Thursday, June 17, 2010

hike for dinner...

This evening we took the bus to a fairly remote spot just outside of Tubingen and hiked up to the top of a hill to a restaurant for dinner.  (Some of the teachers in the group had taken some bicycles up there last weekend, so it wasn't completely random.)  The view was beautiful and the dinner was pretty good as well!  There were cows on the way up...and peacocks ( peacock and a bunch of peahens) running around the grounds at the top.  The peacock even put out his feathers for us to see (and take pictures of) - it was almost as though he knew we wanted to see his tail and probably waited for us to take picture for a good 5 minutes.  It was neat.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

fun thoughts...

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted anything.  Between Germany kicking Australia's butt in their first match of the World Cup and the 8 bajillion seminars I've been to every day - I have been too tired to post anything.  (NO lie - the other day I fell asleep at 4 pm and woke up again at 9 pm...ridiculous!)

So here's some more things that I've found to be especially interesting...enjoy if you will...

1. When I studied in Spain I fell in LOVE with the coffee.  I imagined it to be a similar experience here - not so much.  The coffee is really crappy.
2.  Watching the World Cup here is AMAZING.  When Germany won the other night - everyone marched down to the bridge and partied for hours.  It was crazy.  You would've thought Germany had won the whole darn thing...nope...just one game.
3.  Apple juice is incredibly popular here.  Not really sure why.
4.  Most schools have 15-20 minute breaks between classes.  When the break is over, the bell rings, and students go to their next lesson.  There aren't any tardies - I think its a great idea.
5.  Some school days in the Gymnasium (top-level high school) can last until 5:30.  Can you imagine teaching students until after 5:00??  CRAZY.
6.  There are very few administrators in the schools.  Usually one or two administrators, and usually they have teaching duties as well.  No technology person, librarian, guidance counselors, etc.  Only the basics.  In a sense, more money goes toward instruction - which is where you want it to go anyway, right?
7.  According to a recent study - 100% of students have access to mobile phones and computers, and 98% have access to the internet. 

Porsche Museum, Stuttgart

We had a free afternoon yesterday and a couple of the guys and I decided we'd take the train to Stuttgart to visit the Porsche Museum.  I'm not a HUGE car fan - but I figured that since I was here (and since I knew it'd make my wonderful father incredibly jealous) that I'd try to visit the museum.  It was built just last year - so its very new and VERY nice.  The museum is incredibly streamlined and clean - exactly what you'd expect from the designer of one of the best luxury sports cars on the market.  I'll post a few photos here - but the rest will be posted on facebook (I took over 100 photos in the museum - and can't really put them all on here).

(Just for what it's worth - I'm not a huge car fact, I don't know much about them.  But since I was here in Germany, near Stuttgart, I felt like I HAD to go to the museum!)

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the day...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Albert Einstein Gymnasium

On Friday we visited a high school in the neighboring town of Reutlingen.  The Albert Einstein Gymnasium is a fairly medium sized school - about 1100 students - and many of the classes are taught in English.  We happened to come on the day when the students were having a "pep rally" to celebrate the World Cup.  Unlike pep rallies in the US - this was completely student run (no teachers were involved).  The students met in the foyer area of the building and then went out into the courtyard and cheered for the German national team.  Students wore various types of soccer attire for the day - many of them in uniforms other than German. I took a few photos while we were outside watching the students...enjoy...

Notice the many different colors.  Germany is black, red, and yellow.  You can also see France, Italy, and even Argentina.
Here's a Spanish flag.

These kids are very excited.  The kid in the middle has a bottle of something (I'm assuming root beer!).

The German students are VERY into their soccer (fussball).  The headmaster of the school said that they stole this "idea" (the idea of the pep rally) from the Americans (at least we can do something right!)

This boy was waving around his German flag for about 10 minutes.  Notice there's even a Didier Drogba fan (Drogba is considered one of the best soccer players and plays for the Cote d'Ivoire)

World Cup...

So I'm sure you can probably imagine that the World Cup is HUGE in Germany.  The Germans finished third in the last tournament (2006 - which was IN Germany) and have historically finished near the top in each World Cup.  In Germany they have what are called "public viewings" - which is basically a large tv screen set up and lots of picnic tables, beer vendors, and tons of people.  We went to the USA/England game tonight and were lucky enough to be in the "VIP" lounge - which was for the Americans (through the German-American Institute).  So - we decided that since we're Americans, we'd check it out (and its RIGHT down the street from our hotel - so its not even a 5 minute walk to get there.

Here's a few photos from the night.  Tomorrow is the big Deutschland/Australia game - and I plan on going to that as well.  I'm sure the crowd tomorrow night will be NUTS - so luckily we bought our tickets in our hotel lobby so that we won't have to wait in any lines tomorrow. 
Flags on the way into the "public viewing" area.
The big screen with all the tables.  It wasn't even half full tonight (apparently no one in Germany cares about the USA/England) I can only imagine how FULL it will be tomorrow night. 
American flags on the tables in the "VIP" lounge.  The VIP area is on a platform at the very back of the public viewing area.  It was nice - we got free beer and hot dogs...

This was the free beer and hot dogs.  Apparently the Germans just cut a hole in a bun and stuff the hot dog in it - I did end up cutting my bun open long-ways and eating it...but I thought it was pretty hilarious the way they gave it to me.  I was slightly confused as to why they couldn't cut the bun open and just put the hot dog on it that way.  HAHA.  Crazy Germans!

There are a lot of American students studying at the University of Tubingen for the summer - so they came out to watch the match as well.  It was nice to see an American flag there!
We tied with England!  (Which is almost as good as winning - in terms of the pool play and points system.)  We play Slovenia and Algeria - and hopefully we won't choke and we'll move on to the next round.  In the next round we could possibly meet.....Germany. 

Tomorrow night we'll head to the Germany/Australia game - and hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures of what I expect to be a crazy night!

Friday, June 11, 2010

some photos for your viewing pleasure...

local market - Monday, Wednesday and Friday they have a market in the Marktplaats (marketplace) - full of fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, etc.  it's pretty amazing.
This is a house next to the Hauptschule that I mentioned in an earlier post.  Some of the students at the Hauptschule were responsible for renovating and remodeling this house which is used by some of the more severe children at the school (I believe their principal said there are about 10 students that are self-contained in this house.)
The students also designed and built an outdoor pizza oven.  Pretty cool, huh?

This is a picture of my 0,80 euro ice cream (that's 95 cents in US Dollars).  Its incredibly tasty - and I think I've had ice cream at least once a day since I've been here.  (Crystal - you'd LOVE IT!)

Just an artsy picture I took of the fountain that's in the courtyard at the Schloss Hohentubingen (Castle).

Another picture of the fountain - yes...that's all algae.  It's definitely not a fountain you want to stick your feet in by any means...

fun information...

I thought I'd share a few more tasty morsels with you that I've jotted down while being here.

1.  there's not really a school lunch - most kids go home for about an hour or so to eat lunch.  those who don't hang out at school with a lunch that they've brought from home, but they're usually pretty good about maintaining a sense of order while they're not in class.
2.  there's no census in Germany - ever since the whole WWII/Holocaust thing, I think they're afraid of "counting" people and ethnic groups.
3.  speaking of ethnic groups - there's a lot of diversity in Germany (you probably wouldn't think that'd be the case.)  the major minority ethnic group is the Turks - in Stuttgart about 40% of the population is Turkish.  chew on that one for a minute....
4.  "Das ist verboten!" - everything is "forbidden" in Germany.  there are TONS of rules - how to cross the street, where to put your trash, what not to do while crossing a bridge - its very interesting.  we see the word "verboten" EVERYWHERE.
5.  pencil boxes - all the students have them...girls AND boys.  i think its interesting that while MY students rarely have ANYTHING to write with...German students always have multiple things to write with.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gifted Class @ Gymnasium

This afternoon we had the opportunity to visit an extremely gifted class at the local Gymnasium (Gymnasium is the highest level of grade school students can be in.)  The students in this particular class have been given IQ tests and tested into the class.  Many of them travel from all over the area since it is the best gifted class around Tubingen.  The class we visited was a 5th grade class - so most of the kids were 9 and 10 years old.  There were 18 boys and 6 girls in the class.  Many of them are extremely ADHD - but because of their IQ are placed in this class. 

 Here's a picture of the kids - they were incredibly sweet and slightly rambunctious.  There is no air in their classroom - so it was HOT in there.  They were learning about the solar system when we arrived, and they were discussing how to make a model in the park nearby that was to scale.  It was neat - even though I don't understand German - to see how they went about coming up with ideas of how to make a scaled model of the solar system. 

The funniest part about these kids is the fact that they're not afraid to call each other out.  When one student was wrong about four or five other students shouted "FALSE" and then went about correcting the student.  Definitely not something we encourage in America - but these kids are so bright and competitive that I think it helps them to rise to the expectation and to be inquisitive so that they can be at the top of the class. 

Funny things...

Since I've been in Germany there are a few things that I've noticed about the people and the area.  I figured I'd share while I have a couple minutes....

1.  pretzels are everywhere.  apparently the pretzel is HUGE in Germany and areas fight over who has makes the best pretzels.
2.  most Europeans are stylish - at least the places I've been (France, Spain, Portugal, England).  Germans aren't as stylish as I thought they'd be.  they're VERY active - they're always jogging or biking - yesterday these four guys had been riding their bikes in full biking gear and were incredibly muddy, then stopped for a few beers.  also - teachers wear jeans and shorts in the schools here....very very casual.
3.  we walk EVERYWHERE.  (but that's nothing new)
4.  students here are JUST like students in America.  they dress the same, act the same...its crazy how similar they really are. 
5.  the "v" and "w" sounds are difficult for Germans.  while in a classroom the students were saying "wisit" instead of "visit."  it made me chuckle a little.
6.  the sirens here (on emergency vehicles) sound just like the ones that you hear in the movies.  everytime i hear one it makes me cringe a little bit because I'm afraid of the Nazis.

That's it for now.  I 'll post again later. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today we made our first visit to a German school.  The German education system is VERY different from what we experience in the United States.  In Germany, students are filtered into different middle and secondary schools based on their aptitude around the 4th grade.  The best and brightest students go to Gymnasium, the middle of the road students go to the Realschule, and the lowest level students, special education, non-native Germans, and any "problem" students go to the Hauptschule.

We had the opportunity today to visit the best hauptschule in the area - Hauptschule Innenstadt.  This particular school, though filled with the "lowest level" students, has won many awards and their band was even invited to the U.S. by the American Embassy to perform in New York.

This school was very small, around 250 students and 30 teachers.  The students learn the normal subjects like German, Social Studies, Science, and English, as well as many vocational classes such as woodworking, home economics, sewing, art, drama, and music.  The interesting thing that I noticed at this particular school was the pride the students took in their work. 

Finally arrived...

I made it to Germany!  It took way longer than expected due to some delays at the airport (I'm going to add my name to the list of "plane crash survivors" even though it was just a little nudge).  I ended up having to fly through Toronto to get to Germany - so I got to see a TEENY bit of Canada and get a Canadian stamp on my passport (why not?)

After arriving in Frankfurt the 5 of us (thankfully it wasn't just ME who was delayed) caught up with a van to drive us the 2 hours to Tubingen.  Let me tell you, the rumor about people driving like race car drivers on the autobahn is TRUE.  Our driver was a maniac and there were cars BLOWING past us like it was nothing.  I think we averaged 80 mph but at times were going at least 90 or 100.

Since then we've caught up with the group and been able to see a good bit of the city.  Tubingen is GORGEOUS - for anyone who went to Salamanca from JMU to study it's very similar.  Small, college town - everyone walks everywhere.  The beer is wonderful, the gelato is fabulous (I got an ice cream cone today for .80 euro - which is about 95 cents in US dollars.  You can't even get that at McDonalds!

This is Tubingen - there is a river right by our hotel, and this is probably one of the most well-known areas of the city.  As you can see, there are plenty of people enjoying the sunshine on the wall by the river. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One, Two, Three...

Here we go! In about three days I'll be hopping on a plane and flying to Germany. I've been to Europe a few times, but Germany was never on the itinerary. I'm incredibly excited, albeit a little nervous, to see this amazing country. This will be my first time going somewhere that [1.] I don't know anyone with whom I'm traveling and [2.] I don't know the language. For someone who's an extreme extrovert - those two things are HUGE...but I'm sure I'll be fine *fingers crossed*.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the trip - here's a little summary. I'm part of a group of 20 teachers from the United States who applied for and were chosen to participate in a three-week seminar through the Fulbright Commission in Berlin. The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for German and American teachers to exchange ideas through professional development, hands-on school practice, and individual school visits.

I'm also excited to partake in certain parts of the German culture - food and drink especially. The other great part is the fact that the World Cup is happening and I've heard Germans are NUTS about soccer (fussball). Hopefully no one will try to hurt me when I shout GO USA! while I'm out in the gasthaus.

I'm going to do my best to keep this blog updated while I'm in Germany but I'm making NO promises. So...stay tuned! :-)