Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Pink Sock

Hi all,
So, a pink sock was the damage of the day. Also the knowledge that Eric's kitchen floor has an affinity for bright red liquids. This time the staining wasn't due to a Strawberry margarita gone wrong, but to a much more benign Koolaid fiasco. When my parents came and visited, they brought Eric some Koolaid and recently he's made it one of his goals to finish them all before we leave. So I was attempting to take the slippery "pitcher" (really a glorified tupperware) out of the fridge and accidentally gripped it only by the top. As I was attempting to gain leverage on the darn thing it slipped - sending up a brilliant red fountain of Koolaid to cover not only me but a good portion of the floor. Luckily my shirt was dark this time, although I had just washed my jeans. Sigh.

At any rate, after some mopping up and changing (Eric had a spare Metallica shirt that actually belongs to Niamh - question, Niamh, why/how does Eric have one of your shirts...?), I was good to go...minus one pink sock. So, I went home barefoot in my shoes. I also made up a great story to tell my apartment mates, should I get the question of why I'm wearing a Metallica shirt (because we all know how "me" Metallica is...), but unfortunately no one was in the kitchen area when I came home. That's ok, it's probably not half as funny as I'd like to think it is...moving on.

The Final From Hell?
No, it wasn't. Although it was certainly stressful enough today, I feel like I pretty much nailed it. I was confident that I did well - only to have it shaken by Vince and Rob (England) on the bus. The format on the test was pretty simple. We had little box charts with the name of historic people (different charts for different topics...ie, composers, writers, and building forms) and we'd have to fill in the style/dates/music selection/text section that matched the person. When I got to the text section, I was a little freaked out as it was 3 relatively modern people, and only one ancient middle-age person. The texts were clearly not old (it was readable, modern German) and I didn't recognize one of the names. Since it looked Italian, I ended up pairing it with Anti-fascism and hoping for the best. Rob and Vince were convinced that Heinrich Mann (who I'd labeled as "Aufklaerung"/enlightenment in English I believe) was actually the anti-fascism author, which meant I just lowered my grade by a nice huge lump as it would trip me up for 4-6 points out of 31. So I did what any person does in a crisis of doubt...I googled it. Guess who nailed it?

The German School System
I know I've posted on and off about the German school system, probably in regards to my English conversation class I taught. However, I have made some discoveries about the German school system.
1. It really isn't ALL that great.
Honestly, yes, they have GREAT rates of kids going to university from their "gymnasiums" - however, if we in the US separated the top 20% (number is slightly arbitrary, I think it depends on the region) of each class and sent them on a college track - of course the numbers would be up! Instead, our public schools have "No Child Left Behind", which holds back the brighter kids and doesn't seem to really help the struggling students by passing them along instead of addressing problems such as poor study habits or learning disorders. However, moving along...
2. They CHEAT
This is apparently one of the best/worst kept secrets in Germany. Spurred by a conversation with Flo, Jake's friend, we learned that cheating is very typical in the German education system. In one of Sara's classes, they'd discussed how in a lot of European classes, testing was doing "cooperatively" and if a teacher left a room...everything was fair game. Flo claimed the cheating was rampant...not only in regular class but for the "Abitur" - the HUGE oral and written test over several major areas of study that German gymnasium students take that entirely determines where they'll be accepted into University. I asked Mike and Claudia, and they both acknowledged that cheating was rampant (although they both vehemently denied cheating, and I believe them) and kids caught a lot of shit if they didn't cheat. Flo then detailed popular cheating methods:
1. Girls wore skirts on test days (and teachers weren't allowed to check) and would hitch them up during the test to reveal written on answers.
2. They used lined graphing paper that they bring themselves, but write lightly with a silver gel pen - impossible to see from a distance.
3. Kids would write answers on their shoes.
4. They'd leave a cheat sheet in the bathroom - this was especially popular during the Abitur, as it was hours long and they were allowed bathroom breaks.
5. One kid tacked a drink coaster to the underside of his desk with answers and could flip it out when the teacher wasn't looking.
The list went on...
So, while the level of education in gymnasiums is undoubtedly higher than in the US, it's probably on par with private schools with strict academic requirements (similar to the sorting that all German students endure). What struck me the most though, was that when I asked if there were many minority students that went to Gymnasium (as I had never seen any as I was outside waiting) I was told that no, there weren't that many - in fact my class didn't know of any in their gymnasium at all. I was told that "They come to the country too late and their German isn't good enough". However, I have seen many, many pre-school aged and grade-school aged kids from obvious Turkish or other descent, so I don't buy that either. Apparently racism is also prevalent in the schools, although they skirted around that topic. I'm not saying that US schools are any better - looking at our rates of minority dropouts is equally appalling, but at least we acknowledge it as a problem. In the end, I have a new outlook on the German education system and now see the flaws inherent in it as well as the benefits.

Anyhow, enough with material that requires thought. After we finished our respective finals today and got ice cream, Eric and I took a stroll along the river. I had some fun snapping pictures and also included in the slideshow are some random pics from the night before Charlotte left of kitchen shenanigans - that's Rob with the Gummi bears that Molly so lovingly licked and placed on his face...
Hope all is well,

No comments: