Hi guys, the first week of the semester is over, and thus also my first week of teaching at Illinois State University. Oh my, what a week! First of all, the whole city changed with the beginning of the semester. After my first two weeks of being quite and calm, Normal suddenly changed into a busy and animated college town. Now, there are young people everywhere: running around campus on their way to classes, enjoying the sun in the Quad or simply having a coffee nearby. Of course almost everyone is equipped with the correct ISU gear, transforming not only the campus but also the whole town into a big red dynamic being. It is so great! Of course I couldn’t be any worse, so I’m doing my best to keep up with the style!
Another highlight: I just arrived in the US, and I got to see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights on the first day of class! On Monday, August 21, all of North America was treated to a total solar eclipse. Down south in Illinois the moon completely covered the sun and the corona could be seen, and we on campus got to see coverage of something around 93% I guess. Incredible!
The first week was also intense in terms of personal working experience, as teaching the German language to American students is what I came here for. Guys, I was so nervous the first day, I barely ate breakfast, I was running to the bathroom every five minutes and I was shaking like a leaf. Luckily, my supervisor teaches the same course section to a different group of students before I teach mine, so I sat in her class and watched her meticulously. Finally, the moment came and I was alone in a classroom with a big lump in my throat, vanishing behind a huge control desk full of technical equipment I tried to make work, in front of a group of 14 students not much younger than me, some of them definitely looking older. And total silence. They observed me. I observed them. Both sides probably trying to figure out who will be the prey and who the predator in this arena, maybe trying to estimate if little old me is worth being respected as person of authority or rather not. And before I could change my mind, I pulled myself together and started to be a teacher.
It’s great! After one week I can definitely say that I am having fun in the classroom. Of course, there are still so many things I need to work on, like for instance my time management, which is terrible, or the fact that I keep forgetting to pronounce the words properly and not as a native speaker would do in Germany, or that I am talking too fast sometimes, or that I need to work on my chaotic blackboard technique (which would definitely put Rembrandt to shame), or that I need to always keep in mind to use only the kind of words or syntax constructions my students already have learned, which is not easy when you are a native speaker and never “learned” your own language as you would do a foreign language. You see, there is a lot I need to practice, but the more routine I get the more I enjoy being there. And routine I will definitely get as my class takes place Monday through Thursday.
There has been already lots of laughing in my classroom, especially because of my affinity to technology, hehe. On the second day I wanted to let the students listen to a dialogue on a boombox, however, after plugging the cable in, it didn’t work. After reading the dialogue ourselves, I stumbled upon the cable and realised that I didn’t plug the other side of the cable into the boombox before! So embarrassing! What do you do in such a moment? Keep calm and pretend it is part of the lesson plan? Anyways, it was a hilarious moment in the classroom and it instantly bonded us together ☺
However, standing in front of a classroom is not the only thing that keeps me busy. The preparation for classes takes time for I have never taught German before; as every member of the faculty I have office hours; and because my students already had their first quiz on Thursday, I already got to grade first assignments.
The atmosphere in our Graduate Teaching Assistant office is great, though. Except of one, all of the GTAs are from Spanish speaking countries, plus me. So you probably can imagine what language is often spoken in the office, in group chats or at parties. ☺ Yes! After a short rummage around somewhere in my head, where I kept my shaky Spanish skills neatly hidden, I get to practice that one as well. Who would have guessed?
As for now, it doesn’t get boring in Normal. This weekend there was the Corn Festival in town, where over 50,000 ears of fresh sweet corn, sidewalk sales, arts, crafts, and flea market vendors awaited us on the streets. Together with friends we enjoyed the good food while listening to live music and ambling around in the sun. I also tried some Funnel Cake Waffles. Delicious!
Keeping in mind that I want to live healthy while staying in the US, I was looking for juice the other day in Walmart. Proper juice. From fruits. Real fruits. I found the juices-sign, but I did not find the juices xD
People are great here, especially the international community. I also keep in touch with my host family, which is great! We had a nice dinner party the other day with lots of other students at their house and I am grateful for people like them to invite internationals into their American families so that we can get to know the US culture. We also had a campfire even though it was probably 23 degrees Celsius xD
Still, after being here for three weeks, always when I enter a building on campus this sign somehow makes me feel uncomfortable…
Every time I come home late from the office, this little rabbit is waiting for me in front of our building, observing me as I pass by, estimating if I am danger or not. But I just say hello and smile ☺
Oh, and one last thing: That’s how some taps look in the US, also at our apartment. It is like a joystick, going all the way round, which I think is super funny xD
That’s it for today. I am definitely looking forward to another week full of challenges. I hope you guys enjoy those little stories. 🙂 I wish you a wonderful week and don’t forget to smile! K.