Education 5 – When I went to school

Text read by Mary Peters. (Please note the audio text differs slightly from the written text due to last-minute changes in the written text).

Julia from Mannheim describes her schooling.

I went to school in Mannheim, Germany from 1997 to 2010. Generally, we had classes from 8 am to 1 pm, Monday to Friday, depending on the year and the class. Most lessons were 45 minutes in duration, but we also had 90-minute lessons for compulsory subjects such as Maths and German.

Class sizes tended to vary.  In French, we were only seven pupils, which was great because you could learn better in a class with seven than thirty. There had to be a minimum of five pupils per class. I remember once there was a physics class with five pupils. We could change our “core subjects” if we wanted to. By the end of the year, there was only one pupil left in that class. We joked if the teacher used the board or wrote directly into the pupil’s notebook.

We had many subjects, including German, Maths, English, French, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Music, Art, Sports, Geography, Social Studies. In my last two years, I could choose the subjects. In grade 7, I could choose between French or Latin. chose French. It is such a beautiful language, and Latin had limited use for me. I thought it was a dead language. Then, in grade 9 we could either choose between Spanish or Science & Technology.

German and Maths were compulsory subjects. You also had to choose a foreign language, and a science. My “Abitur” was in German, Maths, French, English. These were the subjects that were tested.

We used books, the blackboard, the OHP and we had a computer room. I remember my first email address; we were in the 8th grade, and the teacher said we would all need email addresses in the future. I used my school email address many years later. I used the Internet at home to prepare for presentations, but we did not use it at school.

I also attended some seminar courses called “Schüler Ingenieur Akademie”. It was a project in which different schools and local companies participated together with the University of Applied Sciences.

As a team, we built a little robot, solder all the pieces together, learned how to programme it. It was fun. It was the closest thing to my future career. The programme started in year 12 and it lasted about 15 months. We met for one afternoon every week, often on a Friday.

Our work could be credited towards the Abitur. I had to apply to participate in this project. This programme was special because it was organised by companies as well. I do not know if the companies were “talent scouting” but certainly it gave us an idea of what companies were about. It was kind of advertising for being an engineer, which I now am.

The lessons were very interactive. The organisers wanted us to participate, to exchange thoughts, to discuss. The problem was, as the pupils got older, they did not want to participate any longer. Only the truly enthusiastic stuck it to the end.

I think the academy was good preparation for my life. In school, you learn how to socialise, communicate, get along. But much of the content in the subjects I no longer really use.  But one can never tell. I wish I had paid more attention to German grammar because it is so important in my current job.

Our teachers were super friendly. I know they went to field trips with us, which they did not have to do. Some teachers invited us to their homes for dinner, to talk about different things. We were treated as young adults.

My German teacher in the Abitur class still stands out. We had to read certain books to prepare for the Abitur. It was so much fun. He was a genius at explaining.  Nobody wanted to read Goethe’s “Faust”.  But the way he discussed the play with us made it fun and exciting.  We also had to read, “The Trial” by Franz Kafka. How he explained the books to us, his thoughts! I think I can still remember every book we discussed.

It is hard to compare my schooling years with those today. I do not really know anybody close enough who goes to school at the moment. What I hear during the pandemic is that the use of technology in classrooms has not developed that much.

Most of the time I enjoyed going to school. I liked seeing my friends, I think I liked learning. Sometimes I miss seeing the same people every day. The friends I travel with are from school and we are still in contact.

But going back to school? Phew! No! Now it would be boring. With the knowledge and experience you have gained; it wouldn’t be that challenging. But on the other hand, does learning ever stop?

Education 3, When I went to school.

Carolina, who lives in Wissembourg, went to school in Lisbon.

I went to a school in the suburbs of Lisbon from 1997 to 2010. We usually had classes Monday to Friday, from 8.30 am to 5 pm with 2 afternoons free. Always Wednesday, the other one changed every term. There were about 30 of us in a class.

In the beginning, when we were between 6 and 10 years old, we had Portuguese, History, Social Studies, Maths, Geography, Music and Sports.

Then, when we were older, up to about aged 15 we learned Portuguese, History, English, French, Art, and Sports.

Then in the final three years, things changed. I could choose from different options. I chose the Science and Technology path, (Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, Portuguese). For me it was easy, I liked maths. The other options were not for me. I was not great at Maths, but even worse at humanities. And for the future, it was better to go this way. 

For the core subjects, you had 2 lessons per week of 90 minutes each. The other subjects: only 45 minutes. For the most important core subjects, we had 3 units.

My best friend chose languages. So, I was alone in my group. I did not see her that often, we did not have the same interests either. But we are still in contact today.

Until the last 3 years, the teaching was very theoretical. There were PowerPoint presentations, we had to ask and answer questions and do group tasks. It was interactive, with a lot of dialogue and a lot of homework. In the beginning, on the weekends, we had so much homework, that I met my friends in the library. We studied and researched together. We had more contact and not everyone was at home with Google.

In the last 3 years, we started to get our hands dirty. We had a lab, a lot of biology and chemistry lessons. We did experiments, calculations, and interpreted the results, and wrote reports. We spent a lot of time outside for our physics lessons and completed simple experiments and measurements. It was fun.

For Portuguese, we read Portuguese literature. But because it was not my thing, I always looked for summaries from other students. One book did capture my attention. It was The City of the Blind, written by José Saramago. I read it when I was 15 but did not quite understand it. It’s good, very deep, I wanted to read it.  

I had average marks. It was enough to get through. Grading was from 1 to 20 with 20 being the highest score. You needed a 10 in all subjects. I had 10 in maths and sports. It was the minimum to get through. I did not have much motivation because my learning environment was difficult. I did not want to go home. My teachers just said I had to concentrate more, work harder. Others tried to motivate me, but I did not understand their message. During my school years, I lacked a healthy learning environment.

I graduated and then I started university and studied physiotherapy. My grades were average, I was not motivated, unsure of my choice of subject, so I decided to quit after one semester. I took some time out and had time for myself. My motivation returned and I caught up on everything, repeated my A-levels. I studied on my own, at home. I had an average score of 18 points. I did not do all subjects, just focused on science. Then I was accepted in the science faculty and I started to study Energy and Environmental Engineering.

Teaching materials? Some teachers used PowerPoint, but often it was a normal textbook and a board. We had notebooks and something to write with. For science, the school provided the material.

For me, school alone is not there to prepare one for life. One learns how to think and how to solve problems. I did not have that expectation. Today, for my work, I probably apply around 20% of what I studied at University. However, our teachers taught us how to think, find information and apply it outside of the classroom. The role of teachers should be to show us which tools are available and challenge us to implement them on a daily basis.

My favourite teacher was a Russian woman who taught calculus and algebra. She was cold, militaristic, polite, and extremely disciplined. Her intentions were good. Despite the subject being difficult, it was fundamental because it served as the basis for our lessons in the future. It was clear to me that she wanted the best for us. She tried to do her best. She challenged us and I love challenges.

I cannot say much about schools today. I have too little contact. But, I have the impression that many of today’s children spend a lot of time in front of screens. Adults are partially responsible for this. Children have more difficulties with social interaction.

I liked going to school. I have fond memories of this time.

To stop learning? Never!


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Education 4, When I went to school.

Monique & Bernard, Seebach, France

“I went to the protestant school in Seebach. In winter, three pupils were responsible for heating the classroom with wood,” said Bernard.
Monique, “I went to the mixed (protestant/catholic) school in Wingen. The teacher was responsible for the heating. We only had wood burners, no electric heating or oil heating.”

We went to school in the 1960s and 1970s. Bernard, “I went to the kindergarten in Hunspach for two years and then for one year in Seebach. Then I went to the elementary school in Seebach, when I was six.” Monique, “I started school in 1966, we did not have a kindergarten in Wingen. The elementary school was in a separate building.”

We had lessons from 8 am to 11 am and then 1 pm to 4 pm. We did not have school on Wednesdays but instead, on Saturday mornings. “Because there were too few children, we had two classes in the same classroom”, said Monique.

Bernard, “Our lessons were not by the hour, they were by the half-day. So, Monday mornings perhaps, we had maths. Later in the collège in Wissembourg we had 60-minute lessons, always in different subjects.”

In Seebach, we had about 15 to 16 pupils per class. Always the same group. In the “collège” we were 25 – 30 pupils. The classrooms were full. Boys and girls were together. The days were long, especially when we to the collège and the Lycée. We left home by 7 am and got back home at 6 pm. We had lunch in the school canteen. In Winter, it was dark when we went from home to school and back.

We had Maths, French, History, Geography, Religion, Sports, Science, German (first foreign language), Latin, a little English. It was enough! The day was full.
“I liked Geography, History and Sports,” said Bernard.
Monique, “I liked French, German and Science”.

Life at elementary school was strict. If we made some mischief, the teacher hit us on the fingers with a ruler. Later, in collège, it depended on the teacher. “Our maths teacher was very, very strict. But we respected him. He was very authoritarian. But then, other teachers were less strict. The sports teacher was more relaxed than the French or Mathematics teacher. We respected them because our parents were also very strict. They did not want to have problems with our teachers.”

In the elementary school, we had pictures on the wall for us to learn the words. The teacher turned the pictures so that we trained our memories. We also had to learn the multiplication tables off by heart. This was the first. Every morning, we had mathematics drill.

In Geography, we had a map of the world. The teacher had a long wooden pointer, he pointed the country on the map. He asked us what country or French region it was, and which city was the capital or principal city. Then we learned the rivers, how long they are, where they flowed to. We had to repeat the answers. Then we had to write a test.

We had books with a lot of pictures, perhaps more than today. In elementary school, we used ink and wrote with a feather. Later, we were allowed to use a fountain pen. We had exercise books for French dictation, and for all subjects. Each exercise book had a different colour for each subject. The textbooks were owned by the school. They were given to us at the beginning of the school year and we had to return them at the end of the year. It was our responsibility to keep them in good condition for the next student. The best memory for both was, “we used a blackboard and chalk.”

We learned to respect in Elementary school. In Collège and in the Lycée we learned the subject and the preparation for the future and the Bac.  But after the Lycée, the learning really started. The Bac was the ticket to the next level. If you did not have the Bac, you went to professional training schools and then you could get a job. In our time, it was very easy to get a job.

Bernard, “When you were 14 (after the elementary school) you had the choice to go to collège or do an apprenticeship in a company.”
“But the system had changed when I finished Elementary school,” said Monique.

The teachers were very humane. They were good, you could talk with them, but we didn’t really do that. You could trust the teacher. (If you behaved).

We did not really have any favourite teachers.
Bernard, “The best teacher for me was in elementary school in Seebach. Mr Schwarz. He was professional, he did not differentiate between the children, all children were equal. You learned things from him. This was the basis.”

Bernard, “In elementary class, one month before Christmas we learned and sang the text of a Christmas carol every day. Every year it was a German carol (not a French carol) special for the Christmas event in our church. In our time, Mass was in German. It was very boring because we heard the same carol for one month.”

Monique, “We learned the spelling and the words with pictures on the wall. Every day, the teacher flipped them, and we gave the answers. For all correct answers, we received one point. For ten points, we received a picture of animals. It was a big challenge for pupils.

Our teaching methods were more basic, the material was simple. We discovered the world only via books and maps. Today, methods are more advanced and different. Schools use computers and the Internet.

“I suppose it hasn’t changed much. We liked going to school, sometimes we didn’t. When we had difficult times, it wasn’t so much fun.” said Monique.

We would like to go to school today only for a short time to discover the current methods and new technologies.

We stopped learning with 18. We started to work.

Education 2, When I went to school.

Text read by Mary Peters

Sylvie, Schleithal, France

I went to school from 1980 to 1997. I spent eight years in the primary school in Roppenheim, then I went to “collège” (Middle School) for four years in Soufflenheim and then to the Lycée (High School) in Haguenau, about 25km away from home.

Our school days were from 8 am – 11.30 am and then again from 1.30 pm to 4 pm. We did not have school on Wednesdays but Saturday mornings. In the collège and the Lycée, school started at 8 am. I was back home by about 6 pm, Mondays to Fridays. Our class sizes were around 20 in the primary school. Later we were about 30 per class.

 Lessons lasted about 2 hours per subject, and in primary school, we had French, German, Sports, Maths, Religion, Geography and Physics. In middle and high school, we also had Economics, Biology, Chemistry, English, French literature. During the last year of school, Philosophy.

Our teachers did the lesson on the blackboard and then asked the class questions to check if somebody did not understand anything. On some days, we had to do a surprise task.  The results went to our overall grades. Naturally, we hated this because we could not prepare and often the results were bad.

Education here in France is very theoretical. I do not think this is good preparation for the future. I think the system in Germany is better. While most of our teachers were humane and OK, some did not understand our problems. We had different teachers for different subjects. I remember, our Economics teacher was like a friend to us. He often met the class outside the classroom; that made the lessons easier.

Today, kids are much more connected, and I think teachers demand much more than when we went to school. The subjects have become more difficult. I cannot help my daughter with her schoolwork, and I would not have the patience to go back to school. I am happy that I learn every day.

Education 1, When I went to school.

Text read by Mary Peters

Klaus, Heilbronn, Germany

I went to school in Markgröningen and then to a commercial secondary school in Ludwigsburg from 1966 to 1977. Lessons usually began at 7.40 am and finished at around 1 pm and in Ludwigsburg, we started at 8 am and went home around 4.30 pm.  Each lesson lasted 45 minutes.

In primary school, our class size was about 28 pupils and in Ludwigsburg, slightly less at 25 pupils.

The subjects in primary school were sports, maths, German, Religion, History, and Geography. Because the high school was a school specialising in economics, we had Macro & Microeconomics, English, Maths, Sports, German, History, Physics, Chemistry, and IT.

By and large, I can say that most of my teachers were good and that I learnt a lot. They were quite humane as well. But sometimes in primary school, there was a teacher who was not so good because he could not teach the pupils clearly and understandably. I was disinterested and then became demotivated.

We learned using paper, pens, and pencils. We had the schoolbooks prescribed by the Ministry of Education and of course, there were no computers. For IT, we had a book and learned the absolute basics, bits and bytes. The teacher had a blackboard and chalk, no beamer or anything like that, although some classes did have an overhead projector.

Whether school prepared me for the future is difficult to say. I learned a lot of theory at school and real-life was very different. I learned the basics of Maths and English. But we also had “Work Groups” we could sign up for to learn stenography or typing.

Probably my favourite teacher was Mr. Ziegler in my primary school. He taught sports and maths. He was “cool” because he understood our problems and we had a lot of fun in his classes. And, if the timetable in sports was only for one lesson, somehow, when we played football, it often lasted for 2 lessons.

I would not like to go back to school today. I am happy with my work and I enjoy my life now. School seems a little more stressful because there are more lessons. In my time, we had 4-5 lessons per day, now the children have 6-7 lessons. And in high school, the number of years has been reduced by 1 or 2 years.

Learning never stops. My experience is that I learn something new every day.


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En cliquant sur "Send", vous acceptez le fait que vos données inscrites ci-dessus seront utilisées par Frank Peters, Peters-Langues dans le but pour lequel ce formulaire a été mis en place. Aucune donnée ne sera utilisée dans un autre but, sans votre consentement éclairé, ni ne sera communiquée à un tiers. Vous pouvez à chaque instant demander l'accès, la modification ou la suppression de ces données en nous écrivant. /// Ich bin damit einverstanden, dass diese Website meine übermittelten Informationen speichert, damit sie auf meine Mitteilung antworten kann. /// I consent to having this website store my submitted information so they can respond to the exercise.