Monday, October 27, 2008

Round Two

So I find myself one month into my new schoolyear in Austria. October came quickly, despite an eternal 24 days on the farm and a super-sonic 24 days in the States in September. (And to those of you I saw, stayed with, and/or got into madcap capers with--THANK YOU! It was great to refuel with you before coming back to Austria for Round Two.)

Once again I find myself at the technical high school (HTL) in Weiz with all the boys. I was glad to be placed in the same school as last year, but also a bit apprehensive about being in a place where they already know all my tricks and where I can't recycle last year's lesson plans!

I jumped right in from Day One with lessons on the U.S. elections, Ireland, and differences between the U.S. and Austria (see previous blog entry). Without the near-month of introductory lessons like last October, I had to crank my mind into gear and come up with "real" lessons right off the bat. My U.S. elections lesson received its latest facelift (originally aired to HTL audiences in January, it evolved into a series revamped and re-presented in April, May, and now October) and became a multimedia presentation analyzing the candidates through their campaign ads: a brilliant twist, if I do say so myself. I simply cannot imagine teaching before the days of the Internet and of YouTube! I've gotten into a good intstructional groove, and everything is going swimmingly. One particular plus about being back for my second year is that I am no longer the new kid on the block--the students know me, the teachers know me, and I don't have to prove myself to anyone...yet. However, all that changes next week when I go to the next school and get to be the newbie again, this time with a bunch of girls at the HLW, conveniently located in the same building!

Going to the HLW will be a complete 180 from my current situation. Right now I am teaching a bunch of technically-minded engineering boys, and next week I'll be in a school that's 99% girls learning about cooking, tourism, and economics. They even have one more hour of English required per week. I'll have 3 weeks there to learn the ropes before another 5-week stint at the technical school, and so on until the end of May.

As I begin the new schoolyear, I also begin some new endeavors in Graz. I find that being abroad really opens doors and encourages opportunities to try new things, and this year will be no different. I'll continue with the ballroom dancing lessons in the hope of being prepared for the upcoming ball season. Thanks to my sister's wedding in May, I even have another ballgown to wear! (A tip to other perpetual bridesmaids like me with heaps of only-worn-once dresses in their closets: come to Austria and go to the balls!) Overlapping with ball season is my subscription to the Graz Opera. I'm now Ms. Thursday-Night-Upper-Balcony-Row-4-Seat-8 on select Thursdays from now until June. We get to see a total of about 10 operas, having kicked off the season with Mozart's The Magic Flute and Wagner's Tannhäuser. This week's opera is the German version of My Fair Lady, which I am totally intrigued with--in this production, Eliza Doolittle speaks the local dialect and has to learn High German!

Also in the works is of course more travel (I'll post about my latest trip to Salzburg/Munich soon), for which I've made an actual list of places to go. Now all I have to do is start crossing these things off! Another long-term goal is one I've had since I arrived in Graz: to write more. With the exception of my blog, I've written nothing since I've been here. Pathetic. To this end, I've joined a writing group of other TA's in Austria, which will serve to motivate me and keep me accountable. Also, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo: for which I signed up in 2006 and essentially forgot about. But this year--this year I am participating! The premise is that writing a novel is a one day activity: that "one day" you mean to get around to finally writing it! The website describes it best:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

...So don't expect to hear much from me in November--I'll be up to my neck in word count!

Finally, I'll be training for the Vienna Half Marathon in April with my new roommate who inspiringly completed the Graz Half Marathon a few weeks ago. It's incredibly risky to state this publicly because it makes it harder to back out...but that's just one more way of keeping myself committed!

So those are the plans. Exciting, yes. Ambitious, maybe. But what a blessing to be in a place where I have the time and the opportunity to take it on. You'll probably hear from me once more before Saturday, and then...I'll surface again in December!


Amanda said...

Opera box seats, gearing up for the classy! I am jealous about the opera tickets though, that sounds like tons of fun. I'd like to see some opera reviews in the coming months if possible. :)

Kristin said...

Make no mistake -- you will be writing a lot of crap. HA!! That totally made my evening (that said, I should confess that it's a work night) but anyway, good for you! I am feeling almost motivated to start crossing things off my list (which includes getting certified for CPR, taking Spanish lessons and getting back into glassblowing) none of which are quite as intensive as a half marathon nor as romantic as ballrom dancing but hey -- better than nothing, right? (Nothing being what I'm doing right now.) :) I miss you!!