In School in Germany: Teachers and Burn-Out Syndrome

Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011
Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011

To start out this entry, here is a pop quiz for you to try:

Choose the situation where a person is NOT burned out and why?

SITUATION A:  Tom has been teaching third graders for 15 years at a school in Cleveland, Ohio. His preference is working with kids with serious social issues, such as drug addiction, uncontrollable behaviors and aggression towards others, just to name a few. Yet one day, he submits his letter of resignation out of the blue. Reason: He had spent more time testing the kids and evaluating them than he had ever had time to create various activities, resulting in him being detached from his teaching duties and his private life but at the same time, doing work similar to a robot. He blames the Ohio State Legislature for these tests and the budget cuts that have affected the state school system.

SITUATION B: Katie teaches sixth grade music at a school in Madison, Wisconsin. She also has obligations as an organist and a choir director. Yet the last three years, she experienced a loss of energy, insomnia and a sense of negative energy towards her work that in the end, all she could do is recommend to others not to take up a career. When she resigns from her post, she is replaced by three people who shared her duties. She is now a substitute teacher but despite loving the job, she is looking for something different.

SITUATION C: Susan teaches high school English at a Gymnasium in Glauchau in the German state of Saxony. Coming off a divorce, she finds that her work was underappreciated and despite demanding for more pay, she still receives 1,600 Euros a month, barely enough to make ends meet, especially as she has to cover court costs including child support. One day, she ghosts the school, disappearing into the sunset without telling anyone, only to be found trying to take her own life on the peninsula of Holnis northeast of Flensburg by drowning herself in rum. Luckily for her, a stranger walking by stops her and helps her.

SITUATION D: James teaches Social Studies and History at an International School in Hamburg. In the past two weeks, he only had an average of four hours of sleep because of a project he and his class had been doing on immigration and integration in Germany. Suddenly, during the presentation of the topic and standing in front of a crowd of 250 people, he becomes dizzy and blacks out. The next thing he knew, he is in the hospital and is subsequentially assigned to rehabilitation for a sleeping disorder.

SITUATION E: It is the end of the semester at the university in Mannheim and Corrina has had it. After a rigorous semester where the assistant professor of civil and mechanical engineering had to contend with paperwork involving grants, a cheating scandal involving students in one of her seminars, and a horrendous workload involving 22 hours of teaching, combined with a break-up with her partner of 7 years, she decides to take three weeks off and engages in a long-distance bike tour entitled “Tour of Tears,” which she soaks in the experience of visiting towns between Basel and Emden and feels better after the trip.

While the answer will appear at the end of this article, each example inhibits the symptoms of a mental illness that has taken hold on our society, thanks to the changes in working environment where the quality of work is being trumped by the quantity put in. Burn-out syndrome was first diagnosed by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, but despite the different symptoms discovered by doctors and scientists, Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson in 1981 narrowed them down to three key categories, namely physical exhaustion, depersonalization- meaning cynicism and dissociation from work and lastly, low personal accomplishment and appreciation. The same duo created the Maslach Burn-out inventory, which features 22 questions to determine if and to what degree the person has burn-out. The German scientific organization Arbeitsbezogener Verhaltens- und Erlebensmuster (AVEM) created four classes of burn-out syndrome, ranging from type G being a slight case (tiredness and agitation), to type A, which represents the worst case as severe depression, obsession compulsive disorder and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts are common.  Burn-out syndrome is most commonly found in white-collar jobs, where people with office jobs work longer hours and have more demanding tasks than those working in the blue-collar jobs. Even more so are the teachers, police officers, administrators and government officials affected by this disorder, for the jobs demand human contact and a set of ethical rules to follow, something that is difficult to do, especially if one is a teacher.

Yet how is burn-out syndrome a serious problem among teachers? According to a survey conducted by German scientists Bauer, Unterbrink, Hack and others and involving questionnaires and observations, the teaching profession ranks number one as the most underappreciated job, number one as the job where a person can retire the earliest and sadly, number one on the list of professions where a person is most likely to develop psychological disorders, such as burn-out syndrome on the short scale, but on the long scale, the person can develop non-communicable diseases like cancer, stroke and/or even heart disease. In a survey conducted with 949 teachers in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, burn-out syndrome is more prevalent among those who are either single or divorced than those in a relationship or are married, yet the average person suffering from the disease has the second worst type of burn-out- type B, which features depression symptoms, lack of concentration and creativity, dissociation from the job, indifference, and unchecked aggression.

The causes of burn-out among teachers are numerous and unfortunately universal, no matter which country you plan to teach. If there was a top five of the causes, they would start out with the lack of funding and support for the education system as being problem numero uno. Budget cuts means less money for materials, including books and technical equipment and lower salaries and less job security among teachers. Right behind that is the increase in paperwork in terms of administering more tests than necessary, rewriting the curriculum, documenting the results of tests for each student and filling out forms that justify the ordering of materials for class. The end result is less preparatory time for classes, less time for students and less time to create one’s own activities for class.  Number three is dealing with parents of delinquent pupils. This means instead of standing by the teachers in disciplining their kid, the parents are standing by the kids and cursing the teachers for not getting the job done. Schools have witnessed an increase in helicopter parents in the past 10 years, sometimes to a point where teachers have to handle not just the kids but also their parents in terms of discipline.  Number four is the lack of appreciation for the work put in. This can not only happen in the school when staff criticizes the work. It is worse at home when you receive little or no support from your loved ones because their work and your work is totally different. This happens to even those who are student-teaching for even a limited time. And lastly, the problem of balancing work and family life has become a major problem even recently. That means teachers are competing with white collar workers at a financial or multi-national company for the most number of hours a week clocked in- between 50 and 60 hours a week to be exact. Normally, teachers are entitled to work between 35 and 40 hours a week, as their job is on the same level as a governmental official. This explains the reason behind an increase in protests in Germany in the past five years, as many states have attempted to reduce funding to their education system due to less income brought on by taxes.

During my practical training at a Gymnasium in Thuringia, I observed a wide spectrum of veteran teachers who were affected by burn-out in one way or another. A couple of them had recovered through treatment prior to my arrival in March 2014, yet others appeared to be frustrated by the workload that had increased. One of them had the cheek to use a Dr. McCoy- Star Trek line during a class while doing some office duties with the students, saying “Dammit! I’m a teacher, not an administrator!” Some of the frustration also stemmed from the delinquent behavior by the students, namely those between grades six and eight.  Even some of the student teachers can get hammered by symptoms of burn-out for a combination of stress and long hours can result in the body not being able to fend off the unthinkable for viruses. This was the experience I had in the first month, where I was downed by a virus thanks to the lack of hours of rest plus getting adjusted to the working environment. Four weeks being bed-ridden, yet my colleague was nice to respond with this comment “Welcome to school. You survived the initiation ceremony!” Some initiation party I went through!  :-/

But yet, there is a good point when it comes to being a teacher: one needs to have nerves of steel and a heart of metal alloy, ticking 24-7 in order to survive the profession. That means one needs the following four Ps in order to be a successful teacher: passion, persistence, perseverance and patience, followed by a wild card P, meaning pride. This means a dedicated teacher nowadays needs to survive the increase in bureaucracy and politics, the complaints from parents, the disinterest of the students and the dog-eat-dog competition from colleagues, while at the same time, walk one’s own line in terms of the curriculum, creating activities, teaching and keeping the students in line and knowing when to say when. Sometimes when one speaks softly he needs to carry a big stick- and use it too!  Yet it is not easy if you find yourself feeling worn down, rejected and detached from your job, your family and even your own environment. Therefore while various forms of counseling and therapy are available, one has to sit down take stock at the situation, make a list of benefits and drawbacks to teaching, including the successes and problems in school, and make a plan where one says this is what I will do in addition to my teaching duties, but no more than that.  It is hard to do that, but in the end, it is doable. This is why in SITUATION E, where Corrina decides to take a break from her job and do the bike tour, it was because she wanted nothing more than to avoid burn-out. And sometimes, a hobby like a long-distance bike tour can help a person reflect on the job and recover for the next round.

And so to end this segment on burn-out, here is a question to all the teachers out there: when was there a time when you had burn-out and how did it happen? How did you handle the problem and why? And lastly, did it affect your decision to remain a teacher?  The Files would love to hear your stories about them, even if you keep your name anonymous.

While I had my whiff of burn-out during my practical training, it did not influence my decision to remain a teacher for one good reason: on my last day of class at the Gymnasium, a group of sixth graders, who were royal PITAs during my time teaching them, gave me a thank you card and a standing ovation! If a group of trouble-makers showing their appreciation towards your work does not convince you to remain a teacher, like mine did, what will? 🙂

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Author’s note: The situations are partially made up but a couple instances were based on true stories and accounts by people known by the author. The names and places mentioned here are fictitious and are in no way connected to these stories.

In School in Germany: Children of Divorced Parents

Tunnel of Uncertainty

 

 

This entry starts off with a quote to keep in mind: Life is one long tunnel with uncertainty awaiting you. Run as far as you can go and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

The key to success is to have a permanent support group that is there for you whenever you need them. For children, the support group consists of family, such as parents, grandparents and siblings, but also your distant relatives. Yet suppose that is nonexistent?

Divorces have become just as popular a trend as marriage, for in the United States, an average of 3.6 couples out of 1000 people divorce every year, eclipsing the trend of 3.4 couples tying the knot out of 1000. This trend has existed since 2008, despite the parallel decrease of both rates since 2006. In Germany, 49% of married couples split up after a certain time, which is four percentage points less than its American counterpart, but five percentage points higher than the average in the European Union.  Reasons for couples splitting up much sooner have been tied to career chances, lack of future planning, the wish for no children, and in the end, irreconcilable differences.

While the strive for individuality is becoming more and more common in today’s society, the effects of a divorce can especially be felt on the children. In Germany alone, more than 100,000 children are affected by a divorce every year with 1.3 million of them living with only one parent. The psychological effects of a divorce on a child is enormous. They lose their sense of security when one parent has to leave and may never be seen again. In addition, families and circle of friends split up, thus losing contact with them. Sometimes children are the center of many legal battles between divorced parents which can result in intervention on the legal level. They feel isolated and sometimes engage in risky and sometimes destructive behavior, especially later on in life.  When one parent remarries, it can be difficult to adjust to the new partner, even if that person has children from a previous relationship.

In school, children have a sense of difficulty in handling homework and other tasks and therefore, their performance decreases. Furthermore, they can become more unfocused and agitated towards other people, including the teacher- sometimes even aggressive. Depression, anxiety and indifference follows. Surprisingly though, adolescents are more likely to process the affects of a divorce better than children ages 10 and younger. Yet without a sense of hominess and love, children of divorced parents feel like running through a long tunnel of uncertainty, with no end in sight, as seen in this picture above.

During my time at the Gymnasium, I encountered an example of a student, whose parents divorced a year earlier. He was a sixth grader with potential, yet after the parents split up, his performance, interest in the subjects and attitude towards others decreased dramatically, causing concern among his teachers. While I had a chance to work with him while team-teaching English with a colleague who is in charge of the 6th grade group, one of things that came to mind is how schools deal with students of divorced parents.

In the US, intervention is found on three different level, beginning with school counselors and peer groups on the local,  psychologists on the secondary level, who help both parents and children affected by the divorce, and the tertiary level, which involves forms of law enforcement, should the situation get out of hand.  In Germany however, according to sources, no such intervention exists, leaving the parents on their own to contend with the effects of the divorce, and teachers (many with little or no experience) to deal with the behavior of the students, most of which is that of a “one size fits all” approach, which is not a very effective approach when dealing with special cases like this one. Reason for the lack of intervention is the lack of personnel, cooperation and funding for such programs, with areas in the eastern half being the hardest hit. However such programs, like teacher and counselor training, peer programs for students and divorced parents, team teaching and even 1-1 tutoring can be effective in helping these children go through the processes and get their lives back in order, getting them used to the new situation without having their studies and social life be hindered. Without them, it is up to the teacher to help them as much as possible. Yet, as I saw and even experienced first-hand, teachers are not the wonder drug that works wonders on everybody. Their job is to present new things for students to learn and to help them learn and succeed. Therefore additional help to deal with special cases like this one are needed to alleviate the pressure on the teacher and the students.

 

This leads to the following questions for the forum concerning children of divorced parents and intervention:

1. Which school (either in the US or Europe) has a good intervention program that helps children affected by family tragedies and other events, and how does that work in comparison to the existing programs in the US?

2. Have you dealt with children of divorced parents in school? If so, how did you handle them and their parents?

3. Should schools have such an intervention program to help children like these? If so, how should it be structured? Who should take responsibility for which areas? What kind of training should teachers and counselors have?

Feel free to comment one or all of the questions in the Comment section or in the Files’ facebook pages.

 

I would like to end my column with the conclusion of my intervention with my patient. When I and my colleague team-taught, we did it in a way that one of us worked with him, while the other helped the others in the group. Being a group of 23 sixth graders who had English right after lunch, it was a chore and a half, but one that reaped an enormous reward when I left at the conclusion of my practical training. That was- apart from a standing ovation- a handshake from my student with a big thanks for helping him improve on his English. Sometimes a little push combined with some individual help can go a long way, yet if there was a word of advice to give him, it would be one I got from a group of passengers whom I traveled with to Flensburg a few years ago:

Things always go upwards after hitting rock bottom.

In the end, after reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, one will see relief and normalcy just like it was before such an event. It is better to look forward than looking back and regretting the past.

 

Author’s Note:

Here are some useful links about children and divorced parents in both languages that can be useful for you, in addition to what I wrote in this entry. Two of them was courtesy of one of the professors who had dealt with this topic before and was very helpful in providing some ideas and suggestions on how to deal with cases like this. To him I give my sincere thanks. Links:

http://www.familienhandbuch.de/cms/Familienforschung%20Scheidung_und_Trennung.pdf

http://schulpsychologie.lsr-noe.gv.at/downloads/trennung_scheidung.pdf

http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/thesis/2009/2009landuccin.pdf

 

In School in Germany: Bilingual Teaching in the Classroom: An Author’s Perspective

Teaching History in the English Language: Teacher’s Task

 

This is a continuation of the series of Bilingual Teaching, the introduction of which can be viewed here.

Books closed. Exams completed. Chapter closed.  A sigh of relief for the pupils in the Gymnasium. Now moving onto the next chapter- but this time in your native tongues, please.

 

Having taught history in English, it is easy to tell who enjoyed learning in English and who was happy to see the camel be sent packing and speak German again. Yet to be that concrete and judgmental would not benefit anyone, even the teacher. In fact, since the US is too monolingual, this statement would be “too American,” for even my taste.

 

As mentioned in the introduction, bilingual modules were introduced slowly but surely beginning in 2009 in many parts of Germany. This includes Thuringia, which started teaching bilingual modules this school year.   The Gymnasium where I’m doing my practical training has had the module since the beginning of the school year, yet it had offered classes in English for upper grades years before the state passed the bill in 2009. There, courses in English, French, Spanish and other foreign languages have been offered in classes dealing with humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. History was one of the classes that has the module and has been completed. As I have indicated in my previous column entries, my theme deals with the USA in the 1920s and 30s and how it returned to isolation after World War I and watched the events unfold in Europe while it lived the lifestyle of the Roaring 20s. Apart from frontal teaching and providing materials and handouts, experiments were conducted to ensure that the students learn not only the history of the US but also improve on their foreign language skills, the concept better known as Content Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL), where foreign languages are introduced in the curriculum with the goal of students picking up skills in their respective areas of study. Such experiments included mini-presentations, using literature and video and mock debates, which best fits the subject of study in history.

 

And the results?

 

Looking at the results, one has to divide it into input (in terms of materials and teaching methods) and output (the reception of the audience). As there were no books available in the Gymnasium on history in the English language most of the activities had to be developed by the teacher himself, using the books at home (as well as one borrowed by another history teacher), as well as some creative ideas to garner the students’ attention. While Germany is conservative in many aspects, going by Konrad Adenauer’s “No Experiments” campaign, used in the 1957 elections for chancellorship, for bilingual teaching, it is important as a teacher to be creative and experiment with things, but make sure that the worksheets and activities to be presented to the students must be appropriate in terms of content and language (especially vocabulary). More important is that the students are able to retain the knowledge, which can be done orally, written, or both but at regular intervals. Highly recommended is a summary sheet with all the facts and vocabulary words for the class to learn and remember, especially when exams come up, and they will need them.

Apart from what I had mentioned earlier, in terms of Guessing Quizzes, The Mock Debate, Mini-Presentations and literature for analyzing, what was useful was using video and audio examples, like recordings of Roosevelt’s Fireside Speeches or the first radio broadcast in 1926. This way, students would have the opportunity to listen, analyze and interpret them in connection with the topic presented by the teacher.  Yet the preparation time is immense and it was not surprising that I, like many other teachers in the Gymnasium, had several late nighters in the row in order to produce the perfect task for the students in the coming session. While this is only a practical training semester (Praxissemester), and a future teacher can afford such experiments, it becomes even tougher when you are a full-time teacher. During an interview conducted with teachers, many of them feel that having worksheets and the book could cut down the time to prepare for classes effectively. The question is, how to order the right book without going broke? Many schools, especially in the eastern and northern parts of Germany cannot afford the luxury of ordering books for bilingual teaching, due to a lack of funding by the state. The problem has been ongoing for over 15 years now, and unless the German government and the private sector can step in to help, the budget will be thinner. This includes the availability of (interactive) technology, which is making strides in many countries, including the US, but Germany is lagging behind in many areas. Therefore we are left with being creative in producing our own worksheets and activities, in order for the bilingual class to work at all. From my experience, if there are no print materials available in the school,  get some from the internet and plan to prepare early, as one page of worksheet- produced from scratch- will take you an hour. A summary,  30-minutes per page.

 

As far as the students were concerned, the results were mixed. There was a wide correlation between those having basic knowledge of English, those having sufficient enough knowledge of English to start a conversation and those who are fluent and have excellent knowledge of English, which makes finding the medium rather difficult. Yet once found, the next step was garnering their attention and involving them. Apart from the fact that the target group were 9th graders, many of whom are going through or have finished “growing up,” the key problem found in the group was being intimidated by the fact that the teacher was a native speaker of English, and even more so from America, which means they had to be acquainted with an American accent instead of the British one that they were used to hearing before. But as mentioned in a previous article, the trend a shifting towards an international form of English, where American and British English were being divulged into one with no accent and words from different regions.    In either case, after a pair of sessions, many of them became more forthcoming with communication and learning vocabulary, which was done through chalk and board and pronunciation (the latter was important to ensure that they are spoken correctly).  In some cases, when only a fraction of the group is not forthcoming with English, one could call on them to speak in a given situation. Yet many of them fell back to German to better explain their answers and opinions, a clause that exists in the curriculum provided by the state, but can also hinder their attempts to better themselves in a foreign language, like English.  Despite being active in discussions and learning new subjects through various methods, one of the factors that makes bilingual teaching ineffective, if looking at it from the student’s perspective, is the time factor. Two sessions of bilingual History in English a week with 45 minutes per session may be a lot for students, but not enough to better understand the subject material and reflect on the importance of the theme with the subject, like History.  This holds true if a teacher plans a session only to find that half of the session was covered due to external factors. Therefore, when planning your sessions in another language, look at your students and their language knowledge. Test their knowledge in the first session before planning your curriculum. Choose wisely when working with a subject like this one I did. Do not be afraid to experiment as long as your students are able to follow. But make sure your time is divided in a way that you complete your task, but the students can profit from it, especially when working within the confines of time.

 

From the teacher’s perspective after experimenting with bilingual teaching (History in English), one can summarize that it is possible to teaching subjects in a foreign language if and only if one follows the guidelines:

 

  1. Know your group and their language level
  2. Know the time you have for the module as well as per session
  3. Know what materials you need to make in connection with the given topic
  4. Know that it is ok to experiment if no materials are available in the school and you need to develop some
  5. Know that the students will need to adapt to the language, regardless if you are a native speaker or not
  6. Know that some students, who either lack the knowledge or are shy, need a push from you and some help with vocabulary in order for them to improve their foreign language skills
  7. Know that the students will be happy to have a summary at the end of the topic so that they have something as reference.

As there is an expectation that there are no books and other materials available, you need to know that time and efforts are needed, preferably before beginning the topic as it will enable you to make the adjustments along the way. And lastly, if you are teaching a subject in a foreign language for the first time, don’t be afraid to leave a copy of your materials for your colleagues for future use. You will do them a big favor.

 

Now that the teacher’s aspect has been spoken, we’ll have a look at what the other teacher colleagues and students have to say, as a questionnaire and an interview was carried out in connection with the topic. More on that later in the series on bilingual teaching in the German school.

 

Author’s Note: The Files will continue its series on In School In Germany through the end of September. Reason for that was because of the World Cup and lots of other non-column commitments, including things related to the Praxissemester. Stay tuned. 

In School in Germany: Mini-presentations

Question for teachers of foreign languages, history, social studies and even classes dealing with religion and culture: when preparing a topic that is complex and difficult to handle, how do you approach it? Do you divide them up into subpoints and provide them with materials and activities or do you provide a question-answer session pertaining to the subpoints discussed in class? What about having students presenting their subpoints as part of the topic?

One of the experiments I tried with my history classes was the Mini-presentation. An open form of frontal teaching, students are assigned a subpoint in connection with the topic to be presented, to be prepare at home, finding the most important and relevant information supporting it. They then conduct a 5-minute presentation on their points, while the remaining class (as well as the teacher) take notes. The teacher can exercise the right to add and correct the information to ensure that the facts fit to the points.

An example to present was the topic of the USA in the 1920s and its return to normalcy, where the Americans wanted nothing to do with international affairs and live the life they had before being dragged into World War I in 1917. With a group of 20+ students in grade 9, each one was given a theme for them to research. The points belonged to the categories of domestic policies, international relations, and accomplishments and inventions. Each student had up to 5 minutes to present his/her findings to the rest of the class, with questions and discussion to follow. The themes belonging to the Roaring 20s included: jazz music, Washington Conference, the radio, Prohibition, Women’s Right to Vote, Dawes Act, Fordney-McCumber Act, farming, the US highway system, and airplanes, just to name a few.

Advantages of a mini-presentation is students have a chance to know about the important points, let alone be encouraged to dig deeper in the research. For foreign language teaching, they have the chance to improve their language skills and acquire vocabulary relevant to the topic discussed in class. Two major disadvantages are the time factor and the fact that many students can forget the information mentioned if they do not write it down or have problems in communicating. For the first part, it is difficult if a session is between 45 and 60 minutes, pending on which school you are teaching, as mentioned in an earlier article. It is perhaps more effective if these presentations are done over the course of two sessions, or in a block session, as many Gymnasien in Germany have. To avoid problems with the second part, it is the easiest if a handout with a summary of the points are presented at the end of the topic so that the students have something on a sheet of paper.

But speaking from experience, mini-presentations are perhaps the most effective but also interesting way to lead the class through the subject without having difficulties in understanding the themes. This is because the students have the opportunity to do the frontal teaching, while the teacher can moderate to help them with their language, presentation and knowledge skills. On the school level, the students will get a whiff of what is expected of them when graduating: presentations of 10-30 minutes at the university and in their jobs. As our society has become more communicative, presentations are becoming the key requirement skills needed for the job, even more so if in a foreign language.

So for teachers of the aforementioned courses, now is the time to do the students a favor. And believe me, they will benefit from it-double! 😉

In School in Germany: 45 Minutes

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.