Posted by Katie L.
Hello from Cuxhaven! The past few months have consisted of time off for the holidays with family, getting to better know colleagues, brief snowfall, and lots of walks and hikes. At the end of November, many cities were able to open their traditional month-long Christmas markets. With holiday music, decorations, and so many good things to eat, I happily checked out markets in Bremen, Hamburg and Cuxhaven. My parents were able to come to spend the holidays with me here in Germany; it was such a cool and nice experience to show them were I work and live, as well as to introduce them to a colleague from my school’s English team. We spent the break exploring the surrounding area and visiting with family friends in central Germany. After spending New Year’s together (known here as “Silvester”), my parents flew home and I headed back to Cuxhaven to wrap up my first school term. The school schedule here is somewhat different: the fall/winter semester just ended with the last days of January, and the new school semester will begin tomorrow (February 2nd). I will continue working in some of the same English and German language classrooms that I have been involved with, as well as with a few new English classes with 11th and 12th graders. In my “German as a Foreign Language” class, (for teenagers and young adults who have moved to Germany in recent days, weeks or months and must reach German language proficiency), another teacher and I are working on a “Stadtrallye” for the students. This is somewhat like a city scavenger hunt/rally, designed to help the students to become more familiar with the city of Cuxhaven. In my English courses, students tackle a variety of subjects from current and historical social justice issues (in the US, in South Africa, and around the world), to Shakespeare, to the integration of refugees and migrants in Germany, to the politics of clothing production, and more. Students are interested in learning more about recent and current political and social movements in the US in particular, which allows for a good deal of reflection on my own perceptions and for a curiosity of my own regarding my home country.
The German education system’s structure is somewhat different than what we experience in the US. After primary school (after the fourth grade), students are funneled into different study tracks based on teacher recommendations. Some are selected to follow a track lasting until they are about 18 years old that will offer preparation for studying at a university, while others may follow tracks at separate schools (such as vocational training programs) lasting until approximately age 15. At the school where I work, there are a variety of study tracks, along with the option to combine traditional academic learning with vocational training and internships. Some argue that the country’s educational structure leads to an unfair separation and organization of young people, while others suggest that the separation better targets students’ needs.
On a final note, new foods tried this month were Roulade and Labskaus (Northern German classics!).
Liebe Grüße aus Cuxhaven