My one month stay in Hamburg is coming to a close. What a full month it has been! I had both personal and professional goals for this trip. Here are a few of insights.
Personal: I wanted to get to know Germany as it is now. Germany has changed so much since I last stayed here for an extended time. This shouldn’t surprise me, but just as my parents spoke of a Germany that was radically different from the one I encountered in my first stay as an adult; so is the Germany of now different from the Germany from when I was 18. I have caught many of the changes in my visits over the years, but the diversity I see in the city now more closely resembles the diversity in Calgary.
I wanted to improve my German. From a language standpoint, I still marvel at what I know and what I don’t know. Some conversations flow smoothly and others hiccup on an ill-chosen word or a lapse in recall of a word I should know. I have expanded by vocabulary with regards to academic language, but similarities across words in similar categories reminds me of a joke my Dad used to tell: cabbage, carriage, garbage – what’s the difference? For me it is: Antrag, Vortrag, Beitrag. I have to stop and think before I use each word that I have chosen the right one! I watch non-native speakers of English deliver talks in English, while I am still frightened of my first talk in German. It still hasn’t happened since talks in English are valued here, but one day I will convince someone to let me and then the fun will begin.
Professional: Writing up my reports for this trip were a chance to put together a list of activities I intended to do and didn’t, intended to and did, and didn’t expect to do, but did. I tried to be open to opportunities that arose and as a result, I met with four professors I hadn’t anticipated meeting, took in two talks I hadn’t planned, and encountered more documents than I had ever envisioned when I proposed a document analysis.
I hope to return again, soon, to Hamburg. As I have mentioned to many whom I have seen, one goal of this trip was learning the right questions to ask. So, when I return, I would like to visit a preparation class (Internationale Vorbereitungsklasse), guest/co-teach, and conduct a workshop on research methodology for graduate students. On a personal level, I hope to bring along a colleague or family member so they too can see how interesting Hamburg and the University of Hamburg are.
Yesterday I visited a German Gymnasium (academic high school) that offers a German-English bilingual program. It was difficult to arrange because the school year is drawing to a close, but I am grateful to Robin Kiso at the Helene-Lange-Gymnasium for letting me visit. To make it more challenging, my visit occurred just as a storm was rolling through Hamburg and I am thankful the guesthouse provides an umbrella or I would have been soaked upon arrival.
The class I visited was German history, taught in English. This is interesting from the outset since Alberta Bilingual Schools switched away from teaching Social Studies in German because of the difficulty of terminology and the lack of resources. Herr Kiso remarks that terminology is sometimes an issue, but he will use the German terms when it makes sense. Regarding resources, bilingual programs are now common enough in German that publishers are creating specific resources, so I observed that the students had textbooks to accompany their lessons. However, Herr Kiso remarked that he often used other resources, which was evident from his lesson, where he used One Note software and an LCD projection set up to bring visual elements to his lesson. When asked, he noted that he uses technology more than most teachers, which has also been my observation in other schools. The students themselves don’t have access to a computer in the classroom and a sign in the hallway indicated that cell phones should be stowed away and unseen.
The lesson on the first German nation-state started with a picture prompt of the Reichstag. The German educational system values the ability for students to express themselves verbally and that was evident from the time the students spent discussing what they felt the building’s architecture represented, first with a partner and then as a whole class. Since this was a double class, they easily spent 30 minutes expressing their opinions in English. The students are very strong and were able to use precise vocabulary such as “intimidating”, “shows pride”, “minimalist”. Herr Kiso made a point of giving a thumbs up to effective use of vocabulary and reusing the same terms when he spoke to reinforce their meaning. These are all points I tell my students about building academic language skills in the second language classroom. The lesson further involved opportunities to make linkages between students’ current knowledge and opinions about democracy with facts about the first nation-state, which allowed them to draw conclusions about how democratic or non-democratic it was and how aspects of that government and society led to a later constitution that Hitler was able to exploit when he got into power.
Overall, the visit was very interesting. It differed from other school visits I have made in that the link between content and language theory was strongly exhibited in practice and I look forward to another opportunity to visit this school and others in future research visits.
As an update to my post from last week, I have returned from my conference and networking trip to Ireland. Here are a few highlights
- I was able to meet with someone from the Study Abroad office and learn about the structure of their education program and international programs. The challenges are similar – their students are in a fixed program and it would take some creative thinking to accommodate an international experience such as Teaching Across Borders (TAB). However, I don’t see this as a stop sign, rather than a time to yield and reflect.
- I presented on some initial research on blogging, as a preparation for future research on the use of the Ning blog for reflection during the TAB program.
- I networked with several scholars in applied and educational linguistics.
- I learned that my research on the linguistic landscape of the classroom is being read by graduate students at a university in Israel.
- I reconnected with Aiofe Lenihan, the person who had originally said “You should come to Limerick some day” and learned about her research on Facebook and how it overlaps with mine.
- I discussed future research ideas with Francis Hult, who was the external examiner on my dissertation committee and the person who introduced me to nexus analysis and linguistic landscape analysis.
- I learned that Bernard Spolsky is doing a series on language policy management in former colonies. His work on Brazil makes a helpful addition to the body of work that colleagues and I are looking at in our comparative study on conceptualizations of diversity between Canada and Brazil.
- On top of all of this, I had a chance to experience Limerick. The conference providers arranged Irish dancers at the Monday evening BBQ, I toured the town and King John’s castle, and enjoyed the friendly hospitality of the local people.
It was a full and rewarding trip. I look forward to traveling to Ireland again some day with more time to see the countryside.
For the month of June I have the above title. With funding from the Werklund School of Education, Office of Research and the University of Calgary’s Office of Internationalization, I have embarked upon this short research stay with a few flexible goals in mind:
- get to know the people and place of the university, the faculty and the structure of higher education, in particular, pre-service teacher education in Hamburg and in Germany
- hold some preliminary meetings and document analysis to see if a larger comparative project examining how Canada and Germany prepare teachers for refugee education
- deliver two talks
- one on linguistic diversity in education in Canada
- one on the teaching across borders program and how its design is informed by research
- take a trip to Limerick, Ireland to attend and present at the International Symposium on Bilingualism and to network with scholars in applied and educational linguistics
Ok, this is starting to look like more than a few goals. There are also the future goals, such as considering whether to suggest Limerick as a future TAB placement or making connections for a research agreement with Uni Hamburg.
What can I share from my first full week in Hamburg:
- June is indeed a lovely time to come, the university is well-suited a short walk from parks and the Alster. I have been warmly welcomed, provided with an office and access to printers, etc. A colleague has explained aspects of the train system I can’t figure out from the internet and the Guesthouse is an amazing gathering place for visiting scholars and their families.
- a meeting with school officials was arranged and they spent an hour with me. I learned so much about the deliberate efforts to prepare teachers and set up a strong response to the wave of refugees that have come, recognizing the unique need to deal at times with illiteracy, trauma and interrupted schooling.
- the talks are still to come, but I attended one and was delighted by the interest students showed in the topic
- the trip to Limerick is on Sunday and the talk for Monday is prepared. Already I have a mental list of talks to attend and people to connect with.
The value of a trip like this is that people learn so much more in person than from afar and the connections they can make are valuable for any number of future endeavours. This is not my first time in Germany, but this is my first trip as a visiting scholar and my first residence abroad since I was 18. Despite the challenges of getting ready to go and making arrangements both professional and personal for while I am gone, I am optimistic that this trip will be worth the effort.