Sprogskole

For the last seven months, I have had no formal Danish instruction. None. This is because I must work during class hours. Basically bad luck of timings of meetings because of boring reasons.
My teacher, who I had before my extended absence, greeted me with

“Er DU kommer tilbage??” like that. DU!? I just nodded and smiled. What is there to say?

I have a real hard time understanding her accent and I wonder if she is from somewhere different, maybe north Sjaelland or something. I should get around to asking her. She also finds words that I do not know and then asks me questions where that word is the most important word in the sentence, it’s a skill.

The class was pretty much the same as I left it. The same Mauritian, German, Chinese and Lithuanians as last time. A new German. Less a few of the others, including my English friend who started at the same time as me. I have a theory we are in the “bad accent” class because he got moved up when we both passed the test and our group is not really based on “Modul” level either. The new German has a terrific accent and knows all the incidental words you don’t learn in Sprogskole like “lige” and other joining phrases. If she stays, then my theory is wrong. If she is moved, I am on the money.

We are all very shy and whenever we are asked a group/class question, we look out the window and shift uncomfortably. And for good reason, once we start speaking it is a jumble of vowels and prepositions. Why we would want to speak and why anyone would want to hear what we have to say, I will never know. What we are saying is nonsense compounded by a bad accent. We do okay with reading comprehension and the writing is not so bad but … and this is not meant disrespectfully but our spoken fluency is really lacking.

The thing is, it is not really a good idea to put us in a group. Seriously, where am I going to pick up phrases and pronunciation? I learn a lot from classmates but we are all in the same boat. I feel the same way about special classes. I think there is a place for putting people into groups but you have to be explicit and clear in your objectives. All this bundling people out as soon as they can pronounce ø or whatever, it is very arbitrary.

Anyway, I have leveled up, spoke a lot more, was able to understand way more. It was very strange. One would assume I would make zero progress without instruction but I have come a lot further and faster than when I had the lessons. I guess it is because I am working *with* my brain and not against it. All the times I really get stuck into Danish, it is things I am interested in and things I enjoy. Class has a way of sucking the fun out.

We were using the book I liked from the library, though they have PHOTOCOPIED it instead of buying it. And we have been taken over by another Sprogskole, we are no longer the F-town Sprogskole but the Vejle Sprogskole. God knows what it all “means”. New photocopied textbooks and computers I guess.
The chapter was about language and we had an interesting discussion about political correctness and also small talk.

I have lost my dictionary somewhere and I am not lugging my massive nudansk ordbog (2 volumes) over four blocks.

Meanwhile, I am covered in glitter because I was teaching one class (before lunch) about infection and had glitter on my hand to show them how germs spread. If only one of them washes their hands before eating, it will have been successful. I put glitter on the door handles, I felt like Jeremy Beadle. I got it everywhere though. Everywhere.

One of my special kids looked at my skirt and said “Is that a tæppe?” which is funny because it is a thick tartan wool skirt and looks like a picnic rug. I mimed ringing home and told him to get on with his work. My barometer kid (who is really quite sweet but gets annoyed when my lessons are “BORING”) seemed to be having a great time, we did stuff like listening to a tape of Raps for English learners and working out punchlines for really lame jokes.

I have borrowed a bunch of games and puzzles and songs from the library and will make my lessons a lot less “BORING”, it has been a lot of trial and error with this group. Had this kid found it just as dull, I would not have a clue what to do to mix it up. The photocopiable resources suggested to me are really unappealing. I have been reinventing the wheel with limited success to date.

It is good to get this insight of the other side of the desk, of being a learner because it informs my teaching and my plans.

Why I am still here

Work is great. My job is still mentally challenging without being unreasonably stressful. The kids are good fun and interesting to work with. All I have to do is put in a bit of effort in my planning and assessment and my lessons go well every time. Even on the days I do not plan properly and only have a rough idea of what I want to happen in the lesson, it all goes really well.

My first lesson was about reaction times and preparing them for an Assessed Practical. I cannot give them a lot of help with this as it is a controlled assessment so it was gratifying to hear them talking about how to make the experiment fair, reliable and accurate with only a tiny bit of prompting from me.

My second lesson was about how the body protects itself from infection and the boys in that class are really starting to open up. We have been moaning at them at parents’ evening since they started that they are too quiet. I have been trying something a bit different where I have a powerpoint with their names flashing up at random, when I press stop a name is frozen on the board and they have to answer the question. It is a great way of getting the shy ones out of their shells because they *have* to listen and they *have* to think of answers and they *have* to try. If you are not a hand waver it is easy to get lost and not even think about the questions.

The technology used in the lesson was unthought of even when I started five years ago. I had a boring old powerpoint with pictures and bullet points and then every few slides were videos I stole from Youtube or Teachers.tv with the main points again or animations. It is something we can stop, pause, replay and much clearer in many ways than my pictures on the board.

I also made them laugh a few times, with my sound effects for arrows (pyu-pyu-pyu) and phagocytes (oooooonomonomonom).

There was even a long-ish video about Swine Flu filmed in the UK which was quite interesting.

My last lesson was with my special needs kids. They are bright and good at English (I have the top set) but they lack confidence and also a work ethic. It is a constant battle to get them to show me what they know. Plus, I was getting them to do the Past Simple which (while they are able to make the Past Simple easily when they are not thinking about it), was hard because it was GRAMMAR and therefore offputting.
I took them out in the last half hour or so for a snowball fight. It is really white and bright outside, perfect weather. Cold and bright.

Tomorrow is Lab Day (where I do physics and chemistry all day), as long as the snow storm tonight doesn’t prevent work.