At approximately 8:05 each morning, I step across the threshold of the Garni House and into the wide German world outside my doorstep. My red drawstring bag is in my hand, packed with my cross-country shoes and running clothes. I carefully load the bag into the front basket of my German bicycle, roll the bike out of our garage, and prepare to make my descent down the hill and into “downtown” Kandern. My WVU backpack is strapped to my shoulders and securely packed with textbooks, computer, lunchbox, and anything else I might need for the school day (such as a shopping bag for picking up groceries later at Hieber or an umbrella for the inevitable German rain showers.) On most days, I also have two of my roommates—Johanna and Hanna, the other bicycle riding Garni Girls—at my side and ready to make the great morning commute to BFA.
I arrive on campus between 8:15 and 8:20 each morning (a little bit earlier on the days when we have staff devotions.) Since I teach a first period class, I like to have a little extra prep time before the students arrive. After dropping off my teaching materials and coaching clothes at my office, (yes, I have my own little desk space in the community faculty room!) I run my lunchbox up to the third floor staff kitchen and then proceed to prep the lessons for the day. This might include making photocopies, setting up the projector, organizing materials, entering grades, or just getting the computers turned and warmed up before the start of class.
Students begin to arrive on campus about 8:30 and continue to trickle in all the way up until 8:45 (or later!) when the first warning bell rings. If it’s a Monday, the students file into the BFA auditorium for a short beginning-of-the-week assembly called Matins. This usually includes announcements for the week as well as a short devotional.
Matins runs from 8:50-9:00 and then it’s off to first period. The other days of the week (with the exception of Friday chapel) students report directly to first period for a 10min opening class devotional and prayer time. By 9am, the devos have ended and the regular class schedule is in full swing.
The first class of my morning is Beginner Journalism. We meet on the very top floor of the Janz building in a tiny classroom called JB 32.
With a school of over 300 students, perhaps you are wondering how I ended up with classes that are so small. If you have any experience in today’s high school culture, you will soon discover that the English electives are usually not the most popular of classes. Here is the usual response that I receive when I ask a student if they would ever consider signing up for a creative writing class: “Why would I choose to take a class where I actually have to write?” Interestingly enough, I receive a similar response when I ask a kid why they won’t sign up for cross-country...“Why would I choose to play a sport where I actually have to run?”
I suppose that I never before realized the similarities between writing and running…both can be (and usually are) extremely taxing and time consuming, but both when the right amount of time and effort are invested, can produce the most amazing results. I guess I just love to see the result of hard work. I love to see young people enjoying the journey, learning to push themselves to the limit, and learning to always work to the best of their abilities.
Sorry, I realize that I am off on a major tangent. Back to my schedule. My next class after 1st period Jouranlism is 3rd period Study Hall. What do I love about teaching study hall at an international Christian boarding school? The students actually study! So far, my biggest issue in this class was when a student forgot to sign in with me because she was so eager to go to the library to get all of her homework done. (Seriously, this happened.) Study Hall is also a good time for students to meet with teachers individually, take private music lessons, or meet with the counselor. Seniors have the privilege of signing out of study hall to go to the student center, outside to a picnic table, to the grocery store, or to downtown Kandern. As long as they are back in time for their next class, BFA has an open campus. (Something that I always wish that I had in high school!)
After 3rd period, I have a prep period and then lunch. I typically like to take my lunch with some of the other teachers outside, but since it’s been so rainy and cold lately, I have been eating in the upstairs kitchen. There is always some sort of lively conversation going on in there…which usually involves a discussion of each other’s intriguing dinner left-overs and the ever popular question: "where did you find __[insert random food]__in Germany?"
Directly after lunch is one of my favorite classes of the day: Creative Writing Poetry! I have had so much fun planning lessons for these young writers. They are all so eager and enthusiastic…not to mention talented. I often feel like I am teaching college freshman or sophomores, not juniors and seniors in high school. Next semester, I will have Creative Writing Prose added to my schedule, which I am also looking forward to teaching.
Creative Writing is my last official class of the day. The other two periods are dedicated to prep time and “office hours.” School ends at 3:50 and at 4:00, cross-country practice begins!
I will write more about cross-country as soon as I can find some more blogging time. We had our first meet this past Saturday, so I have lots to tell you. :) Along with the BFA cross-country team, I also had the chance to race this past weekend. On Sunday, I went to Switzerland with about 12 other BFA teachers to run in the Basel 10K. Such an exciting experience! Full update to come soon!