This blog is supposedly about Vienna, a source for people to know what things to see or do when they visit. Just for today let me tell you my story, looking back to eight years ago – at that time when I was still working as an English-speaker/tutor at an after-school care center or Hort in Vienna.
That was also when my German was so poor, not having gone to any classes yet. Then, I often had to ask a colleague to translate for me. My work was to help kids in English, I prepare English activities, and I can speak comfortably with them since they are fluent in the language.
United Nations, Mixed Kids
I worked in the afternoons as the name of the care center suggests, like private tutors normally would, the only difference is I am in a group of around 20 kids. Parents of those kids work at the United Nations Vienna Office. We were a multicultural and multilingual institution as the kids come from parents of different backgrounds, while we as pedagogues, and tutors are as diverse. The school is just beside the Hort and is only until either 12 noon or 1 P.M., but everyone gets to eat at 1 o’clock (or a few minutes after) at the Hort.
So I would come in at 12:30 and leave around 4:30 or 5 o’clock. When I arrive, I’d prepare the rolling food tray, I put food in serving dishes then I arrange plates, utensils, glasses corresponding to the number of kids in attendance. I put a pitcher of water and a pitcher of tea, too. Under the tray rack would be a rag, an empty wash-hand basin, and a pail of water with soap and sponge. Kids are to take their food by themselves. They eat and chatter with each other mostly.
When finished, they’d place leftovers in the basin, sponge away their table, and dry it up with a rag…yes, that’s an effective way of teaching kids “home work.”
After eating, I’d take the rolling tray back to the kitchen while the kids would then start doing their book assignments. It’s so because most of these kids do not have someone at home waiting for them and they’re not supposed to go home alone. So until the time that a nanny or one of the parents pick them up, they stay with us.
I would look around their English books and make a note that they’ve finished and point to them their mistakes if there are any. I don’t usually give the answer away but I ask them a question for them to see the point. I would also go over their Math books but I leave the German books to the pedagogue because how can I check them when my knowledge of the language is below the A1 level?
Homework and Activities
When home works were done, there will be a short break, more like what we know as recess. I’d serve some food, mostly apple slices and fruits in season and we’d talk and talk over just about anything. Then there’s the Freizeitaktivitäten – hobby/leisure activities which are supervised by different pedagogues and tutors. There’d be painting, baking, crafting, football and garden play or just indoor games like chess, memory cards and the likes. Kids have to register for these activities in their group so that it will be easier to know where they would be during pick-up time, to tell the parents.
Some of the kids also attend afternoon classes like Music courses; piano, violin and guitar, others attend martial arts classes: judo, taekwondo and kido, while others have dance classes. Some of the courses were held at the school’s gym while othersx are outside – imagine how versatile these kids are now! I still remember the names of the kids in my group so I looked up some of them (thanks to Facebook) and saw that one is now a cheerleader…well, she was one of those very enthusiastic dancers back then.
In the summers, we would be out on field trips exploring museums, swimming, visiting activity areas for kids, even trying out the maze at Schönbrunn grounds, and later dressing up as a royal inside the castle.
Learning German while at the Hort
Working at that Hort in Vienna as an English speaker/almost tutor was fun. Though I am not a teacher, which is a profession I have really deep respect for, I knew the influence I have over the kids. That was why it was with a heavy heart that I left this job. The kids were crying during our last day together…and so was I.
The kids and I have had our odd days but we were mostly friends, we had a lot of fun. And it’s not just the camaraderie and work experience that I’m grateful for..at the end of it all, I was able to speak German because the kids were so happy teaching me words and even sentences.
Though I do not understood grammar rules then I could fare well in speaking the language. I give credit to the kids that when I took an assessment exam to be able to enrol on my first German class, I was put in the B1 level instead of A1 or A2.
Working as a Tutor again
If given the chance, I’d work as a tutor for kids who need help with English. Either I do it freelance with me going to a kid’s home or register online like most private tutors do. Online tutoring, so to speak, is where a teacher tutors a student via online programs. There are many types of online tutoring. Some of them are many-to-one tutoring and peer tutoring. Many-to-one is when a tutor has a group of learners given with the same instruction. Peer tutoring is when peers tutor each other.
There are pros and cons to both traditional tutoring as it is with online tutoring. Traditional tutoring is a face-to-face, in-person instruction and is often held at a certain location chosen by the student. Most often than not; at home. Online tutoring instruction is held on the computer, often involving multi-media devices like webcams, audio and interactive programs.
The latter also makes it more flexible for both students and tutors to work on activities on their chosen time whereas the former limits them to certain hours. Traditional or online, tutoring has a big impact in a student’s life….like I said above a tutor like teachers can influence a child’s development…I’m glad I was part of those kids’.
I was in the train when I saw a familiar face from across the train’s end. I smiled and called out to her and she smiled, called me back by my name and we chatted like we haven’t even parted for more than 10 years. She was one of the students in my group, she was 7 at that time I was at that Hort, and she is now studying medicine. Boy, how time flew by! She told me that another kid from our group is her classmate, that one boy who was the headache of our pedagogue. ^_^