I love learning. We’ve established that I’m a nerd so this should be no shock to you. Honestly, I could probably stay in school forever if life didn’t provide responsibility and bills. I generally consider myself to be a well-rounded and educated individual. However, I find myself on this journey that questions everything I know. Things that I have questioned since being here: my ability to teach, my patience, my faith, when to eat lunch, etc.
Throw yourself into an environment where you aren’t a native speaker and prepare to be humbled. So let’s dive into each category.
My Ability to Teach.
At home, I have taught children ages 18 mos. – mid 50’s. I have taught one-on-one and in a group setting. I have taught theory, clarinet, gymnastics, how to teach, etc. I believe I specialize in teaching beginners. I have empathy for anyone learning anything new. I appreciate their willingness to learn because I identify with that as I am constantly trying to learn and better myself. I have patience when they do not as I understand part of their journey to get to this place whether their desire is to learn a scale or a back tuck…And most importantly, I understand that every individual is just that, an individual. That everyone learns differently, and that teaching in a blanket style will prove futile for both teacher and student.
In some ways, I feel like I walked in too confidently to my teaching position. I didn’t step back and asses who I was working with. I had all these lessons ready and was so excited to begin teaching these children my language…assuming that they were as eager to learn as I was to teach. I was wrong. It never occurred to me that this was something that the parents wanted more than the kids. (For those of you that this is exceptionally obvious to, forgive me.) I also brought over a tool for them to begin writing in English; however, one of the children struggles with Dyslexia. (I didn’t know before I came.) And, for good reason, his parents have asked for him not to write in English because he needs to learn the German spelling correctly first and I have had to completely revamp my ideas in a very short amount of time.
Now we play games or we bake brownies. We go to the park or to the store and talk about the actions we are doing while we are doing them. Esther approached me last night about the possibility of getting a recorder (basically a small plastic hybrid of a clarinet/flute,) and having me teach them. I love this idea. I also love her flexibility and her willingness to help me be a better teacher. They love music and I am thrilled to be able to share this part of my life with them while also teaching them English.
There are some things I have incredible patience for (teaching,) and some things I have the tolerance of a Brevet Judge while looking at a gymnast who forgets to point her toes, (so none.) That none would be screaming children throwing tantrums. I don’t/can’t/won’t tolerate it. Tira has a new teacher and adjustments are hard for her and so every day after school, there is an all-out tantrum, one where she lays on the floor screaming at the top of her lungs while tears are streaming down her face. And every meal time, Namir throws a fit because he doesn’t want to eat. He never wants to eat, yet somehow when he does, he loves the food. It’s a miracle…there no sarcasm dripping here At.All. And typically, at some point in the day, Jonah and Namir get into some sort of typical brother quarrel that leaves Jonah in tears and screaming.
That’s a lot of screaming EVERY DAY. The amount of prayer and bible verse searching has increased tenfold for me since arriving here.
I’ve encountered some people in Germany that have different beliefs than me. We grew up with different traditions and different backgrounds. We read the same scripture and arrive at different conclusions. That’s a good thing and a hard thing at the same time. When someone questions what I believe, I better have an answer…As we say in the south…This ain’t your momma’s faith. I like being challenged (well not in the moment,) but when I have time to sit and reflect I actually do. It pushes me. I have spent more time in the word here because of it. I hope I am always growing in my faith and that I am always willing to learn more.
When to Eat.
So if you have been following along, you know that I have struggled with the German diet, at least their version of the German diet. The amount of meat they eat here makes me ill. I don’t eat an extraordinary amount of meat as it is and if I do, I usually eat lean meat like chicken or fish. Part of the contract with the program that I am in is that the family has to provide all of my food, and my family has been nothing short of exceptional in this regard. They have bought me salmon, shrimp, chicken, veggies, etc. I could not be more grateful for this. At home in Alabama, breakfast and lunch are on your own and then we come together and eat dinner together at the table. Mom was always a huge proponent of making us eat together at the table and I’m so incredibly happy she did. It’s important to share life together. Usually, I eat lunch on my own because I can’t eat red meat three times a day. Also, they eat much later than I normally would. At home this isn’t an issue, it’s actually fairly normal, because often times I am the only one home. But here, meal times are so very important. Esther told me that in the German culture it is really imperative to eat together, and so without realizing it, I was being rude, and that’s the last thing I ever want to be. It stung. But, she was incredibly gracious. We have had very open, honest, and direct communication since I arrived. We both said that if either of us did things that was rude or not appropriate to let each other know. I appreciate this. Communication for me is key. I strive to be upfront and honest always. So since this conversation, I try and have a small snack so that I can eat with the family and in return they have cut down on the red meat and increased the veggies. This is what it’s like to share life with people.
As I said earlier, I am incredibly grateful for my host family. While there are difficult moments, they have shown me nothing less than the utmost respect and have welcomed me with open arms. They want to show me as much of Germany as I want to see and they want to know about my culture as well. They have asked that I make a meal for them and I’m pretty sure it will be chicken and dumplings. A few nights ago, they took me on a fieldtrip to this beautiful hotel that overlooks the Rhine. The view is breathtaking. You can see a castle in the distance and a view of the surrounding area. That is one thing that is on my bucket list here that I’m eager to see. Luckily Benjamin will be here this weekend before taking me back to Brussels and we will go explore a few castles in the area. I can’t wait to see him. I have been blessed with my friends here in Europe. They have been encouraging and have guided me well!
I wish you all the most incredible and blessed of days.
Remember to never stop learning because life never stops teaching.
Remember to be open and honest with everyone, always.
Remember God’s love is overwhelming.