Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Germany - Day 21: 2/20 (Paradise Lost: Administrivia Found)

Days Left to Departure: 3

(Adjusted for Clarity)

So today marks the last day of the first three weeks of the trip (out of 3.5). It some ways it is hard to believe that I have only been in Germany that long, and in others, it feels like I can’t believe that I here more than a day or two. With the whirlwind travel and the many sights, the dealing with the language barrier and the personalities of 13 American students, 16 German students, and other various German chaperons, its amazing that we don’t have Lord of the Flies syndrome some times. But something really cool happened this morning in study session and I was glad for it. It seemed to put the whole trip into perspective.

Students are mostly finished with their work (this week being a break week back at home) or are fighting furiously to finish up. So we had a lot of different topics going on this morning. One of the most popular points of conversation with a variety of German people is American politics. I think it is safe to say that for this area, Obama is the favorite among the German people and most of the people on the exchange. We were talking about the election and the resignation this morning of Fidel Castro of Cuba and, then about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then the whole conversation changed to world politics, history, and literature and we had this surreal discussion lecture going on that included Animal Farm, Huck Finn, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, discussions of the role of the U.N., human rights, Rwanda, Darfur, Kosovo’s recent independence, and the former Soviet Union. Students sat listening and asking questions and when it was done, one of them actually thanked us for explaining some of the things we were talking about. So often, students just spit back whatever political views that they hear on T.V. or from some authority figure. If there was one item I felt was well covered today, it was the importance of being well read, well informed, and willing to think for yourself. And I was happy that both Frau Canavan and I were admant that we were not experts of international politics and the best advice we could give was not to swallow what we said whole and to check things out for themselves. I usually get a “real” lecture like that only a few times a year where you feel like students are intrigued for reasons that are more than just grades. When they are learning about more than information for some test or just so they can do well in college. When they yearn for knowledge, insight, and/or guidance, just because it is something that they want to know. And I cherish those days because there are so many that are in the opposite direction and in the vein of having to lecture on the life importance of iambic pentameter. Sure, I can tie it back to the importance of being well read and well informed, but we all know that it’s not exactly the same. I left the room feeling rejuvenated and energized to be a teacher.

Then I spent the next five hours dealing with some issues involving the exchange. They varied in seriousness from minor to significant, but because of confidentiality and privacy, I am not going to detail them. Suffice it to say, it was a long day and I was about tapped out in terms of moderating interpersonal communications and my role here as chaperon/assistant principal by 2:30. Maybe that jump to administration that I kick around for a few minutes every few months just took a smack upside the head. I don’t particularly enjoy discipline, especially when it involves students that I like and generally trust and respect. We all make bad decisions and mistakes. Its part of life. However, not all of us have to pay for those mistakes because of who we are and sometimes, who we know. That is one area that I always try to stay firm on. Like I learned from a genius of a leader a long time ago, Vince Lombardi, enforce the rules you make evenly, and find punishment that fits the crime, even if its in your own opinion. Once there, enforce it the same way to everyone, no matter the relationship. It’s a true way to gain respect by people that you have to discipline and to be seen as fair by almost everyone. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Tonight I think I will take a walk around Kamp-Lintfort and maybe pick up some odds and ends for my last few days here and my trip home. There is a special on T.V. tonight about the people that the school I am at was named after, so its either that, or more of Truman Capote. That is, if I am not back on the phone and computer with more administrivia for the remainder of the night!

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