Friday, September 24, 2010

Fulbright Spring Seminar Follow Up

On September 17-19, 2010, the German Fulbright Commission, in conjunction with UW-Milwaukee's Center for Internationl Studies, hosted te Fulbright Teacher Spring Seminar Evaluation Meeting here in Milwaukee. I was fortunate enough to be invited. I was also able to invite Ms. Inga Poetzl from the German Fulbright Commission to come to USM to meet with administration, faculty, and students.

Friday evening, Fulbright and the Center for International Studies at UWM hosted the seminar participants to a River Walk food tour. The highlights included a visit to he Fonzi shrine and some great cheese.

The program itself was held at the Hefter Conference Center. It included a presentation from Dr. Albert Brugger of the German Immersion School and a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of the German vs. the U.S. school systems. Dr. Brugger applauded the flexibilty of the American system and its decentralized nature. Most participants agreed that the U.S. system was very good at preparing some kids for college, but offered little to the college bound students, in sharp contradistinction to the German tracking system.

The afternoon session was a debriefing which included discussions about follow up with German schools, problems getting help from administration, and some brainstorming about institutions and funding agencies. What was most striking from the USM perspective was the lack of support for professional development given to most of our peers in public schools. Horror stories abounded about principals and superintendants who blocked student exchanges and professional development. Among the follow up options that were pursued have been: full on exchanges between German and American school; blogs and skype exchanges between German students and American students; and hosting German teachers on their own Fulbright exchanges.

As for USM's follow up, I have set up a Challenge 20/20 partnership with Constanze Hahn in Borna. This is a NAIS sponsored competition that has students from different countries cooperating to develop solutions for Global problems. Constanze and I agreed that we would concentrate on environmental problems, especially water. USM will kick off its participation by attending the Kennan Institute Water Conference which will be held at the Pabst on September 29. Also, students on the USM Spring Break Central Europe Study Trip will have the opportunity for home stays with students and their families in Borna.

On a last note, USM alumna Sara West Tully, is the head of UWM's Center for International Studies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My last stop on my Germany tour was Bremen, where I visited my dear friend Karl-Ludwig Sommer and his family. They live near Lilienthal, located east of Bremen in Niedersachsen in what is called the Spechgurtel, or “fat belt”, surrounding Bremen where many commuters who work in Bremen live. My friends live in an old farm house. I stayed with them while I conducted research on the shipbuilding industry that once drove Bremen’s economy.

I have many connections with Bremen. My grandfather, Eldon Burke, was the shipping expeditor for the Council of Relief Agencies Licensed to Operate in Germany (CRALOG) from 1946-1951. He eventually married his former secretary from those days, a Bremen woman named Marie-Louise Brill. I have come to know “Tante Marli’s” relatives, the Boeme family and keep in touch with them. I should point out that my mother also lived in Bremen for a time in the 1940s and I visited her old friend from those days, Brigitte Lauth.

As you can see, Bremen is a wonderful city, and the surrounding country side is simply beautiful. I always feel like I am walking through a painting by Hans am Ende or other painters of the Worpeswede school which is near where my friend Lu lives.

After my time in Bremen, I took an early morning train to Frankfurt Airport, via Hannover, and flew to Chicago and from there to Milwaukee. In all, my travel time was 22 hours.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

School Visits in Borna and Neuruppin, June 19-25

School Visits, June 19-25

I visited two schools to explore exchanges. I specifically requested two schools in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). I hoped that I would be able to ask teachers what their experiences had been during “Die Wende” or turn that ended the East German regime and led to Germany’s reunification in October 1990.

The first school was in Borna, near Leipzig, in the cradle of East Germany’s brown coal mining region. Ms. Constanze Hahn and her husband Jens-Ulrich were wonderful hosts who treated me to a traditional 70th birthday party for Jens’ aunt and to a tour of the Tagebau (strip mined areas) and Colditz castle, site of many World War II escape efforts by British and Canadian prisoners of war.

The school, Gymnasium am Breitem Teich, was founded in 1873 and now has over 800 students. I toured the school and presented to English classes about Milwaukee’s German past, the German roots of the University School, and Milwaukee and USM today. Students were especially interested in the racial make-up of present day Milwaukee. They were also very curious about sports at American high schools and the daily schedules. Both German high schools that I visited had block scheduling, with 90 minute periods punctuated by 30 minute or longer breaks. Teachers have to cover for each other’s classes (no substitutes), and everything must be signed for each daily lesson plan. I also met with the head of the school, Dr. Schade, who encouraged Constanze and me to work on an exchange.

The last night in Bad Lasick, Constanze and her husband had friends over to celebrate Jens’ birthday. I was treated royally and I hope to get the opportunity to reciprocate.

The following day, June 22, I stopped in Leipzig for five hours before continuing on to Neuruppin. Leipzig is a simply beautiful city and was the focal point of anti-government demonstrations in 1989. I visited the permanent historical exhibit on the GDR and the turn, as well as enjoying a wonderful, sunny day viewing the squares and architecture of this beautiful city.

My next stop was Neuruppin, which is situated about 50 kilometers outside of Berlin. My hosts, Olrik and Sandra Priesemuth and Heiko Haschke, treated me as if I were a long lost brother. I had a fun day at the school, where I took in a student play (Tod fuer Anfanger) and presented in two English classes followed by a tour of Neuruppin, the home town of author Theodor Fontane. Heiko and Angelika took me on a tour of Berlin, where we watched soon-to-be-vanquished England play soccer, before we hustled back (200 kmph+ on the autobahn) to wathc the German national team at the high school. After the German victory, I participated in a shoot off of 11 meter shots in the first ever night time use of the playing field at the school under the new lights. (Leider, habe ich mein Elfmeter verschossen).

Again, the signs are good for a long-term relationship between USM and the Evangelischen Gymnasium in Neuruppin. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca, “This looks like it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Goodbye to Tubingen

Like all good things, so must my stay here in Tubingen come to an end. We have visited our last school, and we will debrief with the Fulbright Commission tomorrow. Then, it is off to Borna where I will visit the Borna Gymnasium for three days. I will be staying with the below pictured class. Included are some last images of Tubingen.

Baden Wurttemberg Works on School Integration

June 16, 2010 Integration of Students with Migrant Backgrounds

We drove to Stuttgart to visit the Schickhardt Gymnasium, attend a presentation at the Baden Wurttemberg Ministry for Culture, Youth and Sport (Kultus, Jugend und Sport), and to debrief with teachers of immigrant backgrounds.

I attended a meeting with the principal, two teachers, and five students at the Schickhardt Gymnasium to discuss their school and the issues facing immigration. This school is for gifted students, in this case girls who are in elite sports such as volleyball and soccer. The principal noted that he worked hard to use the same intensity that students bring to their sports to steer them to academic excellence. The school is special in that it gives student athletes the flexibility to pursue elite sports yet still attend a normally functioning school. The example that the principal used was a student with a big volley ball match on a Sunday could not be expected to take a test on a Monday, but would be given the chance to make it up on Tuesday. Some students might come with language deficiencies, but they are asked to attend special tutorials to make up such shortcomings, especially in written work. It should be emphasized that although each Gymnasium has a special focus, the Abitur is centrally written and administered and all students in Baden Wurttemberg have to take it. As for students with immigrant backgrounds, the school has worked hard to retain teachers with migrant backgrounds, two of whom we met.

I asked the students what questions they would want to pose to American students. They asked what American students think about Germans? Are their tests mostly multiple choice exams? Is there something wrong with the American school schedule that allows so much time in the summer? Their favorite music is Lena, Xavier Nadoo and the Fantastic Four.

That afternoon, we visited the Baden Wurttemberg Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in the New Palace in Stuttgart. This castle was leveled by American bombing and was renovated in the 1950s and 1960s. According to the spokesman, Siegmut Keller, it now houses the economics ministry and the culture and education ministry. The ministry is in charge of curricula, building schools, overseeing 120,000 teachers and staff, administering the central Abitur among other issues. It is also charged with developing integration programs for children with migrant backgrounds. This is made difficult because they have no data on how many of these children exist because they only keep information on foreign born. This brings us back to the peculiarity of the German concept of citizenship based upon blood as opposed to place of birth. Although there were changes in the 1990s extending citizenship to children born in Germany who wish to renounce the citizenship of their parents and take up German citizenship, they are still not integrated into Germany society, as noted in an earlier entry. This is a special issue in Baden Wurttemberg because of the large migrant proportion of the population (37% of Stuttgart’s population, 25% of all of B-W). Another issue is the problem of Islamic religious instruction in B-W. There are 12 Islamic programs in B-W.

The goals of Baden-Wurttemberg’s integration policy are as follows:

1. Language competence.
2. Cooperation with parents.
3. Intercultural competence of Teachers
4. Individual support for students with migrant backgrounds.
5. Cooperation with foreign consulates to teach the mother language of the students.
6. Train and retain more teachers with migrant backgrounds.

Later, we met with teachers with migrant backgrounds and explored such issues as the use of the mother tongue by students from migrant backgrounds. Should this be allowed at schools between classes and at lunch? Another issue was parents with migrant backgrounds. The support of migrant parents for the mission of the school and the inclusion of parents with migrant workers in the school culture were deemed critical. This portion of the program ended with a presentation from a teacher of a program of Islamic religious studies at a school in Baden Wurttemberg.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dual System and Its Promises

In the afternoon of June 14, we had a presentation by Knut Becker from the Landesinstitut fuer Schulentwicklung of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg over the German System of Vocational Education and Training. Herr Becker concentrated on the system of dual training as a means for providing businesses with the skilled workers they need and students with a rewarding career option outside the Gymnasium track. Apart from full time vocational schools that give students a final qualification that is recognized through a school certificate, there also exists a system of dual training. This gives one a state recognized training certificate but also a certificate from the Chambers of Commerce (Handelskammern) recognizing that the completion of the course of the apprenticeship. Both of these courses take approximately two, three, or three and one-half years depending on the student. The Dual system is approximately 25% at school, where the student continues such topics as German, math, science, humanities and foreign languages as well as vocationally oriented course material such as applied math, technical drawing, and technology. The other 75% is on-the-job training. Businesses bear 80% of the cost of this system. So, a student would be at the job 3-4 days a week and at school 1-2 days per week. One signs on to this with a training contract approved by the Handelskammer which lays out the state recognition of the occupation, the designation of the occupation, the duration of training, the profile of the training occupation (minimum requirements) and overall training plan and examination requirements. The contract also stipulates conditions that must be fulfilled by the employers, such as protections against termination and allowance to pay the trainee during the period of the dual system training. The dual system provides training for every sector of the economy and for different specialized occupations. Again, the Germans use the word competence to describe the various skills that one receives from the dual system in the form of specialized skills needed for the occupation, methodical skills such as problem solving and organization, and social skills (people skills). The favorite occupations for young men include motor vehicle mechanic, painter, electrical fitter, joiner, retail, cooks, business specialists, mechanical engineers, bricklayers, and IT. Among the favorite occupations for young women are commercial clerks, retail, hairdresser, physician’s assistant, dental employee, slaes, banker, hotel specialist, sales person. During the training, the student receives a wage depending on the occupation. These wages average about 600 euros per month in the West and 500 in the East. The advantages for industry are that German firms secure the skilled labor they need, it reduces the costs of settling in a new worker, it increases loyalty to a firm, it provides the firm with employees who have job specific qualifications and increases productivity. The Dual System is embedded in the web of industrial, social and governmental institutions that make up the German system of corporatist interest group intermediation. The states issue curricula for part time vocational schools, finance teaching staff and supervise the activities of the Handelskammer. Industry works with employer and unions to draft proposals for the creation of new and updating of existing training occupations, nominate experts for participation in the drafting of training regulations and negotiate provisions in collective agreements, including the amount paid in the allowance for the trainee. The Handelskammer, which are self-governing bodies, advice the stakeholders in the training, supervise training in the company, verify the aptitude of companies and training instructors, register training contracts and administer examinations. This entire system costs about 17 billion euros, with private companies bearing about 85% and the states 15% of the costs. This system is open to all school graduates, even those coming from the Gymnasia. It can also serve as a gate way for some to go on to a research or technical university. For instance, Daimler Benz might hire a student, and then give them the option of going back to the university, receive a stipend, but then be obligated to work for the company afterwards for a period of years. Of the 9 million pupils in general education in 2008, 2.9 million were at full time vocational schools and 1.6 million were apprentices in the dual system program. This system dates back to the middle ages, but is still a stable part of the German economy and is seen by German manufacturers as indispensable.

Teacher Training at the University

June 14, 2010

Workshop: New Trends in Teacher Training: Personality Development
Regina Keller and Dr. Philipp Thomas

According to Dr. Thomas, Baden-Wurttemberg has been conservative as far as treating personality development of teachers as a serious topic for pedagogical study. This is problematic as demonstrated by research results that reveal that those who choose teaching are more prone to burn out than those who choose other professions.

What they are trying to do at TU is to give students internships earlier so that they can determine whether or not teaching is really “for them”. The benefit is that teachers will reflect on what they are doing self-consciously and gain competencies that purely theoretical study can’t give them. For instance, very early on in their course of study, students are asked whether or not they have voluntarily worked with children before and, if not, they are encouraged to get some experience, for instance by tutoring children. If you discover that you do not like kids, then teaching is probably not for you. Therefore, the Tubingen is including in its Teaching degree program two courses geared towards developing what they call professional competencies.

Prior to studies, students will test for teacher’s competencies on line and carry out a two week orientation practicum which will answer the question “What can I expect as a teacher”? Then, during basic studies, there is a first module of professional competence which concentrates on “Mental concepts” which answers the question “what do I need to know about the teaching professional outcomes”? It focuses on the role of the teacher. This could be done more as a practicum, but the University of Tubingen is jealous about its place as a research institution, and views practical pedagogical classes as something best kept at the Padagogische Hochschule level which is the more appropriate area for vocational education for teachers of Real and Hauptschuhe. Therefore, this course is taught as a lecture course. In the fifth semester the students have their practical semester in the classroom. Then, during the main course of study, teachers attend a second module which focuses on role play and practice at dealing with difficult situations in the classroom. Such issues as body language, parent communication, and intercultural relations are examined.

It should be noted that out of 300 credit hours needed for a degree, Didactics and Pedagogy are only 28 hours and do not carry grades. This reflects the elite bias of the “Universit√§ten” which until recently only gave degrees for content area which were assumed to be sufficient for teaching at the Gymnasium.

Discussion ranged over what types of professional competencies would be good for young teachers to develop. The German teachers discussed such aspects as perceived self-efficacy (their example of the young teacher who feels self-confident enough to demand that the Hausmeister carry out tasks); internal self-attribution vs. external attribution (this seems to be jargon that you shouldn’t blame your self or take affronts as personal attacks, rather try to see things in a larger context); and a sense of permission to attend to one’s own needs (taking a night off to watch the soccer match instead of grinding ahead to grade those papers).

Regina Keller then discussed her class for the second module on teacher competencies. She uses a case study method of scenarios gleaned from her experience as a classroom teacher. Again, it came up that this course was not for credit, because the University did not see Didactics as meriting status at a research institution that grants PhDs such as Tubingen.