The first week of school

Although I like my job very much and can’t complain about the amount of time we have off from school, it’s always an adjustment to return to school after some time off. If you count the weekends I had almost two and a half weeks off from school over the holidays, but of course you rarely have no work at all to do for school (the only exception being a big part of the summer holidays).

This time, two maths and one physics tests have been waiting on my desk for me to mark. However, I spent a week and a half traveling around Northern Germany staying with family and visiting friends, so I had less than a week left after we returned home. Of course I did some procrastinating instead of getting to work right away and only managed to mark one set of tests before the holidays ended. I briefly considered marking the second test last Sunday night, but decided not to do a nightshift before the first day of school, opting for a good night’s sleep instead.

I usually feel recuperated and revived after some time off, but this feeling invariably wears off after the first five minutes of the first classes have passed. By the time the two first classes are over and the bell rings for the break, I normally feel like I haven’t been away from school at all.

My strategy to keep the last week before the holidays as stress-free as possible by not marking those tests has paid off this time, by the way: I didn’t get ill during the holidays! I think this is a first, as I’ve managed to catch a cold or the flu every year for the past four years that I’ve been teaching.

On Monday I had six classes which lasted until 3 pm: Math in fifth form (returning those tests I marked), math in ninth form (promising I would have their tests marked by the next day), math in 12th form (they had forgotten everything about statistics that I taught them before the holidays), and another math class for the 13th form students who are taking their written Abitur exams now. They have to learn and repeat everything that we studied in the past two and a half years for this exam, so instead of the usual prepared classes I had them ask questions about any of the subjects – analysis, linear algebra and geometry, and statistics.

After all these math classes I had a double science classes in eighth form, which is usually fun because the students do experiments and all I have to do after the initial instructions is to help them and watch them so they don’t accidentally kill each other with whatever gadgets they’re using. ;-)

When I came home, I had and early dinner before going ahead and marking the second maths test, which took until 2 am – not an ideal time to go to bed if you have to get up a quarter to six in the morning.

Tuesdays are my most hectic days of the week because I have the most classes: 9th form maths (returning their tests), 11th form physics, 8th form physics, 5th form maths, 9th form physics, 12th form maths. Between two classes I only have five or 15 minutes to recall what and where my next class is and to get there in time. (In Germany, the students stay in the same room all day, and the teachers walk around. Exceptions are rooms for certain subjects, e. g. physics, where both the class and the teacher go to a special physics room like this one.)

On my way home I went to get groceries at the supermarket, than had a late lunch and went to sleep for a couple of hours, making up from the previous night. Afterwards I marked the physics tests, which again took until late that evening.

On Wednesday I had one physics and three maths classes, plus one stand-in class for a colleague who was ill. Wednesday is the only day of the week that I often am able to be home at a somewhat normal lunchtime. That afternoon I didn’t have much work because I have few classes on Thursdays. I prepared a double class for 11th form physics, which is always a bit more work because of experiments and so on, and because I have not taught this particular course before. I also did some administrative stuff.

On Thursday instead of my usual two 13th form maths class I supervised the first hour of the first written Abitur exam of this year. In order to prevent the students from cheating, two teachers are present during the written exams, and I was one of them. After that I spent two lessons explaining all about energy, work and power to my 11th form physics group. It turned out that they didn’t know how a pulley works and why it saves force, but not energy, so we got sidetracked from my initial goal but hey, I’m flexible! The last thing on Thursdays always is the one- or two-hour meeting of the staff council, of which I’m a member.

That afternoon I had to finalize the marks for the school reports (report cards for you Americans) of the 5th form, which for some administrative reason have to be finished earlier than the marks for all the other forms.

On Fridays I have to be at school at a quarter past nine instead of before eight o’clock as usual. My first duty is breaktime supervision, followed by four lessons (5th form maths, 9th form maths, 9th form physics, 12th form maths). During one of the breaks I entered the marks for the 5th form.

Friday afternoons are the only afternoons that no regular classes are taught at my school, so it’s time for extracurricular activities. I’m coaching two students who are preparing a project for a national science competition (Jugend forscht), and this Friday, we worked from 1:30 to 4:30 pm.

My weekend usually begins on Friday afternoon/night (depending on what time I come home from school) and lasts until Sunday morning. This weekend, André and I watched a movie on Friday night and went for a hike on Saturday. We started a few kilometres from home and hiked all the way down to Boppard, a town on the Rhine. The weather felt more like fall or spring than like winter, and we enjoyed the fresh air and the views over the Rhine and Boppard. We took the train back to where we had parked the car, then had dinner and spent the evening reading.

Today I did some household chores and read for a while, and now I’m about to start working again. On the to-do list: preparing the lessons for next week, marking some works from students I’ve collected and finalizing the marks for all my other classes since I have to enter them into the computer at school tomorrow.

This was my week. How was yours?