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?