I stepped over it, and in my current state, I would probably hurt myself in the process.

My solution was to lean precariously over the edge of tub and try really hard not to do a faceplant into the toilet seat.

It turns out that approximately 300 shots of whiskey does not beat four years of yoga. I was able to reach way out from the tub to grab the paper towels without losing my balance. I didn’t even get blood outside the tub.

As I stood in the blood-spattered bathtub, drunk, naked, covered in hair stubble while holding a beard trimmer in one hand and pressing a wad of bloody paper towels to my crotch with the other, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did I lock the bathroom door? This would be hard to explain if my landlady were to walk in right now.

The bleeding stopped pretty soon after I applied pressure, and I leaned out again and grabbed my handheld mirror from the washing machine to survey the damage. At first I couldn’t find it. When I did, I felt a strange mix of relief and outrage.

It looked like a tiny papercut. WTF.

Labial wounds bleed a lot, you guys.

Posted in Shenanigans | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Body Hair and the Horrible Machine

 

First of all, fuck shaving.

I have very sensitive skin, and I’m prone to outbreaks of eczema. Shaving makes it much, much worse. For the past year, I’ve had these stubborn little patches of eczema on my armpits and inner thighs that just won’t go away. Moisturizing ointment and steroid cream help, but each time I shave, they come back, itchier and redder than before. It’s razor burn, turned up to eleven.

Because of this, I began to research other methods of hair removal and eventually bought an epilator. For those of you who don’t know, an epilator is a handheld machine, about the size of an electric shaver, but instead of razor blades it has spinning rows of tweezers to pluck out hair.

WP_002186

I affectionately call it the Horrible Machine.

 

It hurts. A lot.

When you use tweezers, the hair is gently pulled out of your skin, one at a time, at your leisure. With an epilator, large chunks of hair are grabbed at the same time and yanked out, over and over again as the rows of tweezers spin.

It’s terrifying. If you look the Horrible Machine in the eye, the spinning tweezers look like rows of gnashing teeth that are just itching to rip your soul apart.

Still, the hair doesn’t grow back for about a week and when it does, it’s thinner and softer and comes out easier. It also doesn’t give me spontaneous, fiery eczema. Despite the pain, it was good idea.

The Horrible Machine worked so well, I decided to try it on my pubic hair.

It turns out that down there is really sensitive. It was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever done to myself, and that’s including the time I burned letters into my leg with a knife and a lighter when I was seventeen (angry teenagers do dumb things, you guys).

It still worked, in that the my skin stayed smooth for a relatively long time, but the pain wasn’t worth it. After a month of trying, I gave up.

Still, it seemed like the best solution for the rest of my body hair. After months of experimenting, I duct-taped the remaining shreds of my soul back together and accepted the Horrible Machine into my life.

But why do I put myself through all this pain? No matter what, in order to remove my body hair, I have to painfully rip it out by the roots, zap it with expensive lasers that might cause permanent damage, or give myself perpetual eczema and never take care of my skin properly.

Meanwhile, a man can have his glorious tufts of armpit hair poking out of his shirt holes every time he scratches his nose.

Fuck that.

If I were lost in the wilderness for more than ten days, I guarantee you that, upon being rescued, I would have a uni-brow, a mustache, and armpit, leg, and pubic hair that would impress a Sasquatch enthusiast.

Sexy. I know.

You know what? There is nothing wrong with my armpit hair. If given the chance, my own tufts of armpit hair would just as glorious as any man’s. Yes, I did receive the standard body image issues that seem to come from growing up in Western culture, but I’m over it now. I happen to like my body, and growing hair is just one of the many things my body is good at doing.

Why do I have to remove my body hair just because I also have a vagina?

The Horrible Machine is a shaky compromise. It’s painful and time-consuming and it sprays hair everywhere, but I only have to use it a few times a month.

And when I don’t feel like having my hair violently ripped out by the roots, everyone can just deal with my armpit hair.

 

Posted in Shenanigans | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dammit, Jim! This is a grammar lesson, not a spelling lesson.

On my last day of the CELTA course, I had to teach a grammar lesson.

So far, I’d had a hard time with teaching grammar. I think that might come from my own dislike of it. As a language learner, I hated grammar lessons. Memorizing formulas and filling out worksheets never stuck with me, and I had been traumatized by a Spanish teacher in high school who made us do worksheets every day and nothing else (someone stole the giant Mexican flag from her classroom and wore it as a cape during the school year. Stealing is wrong, but I still giggled when I found out). I always preferred to be immersed in the language and figure out the rules on my own as I went along. I’ve always thought that grammar isn’t terribly important when learning a language, as long as you can get the meaning across.

Apparently that’s not how Cambridge wants English to be taught. My blasé attitude toward grammar did not help me when I had to teach it.

It also didn’t help me sell it to the students. I learned the hard way that if you spend the lesson thinking, “This is stupid. Why am I doing this. I hate this,” they’ll know. You guys, students can read minds.

My solution was to pretend to be a different teacher. A teacher who was good at teaching grammar. Specifically, I pretended to be one of my classmates, who had given some phenomenal grammar lessons throughout the course.

We weren’t required to observe each other teaching during the last week, so I had a lot more time to prepare for my lesson. I spent hours researching and planning how I was going to explain the grammar, trying to make my lesson as structured and interactive as possible. On the day of my lesson, I found an empty classroom and spent about an hour rehearsing how I would get the students to figure out the answers and practicing how I would write it out on the board.

All that preparation, while probably unrealistic for a full-time teacher, made a HUGE difference for me. I felt confident and in control, and I was able to have fun with the material. I actually liked the topic I was teaching, and so did the students.

About halfway through the lesson, a student tried to ask me a question, but struggled with a word that he wasn’t sure about. I said the word for him and he nodded, but still had trouble pronouncing it. He asked if I could write the word out so he could see it.

As I was writing the word on the board, I realized that I wasn’t exactly sure how to spell it. Had I ever seen this word written before? I paused, added another L, erased it with my fingertips, thought, added the L again, and then stood back to admire my handiwork. There, on the board for the entire class, was the word:

Privilledge

I looked at it and thought, “Well, that doesn’t look right.” As I wondered how I was going to fix it, I could hear the scratching noise of the student writing it down. I threw myself at the board to cover the word, using my body to protect him from my atrocious spelling. I turned my head to look over my shoulder at the student, screeching, “Don’t write that! I wrote it wrong!”

I snatched up the eraser and frantically tried to erase the offending word. This was the eraser that we had all been using for our lessons during the month-long CELTA course and no one had time to clean it, which meant the eraser was coated with dry erase residue. As such, I didn’t erase the word so much as I smeared the letters around and turned the white board purple.

“This isn’t a word that comes up a lot,” I said, casually trying to erase the smears with my hand. The smears didn’t go away, but my hand was now purple. “We need to move on now, but I’ll get the correct spelling for you before class is over.”

I was very pleased with how the rest of the lesson went. All my preparation had paid off, at least with the grammar. But as we moved through the lesson, I completely forgot about my promise. If I had been left to my own devices, my student would still be wondering about that mysterious word. Fortunately, one of my friends was in the room observing. At the very end of the lesson, he caught my eye and discreetly showed me the word he had written down for me:

privilege

He doesn’t own a smart phone, so I can only assume that he’s just better at English than I am. If this were a dramatic movie about my struggles as an English teacher, I would have thrown my arms around him and wept tears of joy and gratitude. Instead, I whispered, “Thank you!” and wrote the word on the board.

Later, my instructor pointed out that there was a dictionary on the table the entire time. He said it would have been perfectly fine to stop and look up the word. “But you still went back to it at the end, so it wasn’t a problem,” he added. This made me think it would have been a problem if my friend hadn’t come to my rescue. Thanks, buddy. =)

One of my lessons that week was about the future and technology. As I was looking for material to use, images of Patrick Stewart kept popping up. Since he apparently really wanted to be a part of my lesson, here is the image I used:

star_trek_05

Image via acidcow.com
Posted in Living in Germany, Teaching | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Girl I Want to Push

Good news, people in my computer! I passed the CELTA course! I learned a lot, but it’s going to take a while for me to recover from it.

About a week ago, I noticed a mysterious folder on my desktop labeled Mooo. When I looked inside I found a bunch of things I had written a few years ago when I was still living on campus at my university. Since the writing department of my brain is currently out of commission , here is a bit of wisdom from a 23-year-old hedgehog.

***

There’s this girl that I always see on campus. I think she lives in the same area that I do, because I always see her when I’m walking to or from my apartment. I don’t know her name. I’ve never spoken to her. I don’t think we’ve ever made eye contact.

But I really want to push her.

She dresses very well. Every time I see her, she’s always wearing spiffy clothes and high heels that make it sound like she’s being followed by a horse. She never carries a backpack. Instead, I think she puts all of her things for school in a really big, expensive looking purse. Her hair is always done and her nails are immaculate.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Plenty of people, not just women, are very concerned with their appearance and always try to look their best when they go out in public. Some of them even pull it off. That isn’t what bothers me about her.

What bothers me is her face.

It’s a normal looking face, I suppose. All of the parts seem to be in the right place and it’s more or less symmetrical. There is nothing aesthetically wrong with it. What gets to me is that, in all of the times I’ve seen her in the past year, she always looks upset. She never looks happy or tranquil or pensive and I’ve never seen her with headphones on. No, she always looks like something is bothering her.

To me, this seems counterproductive. What’s the point in dressing so flashy if you’re going to act so hostile? Do you want people to approach you or not? From what I’ve seen, people who normally dress like this want attention, so they try to appear friendly and easygoing. That’s not the case with this girl.

Another thing: I suspect that she doesn’t know how to walk in heels. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this. I personally hate walking in heels and whenever I wear them, I have this fear of slipping and falling to my death or breaking an ankle. In short, heels suck. In the past two semesters, I’ve never seen this girl not wearing heels. And not just any heels. Stilettos.

For those of you who don’t know, stilettos are really hard to walk in because the heel is so pointy. There’s practically nothing to help you balance. This girl, apparently, does not have good balance. When she walks, she wobbles from side to side and, from her posture, it looks like she’s struggling to stay upright. Sometimes she looks downright terrified that she’s going to fall.

I could be wrong, though. She might just think that swaying her hips is sexy. Do men find that attractive? I can understand that, but I think she’s doing it wrong. More than anything, it just looks like she’s trying not to fall over. Is she trying to appeal to people with a fetish for not falling down and being upset about it?

All of this seems wrong to me, somehow. Seeing her makes me feel uneasy, as if she’s a very well-dressed void ship.

Crap.

Crap.

Image via The Doctor Who Site

Why is she so upset all the time? If heels make her uncomfortable, why does she insist on wearing them? Is she real?

All of these questions, especially the last one, make me want to push her over and scream, “What’s wrong with your face?!” I feel like it’s the right thing to do. Maybe I’m supposed to help her somehow. Maybe if I push her it’ll help her get over her fear of falling and she can move on with her life. Why else would I have this strong desire to knock her over?

 

Posted in Shenanigans | Leave a comment

Fuck My Lesson Plans: a Lesson on Giving a Bad Grammar Lesson

About a week and a half into the teacher training program, I made an important discovery:

I was exhausted.

I’d already taught three lessons at this point. Each day I’d had to teach (and most of the other days, too), I’d gotten about 3 hours of sleep because I’d spent the previous night working on and obsessing over my lesson plans.

All three lessons went pretty well, thanks to my obsessive over-preparedness, but I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up for long.

So when I noticed that it was only halfway through the week and I already felt like I’d been run over by a Lastwagen, I decided on a different strategy:

Fuck my lesson plans.

It made for a lovely night. Instead of spending hours reading the textbook and writing out everything I might possibly need to explain, I told myself, “Whatever, I’ll just wing it.” I made dinner, I went for a walk, I watched some terrible anime on YouTube, and I talked to my manwich on Skype. There may also have been a few shots of whiskey here and there.

This is not how a good teacher prepares a grammar lesson.

The next day was a caffeine-fueled shitstorm. I was so panicked that I was using every break between classes to make copies and throw together some kind of explanation for the poor students who expected to learn something from me that afternoon.

All things considered, the lesson didn’t actually go that bad. Somehow I managed to get things done, so they might have been fooled into thinking that I am a competent teacher. The problem was, I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to explain the grammar. I didn’t have any good examples to give them when they didn’t understand, so when they inevitably didn’t understand, the only thing I felt like I could do was correct them and move on. Almost everything I said was completely unscripted.

I had been so stressed out all day that it was something of a shock to my system to have to be calm and in control for the students. The moments when the students were working on their handouts were the worst. I walked around the room and helped students if they needed it, but after I’d made my rounds I had to sit quietly at my desk and wait until they were done.

It was a lot like being in time-out.

I was so relieved when the lesson was over. When the students walked out of the room, the first thought in my mind was, “Well, that was shit. It’s the weekend now! Woohoo!”

After my lesson, one of my classmates showed me a blind contour drawing she had made while I was teaching:

WP_002060

Posted in Living in Germany, Teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment