As I had mentioned before, Monday and Wednesday we went to the last of the three tracks, a hauptschule, or as this state calls it, a werkrealschule. This school is a little different than a traditional hauptschule because part of it is grundschule and the other is a hauptschule. This means that there are students that attend the school from 1st through 4th grade and then afterwards some stay and others move on to a realschule or gymnasium.
Over the course of the 2 weeks visiting the other schools we had heard from the students at the realschule and the gymnasium thought of those that go to the hauptschule. Students from the gymnasium were by far the most critical of the students in the hauptschule. They characterized them as not as smart, often having behavioral/ discipline problems, not motivated and generally not caring about school at all. The realschule seemed to have the same general consensus as well but some said they had some friends that went to a hauptschule. Although they did mention that they have had issues of some students from hauptschule starting fights at the bus stop.
After hearing these at time harsh view of this type of school I was eager to go to the school and see if there was any truth in what the students from the other school had to say.
The first classroom I observed in was a 10th grade classroom. They had just finished an exam so they had planned a “class breakfast” with drinks, pretzels and pastries. The students seemed a bit more reluctant to speak English with us than some of the other we had talked with before, but I would say that was the only difference.
Although, the second classroom I observed in, I can not say I felt like it was the same case. I would say this was by far the most difficult class to watch and sit through. As difficult as it is to admit I could definitely see in this classroom where some of the bad reputation of the hauptschule might come from. Just being in the class for the 90 minute period I definitely felt stressed. I honestly don’t know if I would be able to teach in that classroom everyday. Basically the class as a whole was pretty disruptive. Although I feel like I should qualify in saying that there were a handle of students that were paying attention and honestly seemed to be trying to learn. There were several students that were talking across the room repeatedly while the teacher was trying to present the lesson, even after being asked to stop by the teacher. Some students on the other hand didn’t say a word; instead they just sat there the whole time. One boy I was watching sat there the whole class period and not once took notes, looked at his book or did anything the teacher told everyone to do.
I could tell that the behavior of the class as a whole was wearing on the teacher’s patience. She did her best to control what she could control, but the class was not settling down. I sensed that this had an effect on the atmosphere of the classroom as a whole and not just the ones that were misbehaving. Even those that were trying to pay attention and answering questions the teacher asked didn’t get much positive reinforcement from the teacher for their correct answers. I could see how this was discouraging to the students who were trying to learn despite the actions of their classmates. We spoke with the teacher after the class and she told us that what we saw was pretty typical of a class in a hauptschule.
After the rough first day at the werkrealschule, I a little less than excited about spending another day at the school. But the experience Wednesday was quite different than what we experienced Monday.
The first class I observed in was a 9th grade class. The class had just finished up with exams as well so the teacher didn’t have a lesson planned for the class. But the teacher was nice enough to give us a little taste of what class like was like. He showed us part of their English test they took then had the student work on a math worksheet. Finally the class demonstrated a math game that they play. The game was similar to the game of around the world. Essentially two students face off and the teacher gave them a math problem. Then the student that answered correctly the fastest wins and the other student sits down. The winner continues to answer questions until they are beat and then they sit down. Most of the students seemed pretty enthralled with the game and to be having a good time. After the game was over we answered some questions the students had and then the teacher let them play “Just Dance” on the Wii.
The class seemed very receptive to the teacher and respected him. The teacher told us how there was only 3 students missing from class, which he was pretty surprised about since it was the end of the year and they had already finished exams. Then again I would say that would be pretty good in any school in
as well. I really enjoyed the teacher/student relationship I saw in this classroom. It was easy to tell that the teacher was really in tuned with the students needs. He could tell that for the most part the students were mentally checked out already. So he used different techniques, such as the math game, to still make the class period productive. Then afterwards he recognized that they all needed to blow off steam and he let them play the dance game. I really had a lot of respect for the teacher and how he managed his classroom. U.S.
The teacher mentioned to us that at times teaching the class can be rather difficult because of wide age range of students. A few of the students were as old as 17 or 18 because they were required to repeat grades. He also told us that there was a wide range of ethnicities in the classroom. There were a lot of Turkish students. There were also some students from
, France and Spain . Only 2 or 3 students were actually from Italy . Germany
The second class I observed in that day was also fun. The class was reviewing the “will future” tense and the all took turns saying what they were going to do on their holiday. After, they took a quiz over the tense. Once everyone was finished they continued with presentations they had started before. When the presentations were done, we all sat in a circle and the students asked us questions. Some how we got on the subject of money and so we showed the class what some American money looks like. One of the boys wanted to trade euros for an American dollar. He was pretty persistent so finally Sarah agreed. I’m pretty sure she made the boy’s day.
After the class ended we talked with a few of the teachers and the principal again. One interesting thing to point out would be that all of the teachers at the werkrealschule talked about how they didn’t like the current school system. They focused on how things were in the process of changing and that they weren’t exactly sure what would come of the change. While on the contrary, the teachers and the headmaster at the gymnasium said they liked the system.
Another really interesting thing one of the teachers talked about was how
’s history has influence on how schools are run. For example, there are not any schools in Germany where students are required to wear uniforms. This is because there is still fear and overwhelming precautions in order to prevent any form of extreme militaristic control. The same is true with displaying a German flag. It is not common for Germans fly a German flag in a school or at home. They flee so far away from any idea of nationalism because of the extreme history they have had with it. I think this is interesting because it is so different than our culture. In Germany we are exactly the opposite. Everything is about being “Proud to be an American” and showing support of the “Red, White and Blue.” America
I could tell that the teachers we talked with really loved what they were doing. Despite the difficulties they may encounter in this school, they clearly had a passion for teaching. Of course this is essential for any teacher but I think it requires a whole another level of it at a school like this. Hats off to them!