45 minutes! That’s the amount of time it takes for a session in school here in Germany. While school starts at 7:45 in the morning and ends around 3:00 (in some cases, even an hour later), there are 7-8 sessions in a day, each one lasting 45 minutes. That’s half the session needed for a session at the university here in the US, 15 minutes less than a session at an American high school, and 25 minutes less than a session at an American university. For the pupils, it is a blessing, as there is little to do for one class, despite having much to do for the others. For teachers, less to prepare despite having to try and fulfill the curriculum guidelines provided for them by the state. Yet in general, there is less to teach them despite the fact that there is more for them to learn, especially when entering the secondary level stages beginning in the fifth grade.
45 minutes can be a blessing and a curse all at once, especially if a teacher is used to the 90 minute session at the university, both as a student as well as a teacher or even professor. One can generalize the topics to be taught, yet some important ingredients are missing. One can deepen a topic and still miss some ingredients. But if one is given a choice between several 45 minute sessions and sacrificing some classes from the curriculum and have 60 minute sessions, then better to have the 45 minute session. After all, some classes meet 2-3 times a week, including foreign languages (Latin included), pending on the schedule, which is a relief for teachers and students alike.
An important lesson to learn from one’s own experience: Less is More. Prepare more but expect less. Prepare less but expect more. Teachers are there to provide the basic information for students to research more in detail about in their spare time. After all, with extra-curriculum activities not being as popular and stressed as in the US, they can afford it. Yet what is important is for students to process and share the information provided by the teacher to others, both in the classroom as well as outside school. Therefore a session of between 45 and 60 minutes in the classroom should suffice in allowing students to learn something for the day. What they do with it and how they manage their time in learning outside the classroom is up to them. 45 minutes for the teachers gives them an incentive to plan ahead so that they don’t have to worry about it later on. Something that schools in other countries should think about before writing core curricula, as is the case in the US at the moment.
Important note: While a typical day in a German school can be seen here, some points to compare the German schedule with that of the US are as follows:
- German high schools sometimes has 90-minute block sessions, meaning two 45-minute sessions in one. This is common in 11th and 12th grades, and the goal is to prepare them for their Abitur, the final exam taken at the end of the 12th grade year before graduating.
- Two 25- minute breaks are included in the plan for the Gymnasium, although the breaks vary from school to school. In US schools, there is only one break at lunch time.
Yet despite this, many teachers over in Germany are suffering the same problems as in the US: burnout syndrome. Reason: too much work and too little appreciation. How teaching is an underrated job that should be reformed and teachers can improve their health will be discussed later when the Files looks at Burnout Syndrome in School.