Though I loved seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag building, and the amazing parks, the city carries a heavy, heavy weight of history. Specifically, the Soviet influence on Berlin remains palpable. The socialist architecture, sculptures of Karl Marx, and memorials (specifically at Treptower Park) are all a testament to the historic influence of the USSR.
At the same time, what most impressed me about Berlin was the German people's eagerness to embrace their history, and tirelessly shine a light on the horrors of their Nazi past. Not once did I witness a “whitewash” of history in Berlin. Instead, I experienced a consistent willingness to engage with that past, and to emphatically say “never again.” I am so impressed, and it is a lesson from which all of us can learn.
Traveling with 27 other public school teachers with Go Global NC is refreshing. Being surrounded by teachers who care deeply about the craft is always inspiring, and this trip is no exception. But visiting the JFK School in Berlin illicited such great conversations with my new friends about teaching, and new perspectives. Seeing how the Germans “do school” is every bit as interesting and informative as I hoped it would be.
I left Berlin with more questions about our education system, a deep respect for the German people's historic self-awareness, and (most importantly) 28 new friends.
On to Baden-Wurtenburg...