LJWorld.com weblogs Fourth Grade in a Foreign Country

A Child’s-eye View

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Sigh. Another boring lecture on something I can’t understand. And it’s in German. And it’s still dark outside. Sigh. I am in German school, and it’s not too fun. People fight in the halls, there’s no toilet paper, soap or warm water in the bathrooms, there’s plastic math books you can’t write on and more. There are good things of course, such as Christmas trees in the entryway, St. Nikolas coming to classes and giving out chocolate, and getting sung to on your birthday in about seven languages. This is my story of life in a German school.

My classroom here looks different than my classrooms back home. Instead of a whiteboard there’s a blackboard, instead of a projector hanging from the ceiling there’s a weird rolling doohickey that shines light under clear pages so only non-transparent things show up, and there’s no internet connection. Instead of bringing swap-out shoes for boots on snowy or rainy days, we get to wear slippers. We sit at shared tables instead of individual desks.

In the morning, we usually start by singing songs in a circle or, on Tuesdays, explain what we did during the weekend. Then, depending on the day, we do the subjects assigned to us. We also sometimes get something special or a surprise, like Saint Nikolas coming to class or watching a movie.

German school seems a lot more old- fashioned. Instead of a projector there’s the transparent lighter thingy I already mentioned, and when we watch a movie, we go to the one room with an old, non-flat screen TV. The school looks old too. We have a tiny gym with next to nothing to work with except benches, boxes, mats, balls, things to jump over, and a teeny bit more. We have a stone/brick/cement floor to classrooms. We have no warm water.

An amazing number of people shout here. In gym there’s shouting. In English there’s shouting (a good amount too). In German there’s shouting. In music there’s attempts at shouting, because when we get to music class, the music teacher has already lost his voice to shouting. And the way classmates react to shouting is pretty astounding too. When the teachers shout at students, they don’t show any signs suggesting they did anything wrong. In fact, most of them just look down at their work and don’t say anything. The teachers obviously have given up because they don’t do anything else.

The bathrooms here are really bad. They stink horribly and you can’t count on them having soap, toilet paper, stalls you can use, warmth, toilets that will flush, paper towels, warm water, or locking stalls.

In German school, there’s a lot more fights, physical contact, scuffles, and pushing. At recess, people fight each other, full fledged, with shirt pulling, biting, punching, kicking, etc. In the hallways, people thrash on the ground with another person, and people simply step over them. While we’re waiting after recess for our teacher to open the classroom door, there’s screaming, people playing games, walking on the banister, people pushing their way through other people and pretty much chaos. Also, when the bell rings and we go back to class, the doors get super crowded and there’s a lot of pushing to get through.

Despite all this bad stuff I’ve talked about, school really is pretty fun. You can run in the halls, I’ve learned a few more games, the girls are really nice and some of them I think of as friends, there’s almost no rules at recess (teachers don’t watch us), we have a needlework class, the school celebrates Christmas a lot, and more. Even though it’s pretty bad, there are some golden moments where it’s pretty good.

One really cool thing, I got to meet people from around the world that are staying here. We met people from Columbia, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Korea, Argentina, Iraq, and France. It was also fun listening to all the different languages they spoke. We really connected and we went to special outings and gatherings for international people.

Overall I think this was a great experience. I think I will remember it forever. Meeting new people and learning about a different culture was fun. I think I will miss a lot of stuff here, such as the bakeries, the playgrounds and my friends, but I’m looking forward to going back to the U.S.A. I must remind myself, how much I missed cheeseburgers.

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