|The Brandenburg Gate, ( Yes, where David Hasselhoff performed)|
1. My increased passion. My students respond best to me when I exude my passion for a particular topic. If nothing else, my time in Germany ignited a deep passion in me for Europe - and starting this Fall I will increase my coverage of Germany in my day to day classroom discussions. And not only in the historical sense, but more in a cultural awareness understanding. I can more honestly answer questions like: How tall is the Berlin wall? Are the German people friendly? What is the food like? Did you see Hansel and Gretel? etc.
(answers: Not as tall as you think, As long as you are not late, meat and potatoes, No, though I looked).
|Me,o n top of the Reich stag building, Berlin 2017|
2. Long -lasting relationships with quality educators. This trip to Germany has been some of the best professional development I have ever experienced. The main reason? The people that I met. I am first and foremost, a relational learner - and I learn best when I am in a group of people. Dialogue and conversation dominated this trip to Germany for me, and I learned SO MUCH from these new friends. This will have a positive and direct impact on my students, as I will be able to bring new methods, ideas, and approaches to my classroom.
|The Soviet army, on top of the Reichstag building, Berlin 1945|
4. Seriously unpacking the North Carolina public school system. Two of the things that jumped out at me the most in Germany include: The complete lack of technology in German classrooms, and the unabashed student tracking of the school system.
Studying these differences, it elicits more questions for me, including:
- Why are we giving every student in our school system a device? Is it worth it, and is it increasing student learning? And if so, why are the Germans (who are well known for their tech and engineering prowess) not following suite?
- Does placing students in separate schools after the fourth grade pay dividends? Is the German system set up to support kids strengths? Or is the system merely maintaining societal class lines (all middle class kids attend one of the two top schools)?
- And what about the university system? The fact that the German universities are free changes the game. Whereas, the intense tracking of the lower grades can correspond to socio-economic distinctions, the fact that an achievement score on your final exams (usually completed after 10th grade) means entrance to any university that one chooses, is amazing.
So, overall, I left Germany with a head full of new ideas, inspiration, and many new friends. But I also returned home with more questions, which tells me that the trip was a worthwhile endeavor - and an experience that will continue to bear fruit for me and my teaching for many years to come.