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Home  > Article

To Germany, on a Wing and a Prayer

By Cynthia Singer

The offer of a job teaching kindergarten in Germany was entirely unexpected, but it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done.

Standing in the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, MD, the energy of opportunity surrounding me, I try to take in as much as possible, hoping that a little opportunity will come my way. With over 50 representatives from international schools, and three times as many teachers desperate for a job or new experience, I am one of the few new to the recruiting fair, and also to the world of teaching. It doesn't take much time to realize that the odds of leaving the fair with a job are not in my favor.

However, with a little luck and blind faith an opportunity eventually did come my way. I interviewed with the head of a network of schools, and despite my limited teaching experience I was offered a position. My optimism and sense of adventure must have made up for it. I took a job teaching kindergarten in Germany with no real idea of where I would be living, or how to speak German. The only thing I knew was I would be teaching one of two kindergarten classes at a school in its first year of opening.

Fast forward three months, and I was standing in the airport on my way to Germany. When I arrived, I quickly learned that flexibility and patience would probably be the two traits most tested and most necessary. This proved true for both having a successful year as a teacher and living in a new country.

The first surprising news was that I would be teaching the 3-4 year old kindergarten class and that my group of students was not an international mix, but rather a group of German children.

The first few weeks were interesting. I spoke no German, which was expected in a full English-language immersion program. But my class of big blue-eyed German students likewise spoke no English. More importantly, they did not understand the concept of another language, which made life those first few weeks all the more entertaining. When doing the typical activities you would in kindergarten, like showing a picture of a dog and saying, "This is a dog." I was met with, "Nein, das ist ein Hund." Other days the humor wore off, and I would just want to pull my hair out. It can be exhausting saying the same thing a million times to get your point across to a group of kids with little to no attention span.

Slowly but surely the students learned English, became less shy speaking, and even learned the initial stages of reading in English. The transformation from the beginning of the year to the end was inspiring. That Spring, when prospective students came in to visit the school with their parents for the following year, my class would make sure everyone knew that they spoke English and German and that Ms. Singer only spoke English.

Teaching kindergarten abroad was one of the best things I have done. I learned many things about teaching, but more importantly I learned about life in general. Those were the lessons both inside and outside the classroom. Interacting with my students for the year made me realize that going to another country is much like being a four year-old again--only harder, because as an adult it is hard to be so big-eyed and smiley about everything. As an adult you can recognize the things you like and dislike, but you still have to push yourself through the hard parts. The temper tantrum just won't work when you're trying to negotiate your internet and phone contract in a language that you have just started learning!







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