In September, I moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Burghausen to work as an English teaching assistant at KuMax and Aventinus Gymnasium for the 2018-2019 school year. It was a huge change to move to Burghausen after living in sixth largest city in the USA and even small things, such as how I often run into people I know on the street, have surprised me. I love all of the history in Burghausen, where many of the buildings are older than my country, and I can often be found wandering through the Altstadt, climbing up to the castle, or biking to nearby towns.
Of course, my favorite part of being here has been teaching all of my students. At KuMax, my classes change every week, so I have had an opportunity to work with almost all of the grades. I strive to not only teach English, but also to promote cultural exchange between the US and Germany, and I have enjoyed answering all of the questions the students can think of: Do I own a gun? (no) Why did Americans elect Trump? (that was quite a long discussion) Is German beer better than American beer? (usually) Do you speak any German? (ein bisschen, aber leider kein Bayrisch).
When I visit a class, I do everything from helping with discussion practice to talking about American traditions and cultural norms to playing speaking games. One of the best classes this year was when I explained the secret rules of American small talk to the twelfth graders, which is when you talk to strangers about only positive things and sometimes obviously lie in order to not say something offensive. After they knew the ‘rules,’ everyone practiced by walking around the classroom and speaking to each other, pretending to be strangers meeting on the street or in the airport. Despite the spontaneous bouts of laughter from everyone about how ridiculous English-speakers can be while they are trying not offend anyone, they were quite good at it. Another highlight was when the 6b and 7a classes designed their own superheroes and then presented them to everyone. While the superpowers the kids chose for the heroes varied wildly, they usually all had one shared weakness: vegetables.
The students were not the only ones learning this year: they have taught me more about my own country and Germany than I thought was possible. Even a simple question like “why is it that way?” has lead me to realize that there are far more ways to do something like health care or social welfare than just the one I am familiar with. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work as an English teaching assistant this year, and I hope all of the students have enjoyed learning English and about the USA as much as I have enjoyed learning German and about Germany.
Haley Rugh (Fremdsprachenassistentin )