Today started off rough. Jet lag was intense. Thankfully it passed after my shower! My eyes were red. I looked.... rough...
We ate a wonderful breakfast. In Germany, they do not serve pancakes, waffles, and sausage. Instead its rolls (they cherish their rolls), lunch meat and cheese, pretzels, yogurt, granola, and fruit. The food was pretty darn good, and I am looking forwards to eating the free breakfast every morning!
After breakfast we had presentations. We discussed the differences of etiquette between Germans and Americans. The things that surprised me are
-Germans eat with their forks in their left hand, and knife in their right. They DO NOT put the knives and forks down until they are done eating. It is improper to do so. (I learned this after breakfast....) -They also keep a small “trash can” on the table for jelly, jam, butter wrappers.
-Germans are known for their handshaking. If you shake weakly, you will be considered weak.
Lunch we got to go to a really cute little bakery! I tried my best at German and ordered some type of croissant with ham and cheese. It was really good!
I did my presentation on the German school tracking.
Which I am going to tell you all about! :) I am hoping all my information is correct so you can fully understand it!
Germans start off in Kindergarten, Kita which is short for Kindertagesstatte (Children's daycare center). Children attend between ages 3-6, but they do not have to attend. It is not mandatory, and it is not free, but the government can help pay. It is not part of the school system, and it is run by the city or town administrators, churches, or registered societies. It is also a day care for chuldren ages 6 months, to 10 years.
Next up is the German grade schools, primary school, or in German Grundschule. Children 6-9 must attend, which is up until 4th grade. They learn the basic skills like reading, writing, math, and religion. Theres also a class called Heimat and Sachunterricht where they learn about local history, geography, and biology. Like American grade schools, they only go outside of the main teacher for music and PE. After Grundschule (ages 10) students can go onto one of four schools. This entirely is based on their grades on tests they have to take. And it determines which school they can enter next, and if they will go to a university or technical trade or field.
One of the schools they can go is the Hauptschule. It is considered the lowest track in the German education system. The grades are 5th-9th, and they prepare the students for vocational occupations that require training. (baker, plumber, repairman, hands on jobs) During this schooling, they continue with their basic subjects, and they learn English (which is required in all schools now! Good thing too! I would be lost if it was not required) Students who do not get very good grades attend this school, and this is causing a problem in Germany. There are two (technically three) higher education schools above Hauptschule, and when students graduate from these three schools, they start taking all the jobs. So a student who graduates from Hauptschule, tries to find a job. But he/she has been branded with the title of Hauptschule graduate. (like only being a high school graduate in America (actually worse than a high school degree....)) So they can't find a job. It's making it rough in the economy because these students are not able to work. After Hauptschule, the students can move onto a vocational school for about two years. It makes their schooling a little less... worthless. But even still, the job market is still rough. We will be attending this school and observing next week. (I am interested in hearing what the students have to say about their schooling...)
The next step up for the schools is the Realschule. It is also secondary education, ages 10 or 11 to 16 or 17. It is more advanced than Hauptschule, with a more scientific emphasis. This school gives students the basics to prepare them for a midlevel job in business. They have to take a minimum of one foreign language, and is usually English. They also teach classes like technology, domestic encounters, math, science, geography, social studies, economics, history, religious education, and physical education. Once out of 8th grade, the students have to choose between Art and Music. If a student recieves a high enough grade, they can transfer to the Gymnasium.
The last school is the Gymnasium. It prepares the students to enter a university. This is the highest level of school a student can attend. It hosts students 5th to 13th grade. Teaches students, German, math, physics, chemistry, geography, biology, art PE, religion, history, and two foreign languages (one has to be English).
Common types of gymnasium
1. Humanistisches Gynmasium (Humanities oriented)
2. Neusprachliches Gymnasium (focuses on modern Languages)
3. Sportgymnasium and Skigymnasium (Sports and Skiing)
4. Musikgymnasium (focus on music)
5. Europaisches Gymnasium (languages)
Students have to take the Abitur test, which they have to pass in order to attend to a university. WE were given some statistics by the headmaster about who passes this test. Out of 100 students, there is a 10 percent drop down rate, (meaning the students will drop down to the school lower than they were in. There is no “drop out” rate) 4 percent will decide that they don't want to take the test, and 2% will fail. If you fail, you have to wait a year before you retake the test, and then you only get one more chance. It is also not like the Basic skills test, because on the Basic skills, if you pass one part of the test, but fail the rest, you do not have to retake the part you passed. This is a 4-6 hour test we are talking about. I would not want to retake it! Todays visit was at a Gymnasium. It was amazing!
We met with the headmaster, who was a very nice man. He took us on a tour of the school, only speaking German (our professor translated) and then when the tour was done he walked us into his office where...
He took out his china for us!!! :)
We ate pretzels and raison bread, and drank tea and coffee with him while squeezing out as much information about German schools as we possibly could. He let us know so many things, like teachers are not accountable for students failing, that there is no NCLB, all the information about the Abitur test. It was amazing how much we learned!
After that meeting, we met with the student council of the school. Their instructor seperated the Germans and Americans on either side of the table, and started off by asking us what we thought about Germany. We all shared our feelings, and then the German students asked us questions about America.
Then the 'adults' left the room and we were free to discuss anything and everything. We discussed the school a little bit, but then they asked about how we felt with the marijuana laws in California. We also compared legal drinking and driving limits. Turns out, the measurements are different. So we just ended up very confused! It was a great laugh, and I think we all had a great time. We discussed good hang out areas for our free weekend, and turned up with nothing special... So I am still on the hunt for something to do with that!. I was sad to leave them at the end, because they were closer to our age (though much younger than me) and I felt that we could talk to them more openly about the night life. Since the drinking age in Germany is......16! I can't imagine going into the bars and seeing one of my students! That is nuts!
This is our German trip group, and the student council. Along with the jazz band director! He gave me a CD of their last biiiig concert. I was honored and I plan on listening to it in the morning!
We ended the day walking around Esslingen with our Professors relatives and her friends. They showed us some of the town, and told us where good places to shop, eat, and hang out were. We ate some amazing food- Doner kebap im Fladenbrot. Which is pretty close to a gyro, but oh so much better. OH SO MUCH BETTER!
After that the group went to the park to sit in a circle, play guitar and sing. It was very relaxing, and not something I am used to doing with a group of friends! But I loved it!
And to make my Casey/Westfield students proud, I introduced the German group to the game I learned from them... Ninja. And it was a hit!
- Illinois, United States
- I am a band director at five private schools in Kankakee. Music is a big part of my life, but knitting and crafting are right up there too. I own a ridiculous stash of yarn, which I am slowly using... and replacing with better yarn... I tend to knit and crochet a lot, in class, out of class, while watching tv, while driving, pretty much constantly. I have been involved with crochet romantically for 15 years, and involved with knitting for 11 years. They sometimes get jealous of each other. I think its funny. Along with knitting and crocheting, I quilt, spin (drop spindle) and design patterns!!