Tag Archives: Education

My German Wife Deals with Referendariat Rage (AKA: Teacher Training Tantrums)

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“Honey, it’s gonna be okay. Please don’t spin your head around 360 degrees and blow vomit in my face.” — Photo Credit: Katie Tegtmeyer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/katietegtmeyer/) — Image subject to CC 2.0 license

Back in the spring of 2013, my wife was still a Gymnasium Referendariat teacher (like a clerkship position, or “teacher training”), which meant she was working her sweet ass off making lesson plans for high school students, teaching classes, writing papers and sitting through mind-numbing seminars — all without the guarantee she would even have a job when it was all over. As an outsider, I must say the Referendariat program seems designed specifically to eliminate the weak-willed and insufficiently motivated teachers of tomorrow.

This makes a certain amount of sense though; they have to cull the herd because teaching positions in Germany are highly sought-after. You get sweet benefits and earn a nice salary, and if you’re working in a state which offers it, you can attain “verbeamtet” status, which is the American equivalent to tenure. On top of all this, the job itself is highly respected. (Unlike in the States, where we regard our high school teachers like social workers sacrificing their health and happiness in a vain attempt to dissuade young, blossoming criminals. “You’re a high school teacher? I’m so sorry. I mean, that is just so good of you…”)

But the Referendariat program is harsh, man. The teachers in training report to senior-level teachers within their chosen subjects, typically two, but sometimes three people who have been working for a few decades and decided they want to earn a little more money while they crush an aspiring teacher’s dreams. If the teachers you’re reporting to are complete assholes, guess what? You’re in Fucksville! And the stress levels are just insane. In my wife’s group — which consisted of about 25 other teachers in training — panic attacks were commonplace, and some had complete physical and psychological meltdowns. Like, where they had to go to the emergency room thinking they were having a heart attack, or spend the night in the psych ward because they had a nervous breakdown. I’m not kidding. One teacher just straight blacked out and stopped responding during her final exam. It was crazy.

But my wife — bless her German soul — never really lost her shit. Sure, she was super tired, stressed out and pissed off from time to time, but she was a real trooper about it. There was one thing she could not abide, however, and that was receiving contradictory instructions from the senior teachers. One would tell her to be louder and more effusive, and another would tell her to be quieter and more conservative. This pissed her right the hell off, until one day she came home, dropped her jacket and said:

“I should get a gym membership. I want to punch a bag.”

If you would like to read another Denglish post during my wife’s time as a Referendariat, check this one out: My German Wife Offers a Simple Solution to the Problem of Clothing vs. Closet Space

 


 

My German Wife Is Grateful for the Opportunity to Teach Older Students

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“Thank goodness I got that second master’s degree! Now, don’t poke your eyes out, Dieter.” — Photo by Gerry Thomasen (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gerrythomasen/)

My wife is a Gymnasium teacher here in Germany, which means she has the training and education to teach high school students — not the little smelly ones who stick raisins up their noses. And Gymnasium teachers don’t just teach 5th through 12th graders; they teach the ones who show real academic promise. Get this: if you aren’t smart enough to go to a Gymnasium, you aren’t allowed to attend a university after graduation. You have to go to a trade school and learn how to repair cars for all the uppity nerds who got better grades than you. Can you imagine? I like to think of a young German man — let’s call him Horst — slaving away beneath some fancy BMW. He’s fixing it the best he can, turning the cranks and tightening the screws, when a shot of oil hits him in the eye like the money shot in a porno. That’s the moment when Fancypants Schillinger, the former high school valedictorian, strolls into the auto shop:

FANCYPANTS: “Well hello there, Horst! I haven’t seen you since you flunked out of our Gymnasium! What have you been up to?”

HORST: “Fixing your car, obviously.”

FANCYPANTS: “Hah hah, good ol’ Horst. Remember how popular you were in school? How you went to all the parties and chased all the girls? I used to be so envious…”

HORST: *Jabbing his hand into the toolbox* “Yup..”

FANCYPANTS: “But then you flunked one too many classes and wound up in a Hauptschule with all the other knuckle draggers. I bet that was a real trip to the zoo, wasn’t it? Hah hah!

… and that’s how Horst wound up serving life in prison for beating a nerd to death with a monkeywrench.

Anyway, my point is the German educational system — while highly effective — can be a tad elitist. You can imagine why a smart, well-educated Gymnasium teacher might not relish the idea of teaching little kids, especially little American kids. But that’s exactly what my wife did back in 2012, when she spent a year in the United States at a primary school. She did this on a J1 work visa in order to give us the chance to live together as a couple. It was a sacrifice on her part, and I respect the hell out of her for making it. I had to laugh, however, when she was about to leave the States and begin her job as a full-blown Gymnasium teacher in Germany, explaining to me (with no small amount of relief ) how old her future students would be:

THE WIFE: “They are older. I will have 5th through 12th graders. They are not thigh-biters.”*

*3 seconds later: “… I mean ankle-biters.”