Final Thanks and Thoughts!
July 12, 2009 By: Randy Mills
I have had a few days to recover so I thought I might conclude the trip with a few thanks and thoughts.
I really would like to thank the parents for their contribution. They have worked tirelessly throughout the year. That includes parents from America and Germany. All have been amazing and we could not have done this without them. The teachers that took care of us in Germany were amazing. They fed us and let us work in their classrooms and allowed the students give presentations in their classes. The relationships that we saw among the teachers of all disciplines were amazing and I really enjoyed sitting in the staff room and talking to teachers. The teachers from Rangeview that allowed students to visit their rooms allowed our students to show the best of Rangeview. Especially those staff members that went out of their way to make the students welcome. I heard stories of kids doing Chemistry experiments, trying out for Poms, and even swimming at a meet on the boys swim team. The administrators from both schools deserve thanks for the support of this program. It is one thing to say we are trying to prepare students for the world but it is great for the administrators to back programs that actually put kids into the international market that they must compete. The students will have an understanding of the world that can’t be realized from reading a book. The students themselves deserve thanks for their efforts and all that they have put in for this exchange.
Students will truly need to understand the markets that they are entering. The students that participate in these programs have a decided advantage. These ideas need to be infused into courses. I think that World Languages, Social Studies, and Business have an advantage because we are all naturally pointed towards a broad world view. As a Business teacher I think I have been lucky because this easily fits into what I have been teaching and it made me realize just how important what I have been teaching is to students. I was amazed at how similar the concepts I was teaching in Business Law, for example, translate to German and European society. I have a renewed enthusiasm for my curriculum because I have seen how others are doing the same thing world-wide.
Environmental programs that I see daily spewing from the TV and media are very interesting after having visited a country that has strong environmental programs. I said to Waste Management a few years ago to stop the recycling program of picking up at my house. The reason was that they were charging me to do the right thing and they were profiting from the recycling. I was not willing to pay for them to receive more profit from me doing the right thing. I will try some of the recycling programs again but I won’t use Waste Management. Until the governemnt steps in and has some requirements about recycling we will never have a real program. I grew up with the deposit on bottles as a child but until we return to something of this nature we will always have a problem. I saw very few paper products for food service while in Germany and thus, much less trash. The Heimschule Lender has a student body of about 1800 students and they had real plates, silverware, and glasses. At the end of lunch I asked one of the ladies at the counter how much trash is generated for the entire school for lunch. They had 1 bag from preparation in the kitchen and 2 from the lunchroom for a total of 3 bags for a school of 1800. I also noticed that at the end of the lunch there were no custodians to clean up. The ladies wiped down the tables and ran a quick broom over the floor and picked up a couple of gum wrappers off of the floor for a school of 1800. I have more thoughts on this but it could go on forever, especially about cars.
I keep hearing in the media and other circles about how far we are falling behind other countries and after traveling to Europe I have some difficulty with this. I am impresssed with the programs that some other countries have but it is because they recognize a few facts. First, not everyone is going to go to college. I really want every child to have that opportunity if they and their families choose. I think we have more options than any other country and we need to exploit the choices. The school we worked with was a Gymnasium and is college prepatory. Other students are on a track for vocational and have the respect of community. We should expand the vocational opportunities rather than limit them and make more options for students that do not learn in the traditional way. The students at the Gymnasium are concentrated on going to university and most have the mindset that drives them. Second is that we need involvement of families and parents. I have always said this and I have heard this for the almost 20 years I have been teaching. I have seen very few programs that work and we see a drive towards charter schools and private schools. They have the single greatest advantage and many sieze the opportunity to require parent involvement for attendance at their school. As a teacher I know that a large majority of the time I will see A and B student parents at conferences and I can tell you why they are A and B students. It is the parental involvement. I enjoy the relationship that I see with successful students and their parents. It is the key to that success. Third is that when talking to students in Sasbach, most wanted to visit America and when you talk to them they will tell you that America is still the example and the goal. We have good teachers, good parents, good students, and good schools. We need to have pride in them and see them as others see them. Unfortunately, what we hear are the bad things and we need to take them with a grain of salt and relish our success and continue to get even better.
We are stuck with such a large country that it is easy to be isolationists. We need to go out of our way to give our kids the opportunity to travel and get a taste of the world beyond our school and homes. The family we stayed with for the last week had a French exchange student for 2 months and their three daughters were leaving as we did to other opportunities. Two daughters were going to France for three weeks, (One later going to Italy), and the other daughter was going to Ireland. This family and others at these schools in Germany embrace the chance to visit other countries and other cultures. They have the decided advantage of being in a much more compact land mass and because of the EU the travel is very easy. Unfortunately in Colorado we have several hundred miles to travel to get to another country but we should look for any opportunity to travel and see the world. To prepare kids for a world economy we need to show them a little of the world and it doesn’t come across in a book.
My final thought is about my luck. I am lucky in ways that I can not count. I have a great family that loves to be active and involved. I am lucky to be at a school that treasures these experiences and doing what is right for kids. I am lucky to have people to work with like Patrice Dovas-Hudson who continues to work long hours to be everything she can for students and not just give them a curriculum but an experience. I am lucky to live in a country that is a leader in business, education, and opportunity.
July 06, 2009 By: Randy Mills
We had such interesting luck with the trains during our time in Leipzig that I was very worried about the trip and catching the plane. So as you can guess, everything went perfectly. The train was on time, the plane was easy to check in and didn’t charge us even though a couple of the bags appeared to a little over. The wait was pleasant. We had a farewell pretzel and got on the plane. The flight was wonderful. I little bit of problems with an obnoxious group that went to Croatia. Other than that it was great. The food on the flight was better than expected. We flew through customs and had no problems, even though we brought a jar of jam from Nathalie’s mother that I forgot we had. The drug sniffing dog at the airport gave Kaila a scare because we thought he might get a hit on her Pringles, but the gods were on our side and Kaila smuggled in 14 chips from Germany. Our ride was there and we were home in record time from the airport. Where was this kind luck when I was chasing trains in Prague? When we got home it was time for some dog-dad time and we sat and told each other what had happened for the last month. The dog stayed about a foot from me the rest of the night. We had such wonderful food for the previous month we had to commemorate our return with a trip to Sonic. Dawn loves the crushed ice there and we were unaware that there seemed to be a hidden law in Europe that ice was against the rules because Dawn couldn’t find any while we were there. The next morning we all were up at about 5:30 or 6. (2 in the afternoon in Germany) I walked to the store, (Why break the trend?) and got rolls, butter, orange juice, and strawberries for breakfast. We had a nice breakfast and then it started again, Dawn was off to a wedding, Kaila was making plans for the day and I am sitting here mumbling to myself as usual.
Kaila and Alyssa getting up for the trip>
The Czech Republic
July 06, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Prague is an ancient and historic city. We roamed buildings that had their origin in the 880’s. A couple of hundred years before the Vikings traveled towards North America. The idea that something can be that old is mind boggling. Some of the teachers of History in Germany were asking what the American History teachers did with all of their spare time since they only had 300 or 400 years to worry about. While I was there I also had the chance to get the perspective of Europe by reading History books in German and reading their take on history in America. This led me to the city of Prague and the home of greats like Kafka. Even Albert Einstein lived in Prague in the 1910’s. This was a city of strength and culture. The Prague Castle is one of the most impressive sights I have seen in Europe. The way it rises above the city and stands as a sentinel is inspiring. It holds court over the city in a very stately manner. The church and Palaces are unbelievably beautiful. But, of course, it was up a steep hill in our efforts that make me climb and go up tall things. It was a trek up the hill but it was worth every ounce of energy spent. We had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral of St. Vitius which can only be described as magnificent. We also spent time in the gardens and taking pictures of Prague from high above. We spent time in the Old Town Square. The old City Building was a treat and contains a clock that has a show every hour as it rings. The other churches and stately buildings in the square we also very enjoyable and gave you the sense of history and of respect for ancient people and the things that were accomplished. The only blight on the Square was a makeshift memorial to Michael Jackson. It seemed so out of place and inappropriate in such beauty and graceful surroundings. We had a new item to eat that I had not seen before. Simply put, they are cinnamon rolls that look like a tube. When you look at all of the pictures from the trip make sure you see the Prague pictures to see this delicacy. This was a very ling day because of the three hour train ride but it was worth every minute and every effort to see it.
I almost forgot the historic St Charles Bridge. It is a great monument and has the look of a postcard romantic bridge for a stroll. It is surrounded by wonderful statues that are well crafted and have great soul. The bridge was undergoing renovations and clean up so it was not showing the full face of it’s glory.
One last train story. The train we took to Prague was a little different and the style we were taking back was another type altogether. We got off at one of the train stations near the downtown area and as we prepared to leave that evening, (the only train back to Leipzig that night), we decided to get there early and check on the train. Because the day had gone smoothly it was time for a disaster. When we got there and checked the station they said that it actually leaves from another station across town. We all dived into the Metro and got to the other station and jumped on the train in time. With only a couple of minutes to spare we were there and ready to travel. Here is where it takes an even more interesting twist. Apparently they have added a stop to this train as it leaves Prague and now stops once to pick up passengers. Guess where??? You got it! The train station we were at to start with. We didn’t need to dash across town but we do now have an appreciation for the good quality Metro trains they have in Prague.
There was one thing that struck me as I walked through Prague. I have been noticing in Berlin and Leipzig the great renovation and rebuilding that has been going on since the fall of the GDR and the reunification. I had heard a few of the German people in the West grumble about the reunification tax to rebuild the country but it was obvious that the Czech Republic isn’t as lucky and doesn’t have the financial resources after Communism. It is taking linger and I suspect will be about another thirty or forty years before the see the level of success that they are seeing in Leipzig and Berlin. Prague was dirtier and more run down when you left the tourist areas and it was obvious that there was a seediness that we hadn’t seen as much of in Berlin and Leipzig.
On To Berlin!
July 03, 2009 By: Randy Mills
The next day we tried again with the train and it worked perfectly. Well almost! The trip there was perfect but on the way back the next adventure began. They had a situation where World War II reared its head 60 years later. There was an unexploded bomb from that time near a track and it delayed everything for the day. They then moved our train to another track but didn’t announce it until it was seconds from leaving and we could not get there in time. We were now stuck in Berlin and no tickets to get home to Leipzig. We discovered another train leaving and we just jumped on and took our chances. When the conductor came around, Walli spoke with them and was very powerful in her persuasion and they allowed us to travel with no additional tickets or cost. We made it home but an hour later.
When we got to Berlin it was wonderful to see the size of the city. It has over 4 million people and is truly a national capital in sight, sound, and feel. We decided on a tour bus which is something I have never used because I love to walk and explore, but we decided to see the highlights and lay plans for our next visit. We saw the church dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm I. It was a once beautiful building that was almost completely destroyed by the bombs in World War II. It stands as a monument to peace. We than visited Checkpoint Charlie and had a chance to visit the museum dedicated to the Berlin Wall and the eventual removal and reunification. It was a strong reminder of tyranny and the effect that it has on people. We had a chance to visit the GDR museum in Leipzig and this was a continuation of the theme. The resilience of the people is amazing and it was great to see the courage and bravery of the people of both Germanys’ during this time. I can’t tell you how it makes you feel to see the piece of the wall that is still standing and the feeling that the separation of families, communities, and a country elicits. This seems similar to how the country must have felt during the Civil War but that time is so far removed it is hard to grasp but this is still a fresh wound.
The next stop was the Brandenburg Gate and it is one of the most impressive sights we have seen so far. It is a powerful sight as you approach and to think that for many years much of it was obscured by the Berlin Wall. It was also a chance to see the American Embassy that is there as well. The students had a chance to see some street performers that were amazing and some dancers that that were as good as I have ever seen. We spent the rest of the time walking back to the train station and had a chance to walk by the Reichstag Building. It also has an air of nationalism that was evident in the people as they walked around. It must have been the same feeling we had when we visited Washington DC earlier this year. The trip back was uneventful and we had a great time. Tomorrow we will travel to the Czech Republic and visit the city of Prague. I will not put up any pictures of this stuff until I return so please look for them when I get back. We finished the day with a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that sits on a beautiful lake. You would never guess that this lake was a strip mine for brown coal during the time of the GDR and has been rehabilitated. It now stands as an example of good environmental practices that they have taken since the reunification. Berlin was a great day and I would love to spend several days there. I did notice a decided upturn in tourists traveling here and in Prague. It was a stark difference to what we encountered in Achern but it is important to see these wonderful things to really get a full sense of Germany. Germany is a dichotomy of rural and city life and it really makes it seem like we have enjoyed that full experience. If you travel to Limon in Colorado and then Denver you will have a different experience and I think we have been lucky to have both.
The Train Adventures Begin!
July 03, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Our next adventure was to get from Achern to Leipzig and to our next destination. We had tickets for Monday morning and were going to have to make several transfers with a lot of luggage. Unfortunately, we missed the first transfer in Karlsruhe and this made the adventure last one hour longer. We were lucky to be met by our friends Walli and Kai. They have a beautiful flat in Leipzig near the train station. They have three daughters, Eliane, Alina, and Christina. They have an exchange student also staying with them from France. There were ten of use but we all fit very comfortably and everyone had their own space. We had a great adventure getting here but we are glad that we are here in Leipzig.
Our next adventure was to visit Berlin on Tuesday. We had to take a train from Leipzig to Berlin. We all got on the train and waited for it to start. We waited, and waited, and waited. After over an hour we decided that we would not have much time in Berlin so we decided to try the next day and took Tuesday to spend in downtown Leipzig and explore the community. We had a great time and saw things that were mind boggling. We had the opportunity to walk inside the same church that Bach worked for 27 years from 1723 to 1750. It was awe inspiring to know that we stood on the same ground as someone with that kind of talent and to visit his grave. The church is another exceptional example of the churches of Germany. We also had a chance to visit the church that was the starting point of the resistance and the movement towards the reunification of Germany in 1989. St. Nikolai is a beautiful church but it stands as a strong focal point to the importance of freedom and connection for the German people. We also had a chance to visit the tallest building in Leipzig and venture to the top observation deck. Have I mentioned that I am afraid of heights? It was wonderful to get this kind of view of the city. They have a huge greenbelt that runs the length of the city and is several kilometers wide and several hundred kilometers long. It is a chance to see a forest and wildlife inside of the city.
Leipzig is Next!
June 28, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Tomorrow we are leaving for Leipzig and will need to travel by train for the four hours to get there. I am excited to see a city in the former GDR and I can’t wait to see what has been done to the city since reunification. I have seen a few pictures but I want to see the real thing. I may not be able to do a lot of blog entries for the next week because of access from my laptop. If there is a gap please look for the full updates when I return after the fifth of July. If I don’t get a chance, please enjoy Canadian Independence Day on the 1st of July. The picture for today is me on the patio for the staff room. It has become my office for the last three weeks. One challenge for their teachers is that they have a space in the staff room and that is the extent of their space. They travel from room to room so they have very little personal space for books or other resources. But I was able to get my desk just like they did, I just was on the patio outside. They were very gracious about letting me use this space and access the internet from school. I can’t say enough about how well we were treated by all of the staff.
The Real World Awaits!
June 28, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Last night we had the chance to see the ceremony for the students that have successfully completed the Arbitur. It is the test for school completion in Germany. The ceremony was a little long but they include several pieces into a single ceremony. At Rangeview we have the Academic Awards night, the Convocation, and the Graduation. At the Heimschule Lender they start with a church service and then move to a light buffet. After the buffet we went into the Gymnasium Achern’s sports room. (To put our American twist to the phrase: we went into “Gymnasium Achern’s Gymnasium.”) The ceremony started with all of the enthusiasm that a celebration should have. The students entered to a mix of Elvis Presley songs. The students had chosen “Love me Lender” as their theme and the night carried the theme throughout. It was fun and had a great sense of joy. When the students were seated they had a few speeches and then handed out the academic awards. They had a band made up of students that sang a few songs. They were fantastic and of course, they did an Elvis song or two. They gave some scholarships and recognized the tops students in the class. They then gave out the certificates based on the concentration that they have had for the last two years. Frieda’s certificate was in English and the teachers in charge of the form had a couple of minutes to speak about the group. It was nice to see a close connection between the students and their faculty advisor. It could serve as a model for mentoring programs elsewhere. Then the band played a little more and then the highlight of the evening. The Abifilm! It was the senior class video. It was about 40 minutes but was a focused film that had several scenes. The best was the portion about the grade 5 students that have rolling backpacks. The graduating students portrayed police and were pulling over the students with these backpacks. They conducted sobriety checks, checked the roadworthy condition of the backpacks, and of course they had to check that they had enough insurance. They other scene that was very funny was a spoof on Nature shows and going into the wild to learn about the habits of the “animals” that inhabit the other local school and their rival. It was very funny and creative. The picture for today is Frieda and her parents last night. It is wonderful to have been able to share this important evening with them:
June 26, 2009 By: Randy Mills
The next stage of the adventure continues. Today we went to Baden-Baden. Another chance to visit an historic city and stroll some beautiful gardens. We had some spring water that is supposed to heal everything but it was a little heavy with minerals and didn’t taste very good. Maybe it is those that help heal. We visited an ancient Roman ruin and did some shopping in the downtown. It was a relaxed day and gave us a chance to spend time with Kaila’s exchange partner from 2 years ago. Kaila has been very lucky with her exchange partners. Both Nathalie and Frieda have been fantastic. Both families are a joy to be around and I am happy that we had a chance to visit with them. Tonight is a very special night. We have the opportunity to go to the graduation for the school. Frieda is graduating and was able to get us tickets. Today’s picture is from the spa where we had the water:
June 25, 2009 By: Randy Mills
The final evening was a great conclusion to our trip. We had a potluck Barbecue with all of the families. We spent some time thanking the families for their huge contribution to this program. The parents in American and Germany both did a great job of making their hosted student feel a part of the family. These students will always have a place to stay in the other’s country. It is a connection that will last forever and the family component makes it even stronger. The American students had to say something that they enjoyed while in Germany in the German language and presented them with flowers as a thank you for their visit. They did a great job of speaking in front of a group of native German speakers. The German students then gave little reminders of the American student’s visit. The gifts were everything from candy, to puzzles, to framed pictures. Each gift was an individual representation of their time together. We had time for a large picture with all of the students and teachers. The students will be going home exhausted and I think that the impact of the visit will take time to fully blossom. I can’t say enough about how our students acted while in Germany. They represented their families, school, and America very well. My hope is that they appreciate the adventure they have just completed. For me the adventure will continue. I will be staying another week in Sasbach and up north in Leipzig. We will be traveling to Prague and Berlin, so keep an eye here for the continuing adventure. The picture for today is from the dinner. Also, please continue to follow the pictures on my other site. The Computerteach
What goes up…..
June 24, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Did I mention that I am afraid of heights? Yesterday we went to Europa Park. I had a chance to ride three of the 5 roller-coasters. The other two had very long lines and we were in one for a while but it was over an hour wait for them. I rode the Mir Space station coaster and the Eurosat one. The other one I rode was an achterbahn für kinder. It was call Pegasus. We also did several other fun rides. My favorite was one that resembled a bobsled run. The students had a great time. It was a wonderful celebration and a great way to end our adventure here. The chance to remember all of the fun in Aurora and in Sasbach. We have had an amazing time and it is hard to believe that it is almost over. I will be staying for another 10 days in Germany so I hope to continue the blog for the remainder of my trip. We are going to Leipzig and we have trips planned to Prague and Berlin next week. Tonight we have the celebration and farewell dinner. We are doing a barbeque outside this evening. Tomorrow everyone else will fly back. At about this time tomorrow they will be boarding the plane and should be in Aurora in about 10 hours or 2 hours with the time changes. Today’s picture is of the Europa Park:
By the way “achterbahn für kinder” is roller-coaster for children!!!!
Dinner at the Mill!
June 22, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Last night the Decker family invited us to a working mill and showed us how it works. It was a great lesson in the ancient styles and techniques of agriculture. Mr. Decker did a great job of showing us how a water wheel works to run the mill and generate power. He showed the grinding process and how wheat is made into flour. We then had the opportunity to sit down to a wonderful meal of breads, meats, and cheeses that are common to the Black Forest region. The best was a Black Forest cake made by Allegra. We were lucky to have all of the students, their host students, and many of the host families. The families are the special part of this program that makes it even more meaningful. The connections to the whole family and not just the host student make the exchange deep in understanding that I am sure our families in Aurora also provided to our German students in April. Today’s pictures are from the event last evening and with a look ahead to tomorrow and the trip to Europapark and a chance to visit an amusement park with all of the typical rides including roller coasters. Did I mention that I was afraid of heights?
June 22, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Last week during the morning break I was talking to students in the courtyard and talking about classes and experiences. I glance over to see this young lady looking strangely at me. It was beginning to creep me out until I realized that it was Lyndsay Whitehurst who had graduated from Rangeview three years ago. She was in Germany visiting her host student from the exchange program several years ago and just happened to be visiting the school while we were here. It proves that these types of programs are long term and have an impact on students. Lyndsay has been doing well in life and one of the key factors has been the study of language and the exchange program. Last year in college she took Gaelic as a way to increase her language skills even more. She is a shining example of what these types of programs do for students. The picture for this is a picture of some students but Lyndsay is on the right in blue:
A Short German Walk!
June 22, 2009 By: Randy Mills
I was informed this morning of what is considered a short German walk. For this area a short walk is 2 to 3 hours. I am used to a short walk being from the second or third row at Wal-mart and walking in. We spent the morning at Vogtsbauernhof which is a museum for homes and lifestyles of the Black Forest region for the last few hundred years. We toured buildings that were built in 1590 all the way to buildings built at the beginning of the 1900’s. The homes were very multifunctional. In some of the older homes you would have the family, stock animals, and food stores under the same roof. The ceramic heating is the most creative and still in use in modern homes. You heat the ceramic tiles that make up the mantle and fireplace facings and the ceramic holds the heat and will radiate heat for hours without a constant burning of fuel. Many of these homes were in use until the last few years when they were moved to this museum. We had the chance to see several industries of the area from mining to logging. The homes were practical and surprisingly large. The rooms were not tiny rooms like I associate with ancient buildings.
Our next part of the trip was to a health park for a short German walk. We walked a trail of different textures. Everything from small rocks, large rocks, sand, pine cones, mud, grass, and wood chips. The trip was up and down a series of hills and 2 kilometers long. Did I mention that you take this trip barefoot? What a great sensation and feeling on your feet when you are done. It was very refreshing and made me feel like I had new feet. We then went deeper into the valley and saw the world’s largest Cuckoo Clock. There was a little town a little further up the road. We had a chance to do a little shopping and had some wonderful ice cream. This trip was courtesy of the Koppel family that Kaila is staying with and was a nice family outing. Today’s picture will be the whole family in mud:
Below are the two links for the places we went.
June 21, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Last night I had the honor of attending a performance of a student musical at the school. It was a play that was written and performed by students. They composed the music and wrote the songs. I have seen hundreds of performances from kindergarten students to college and professional companies. I expected a typical middle school to high school play that was cute but of more interest to parents than the general public. I knew about 2 minutes into the show that I was mistaken. I was completely overtaken by the talent and professionalism of the show. The orchestra was one of the best I have heard in a school in a very long time. It was in a small auditorium that doubles as an exercise and physical education room. The stage was small and the only had a handful of lights. After those first impressions I was amazed at how those limitations became unnoticed. The students sang with a confidence and quality that was well beyond their years. The music matched to tenor and tone of the action on stage and the songs were very catchy and you felt as though you wanted to sing along. The wit and wisdom of the writing was very advanced and the students delivered their lines with the confidence and style of seasoned performers. My favorite part was the juggling act that was a part of one scene. What a talented group! The story was about the Roman & Carthage conflict of ancient times. The most amazing revelation was yet to come. As I looked at the performers, that could hold any stage, I noticed in the program that these were grade 5 through 7 students. I compared the performance with some of the high school and college plays I have seen and these middle school aged students were better that the biggest majority of the shows I have seen. I commend their teachers and the school that supports the arts to this level. The applause at the end was so sustained that they had to do the curtain call music three times. The ovation was well deserved and I am glad that our visit allowed us the chance to see this fantastic show. I will be talking about this one for a long time. The picture for today is from the show:
June 18, 2009 By: Randy Mills
The next couple of days will be spent in classes with students and giving presentations. It has been fun to watch the kids work. This has also allowed us to visit the homes of several of the teachers. We have been treated to some of the best cooking I have ever tasted. The assortment of salads and the different breads have been wonderful. The teachers that have hosted us have been great. Thomas Fischer and Erika Frey are to be commended on all of the work they have done to make the program run well. They have been so accommodating and helpful that the trip has seemed effortless. They have been supported by some very nice and gracious colleagues. The Director, Herr Grossman, has also been very supportive and a great source of information. I would love to thank them for the great energy and effort they have shown in making this trip a success. Todays picture is one of the teachers:
Silence and Respect
June 17, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Wednesday was the most difficult day of the trip. We went back into France and visited the Struthof Concentration camp. The students were in awe of the size and severity of the pain, punishment, and hate. I dislike using the word “awe” because I used it in the context of the Cathedral on Monday and today’s context is the opposite emotion but the word applies. The subdued mood of the kids told the story of what they were seeing. It is one thing to see movies, textbooks, and hear teachers talk about these things but it is something completely different to stand in a room where thousands of people died for no other reason than their heritage. In the span of three days we have seen the great heights man can reach in Strasbourg and the great depths man can reach at Struthof. I have not had a chance to put up all of the pictures I would like. When I get back at the beginning of July I will upload all of the pictures on my website and picture location. I have a few there now at http://www.computerteach.org but the time it takes to upload is very long so I will save that for later. I currently have over 1500 pictures from just my camera. I expect to have well over 3000 by the time I get some from students and other teachers. The picture for today represents what we saw and felt today. It is the barbed wire fence with the beautiful mountains in the background. That is the ultimate irony of have such ugliness encased in such beauty:
Viva La France!
June 17, 2009 By: Randy Mills
Monday June15th found us in Strasbourg, France. It is a unique town on the Rheine River and has alternated between France and Germany for centuries. Again we had the chance to ride the trains into France. It was a short hop and didn’t take much time at all. When we got there we proceeded to the European Parliament Building. It was an extremely impressive sight. It is a circular building with great architecture. Students had the chance to take a tour with a group from Germany and Finland. We had a great tour guide that shared a great deal about the workings of the Union. The amount of connection between 27 different countries and with 23 languages was amazing. They had had election in the last few days, results were still coming in. It is strong alliance and has been a way for Europe to unite and work towards similar goals. The most notable are trade issues and environmental issues that effect everyone in Europe. While the policies may differ from country to country there is a real commitment to the environment. The recycling programs in Germany alone are country wide and have a strong support of the people. I then think of Aurora and that Waste Management makes me pay to recycle and I have a strong idea why we lag in this area. As I walked home this evening I saw several yellow trash bags on the curb of recyclables and know that the rubbish for two weeks is very little compared to my weekly pick up at home.
After the Parliament Building we walked into the town center and visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Words or pictures do not do this building justice. It is an awe inspiring sight. It takes your breath away to see the grandeur of the building. We went inside and had the opportunity to see one of the most accurate astronomical clocks in the world. I also had the joy of climbing to the top of the towers. Have I mentioned that I am afraid of heights? 445 stairs later I am up about 100 meters. That is roughly the height of a 20 story building. I made it and there is a chuckling French man who can verify that I made it to the top. The student thought I might die on the way up but I lived. My name is in the book at the top. I even have pictures to prove it.
Frau Dovas-Hudson has done an amazing job preparing these kids for this trip. Their presentations have been well received and they have been greeted with warm responses. I had the pleasure of watching two students have an entire conversation with someone entirely in German. They struggled with some words but were prepared to speak and understand their counterparts. Frau Dovas-Hudson has such a passion for this program that it is fun to watch her work and to see the kids respond. She is to be commended for this program and for keeping it alive when so many other important programs are falling by the wayside because of things like budgets and lack of support. This is a strong program and should continue well into the future. Today’s picture is of the students in front of a sculpture at the European Parliament building: