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On the tram approaching the stop for my finals, I found a some notes I’d mislaid for the ‘Learning and Development’ exam lurking in the depths of my bag. The title said “The four main factors essential to learning” and although they were definitely in my handwriting I couldn’t remember ever having set eyes on them before.

This isn’t the first time this happened: in my written exams I was floored by a question which I couldn’t begin to answer having mislaid the index card early on in my revision. In that case I’d had about 25 other questions and four hours to answer them in so I wasn’t too worried, but this time the education ministry had decreed that the entire two years of learning would be examined in four fifteen minute interviews. I’d have a total of three questions in ‘learning and development’ so if the ‘four factors essential to learning’ came up and I didn’t know the list by heart I’d lose a third of my grade. I slipped the notes into my shirt pocket, and kept checking them while I recited the ‘four factors’ all the way into college.

I was directed to a ‘waiting room’ in one of the classrooms. We were told that we’d be picked up by our examiners, taken to our interview room, and brought back to wait for the next one. I was duly picked up by the first examiner and we went to the interview room where I had to take three random cards off a pile, read the questions on the other side, and answer them. This set the pattern for the next hour: go to interview room, take random questions, try to answer questions without brain freezing, back to waiting room.

In ‘Learning and development’ the first randomly selected question was inevitably: “Name the most important factors for learning.”

After the fourth interview I was legally obliged to push off and not come back for a couple of hours, so I duly pushed. Two hours later I found my colleagues in a very good mood, mainly because we’d all finished a rather long examination process, and in several cases because they’d spent the intervening time in the bar down the road. We gathered in our now former classroom, which already looked a bit forlorn with tables pushed to the walls and old projectors and flip chart frames dumped in the corners.

When my name was called out I went to the front, took my certificate, shook hands with the tutors, and rushed back to sit down and look at the grades.

To my absolute astonishment I’d passed with a ‘1.5’, a comfortable margin as a pass is anything up to a three or four.

Suddenly two years of training ended, with a sense of anticlimax. Most people went to celebrate, but I exited via a back door and headed back to the tram. As I got on I felt something crackly in my shirt pocket and retrieved a piece of paper.

I’d been carrying the answer to “The four learning principles” all the way through my exams.

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The long silence has been due to the continuing inconvenience of exams intruding on life. The week long practical exam of the last post was followed by a couple of written exams a week or so later, and finally today I have to go and do four fifteen minute interviews. This, I strongly suspect is because the education ministry has realised it’s cheaper to grade us with oral exams than pay for someone to mark written papers.

It is a strange feeling that to have exactly one hour left of a two year course.

On the other hand, it means by this evening we’ll all know our grades and whatever has happened everyone can generally relax: I’ll have two weeks off before I start work, and I won’t have to spend them looking at index cards…

Exams are kicking in at the moment, hence the lack of posts here. The coming week is a practical exam, where I go off to a workshop for people with disabilities and train someone to do something, which is more fun but unfortunately less photographically interesting than my last exam.

I’ve been allocated somewhere way over yonder on the north side of the city (while people living there have to commute to a workshop just down the road from here, which seems a bit silly) It is also on a greenfield site and I’m not sure how many buses run past the door so I’ve borrowed a folding bike for the week just in case.

This of course involved a logistical exercise because the tram stop is in the next village, which meant a slightly complicated multimodal journey involving the Bakfiets, folding bike, and tram, but I made it in the end.

Tomorrow we’ll see if I need it.

So, when you make it a new years resolution to write a weekly post, don’t then contract a rather nasty strain of ‘flu the week before the exams start.

I’d been feeling a bit rough last week for a couple of days with a cough and runny nose, then I was on my way to the privvy one evening and realised that if I didn’t lie down right away then my body would take matters into its own hands. After about 20 minutes I was still on the floor albeit feeling rather better so we called the overnight doctor. They came, checked a couple of things and called for a (non-emergency) ambulance to take me to hospital.

Of course, my Asthma, which has been pretty much under control for the last two years, took this opportunity to have a party as well. I did point out that with four tests on the next four weeks and exams after that, this was a very inconvenient time, but it didn’t make any difference.

I’m much better now but any remaining brain capacity will have to be used for revising over the next weeks.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible…

One of my resolutions for this year was to get back to writing a new entry here every Saturday.

I’m not sure how well that’s going to work to be honest. Apart from my non-existent work ethic I’ve realised that the final exams for my Occupational Therapist course, which up until now had been far far away, are suddenly looming with a couple of months to go.

From tomorrow I have about four more weeks of normal lectures (including at least two tests, whoopee…) and then a month or so of exam preparation, then in early March I’ll be given the address of a randomly selected workshop for people with disabilities where I’ll get a client and have a week to prepare a 30 minute training session, write a report, and then and do the training session with an examiner watching.

Then it goes quiet until late March when I have two written exams, and then on April the 19th it’s the the last push: six fifteen minute interviews one after the other. I’ll get my grades on the same day.

In theory I should start work the week after. I’m working on that minor detail.

All this is to say I may be posting entries even less regularly than I managed last year. I just thought I’d better get my excuses in early.

Happy Christmas and New Year, and thanks for reading along for the last twelve months…

Now I’m off to do something more festive. See you later…

 

I’m still working as an intern. Currently I’m at the Kulturwerk, an arts centre for people with psychological issues and/or substance abuse problems to get their lives back on track. My job is to work alongside clients working in the theatre section preparing for shows, train them in soft skills and generally help them get ready for normal work. Once a week I go out with a team of people who used to have substance addictions and we do theatre presentations in schools followed by group work and question and answer sessions.

I’m having far more fun than you really are supposed to have at work, so to make up for it I’m supposed to write a Very Boring Report, and this is taking up a lot of time and creative energy.

I also have to attend team meetings without falling asleep.

I’m working in the centre of Stuttgart, a city trying all kinds of creative ways to reduce pollution from cars as long as they don’t actually involve reducing the number of cars, so there’s little meaningful infrastructure for bicycles except for a few white lines and hopeful slogans. I live about 200m higher than the city which makes the ride back a little arduous, especially when being buzzed by impatient SUV drivers, so cycling is reduced to a short ride on the commuter bike to our local tram stop and a tram ride down the hill.

I can still do this and barely touch a road, and the public transport system drops me off right in front of Kulturwerk so I really shouldn’t complain too much. But I still do.

 

Even though I’m back in Germany and sitting at my desk , things are slowing down because of the joy of sending out CV’s to possible employers ready for next April when I finish my course (hooray) but then have to decide what to do with my shiny new qualification.

In theory I have lots of choice because I’m trained to work with people with disabilities and without, but also people with Pscychological Psychological illness and addictions, or in general education in a tech college or a training centre. The reality is that there are dozens of places out there that I could apply to, but only a few actually want anyone, and there’s no central clearing house so I’m having to search very carefully which takes ages. At the moment I’m putting a pin in a map somewhere that looks nice (Personal criteria being “is it outside of the city?” and “Does it have a railway station (Preferably with trains coming more than once a month)” and then searching for “Protected workshop” or “Integration workshop”, or something to do with education.

I’m not complaining as this is kind of a nice situation to be in: I can look for a pleasant place to live and for a job I enjoy, but it takes ages and it is nerve racking because my CV is rather long and rather unusual so people will either love it or chuck it in the bin, and there isn’t a lot I can do to change this. My solution is to say make it the way I want it to look on the possibly rather cocky basis that if they don’t like it, I wouldn’t be happy working for them anyway.

I seem to have collected certificates like cyclists collect spare parts for bikes, so I now have a good ten pages worth and that’s with the British ones reduced to A5 size and two a page: when I went to school they seemed to give us a certificate for every subject, which confuses German employers used to see one from your school, and ask why on earth I have a certificate from the ‘Northern examining board’ and also the ‘Southern examining board’. They brighten up when they see ‘Oxford and Cambridge’ but are inevitably disappointed when I explain. On the other hand the carpentry apprenticeship has to be accredited by the state and for some reason I need a separate one from the carpenters guild, and there are four for my machine operators licence alone which seems a bit excessive. But in Germany, I have a Certificate, therefore I am, so I’m not leaving any out.

My German is fluent but not perfect so I need to get it checked, which takes longer and much goodwill from kind friends, and there there are references…

Anyway, the goal is twenty packages, which isn’t cheap but it means I can say I tried, all going off to various places near and far in the hope of landing somewhere where someone wants an Occupational Therapist or carpentry trainer, refugee tutor, theatre coach or museum interpreter. The last one is a long shot I know but here’s a really nice open air museum up in the hills where they demonstrate traditional crafts like carpentry and woodturning.

Ah, for a working day wearing a smock, and making chair legs in a traditional barn…

After some frantic paint scrubbing the mural at college is about 99% complete. It isn’t perfect but it is as close as I can get. A few more details here and there but then I can put the brushes back in the craft workshop, and the rest of the class can use the sofa in front of it. Another job can be ticked off the list.

I’ll take a proper camera at some point and make better photos too…


Interesting as my current training may be, I am getting  bit fed up of sitting in lectures and writing stuff for exams, so it was a relief to be allowed outside to play complete a practical project.

The brief from the college was to go and find an organisation working with people with disabilities and ask if they need anything to help clients take part in the activities. I went with three other students to the city farm where I worked for eight months, who decided that what they’d like was wheelchair friendly entrance for the rabbit pen. “Wheelchair friendly” being defined as possible to just a wheelchair in and out without having to pull bolts or turn handles, in both directions, but without the rabbits escaping n the process.

The contraption above is what we came up with. As a wheelchair goes up the ramp and onto the platform, the weight presses the planks down, releasing the catch by the gate. The wheelchair can push through the gate which is hanging on those nifty sprung hinges you find on saloon doors in western movies, and when the wheelchair has gone through the gate swings shut, the platform springs up again thanks to two inflated wheelbarrow inner tubes hidden underneath, the door latches shut, and the rabbits are kept safely inside.

The plan was for the platform to be about ground level but we discovered the foundations to what looks like an artillery position right where we wanted to dig it out so it ended up rather higher. The ramp and barrier are by way of emergency solutions.


So far it seems to work. The gate opens and closes,  mass rabbit breakouts have been avoided.

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