What it’s like to volunteer at 27 LO – Zoe

What it’s like to volunteer at 27 LO – Zoe

I have known for a longer time that I wanted to do a gap year after school. There is no rush with starting university and I wanted to have a year to experience something completely different and take a step out of my comfort zone. But to be honest, after 12 years of school, I didn’t think I would have to go there again. Well, only four months after graduating high school, I ended up at school again. This time, however, a lot is different. For one, I am living in a new city in a different country, but my daily life also looks completely different. Let me tell you a little bit about that.

Instead of having to study and doing homework, I can simply enjoy being at school because I get to have amazing talks and do various tasks. One main part of my work is having classes with students. I call them English conversation or German class, but it’s not really a class, but more of a meeting. Usually I get together with a small group of students and we play games or just talk. I try to think of topics and activities that are not really part of the usual curriculum. So instead of just learning German words, we listen to music and try to understand the lyrics. Or instead of having vocab quizzes, we talk about social media, arts or the future. An intercultural exchange happens as well,  for example when the students tell me about Polish celebrations like Andrzejki or Fat Thursday or when I show them how to dance the Viennese waltz. To be honest, it often doesn’t feel like work because I enjoy it so much and the age gap between me and the students is basically nonexistent. So I just get to spend time with people I like during school hours.

My school in Austria was very progressive and open to innovative methods. But I was stunned when I came to 27LO. There are loads of events happening and every month we have a theme day on which teachers and students come to school dressed up. In November for example the theme was “movie characters” and I was impressed by the cool and creative costumes. There was the Scooby-Doo crew, the power puff girls, the Peaky Blinders and many more. See for yourself!

Having these theme days and organizing loads of events and competitions create a nice and positive atmosphere and a sense of community. It is also what makes 27LO unique in my opinion. But since the students know the school way better than I do, I asked them what they think makes their school special. Here are some of their answers:

That we have volunteers from other countries”

“How this place is focused on students”

“We have so many events!”

“Teachers are really friendly to students.”

“These special theme days, when we for example dressed as fictional characters”

Another task of mine is taking photos and videos of all the things happening, and posting about it on social media. But since there is a lot going on, I do that together with my coordinator. She is not only an English teacher, but also is in charge of social media and anything connected to cultural activities. I am impressed by her energy, engagement and creativity and I love working with her. But also other teachers and the principal and vice principal are very engaged and motivated. They make all the events possible and support every idea that is connected to the student´s development. I feel like they take the teenagers seriously and care a lot about their job.

I have these two main tasks – having classes and doing social media, but there are still other things I do. I sometimes visit regular classes where I give presentations e.g. on Austria, teen brain. Occasionally I also plan a PE class where we play different games related to basketball. I love that my work consists of various activities and I enjoy every single one of them. You can follow school’s activity on Instagram and Facebook.

A very special experience was also the school’s prom in January. The students of 12th grade (4th grade of Polish highschool) were so kind and invited me. It was also interesting to see how a Polish prom differs from a prom in Austria. While in Austria students from 10th to 12th grade and even people that have already graduated can come, in Poland the celebration is only for the students of the last grade and their teachers. The celebration, however, was similar. There was food, music and dancing – I had a lot of fun and enjoyed seeing teachers and students celebrating together.

Every day, I leave school happier than when I entered it, with the feeling of being filled with joy. In the last five months I had the chance to get to know a lot of amazing people and have lots of entertaining, meaningful and interesting conversations. I am impressed with how much effort and joy the teachers do their job, and the students inspire me with their open mindedness, creativity and individual style.

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