Hallo an alle! My name is Lauren Arkin and I currently teach grades 9-12 German at a southwest suburban high school in the Chicago area.
My love for German started with my amazing high school German teacher. She’s not super into social media, so unfortunately I can’t tag her in anything. I will give a shout out to good old BGHS Deustch, though! I was also lucky to participate in an exchange program with my high school band (#bandnerdforlyfe), and hosted and stayed with students in Vienna, Austria twice.
I started my college experience in the fall of ’10 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (I-L-L!), originally thinking that I wanted to teach elementary school. I had worked at a K-4 after school program my senior year of high school, and thought that this was the path I wanted to take. After MAJORLY struggling in a class about how to teach elementary math, I met with my adviser. I told her how much I loved German and she came up with the revolutionary solution: Why not combine the two and TEACH GERMAN?! Wild. She also said that I would be “required” to study abroad for a year, and that U of I’s program for German was in Vienna. I was so excited for the opportunity to go back to Vienna, as I’d created some awesome friendships and connections through my high school exchange. I spent the ’12-’13 school year traveling around Europe, immersing myself in the culture, and fundamentally changing as a person. It was truly an unforgettable year.
After college, with pockets full of student debt, I accepted a full time job at a small high school outside of Springfield, IL. The 3 years that I spent at this school are probably the most impactful of my teaching experience thus far, for several reasons. To start my job, I moved away from all of my friends, family and significant other. My closest relative was my sister, who lived about an hour away. So, not only was I dealing with the absolute rollercoaster that is your first few years teaching, but I was essentially alone. However, I met the most influential person to my growth as both a human and an educator, THE @authenticsenora. No matter the experiences I had at my first school, I will always cherish those years because I firmly believe I will never have another teacher BFF that can replace Karen. Love you, Senora.
The first year at my first school, I was stuck using the absolutely AWFUL Deutsch Aktuell textbooks. Yes, I’m not afraid to say that. I know I’m paraphrasing, but to quote Toni Thiessen: “Teaching resources keep getting better, and textbooks keep getting the same.” I do believe I tried my best with those textbooks, but the real loss was what my students could have had. Our 2nd year at this school, we attended the ICTFL conference, and our minds were BLOWN by the information about authentic resources, IPAs, teaching for proficiency, etc. Being the person that she is, @authenticsenora wanted to jump in and do all of the things right away. As for me, I was still only in my second year and promised to try it all the next year. So, we jumped in and started year 3 writing a curriculum from scratch. We had many wins as well as losses, and to be frank, had a hard time being taken seriously with what we were trying to do. By the end of the year, we had both decided that it was time for us to move on. I was tired of being far away from everyone I loved, and was ready for the next step.
I accepted a job at a new school, with some mixed feelings. I was excited to be closer to friends and family and for new opportunities, but I had made some very meaningful and strong connections with my students, which made it hard to leave. The first year at my new school was tough. I came from a situation in which I had complete autonomy, and at my new school, this was not quite the case. We used common assessments and common materials, and had to keep track of a lot of data. This all was very new to me, and took some adjusting. My 2nd year was pretty awesome! I taught 2 classes of 8th grade German for the first time, and I honestly really enjoyed it. I was following a common curriculum, but had autonomy as the only German 1 teacher. At this school, we took the communicative route, but still taught some explicit grammar. We were transitioning to having common proficiency goals and focusing more on the 3 modes when I left.
Now is where things get a little crazy. I had every intention of going back to this school, since I am taking students on an EF tours trip in June of 2020. However, the last week of July, I saw a posting for a German position in a big suburban district, advertised as all TPRS. In a crazy twist of events (3 days before school started…), I got the job and now here I am! It’s been a busy and stressful year, but I’m very pleased with the results I’m seeing with TPRS, and can’t wait to continue honing my skills.
If you stuck with me through that lengthy introduction, danke! Hopefully you find some cool ideas and inspiration on my blog. 🙂
My favorite quotes about language, travel, and learning
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”Nelson Mandela
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”J. K. Rowling (Dumbledore)
“Learning to speak another’s language means taking one’s place in the human community. It means reaching out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Language is far more than a system to be explained. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people.”Sandra Savignon