To read a little bit more about the bigger project the following is an excerpt from, click on over to January.
One afternoon, I’m decluttering the kids’ rooms picking out bits and pieces they’ve outgrown. I find it therapeutic, the sorting and stacking, sending off little parcels of clothes to friends’ kids who trail mine in age and size. I sort out what I can give directly to friends’ kids but end up with a pile of almost nagelneu hand-me-downs my two have never worn, mostly because they’re football jerseys and shirts. Our village has a Kleiderkammer, except Corona has kept it mostly closed to donations for months. I quickly google to see if it’s accepting donations again, and, because the two are connected in scope, land on the website belonging to the village’s refugee organisation. They’re looking specifically for sports clothes for children and so I send an email to the organisation’s director to see if I can give him the clothes directly. On a whim, I add I’d love to help out at the organisation if they ever need volunteers. A reply comes back within the hour, what would you like to do? Oh. Well. After giving it some thought, I write back, whatever you need. I tell him a bit about myself, that I’d love to help out and not too long after I have sent that email off, another one arrives. They want to offer tutoring to the school children and I’d be perfect. They start with English in the third class and I could be the go-to English tutor. Perfect.
A couple of weeks later, on a warm late July afternoon, I find myself sitting in a room with seven retirees and the organisation’s director – masked, the windows wide open – to discuss how we can best offer homework help to the refugee children who have settled in the village and attend the local school. I am the youngest by around thirty years and when it comes time to figure out the best way to stay in touch, the only one with WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, for whom email isn’t an issue and who doesn’t have a landline. We settle on email, the most straightforward way of communication that doesn’t carry the Datenschutz baggage Whatsapp does, nor require a smartphone which not every member of the group possesses. (There also seems to be the belief that when a Whatsapp group becomes too full, each new member added causes an old member to be pushed out and, given this assumption, email feels less complicated for all involved.) We agree to work in pairs and play to our strengths – the retired maths teachers are shared around and the nervous woman with no classroom experience is paired with a retired primary-school teacher. Luckily, as it transpires, so am I. I make it clear I am happy to cover all English homework and German for the first and second graders, but beyond that I don’t trust myself. I’m also terrible at maths. We create a weekly schedule, I volunteer Thursday afternoons and we part ways awaiting to hear more from the school. The school already has a homework-after-school care program, where kids can go and do their homework in peace or get help from the monitoring teacher. It may well be our idea isn’t necessary or needs tweaking.
The school, as it turns out, is thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, it asks if we can actually take all the DAZ Kinder – children for whom German is their second or even third language – and offer a separate homework-after-school-care. It means they’ll get more attention and more focussed help on their homework which they otherwise wouldn’t. The school offers us their rooms and says they’ll create a name list for each afternoon and suddenly my team of retired teachers – and me – are official. Also, rather suddenly, I am on board not just for English tutoring, but for all subjects from classes 1 through 10. Maths included.