Poznan is a city with a rich history going back more than a thousand years. It is among the oldest cities in Poland and it was here that the first Polish rulers settled but it has now become a modern, vibrant city with a population of nearly 600,000, over 130,000 of whom are students. It is the capital of the Wielkopolska region in west-central Poland, approximately 170 miles from Poland's capital, Warsaw and the same distance from Berlin, Germany. Poznan has its own international airport making it easy to reach, even from Ireland, so hopefully we can expect lots of visitors who will be excited to see what Poznan has to offer them!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Week 12: Monday 26th April – Sunday 2nd May 2010

This week I experienced what it is like to be busy again. It is a well known fact that Erasmus students are usually not overburdened by academic work to allow time for their personal development and for experiencing new cultures, languages, people, etc. However, as the end of semester draws nigh, I find myself with a larger workload and less time in which to complete it. The key to success is good time management and not getting stressed. I’m failing on at least one of those already (the former!). This week I began teaching in school, I collected assignment titles, I began preparing presentations and I realised that I need to be careful with my time now, especially as there are still many places I’d like to visit and discover in Poland and in neighbouring countries in the 6 weeks I have left. I am learning that I have not appreciated my country and my island back home and am now actually quite excited to return and discover it! At the beginning of the week I read a lot of material about Northern Ireland because I was preparing for a presentation that I have to do for one of my classes on my home country and in school the first lesson I taught was on N. Ireland. I learned SO much this week about things that I should already know!

I have one class in the week which continues to be useful to my future career – didactics of science. In this class I feel like I’m back in Stran’ whilst making telephones out of paper cups and string and ‘experimenting’ with different fabrics! The class is in English just for me so sometimes the other classmates speak in Polish and the worksheets are always in Polish but it is such a practical subject that it is fine, especially as the teacher tries to speak in English the entire time. I’m happy to be in a class with Polish people as all of my other classes consist of other foreigners as they are all taught in English. I think I am also useful to the class because I can help them with their English.

On Tuesday I thought about Northern Ireland all day!! During the day I met with my group to discuss our presentation on Northern Ireland. The class has a lot of Spanish people and actually quite a lot of Poles as well, but we had to form groups of four…so, as I am the only person from Northern Ireland, I got some Polish girls and a Spanish one to bulk up my group! I am excited to present my country to the class which is the Sociology of Multiculturalism, a very multicultural class indeed. The presentation is supposed to be on multiculturalism in N. Ireland, however, with quite a significant lack thereof (it is something like 99% White Christian), we may have to go down a different route for the main content of our presentation. It is so nice to see other people researching and studying your own country. Later on that evening I was preparing for my first lesson with G5 (P7) which was on N. Ireland as their theme at the minute is ‘Finding peaceful solutions to conflict (and the privilege of a good education) leads to a better quality of human life’. Northern Ireland seemed like a good introduction to the topic. I should mention at this point that the school is hugely focused on ‘topic-based’ learning. The children learn almost everything through whichever topic they are studying at a given time. Every ‘subject’ relates to the topic as far as is possible.

Every Wednesday I’ll be in school from now until I leave. School starts at 8am so that means me leaving the flat at 07.20, catching a tram at 07.27 and a bus at 07.48! (However, this will change from now on as a great neighbour from Church has offered to drive me to school everyday...and so the benefits of meeting the locals continues!!) The first thing I thought when I first made this journey was that I couldn’t believe how many people were up at this time of the morning…clearly I have been disillusioned to the reality of early starts by the student life! At this time of the morning it is difficult for me to get on the tram. Sometimes you have to force your way in the door! Once at school I think I spent nearly a couple of hours teaching my lesson. There is certainly not as much structure as in the classrooms at home. Because of the importance of topic learning, you don’t have the rigidity of subject separation so I had a long time to talk to the children about N. Ireland. It was so exciting to teach other people about my country. I had such a good time doing it and the children in my class were really eager to ask questions and discuss things and could do so for a long time! The school day finishes at 3.20pm for G5, so in total, one hour and 20 minutes longer than primary children are in school at home. For me, this is crazy. It is too long. The children get a 5 minute break between each 45minute ‘session’ but personally I think it only disrupts them more and lengthens the time they have to spend in school. Also, they are only allowed outside once a day for half an hour at lunchtime and if it rains they are forbidden. At primary school I was forced out no matter what the weather! I think it is connected with the fact it is a private school and the children being slightly overprotected. The discipline procedure in the school is minimal, mainly amounting to some marbles which are passed from one container labelled ‘teacher’ to another labelled ‘pupils’! The aim for the pupils is to fill their container by behaving in an acceptable manner because if they do they win a prize. I don’t think I’ll be in the school long enough to judge its effectiveness. Being from ‘Ireland’ people generally expect me to play Irish music because I play the flute! So at the end of my lesson I played some traditional Irish music for the children in class. It was very funny. I wasn’t great but the children were encouraging nonetheless! I like this type of music now and I want to get better at playing it but it is very fast paced and will require lots of practice! That evening I had a few visitors and the briefly attended a birthday celebration in my kitchen for some friends before helping another friend with English.

On Thursdays I have a couple of classes: Statistics (which I still enjoy lots) and Environmental Sociology which is a little less fun, although I’m sure some people will be wondering why Statistics is ‘fun’…but it is! Later on I discovered a new part of the city, found a new supermarket store and ate some lasagne outside in the park by the pond with a friend. And, yes, the weather was nice enough to have dinner outside!

In school on Friday I was mainly with Grade 3 who are a fun little class but could do with staying in their seats more and talking less! For some reason, though, I enjoy being in with them and look forward to taking some lessons. On Fridays I’m still not quite sure where to be because it’s not like Wednesdays when I am with one class all day. On Fridays I take G2 for readings and will do so on a regular basis, and then I get to leave a little early at 2.15pm. The rest of the day I just observed but next week I will start teaching on Fridays too. On Friday night we were planning to go camping but then the weather seemed as if it wouldn’t be in our favour so we changed our plans for the weekend. I went to Tesco to stock up before the holidays in Poland but I was also feeling a little sick so I needed some medication and an early night.

Saturday was Labour Day holiday in Poland so everyone was off work and all the shops were closed (hence the late night shopping trip to Tesco the previous evening). It was a lovely day and it was a good job too because we had planned to go for a day trip. We got on a 1950s style bus and headed off to a destination near Kornik where we visited a 14th century castle and toured the extensive grounds of its park-arboretum. I went with 4 Spaniards so the day was at least useful for my Spanish but, after a long time, it gets tiring trying to understand/not understanding! It was a very good day nonetheless. After lunch in the park and the trip home I went out to a park in Poznan and sat and read for an hour or two. At 8.30pm the same group, plus a few extra Spaniards, started out for a Chinese restaurant. We arrived at 9.45pm (lol) because it was difficult to find somewhere that was open on this holiday and we just kept walking until we found one that was! We enjoyed a lovely Chinese together but as I was feeling a little unwell again and had an early start the next day I didn’t hang about long.

I was supposed to be in Church on Sunday at 08.10 to set up for the service and to practice...I arrived at 08.45, but it was OK! I was playing my flute in the band on Sunday so we practised for some time before the service began at 10am. The service itself was a little different as we had people share their experiences of the previous Sunday when they were out serving. After International Church we stayed for the Polish Church which I get translated directly to my headphones. It is a great system for non-Polish speakers and I love attending the Church so I’m thankful for it. It was a little longer than usual so we didn’t leave until after 2pm which meant I had been in Church for about 5 hours! Afterwards I went to Cris’s for lunch and spent some time there. Last Sunday was possibly my favourite day in Poland so far because of our visit to the nursing home in the morning and the Baptism in the evening. It was just a lovely day which I will remember, but walking home this Sunday I was thankful for another great one. I like Sundays! However, I only have 6 more to look forward to…

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