Where did five months go…

So today was my last day and I realise that over the past 5 months’ worth of teaching I have learnt so much and shared so little on this blog! In fact this blog became much more of a travel blog than intended (but I guess this is a good thing as it means I did travel a fair bit!) so I have decided to do a post on what my working/volunteering life has been like. I started out with few responsibilities other than turn up to school and go to the classes I was scheduled to attend. After about a month I was asked to start preparing my own lessons. Here are some things that I really enjoyed, hated, worried about, remember etc about being a teacher (yes I’m putting them in dot points): 

  • Being told to teach a bunch of kids would have been scary enough for me when I was in Australia, especially considering my teaching experience is limited to a one week intensive TEFL course, so being in a country where I don’t speak the language or really understand their curriculum or know how to teach the language I’ve been speaking all my life, was actually terrifying.
  • The good news is that I got more confident as time went by, yesterday I even taught a bunch of energetic eight year olds about Kookuburras WITHOUT having a polish speaking teacher in the room!
  • I found that teaching by myself, without a supervising teacher, to be much easier than with a teacher in the room. When I was by myself I felt more confident in my abilities and authority over the class, and I think the kids also viewed me more like a teacher at these times too. All the teachers I worked with were amazing at engaging students and it was easy to feel intimidated by them!
  • Consequently, I tended to feel happier about the lessons I did on my own than while supervised.
  • Sometimes lessons would crash and burn, and essentially leave me wondering why I came to Poland in the first place. I remember have some classes where the students just wouldn’t listen to me, or I just wasn’t prepared enough to cope.
  • IMPROVISATION is your best friend as a teacher. The amount of times I turned up only to be told I was subbing, or to find out that the kids already knew about the topic I was teaching, has taught me how to come up with at least some form of game to pass the remaining ten minutes of class, or  with an entirely new lesson plan.
  • Teachers do have favourite students and classes. I often found myself dreading some classes while getting excited about others. I also had a 4-5 favourite students who always made sure the rest of the class behaved and would greet me in the halls.
  • Sometimes all it takes to make your day is when a 7 year old little Polish girl who barely understands English runs up to you and says ‘Hello Samantha, how are you?” and patiently waits for a response even though she doesn’t understand a word you say.
  • One of the scariest things I encounter was being headbutted by a 6 year old in 0 class as she launched at me screaming ‘I love you!’
  • I now am confident enough to manage a group of 6 year old girls who are dubbed the most troublesome class in the school.
  • 16 year old girls do not change from country to country, and still manage to be intimidating. The best course of action is to our sarcasm them, which in this case was harder than one might think.
  • I can officially navigate Microsoft word in Polish (mainly because I know all the shortcuts and they are the same in Polish as English).
  • Sometimes it’s best not to ask what you are eating until AFTER you finish it or not at all, especially when it comes to a school cafeteria.
  • Pasta and strawberry yoghurt, potato cakes covered in sugar, and crepes with sweet cheese are seen as acceptable lunch meals for children.
  • I refuse to ever eat cabbage or beetroot ever again (okay this may be more of a Poland lesson in general).
  • Most of all though, the thing about being a teacher was learning to both always and never be prepared for anything and everything.
  • And lastly, if in doubt, play hot seat (or have a music lesson where the kids show you all different versions of ‘Let it Go’ on youtube, I mean what I never did that…)

So there are some of my notes on what my life was like at school. I decided to end it there (though I could go on forever) because I think those are the most important things. I absolutely loved my time at this school, the students and staff where incredible. And I did learn that it is a good thing that I never intended on being a teacher, because while I love kids teaching really isn’t for me! 
I will miss these crazy people so much! Thank you so much to
students, to Jon my awesome placement partner, and to
Michelle, Melanie, Mirabelle, Zosia, and Lucja my
amazing host sisters. And of course to Izabel, Joanna and
Alek my host parents and the teachers at my school. 
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Why I have come to believe in an always sunny Australia

*Wrote this a few days ago when I was feeling a bit apprehensive about going home. I find that people tend to believe that we should be excited to get home, but it can also be quite a scary idea at times.*

I’m from Canberra. That should be enough to let anyone in Australia realise that I’m from the (relatively unknown) land of public servants, museums, and crappy weather. Yet since being abroad for the past 4.5 months I have found myself becoming more and more convinced that Australia is really the land of sunshine. See I do remember the cold winter days, the rain, the hail, and the snow on the last day of winter two years back. I remember how bitter the wind was when it comes of the mountains and how we always seemed to underdress for school. But more than this I fondly recall the memories of summer. Running to the dam on the too hot days, or more accurately taking the dogs to the dam and getting pushed in by a not so helpful brother, and being too afraid to touch the bottom because of the yabbies that were, in theory, still crawling around the bottom. I remember spending evenings eating dinner outside and overspraying myself with bug spray which never seemed to entirely do the job. I remember running around on the lawn after the sun had set and the temperature was finally cool enough to be outside. I remember the hot nights which had me questioning the logic behind pyjamas. I actually miss it more than I thought I would but I’m not ready to go back. I think the distance makes it all seem so ideal but then I remember different things about my life back home. I realise that I don’t want to go back to how I used to live, so many of the things I used to think and do seem so unimportant now. I have become accustomed to a life that I have created.

 

Right now I live in Warsaw, a city that has so much history and has been through so much to become what it is today. The people here are friendly once you get to know them, but can come off as a bit rude or angry from a distance. I have learnt to love that fast pace of it all and to appreciate public transport. Contrary to popular belief Poland does actually get warm, it is meant to be 30 degrees Celsius this weekend, but the difference between here and Australia is that on the cold days of winter it is always cloudy. At home it’s very deceptive, freezing days with clear blue skies, but here winter seems to drone on forever and even though it actually wasn’t too much colder than a Canberra winter the clouded skies made it so much more depressing. In more recent days the coming of spring has brought out a whole new side of Warsaw. I remember quite a few weeks ago on the first warm day we had this year, a few of us ventured to the old town to find it bustling with people, a sight we were not accustomed to. We didn’t even realise there were this many people living in Warsaw but now that summer is coming (21stJune) there is so much more to this city than I thought. I have gotten lost in places that I go to everyday simply because the warming weather has changed them so much. While I’m most certainly ready to move on from teaching (it’s not for me) and ready to explore Europe some more, I don’t want to leave this city that has become home for the past 4 (almost 5) months. Maybe I’m afraid of going out into the big wide world, but mainly I think it’s because I’m afraid to move far away from all the people I have met and those who I have come to care about immensely, and maybe it’s because I’m afraid I won’t ever come back.

Birthdays in Berlin!

Berlin Cathedral, a very spectacular sight!
Berlin is not a city I really thought I would visit whilst in Poland but I am certainly glad that I did. The real motivation behind this trip was to celebrate the 18th birthday of one of the girls who is on this trip. It was made even more convenient in that we could catch an overnight Polskibus there and back (though we opted for the day bus back) which only took 9ish hours. I never thought I’d say that a 9 hour bus trip wasn’t that bad but I guess you get used to these things while travelling! Five of us headed up on the Wednesday night, we were lucky enough to get the Thursday off work, meaning we had a good three days to explore the city. We stayed in the Heart of Gold Hostel in the mega dorm (42 beds split over two rooms). It was a pretty good hostel, only downsides were you had to pay for breakfast (4 euro, which wasn’t so bad considering I also made sandwiches for lunch and dinner) and the WiFi was very sketchy. It was very well located about 5 minutes from the museum island and very close to the U-bahn and S-bahn lines.

Enjoying the bus tour!
We spent our first day exploring Museum Island as it was so close (and it was highly likely we would start to crash come about 3pm). We visited a two museums about ancient history. I found that the buildings themselves were simply worth the visit, they had some amazing architecture and the flaking wall paper inside (even though I’m sure some of this was deliberate) reminded me of how much I do love old buildings. I believe I have more pictures of wallpaper than I do of the exhibits! This same day we also checked out a market where we bought lunch. The market had all sorts of goods and gave us an affordable food option (4 euro, can’t go wrong there!).
With the ‘Gueards’ at Checkpoint Charlie
The next day we did a bus tour of the city. We opted for the bus tour as Berlin is so spread out and such a tour allowed us to get on and off as we pleased. We got off to see the Berlin Wall monument and found out a bit of information regarding Nazi and Communist Berlin. This was quite eye-opening as I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about this. We then walked up to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ which was the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin. We stood in line like proper tourists and got our pictures taken with the ‘guards’. We then headed to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum which was one of my favourite things we did in Berlin. The museum cost 9.50 Euro (for a student) and was well worth every penny. It detailed the events that occurred over the time that the wall was present and described the lives of important people and different ways people attempted to escape. This type of information was never covered in my year 9 humanities lessons (probably because it didn’t affect Australian’s) so I spend a long time reading different peoples stories. The extremes that people went to in order to cross the border (hiding under car engines, building hot air balloons etc.) really highlighted how hard life was in East Berlin.
East Side Gallery!
Of course, we also visited the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall which has been covered in murals by a number of different artists. We spent the day strolling along the wall admiring each section and taking way too many photographs and selfies. It was a beautiful day and we were able to view some of the most famous pieces including the painting of the two leaders kissing (not sure what its name is). Some of the pieces had strong messages (often of freedom and peace) whereas others were harder to decipher. This was my second favourite part of the trip!
We also hit up the ‘Matrix’ club which was described to us as a tourist trap but we went anyway. It was a pretty fun place but was well worked by the pickpockets. So just a warning to be careful with your valuables as we had two phones taken from peoples bags. You know the drill wear your bag in front of you and avoid bags with a top zip! If your stuff does get taken report it to the police so that you can claim it back on insurance. We did have an awesome night though, the music was awesome! The good thing about it being a tourist trap is that there is an abundance of other English speaking people!

Well that’s Berlin in a very small nutshell and to all my beautiful friends who are planning on travelling, add this to your list!