Besuchmorgen: A Visit to a Swiss Public School

Last week, I went to the open doors day/parent visiting day at our local Swiss public school in Rüschlikon. As I don’t have children there, I asked for permission from the school secretariat in advance. In most classes the teachers acted as if the parents were not there, so I suppose you could just go after finding out the date at your local school from the neighbors or by emailing/phoning the secretariat (Schulverwaltung).

In 1.5 hours, I was able to pop into the Kindergarten classes, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.

Things that stood out for me:

  • Language of instruction: in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, the teachers were speaking mostly German, with an audible Swiss accent though. Sometimes I overheard them giving students quick explanations in Swiss German. In Kindergarten, the language spoken was Swiss German.
  • Reading class where all the students were using iPads or MacBooks to read short texts and solve puzzles based on what they read. I was surprised to see books to be completely replaced by EdTech in the 2nd grade classroom. Exercises seemed personalized to the students’ levels: some were reading single sentences in large font, while others worked on short texts of 4-6 sentences.
  • Math: just like in the reading class, every student was working on its own level. In the 2nd grade, some were working with two-digit numbers while others performed operations on thousands. In the 3rd grade, the students were working in pairs: rolling dice, writing down the numbers, telling each other what operations to perform, the pair had to jointly arrive at 555.
  • Music lesson was my favorite: the music teacher personally greeted every adult coming in, involved us in activities, and commented on the goal behind every activity. Apart from singing, there were exercises when you had to strike various beats, observing a colored sequence, kids solved super-sized Sudokus on the floor, played a circle game where you had to pass objects using both hands while following the beat and singing (most adults struggled with it, too!)
  • Kindergarten: I popped in after the gym class (which I would have loved to see), when the kids were having a snack and then starting the self-guided play. The more organized activities are earlier in the morning. Many options to suit all tastes: art, worksheets (mostly abstract focusing on colors, patterns, shapes), magic castle area with costumes, a huge table for lego construction. A Montessori classroom looks tidier and more organized, but the kids seemed quite happy and busy in this one, too.
  • 1st/2nd/3rd grade: lots of breaks and quick change of activity during class time. 15 minutes of math, submit your worksheets, sing a song, go get some water, fresh air, take a bathroom break. Switch to reading, return your devices after 15 minutes, remember the homework (20 minutes of reading), sing a song, longer break outside with a snack. This is in contrast to what I’m used to seeing in the Montessori school where children have an opportunity to devote a longer chunk of time to a project (to be fair, I saw “Projekt” on the weekly plan, scheduled for another day).

If you live in Switzerland and your child is in a private kindergarten or school, or has not yet reached the school age, I highly recommend arranging for a visit, it is very interesting and helps you decide if you consider public vs. private, or prepare for the future if you know your child will go to the public school.

If you went to a Besuchmorgen recently, please share your observations!

German Learning Adventures

The Migros Klubschule thinks I am at the beginning of C1 (which is the “advanced” level). Which is very flattering — but also does not seem entirely accurate. On May 30th, I did another “Einstufungstest” (placement test) and it came back as end of B1/beginning of B2. So it’s a big jump/improvement in 3 months, and that’s why I’m wondering whether I have not noticed a big improvement, or the results are off.

Estimating the effort: I did 9 hours of private lessons in the past 3 months, somewhere between 5 and 10 hours of homework (grammar/writing), one movie entirely in German, more listening and speaking than usual (thanks to MuKi Treff meetings and travel during school holidays) — let’s say 5 hours, about the same amount of reading (childcare and financial paperwork). So that’s at least 25 (fairly intensive) hours, which is almost equivalent to a semester of studying, if I was attending a course at school.

Cool, so it seems like there’s been progress and all that chipping away at German has been adding up. The exact “level” does not matter as much — keeping it up does!

Kursempfehlung.jpg

Before: B1-B2

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After: C1

A Belated Musical Farewell

I left Automattic at the end of March 2016, with a short farewell note to everyone I’ve got to know and work with during my 4+ years at the company.

At the time, I attempted to write a longer, more thoughtful, farewell note, but could not. To my surprise, Automatticians wrote many sweet comments in response.

They remembered when and how we met. They wrote thankful and kind words. The fact that I was surprised and that I still can’t bring myself to re-read the comments probably says a lot about… the cultural conditioning,the imposter syndrome, my personal issues? Give me a couple of decades, and I’ll figure it out.

Since March, I have wanted to write about what WordPress community, working at Automattic, and eventually leaving, have meant to me. I am still coming up short for words, so I have a song for you instead.

Small Things

How much can I write in 5 minutes? Let’s find out.

Today’s victories: a phone call to the Zurich Social Security service, in German (victory!), my questions highlighted two actual problems that the clerk agreed with (victory!), they promised to send the correction forms (victory!), and they did 10 minutes later (victory!), and I filled them out and mailed (OK, put in the envelope to mail) that same morning (joyful celebration!).

Today’s mixed news: took Maxim to an eye specialist (the slight strabismus problem that I got concerned about some 6 months ago, rescheduled several visits, and finally made it today). Highlights: his eyes are fine, what I sometimes see as crossed eyes is an “optical effect” (in the words of the doctor) because of the wide nose, and is quite common in children and disappears with age. Lowlights: the very experienced, matron-like doctor noticed immediately that Maxim did not want to cooperate, and she was not amused. Also, a non-pretty scene walking back to the car (neither of us handled it well, I am sorry to report).

Today’s upside: I am blogging again, and look how much can actually get written in 5 minutes. I honestly thought I’d max out at 3 sentences. Wow.

Goodnight, sweethearts! See you later on the internets!

Team Global Meetup in Tokyo – Day 5

Our last full day in Tokyo. The meetup fatigue is hanging in the air. We are wrapping up the work projects, buying souvenirs, and getting ready jet back to our homes and families tomorrow.