If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I have been working on an official certification for teaching German as a Foreign Language. I started at the end of 2015 and got really behind so I ended up spending much of last summer sitting at my computer, working through all the information. It was a tough slog.
Sechs Module - Six Modules
The course has 6 different modules and each module was the equivalent of a 120-page book plus exercises. The exercises ranged from simple reflection to mind maps to in-depth matching exercises. At the end of each module I had to design and execute a project that used one of the techniques in the book or something closely related to the material in the book. My clients were incredibly helpful and were happy to take part in the projects and give me feedback on the projects and worksheets I designed.
One project we did will actually become a little project for you, so when you see a challenge or a special Sprechseminar on vocabulary, you'll know where that project came from! :)
Die Endphase - The End Phase
The end phase of the course was completely different, though. I turned in three of my six projects for grading and then took a test on ALL of the materials in ALL the books. To get this overwith as soon as possible, I got up really early on my birthday and took the test at 8 am. Good news: I did well!
And then I had to write a 10-15 page paper in German. I'd never written a paper in German before and I hadn't even written a paper since I was in college. It was tough. Good news: I did well!
While I learned a lot, and I'm glad that I learned as much as I did, the grading of the projects concluded with me receiving the worst grade I've ever received in my entire life. From that I'm taking away one powerful reminder.
Zuerst das Gute. - First the good things.
Ein Bild. Das zuerst. :)
Note the sticky note on the certificate. It's there for one specific reason: Germans love to put birthdays on certifications. They include it on freaking EVERYTHING. That's not allowed here in the US, specifically to help prevent age discrimination. So any time I show this certification or email someone a PDF, I'll have to cover that part up.
Das ist so nervig.
Back to the best parts...
The best things that I learned in this course were firstly a deep understanding of the Common European Framework for Languages and how curriculum-based classes function. I teach some of these classes and I have to say it's hard. You must work through a set amount of material in a set time frame and there is very little negotiation. This is why I love private lessons, because in private lessons you can work at your pace, topic-by-topic, and you learn what you need to before you move on.
Secondly, the course introduced me to books, materials and resources that I previously hadn't known existed. I found a stellar, online grammar resource, new textbooks and many websites that are very useful and save me a lot of time. These are resources that I wouldn't have found otherwise or would have taken me a long time to discover on my own. That's really valuable.
Thirdly, it helped me better understand the big picture when it comes to teaching German. So often we get lost in the details and the grammar, when we need to remind ourselves that it's about being able to communicate in German, not about nailing a conjugation the very first time or having perfect grammar. The whole point is to get into the other language and to do that, you have to have a good idea of what the big picture is.
Nicht so toll: alles alleine. - Not so awesome: everything all on my own.
It was a distance learning course, so I worked through the entire thing on my own. No one else in the course wanted to meet online, so I had no one to chat about it with, nor did I ever even get to meet online with my tutor. For the entirety of the course I sat at my computer alone, read the books alone, and processed the material alone.
Learning without community lacks the important dynamic of relating to other people. Darum geht es, ja! That's what it's all about!
In light of this, I've decided to work on creating more community here, which began already with Buchgemeinschaft and will continue on with Sprechseminare and other fun things I am working on.
Eine sehr schlechte Note. - One very bad grade.
I got the worst grade I've ever gotten in my entire life.
It's impossible to forget, because I received the equivalent of a D on my favorite, largest, most time-intensive project. In fact, it was the project from which I learned the most!
First I received the very bad, horrible grade of 6 out of 10. I asked for the grader's notes, which left me without a solid explanation for the poor grade. I requested a grade revision and received, once again, 6 out of 10. I requested this grader's notes and received no response.
"That's it," I thought, "I'm writing my final paper and getting it done with so this chapter of my life is closed."
It left me with one powerful reminder:
In school, in college, at grad school and in my CELTA certification I got really, really good grades. It has taken me months to work through all my feelings regarding this grade. After a long conversation with a friend the other day, I came to the realization that grades do NOT equal learning.
A grade is the value that someone else bestows upon the work that you have completed.
A grade is not a measure of how much or how well you have learned.
Grades can really mess people up.
This is why I don't give grades in German lessons. Punkt, aus. Period!
The only exceptions are for students who are homeschooled or a grade is required for credit elsewhere and even then I use a standards-based grading system that I developed myself. (Standards-based grading includes an element of effort and work in the grade itself, so if you worked hard on an assignment but still didn't do well, the fact that you put in effort counts toward your grade.)
When it comes to my German teaching, I know how much I learned from that project. I created a tool for making my own learning materials quite literally from anything; I can make you a lesson based on:
- a song
- a newspaper article
- a commercial
- a movie
- a map
- a photo
- a single postcard
- or any single piece of any media you share with me.
I know what a magnificent tool it is for creating my own learning materials because I used it with my clients and they loved the lessons! The clients who had those lessons still remember how awesome it was and that was a year ago!
At the end of the day it doesn't matter what kind of a grade I got on that project because I know exactly how much I learned from it. I know that the work I did was hugely important for me for my own teaching and for developing my own teaching materials. It was one of the key take-aways for me from this course.
Ist das Ihnen passiert? - Has this happened to you?
So for all of you that got horrible grades in German, for all of you who didn't understand what you did wrong and got a horrible grade on a project or test, for all of you who haven't received a clear explanation for something and still don't understand something in German, I say:
Vergiss es! Wir machen einfach weiter!
Forget it! We'll just move on!
I didn't start this business because I liked grading. Pfui, Teufel! I started teaching German because I love the language. If you love German, vergiss einfach what other people have told you. Sprechen wir Deutsch!
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