Grunschule “Am Stadtsee”

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It is the end of our first week here at the school Stendal, and the week has been very interesting and exciting. On Monday morning we all got dressed and went upstairs to have breakfast before we left for the school. As we sat at the table we began to discuss our thoughts and anxiety that we were having about going into the school. I felt like I was in grade school and it was the first day of kindergarten. I did not know what to expect. I will admit that my biggest fear was that I would be able to understand the language and would be totally lost.

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As we walked into the school with Sally (our guide) we were met by the principal, Silke (Silk-a). She greeted us with the words “Good Morning, Welcome to Am Stadtsee!” Then she walked us to the English room in the school. Some of my anxiety went away, because I knew that there was someone who that could speak English in the schools. We sat it the room and she gave us information about the schools and our classroom assignments. I was excited to know that I was placed in a second grade classroom. The other girls are in fourth grade and will be moving to third after two weeks. I was also relieved to know that my teacher can speak English. The school is not a bilingual school, but they do learn British English. In grades one and two they have English lessons once a week, and twice a week for the higher grades. The school starts at first grade and goes through fourth grade. There are 200 students at the school with 12-15 students in a class. We were given a tour of the school in pairs by fourth grade students. I thought it was so neat to have the students give us the tour, and they spoke English to us while giving the tour. We were introduced to the other teachers of the school and then off to our class we went. As I sat in my classroom I was a bit confused. Everything was in German! Dr. Goodman visited my class with me and was trying to translate things the best she could but I just sat there absorbing it all in.

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The next day we were off to school alone. There was no Sally or Dr. Goodman there with us to translate anything. I walked into the classroom a couple minutes before the students came in. As they arrived and saw me in the classroom, I was greeted with “Guten morgen” (good morning) by many of the students. As the day began the students began to speak to me –in German! I began to communicate with them in a language that I barely know the basics of. I began learning the names of the students and felt more comfortable being in the classroom. During the morning break the teacher came and spoke with me she asked me to read the book “The Very Hungary Caterpillar” to the class later that day. She had a copy of both, English and German language and wanted me to help with that lesson. I was excited and full of joy to know that it was only our second day in the school and I was doing a lesson with the class without any preparation or plans. The teacher read a page in German and I read it in English. The student really enjoyed that lesson. They were happy to have me in their classroom. I was beginning to learn German from them and they were learning more English words as well.

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As the week continued I became more interactive in the classroom. I began to understand what was going on in the class from making connections of their actions in the classroom. I assisted with many of the different lessons. We all were beginning to learn the normal routine for the school and the children. It does feel a little uncomfortable walking up to the school in the morning and everyone is just staring at you like you are the new kid at school. But I’m sure as the weeks go by we will be at ease. The first week went by quickly, and I am really enjoying the experience. I’m looking forward to do more in the classroom with the students in the weeks to come.


The Mystical Dance of Ireland

We are enjoying our stay here in Stendal and had the pleasure of meeting some fellow hotel guests on Sunday. Dr. Goodman and I were on our way out for a bike ride when we ran into Marko and Shelly. They are members of the show titled The Mystical Dance of Ireland. They are in town for a performance on Tuesday night. They will be performing at The Theater de Altmark. Shelly was so nice, she even offered to show us her instrument. She plays the Uilleann pipes. The looked very similar to the bag pipes but they were smaller. We talked for a few minutes and then went for a bike ride. The next day (Monday) I asked the tour manager where we could buy tickets. Since we had only been in town for 5 days I had no idea how to go about the ticket purchase. We looked online but they do not sell tickets online to this particular theater. The tour manager said her would give us a call tomorrow. He called us at 6:00 on Tuesday to let us know we had tickets! Plus they were free tickets. He had them reserved at the theater under “The Americans.” It was a short walk and we were there. The lady at the counter laughed before I even finished my sentence in (bad) German, she obviously knew that we were the Americans.
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This was the theater. It was very small compared to The Peace Center in Greenville.

The theater was very nice. We had to check our coats, which was a first for me. It was a packed house so we were not all together but that was alright. The show started with a fun music and dance number. There were 8 dancers in the show; 4 men and 4 women. There was also an Irish band that had 6 people in it. The instruments they had were the keyboard, the gitarre, the akkordion, the geige, the floete, the uilleann pipes, and the blechfloete.
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This is the Irish band.

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The Irish Dancers

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The costumes were very colorful.

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She was singing “Danny Boy”

The dancers performed 12 dances and there was an Irish singer who performed 4 songs. The dances were so intricate. I couldn’t believe how fast they could move their feet! They had a few different costume changes throughout the show. It was so nice to hear her sing because she sung in English! The last song was “Danny Boy” and it was beautiful. It was great to be able to have such a unique experience in Stendal. We were very thankful to get the tickets and enjoy our first cultural experience in Stendal.


On Saturday, April 6, we took a trip to a small town called Tangermünde with our guide Sally. We met Sally at 11:00 to go into Stendal for shopping before going on the train from Stendal to Tangermünde. We looked in a couple of the shops, bought stamps for our postcards to send home, and then mailed them to go home. After shopping, we had time to stop for lunch at the Koffee Inn and then proceeded to make our way to the train station by our favorite form of transportation: walking. It took 15 minutes by train to travel from Stendal to Tangermünde where we met Michael our guide for the city tour. He was a good guide because he was excited about the town and knowledgeable of the surrounding history. We began our journey by walking through the town and just taking in the small town’s sights before the tour began. The town celebrated its thousand-year anniversary in 2009. Its name derives from the German word: mündung meaning mouth and the Tanger tributary of the river Elbe. Hence, Tangermünde was formed.

The city tour started at the Neustädter Tor Gate where Michael described the significance of the gate and how it would greet people allowing them to enter from the surrounding towns. On the gate, there were five eagles that represented (left to right) the Prussian King, the Empire, Tangermünde, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and that of Brandenburg. The black and white squares on the shield of the Empire eagle represent the death or conquer of the city (black) and its rebirth when they overthrew their conquerors (white). Behind the gate and off to the side was a restaurant that is set up as it would appear a thousand years ago. There was a “throne” seat, with wooden benches for seats at long wooden tables, they displayed several old artifacts from the medieval times, not just the decorations were medieval because Michael explained that sometimes they don’t give utensils when serving the food so you have to eat with your hands.

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In 1617, a historic fire took place and out of the fire began a tall tale about a woman who was accused of setting the town on fire. Standing next to the Town Hall there is a statue of the woman called Grete Minde who supposedly set the town on fire because she was a witch. There was no proof either way of her innocence or guilt. The town hall was another landmark of Tangermünde it looked like a church but was nothing more than a town hall, and we were lucky because on the day we went there were several weddings. Tradition is that after leaving the town hall, the guests or well-wishers come and throw flower petals, rice, and seed at the happy couple. From what we have observed, the majority of Germans do not go to church on a regular basis so getting married in a church is culturally optional.

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However, we were able to witness the beginning of a wedding ceremony at St. Stephen’s Church, which is directly across from the town hall. After watching the wedding procession into the church, and realizing that Michael could not show us the inside, we made a trip to an old school that was converted into a restaurant. We learned that children used to go to school on their sixth birthday regardless of when their birthday took place. There was a huge celebration for the first day of school and the children would receive a cone full of candy and school supplies as part of the festivities. The tradition still carries on today but the difference now (at least in Stendal) is they go to school in September even if it is not their sixth birthday. We then proceeded to walk toward the fortress protecting the city the riverside, and Michael showed us the prison tower as walked to the top of the wall that used surround city. The fortress helped to protect the city’s defenses and flooding from the Elbe River. The last significant building that Michael showed us was a building where the upper level was bigger than the lower. This seems insignificant but he further explain by saying that the lower level has to pay more taxes that the upper levels. So in order to avoid paying higher taxes the owners built the building with a smaller first level, a medium second level, and a large third level.

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On the way back to the hotel, we all stepped out of our comfort zone when it came to trying the German fast food “döner”. We had the chicken döner, which contains chicken, salad (similar to cole slaw), tomato, pickles, and onions inside of a bread roll. It was similar to a gyro but the flavors and seasoning were different. Speaking of food, we have tried several different types of food to embrace the German culture. We had currywurst at the Mensa (college cafeteria), and a true bratwurst on bread roll from a street vendor.

Tomorrow the plan is to having a relaxing day before our first day in the school. We know that we are all in the same school and two of us will be in a classroom together. However, we still have not learned who our teachers are or our respective grade levels. We are all a little nervous and apprehensive about our “first” day of school.


Welcome to Stendal!

Hello all! It’s Brittney here. We have gotten all settled in here at the apartment and have been enjoying this beautiful city. Stendal is approximately 74 miles away from Berlin. Stendal was first recorded in the history books around the year 1022 as “Steinedal”. The city of Stendal is small. The city is small enough that we walk or bike everywhere we go. People do own cars here but the city is small enough to walk comfortably.
Our amazing guide Sally gave us a tour of the city. First she took us to the grocery store. It was very interesting to go to the store and not be able to read any of the packaging. We were able to buy a few things that we needed with sally’s help. Sally then gave us a guided tour of the city. Our hotel is located near the Uenglinger Tower. The tower was built in the 15th century and was part of the wall that surrounds the city. It is a great example of the architecture in the city. We wanted to walk into the tower but there was still snow on the steps so it is closed to the public at the moment. There is a really neat restaurant next the tower. It is the oldest restaurant in the city, they serve German food here.
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These are the stairs leading to the inside of the tower.
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This is the old German restaurant.
We also went to the Tiergarden Zoo in Stendal. It is a nice zoo located close to the elementary school we will be teaching at. The zoo has quite a few animals. It was funny to see a raccoon at the zoo! It was a good reminder that our idea of “normal is so different from theirs. We looked at the monkeys, owls, and bears for about an hour and a half. The zoo has a great playground. I was so surprised to see a merry-go-round and a see saw. They also had tee pees for the children to play in. I had fun on this wooden toy. It leans back and forth with your weigh so you must keep your balance. They also has an in-ground trampoline. I have never seen anything like it! We had almost the whole zoo to ourselves because it was so cold but we had a nice time.
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There are not a lot of plastic toys here. Most of the playground toys were made of wood as well.
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This is one of the owls at the zoo.
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The baby goats at the zoo were adorable.  photo 151_zps41389d8a.jpg
This was one of the coolest playgrounds I have ever seen.
Sally then took us to the Hochschule. The Hochschule is the college that Sally attends. There are approximately 2,500 students that attend this school. There are three main buildings and a mensa (cafeteria) with a bar attached to it. Stendal is also home to a large train station and bus station. The Winckelmann museum is located in Stendal. It is a museum dedicated Johann Winkelmann who was a German art historian and archaeologist. The museum has a trojan horse which is the largest trojan horse in Europe. If you go inside the horse you can climb to the top and there is an amazing view of Stendal. We are hoping to visit the museum later in our trip.
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We look forward to spending the rest of the month here and getting to know the city better.

Making our way to Germany…

Hello all! We are a few days behind posting, but I (Courtney) am here to start to get you caught up!

We left the states on April 3rd from GSP airport. For me, it was my first flight and I was very nervous! We got all our luggage check in and printed our tickets. You could feel everyone being anxious, but for the most part we were all getting excited. We stay in the airport and talked to our families for about two hours. Thankfully we were at a small airport like Greenville Spartanburg that gave us the time and the space to talk to our families before our departure. It was finally time to say our goodbyes and that is when the real tears started for Jennifer and me. We were the only two still with our families. Jennifer was leaving behind her husband and two boys, which she says is the hardest thing she has ever had to do. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and dried our tears before walking into security. We were heading through security and up to our terminal. We stopped at the coffee shops to grab some drinks and food before sitting down to take a short break. We decided we may need to walk down to our gate, and ask we walked down there – they were calling last boarding call! We ran on the plane, thankful that we had not missed our first flight!

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The takeoff and plane ride were great. We were on a small 50 seat plane, so I was very nervous. We did hit some turbulence, so for a first time flyer for me that was a bit scary. The flight was about two hours long. However, the landing was horrible! It was very shaky.. and one of our girls even got sick. Thankfully we landed safely.. and even saw the Statue of Liberty on our way in!

We had a five hour layover in Newark, New Jersey. Thankfully Newark is a huge airport and we found plenty to do. We ate at a cafe in the terminal, and shopped around some. We headed to our gate to charge our iPads and computers for our long flight. We boarded the plane around 5:00 pm, and there was only 4,102 miles between us and Berlin! After a short wait on the runway to take off we were up and away! We each took advantage of the TVs and watch some movies to pass the time. Dinner was either pasta and meatballs, or baked chicken and rice. I am not a big fan of airplane food! After our stomachs were full, and we finally reached where it was getting dark, we each cuddled in and tried to find a comfortable spot to sleep. Some of us could sleep, others only got a few hours, but before we knew it the flight crew (who was super amazing!) was waking us up with breakfast! A few short minutes later, we were landed, and waiting to get off the plane! The trip we had all been planning for months for was finally happening, we were really in Germany!! We found Sally and Tonya (our “guides” while we are here) and headed to catch the bus and train to Stendal. The bus station in Berlin is HUGE, and is basically a shopping center. We finally reached our hotel around noon, and each started to contact our families and unpack… we were ready for this journey to begin!!! :)

Here are a few pictures from our “flat” we are staying in while we are here:

Our dining area
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Our small kitchen area
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Our “living area” and two of our beds!
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We’re so excited for this opportunity and can’t wait for the rest of the trip!
-Courtney Sanders

Student Teaching in Stendal, Germany 2013

Five USC Upstate Teacher Candidates from the School of Education are student teaching in Stendal, Germany! Jennifer Coppola, Tori Grant, Jessica MacIntosh, Brittney Tudor, and Courtney Sanders will share their first impressions and experiences during the month of April.  Follow this blog to learn of their adventures in the city and with young children in the Grundschule “Am Stadtsee.”

bairisch (Adj.) [boàrisch]- the language of the Bavarians

Bairisch is the difference between morgen and ming. It is the difference between passt schon and basst scho. That may not sound bad but when almost every word is that different it can be a challenge. The older people in this village when they talk to one another in “German” I can’t understand a word.

It’s not even a dialect really but an entirely new made up language that a bunch of old men came up with one night at a pub somewhere. They like to add long a’s, random umlauts, grunts, y sounds, and o’s that shouldn’t be there. Some of the words aren’t even close to Hochdeutsch. It is as drastic as the difference between english english and scottish english.

The old men at the pub look at me and sputter of a sentence to which I haven’t the slightest understanding. Then I say genau or ja then they either laugh heartily because they just asked me something ridiculous or they say ja ja basst scho. When they make an effort to speak in an understandable manner I don’t have as much of an issue but after they have been drinking for a while all understanding is thrown out the window.

In Dingolfing the Bairisch sounds different than it does 30 km away in Reicheneibach ( to me at least). Certain people are easier to understand than others. The level of comprehension has gotten much better then when I first got here but it is still isn’t easy. Most people at work know that if they want me to converse with them they have to hold back on the made up Bavarian words. All I hear when they just let loose is “Du Chris, jenä ooda walla walla runa anawüal order?” Then they smile because they just asked me something ridiculous and they are hoping that I just say yes. I have learned the hard way never to just say yes!!!

Certain people just have an accent which isn’t a problem for me but the people like the fork lift drivers and the truck drivers I have to talk to daily who speak “bairisch bairisch” I have to ask constantly wie bitte? I don’t have a problem with speed or vocabulary it’s just all the made up Bavarian words they use to set themselves apart from the rest of Germany that is the issue.

German overall for me has gotten astronomically better and I’ve still got a lot of time left. I had a call from Bremen on Friday at work and I COULD UNDERSTAND EVERY WORD BECAUSE THEY WHERE SPEAKING GERMAN it was amazing…


For your amusement:

Working in Germany Initial Observations

The first thing I noticed is that the Germans work together in a giant room (even upper management). It is nothing like I had expected it to be. I was expecting a cubicle what I got was much better.

It can be hard to get things done at times though. Your thoughts are constantly interrupted by Bayerisch being shouted across the room. You also can hear every phone call anyone makes so it can be a bit distracting. It hilarious though. At least to me. They joke with each other it makes me laugh. I also think it’s funny how direct they are with each other. You insert name here I need _______. There is no beating around the bush.

I think the openness of the workspace increases cooperation. It is much easier to talk with a colleague when all you have to do is shout. It creates a we are all in this together atmosphere and when you have a problem all you have to do is ask someone. You always know what is going on too which is nice.

My colleagues have been very welcoming to me and I am grateful. Watching them they are very friendly with one another. Always greeting everyone when they come in in the morning and when they leave at the end of the day. (as is customary) That is something important to remember about working here. If you don’t greet everyone in the morning you are perceived as cold and distant. Having a good relationship with your coworkers is valued very highly here. Everyone seems to get along. They all go to lunch at the same time and eat together. When it’s someone’s birthday they all celebrate together. All this is in stark contrast (at least in my opinion) to the US.

The Germans unlike the Americans don’t work themselves to death. After 5 they are done which is how I think it should be. They see taking work home or working overtime as a lack of efficiency. They don’t work as much but they work enough (efficiency). Work to live not live to work. I like it.

Every day I get to see a new part of the factory, meet new people and solve new problems. My German has gotten astronomically better. Speaking is still difficult but I can understand most of what is being said now when I focus. The good thing is they usually treat me like a normal German speaker. They mostly talk at normal speed which has been good for me. At times though it is frustrating when I can’t understand what they are saying. Every day though it gets a little easier.

Sorry no pictures. Taking pictures at the plant is strictly verboten…