Wednesday, January 13, 2010

At School

This is the place where I spend most of my time.
My school. The yard is covered in snow right now, as you can see, and at this moment deserted because the lessons are running. There are only two young teachers in the Teachers' Room with me right now, Wanda and Sandra, and they are discussing fur coats. Not having, but
wanting one. And also if they want breakfast now, and who's going to get it from the cafeteria.
This is what everyone is having today:

Cafe Latte and salami sandwich. It's Wednesday, after all.
If you look closely at my laptop, you can see the broken keys.... I think. They look like knocked out teeth, and they HURT me!!!! Typing is no fun, either, but this will remedied, because my beloved bought me a MacBook Pro. NO more missing teeth!

This is our Teachers' Room.

Well, part of it. It was rebuilt just this summer when the two neighboring schools merged and the two groups of teachers became one. There was quite a lot of upheaval and unrest because no one thought it would work out, but it did, in fact, and the atmosphere is a lot better than expected. The seat in the front with the pink bag next to it is mine, by the way. You might have guessed. Pink.

Our school now houses (hosts? teaches? serves?) nearly 600 students. For German Secondary Schools, this is fairly average. We teach grades 5 to 10, which would make it, in US terms, a "junior high school", I think. There are 62 teachers working here, three social workers, two headmasters, two secretaries and one cook.

This is Yvonne, one of the secretaries, and the kindest soul in the world.

And our cook, Gaby, feeding the hungry little ones.

My headmaster, Birgit, in her office, after saying she always looks stupid when she smiles for a snapshot, but this one actually pleased her enough to permit me to use it. Without her, I would not be doing the job I love so much. She believes that theater and musical work are essential for kids, and for their education, and she is my greatest supporter.
In fact, she never looks stupid. Harassed, at times, or worried, but most often she radiates a wonderful, positive spirit.

Break, again. The Espresso machine is in use.

This has become a ritual. There is nothing like a fresh brewed coffee to get together and chat for a moment. We bring different roasts and blends and then compare, and it has become a little of a contest to find the rarest and most exotic one. Hamburg has many coffee companies, and we are good hunters, all of us.

The Hubby. We work at the same school, but do very different things. He is a math and physics and chess teacher, I do the arts. But we both love coffee. Obviously.

This here is not a new school building. In fact, it is rather old. You can see it in the stark dullness of the hallways, the grey, uncomfortable angles and the uninspired class rooms. There is this unspecific and yet very particular smell, I don't know rightly what it is, but common to all schools.

It is associated with hoards of running children, chalk, over-stuffed school bags and damp winter jackets, mashed sandwiches in greasy wrappers and spilled tea.
There are no nice retreats for the kids during lunch break, and no peaceful corners.
This is the one recreational room:

As you can see, not a whole lot. But we have a lot of fun. I've taught a group of 5th grade girls knitting here, and we play and sing, too.
Also, I hear a lot of stories, from favorite pets' antics to sad family fates, newly separated parents, families torn apart, new families forming and not working too well.
Most of the kids at our school are from socially challenged backgrounds, most have a migratory history. Only a small percentage is of "German" origin, the others are from all over the planet. We have one 6th grade with 16 (!) nationalities in it, which is wonderful for the kids. There is no better way to learn about the world than living and studying together.

And this here, finally, is what I do when I don't hang out in the Teachers' Room:
I teach theater and musical classes. Right now, we're putting together a show that will go on stage on February 5, at the official opening ceremony for this newly merged school. We will be singing and performing Musical and movie songs for the mayor, the Minister of Education, the press, the city council, other heads of schools, etc.... and we're very excited about it.

These are "my" kids:

And this is how we look after a successful show:

Had to break off blogging on Wednesday and could only resume today, but actually there is little to add anyway. The pictures talk, I think, and no one looks unhappy, do they?

My Macbook arrived Wednesday afternoon, and we have been spending a lot of time together, and making friends. I know now why people who have one would never go back to a Windows machine. This is not a clever Apple slogan, it is really true.
Teacher Knud asked me today why I thought it was different to use a Mac, and I replied that it felt as if some very clever people had taken apart a Windows laptop into a squazillion little parts, looked very closely at every one, reshaped, painted and maybe turned it over and then put it back together to work properly. A little like a Borg starship: neat, sleek, efficient, doing what it was meant to do, exactly.

And on this note, I'm closing shop for this week.


  1. Mariam, you write like a dream: straightforward, direct, honest, and clear as a bell. If you think that I think that it's easy to do that, think again! It's always a pleasure to read your stuff. Good luck with your tests, and all.

  2. This was a lovely tour of the school! I can feel your passion for what you do and your desire to have a perfect place for education. I love how you make the best of what you are given... that's what we do... Hopefully I will be able to tour you through our little Hamlet as well. Similar halls... different focus... challenged youth in many ways. Lucky to have Us in their lives!!!