10 Easy Steps to Become the Worst God Damned German Language Teacher on the Planet

diverse classroom gradeschool 6th graders
“Put your hands down, idiots. I don’t even care.” — Photo by http://www.audio-luci-store.it (http://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/)

I am an American expat living in Germany. I have taken a few German classes — including an intensive A1 German integration course — so I have experienced several different types of language teachers. I’ve had phenomenal ones and average ones. Wonderfully gifted teachers and disenchanted wash-ups. Inspiring educators and mind-numbing hacks who have no business standing in front of a classroom. Today, I would like to speak directly to all of the German teachers out there who fall into this last category.

Dear Shitbird,

Would you like to make sure your students are confused and drooling by the end of every class? Do you want to ensure the next wave of expatriates join the workforce as mumbling illiterates? Have you ever wanted to smash somebody’s attempts to learn your mother tongue just to watch their linguistic hopes wither and die like an orchid watered exclusively with table salt and battery acid?

Well, you’re in luck! With an amalgamation of all my shitty German teachers in mind, I’ve constructed the list below to help guide ambitious young educators on the path to becoming the absolute worst teachers on the face of this spinning blue ball we call Earth.

  1. Take absolutely NO joy in your work. Oh ho ho! Don’t get too excited if front of your class. If your students suspect you might actually be enjoying the learning process, you’re sure to lose their respect. Remember: These people are animals. Open displays of energy or enthusiasm will be rewarded with teeth gnashing and poo flinging.
  2. Speak super fast all the time. You gotta keep those students on their toes! And you definitely want to make sure to speak at light speed when a student asks a question. After all, if your answer doesn’t inflict greater confusion than the uppity little shit had before, you just aren’t doing your job.
  3. Never use complete sentences. When introducing a new concept or set of linguistic rules, just point wildly and write single words on the blackboard. Shaking your head or nodding in silence are also effective teaching methods of communication. Who has time to explain things thoroughly? And besides, your students can’t possibly understand you anyway; these dim bulbs come from other countries. Filthy countries.
  4. Encourage shouting matches. How else are you going to find out who the best student is? The loudest, most obnoxious son of a bitch in class is obviously the most gifted, and deserves to be rewarded with all of your attention. Quiet students are weak; they should be left behind as food for the larger animals.
  5. Never take turns speaking. Asking students to actually try and speak the language in an orderly fashion will destroy any chance you have of creative a shouting match (see step #4). If you give each student equal attention, you might accidentally figure out who needs extra help with the language, and nobody likes a downer.
  6. Avoid games at all costs. If you’ve been thinking about incorporating games or activities into your lessons, stop right there: Nothing engages students like asking them to get off their dead asses and do something fun. Your students should have that blank, thousand-yard stare at all times. If you notice the light coming back on in their eyes, you may be giving them false hope, and that’s just irresponsible.
  7. Repetition serves no purpose. If your students don’t get a lesson the first time around, fuck ’em. Obviously they weren’t paying attention. Saying the same things over and over again is boring — especially for you, the teacher — and anybody who asks you to repeat yourself probably rides the short bus to class anyway.
  8. Make sure your students have side conversations. If some of your students are talking loudly to each other while you or one of your students is speaking, you’ve struck gold! Clearly your class is advanced enough not to require an orderly environment. Besides, you’re a teacher, not a police officer. These knuckle-dragging mongoloids can govern themselves.
  9. Never use tables or charts. Organized information may feel like an effective means of education, but trust me, writing all over the blackboard without regard to context or continuity is how minds are truly molded. If a student needs the clarity of neatly arranged rows and diagrams, they probably never wore a helmet to football practice.
  10. The book should be a better teacher than you are. A lot of time and money went into the text book you use for your classes. Don’t waste it by trying to improve the formula, embrace it! If you need a cup of coffee or a smoke break, just tell your students to turn to page 168 and walk your ass right out of the classroom. Students love that, and it sure as hell beats actually speaking to the slack-jawed mouth breathers, am I right?

By utilizing these 10 simple steps, I promise you will stunt your student’s educational growth and salt the very earth from whence it sprang. You will preserve the German language — or any subject matter you choose to teach — and keep it well out of reach of the unwashed hordes. And this isn’t just your job we’re talking about, it’s a way of life; you should go home after class every day, stare deep into the bathroom mirror and smile with perfect certainty, because you are definitely looking at an asshole.

If you’d like to read about my experience with truly wonderful German teachers, click here.

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55 thoughts

      1. I’m in Mehico City! had a couple of spanish teachers that would just ramble on so fast and barely let me get a word in, then get annoyed when i didnt understand.

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  1. Oh You reminded me of my German teacher! She would easily score 10/10 on this one. I got my A1 any way, after all books are better teacher than most. :P To all the wanna be’s!

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  2. Great advice! This reminds me of my Spanish teacher who kept a little flask in her desk. My favorite suggestion is to speak in one word sentences and nod. That works wonders I’m sure. I bet it’s such a hard language to learn!

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  3. I only lasted through 1 semester of German in college…must be the same the world over. Mais, je parle un peux francais…j’etudier francais en ‘high school’. J’aime francais. Ich bin nicht eine Berlinner…or whatever- but I sure wish I remembered more. I hate being the ‘American’ that is so bloody uni-lingual.

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  4. Ever wondered why you are good at some things and not so good at other things? It may be talent. It may be teachers. For all my love of languages, I could never really handle French. At least my English teacher loved her job, and the pupils, and the topics. Great post, thanks!

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      1. Wow, I take your question as a great compliment! My native language is German. I spent a year in St. Louis (MO) though – studying and teaching German actually. That year is why I love expat blogs, and anything about cultural differences, and your blog in particular.

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  5. Just started my A1 intensive course and I’ve had three different teachers in this first week. THREE and no one gives us an explanation as to wtf is going on. Today we had the one that talks super fast and asks questions we haven’t even remotely gone over. Everyone was lost and confused. It’s kind of a load of bullshit in my opinion. But there’s also two extremely obnoxious students that might get kicked in the face soon! Thanks for this entry!! Totally needed to read this haha

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    1. I totally understand, J0aninja. I’ve had even more teachers than you. It’s just so unprofessional.

      And it’s really jarring, but at least we get a broad exposure to different ways of speaking. Eventually, we have to learn them all, right?

      Lord, and some of the students… they’re even worse. I feel you.

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  6. Goodness. I have been so very lucky to have had nothing but great German teachers. The wackier the foreign language teacher, the better the experience. My high school one opted to put her desk behind a PlaySkool Schloss and decorate to the nth degree with German kitsch. And at the end of senior year, we got to paint on the walls! And all my college professors for German were fantastic, even the American with no German accent (Professor Brain, seriously). Maybe I should teach whenever I finish this godforsaken degree!

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    1. 1) If you could care, then you should! I’m working on my master’s in foreign language education in German and teach it at the 100-level, and so far it’s great. 2) Thanks for the ideas, maybe I’ll build some sort of gothic lego castle in my eventual classroom…

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  7. In the case of our (substitute, thankfully) teacher, though we had him for 2 weeks at one time and a new class of students has him for ALL SIX months, I would add:
    – Let breaks last as long as possible.
    – Have issues with women? Don´t hide it! Demean them whenever possible. When clarifying Speigel, say it´s the thing women look at all day. Clarifying hasslich? Say a young woman is pretty, and old woman is hässlich. Go ahead! And, you know, to the weakest of the weak in society, those who are scared, and in a lot of cases FULLY dependent on their husbands now for translation, income, security, don´t encourage them to do anything but reproduce.
    “Women in Deutschland think it´s a good idea to go to University and then work. So they don´t marry young. Once they turn 40, they panic, and want a baby, and NOONE will marry a 40 year old, it´s too old! So they have to go to the hospital and have a baby without a man”
    – Say a woman wants to have fun? Say something like, festivals are for men. Women look terrible drunk.
    – With (in our class ALL) female students dependent on their husbands, remind them that statistically 51% of German men cheat, count the women in the class, and tell us 5 of us have cheating husbands.
    And finally, come to class drunk. Okay, if not “drunk”, at least smelling so badly of alcohol that when you leave the room the ENTIRE class discusses it in broken German.
    How to be a bad principal of a language school? When someone (namely me!) brings this to your attention, do absolutely nothing, and assign him an entirely new class.
    Note: NONE of this is an exaggeration.

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      1. I had some who screamed in my face and made me cry. Some were rude, some a nightmare. Even at college one rude woman spoke down to me and treated me like an idiot.
        But I’m not worried. I’ll get published and rub my fantastic glamourous career in her snobby pug face and grey hair lol

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  8. My first German teacher was so rabidly northern that she distrusted anybody south of Schleswig-Holstein. Any mention of Bavaria and Austria caused her to roll her eyes in exasperation. (Although this pretty much describes everybody I’ve ever met from Hamburg.)
    Ironic that I ended up living in Munich.

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  9. I’m currently with an ok-ish teacher. She plays games and is creative but ignores the fact that I don’t care for grammar – I want to use German and make mistakes and then learn from them. I’m thinking maybe just learning by myself would be better…

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  10. No German (sorry) but my French and Spanish teachers without doubt read your list even before you wrote it. Recently, as an adult, I decided to take up Italian. I got CDs from a reputable company and have been doing great – molto bene. So I decided to branch out and go with a live class to enhance what I’m learning. Supposedly this “teacher” takes students of all learning stages. She holds these courses in a local coffee shop. That way she can speak in rapid Italian while other conversations in English are going on all around us and music is blaring overhead. Makes perfect sense. We would not want to have a setting that would actually be conducive to learning. Now, she knows I am on CD #3 which means I’m about 2 weeks in. She explains nothing, but dives straight into speaking to the 5 others people there in fluent Italian and when I look lost, she tells me, ‘if you don’t know what is being said, you must ask someone or you’ll never learn”. Uh, won’t that be like interrupting their being able to listen/learn? So I sit quietly and try to pick out 1 or 2 words from the 15,000 I’ve never heard before over the din of the music and other people. When I continue to look lost, one of the other lovely souls takes pity on me and tries to tell me what she is saying in summary. This goes on for like — 45 seconds before the ‘teacher’ gets annoyed and says that she can’t have the other person talking at the same time. Uh (again), didn’t you just Tell me to have someone explain to me what you are saying? I let her know, “Hey, I’m good. I’ll just sit in on this course and pick up what I can, no worries.” It went downhill from there. When she handed us paper and pen and told us all to take dictation as she spoke, my brain is saying WTFingF is with this bitch! She rolls her eyes at me and says, ‘You must try’. Hey, I paid my $15 bucks for your stupid coffee shop class which I’m sure the IRS doesn’t know about. If I want to sit here and masturbate under the table, it’s my time and my money. You do your thing, I’ll do mine. I CANNOT SPEAKA DA LANGUAGE SO I CAN’T WRITEA DA LANGUAGE. For that matter I can’t even fucking HEARA da language over all the other noise in this stupid setting you’ve chosen! Needless to say, I finished my business under the table, used her napkin and left.

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  11. Teachers can totally make the difference between loving or hating a language. My last French teacher in college was a horrible, mumbling, sweating, late-coming, combing-her-greasy-hair-in-front-of-the-class drag. Immediately first my marks dropped and then I dropped out of French. Glad your wife at least is a decent teacher, but I don’t envy you having to learn German. It is a difficult language. Keep going, you’ll get there!

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  12. I’m sorry that some German teachers suck! Unfortunately there are many who are unenthused, then even more how have very traditional teaching styles: only lecturing, only using the book, not taking questions, not explaining grammar, etc. So you’re still A1? What would you say is the most helpful to learn? Work on effective phrases for getting around and meeting others… or are you ready for a more Vocab. and Grammar-based approach?

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  13. Wow… amazing!! Finally I know exactly my Italian really really sucks! My teacher has done EVERYTHING wrong that he could do wrong – according to your list – and even though I understand quite well – I still grunt and drool instead of speaking the language. *sigh* What a waste….
    *giggle*

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  14. I will add:
    1) Bring the most boring texts you can find, if they are way too complicated for the group even better. The university rules in legalese German for an A2 course are a good option (yes, this actually happened to me).
    2) Make sure you spend hours reading these texts word for word in a class of 30 students. If it takes close to 2 hours, perfect! Ensure that the students understand every single word, and not just the meaning of the text. Make sure this includes words that Germans never use as they are out-dated, and have simpler, level-appropriate equivalents. Never encourage your students to understand from context. Make sure that dictionaries are banned for the entire exercise.

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  15. Yeah, well I have a Russian teacher teaching German in my Integration Course, and since 5 of the `students` there are Russian speakers, I guess it´s totally ok that our teacher has entire conversations with them in Russian, while the rest of us unworthy Russian non-speakers (about 15 people) stare at the walls. During class. During the German Integration Course that is taking place in Germany.

    The Russians don`t even try to speak German anymore, I mean what for, it`s not like they are there to learn German. The teacher explains more in Russian that she does in German and answers to their questions in their mother tongue during the weekly tests. This is batshit-crazy-Kafka-absurd. It`s like I signed up for a Russian-German class. No thanks, German is a handful.

    I know this is an old post, but I really really have to bitch to someone and my German half is not currently at home.

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  16. Also, be sure to complain frequently about “Auslanders” (had some friends in a German class with a teacher who did that…talk about complaining to the wrong audience…). P.S. I know there should be an umlaut on that “a” but I don’t have it on my keyboard and it looks weird if you put an e there instead.

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  17. This resonates so much with what I am going through! it is astonishing how bad these language teachers are. I started 2 months ago with Inlingua Stuttgart, what a joke that is. The teacher has the thickest Croatian accent ever heard on Earth ( I would expect to learn the language from a native speaker when in Germany), sits her lazy backside on that chair for the whole thing, it is just as if she knows how painful her attempt of teaching is. No, actually she is not even attempting…it is so easy to see that she sits there every day just waiting for payday. Everyone says that master the articles takes time right? Well obviously she hasn’t passed the mark yet as she also gets them wrong, either that or she is just testing us (not). Can’t spell, and when pointed at she even asks ” are you sure you are checking on a German dictionary” no no I am not sure because i am a bloody foreigner…just like you duuuhhhh! It is becoming clear to me that it is not the language itself that is that difficult, but a large group of people who are trying to make it impossible.
    Oh Dear…all I see 2 months on is that I can speak exactly the same German as I knew before I paid the damned “course”.

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