German Teachers vs. American Teachers – Part Two

November 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

I first wrote about this back on Sept. 1 — and it was from the perspective of my kids.

But on Tuesday, I went to the parent-teacher conference at the John F. Kennedy School (, where the kids go.

This is the front of the school. For a 50-year-old school it’s pretty nice. In the States it would be falling apart.

At the parent-teacher conference I found that the American teachers there have a lot of the same perspectives as my kids.

I’ll save you from re-reading the column — but after just a few days at the school, both kids came home and asked what was the matter with the German teachers. “Do they think they’re G-d?”

On Tuesday, the US teachers weren’t so blunt, but they did say the pedagogical methods employed by German teachers are not used in the States.

In plain English: “They’re different.”

Without mentioning any names (I’m never sure who reads this), several teachers just rolled their eyes when we talked about German teaching methods. Apparently, for German teachers, it’s okay to put a student down and to criticize kids in a negative way with statements like: Are you sleeping? Are you stupid?

My daughter Pauline came home one day and said she thought one of her teachers just didn’t like kids.

“Why would you become a teacher if you don’t like kids?” she asked.

I don’t know — of course there’s always at least one other side to the story.

One time when Pauline gave a wrong answer her German teacher asked her if she were sleeping. I don’t think this would ever happen in the States. Sometimes I wonder if the average German walking on the street appears to bitter and unhappy — or just like he/she is in a bad mood because of all the negativity experienced at school.

Just a thought.

Fortunately at JFK there are a fair amount of American teachers — and some German ones who understand that putting a kid down is not okay.

Arnold returns to Portland in eight days. It’s hard to believe he’s leaving so soon. But first he will get to go to the cast party for The Fantasticks, the school play for which he served as the audio engineer. I pushed him into doing stage crew. He hated it at first, but is now really enjoying it and is looking forward to the party. Pauline and I will see the play on its final performance, this Saturday.

You know, I don’t know why I think this, but I do think Arnold will come back to Berlin one day to explore his German roots. I just don’t think he’s ready to do that now and that’s okay. At least he will finish up his high school in a place where it’s not okay to call a kid stupid.


§ 2 Responses to German Teachers vs. American Teachers – Part Two

  • Klaus Engelhardt says:

    Is it case of not seeing the forest because of all the trees? Although I have been taught and have taught on both sides if the Pond, for me the jury is still out. Yes, German teachers can be tough, and it is certainly not o.k. to put down, belittle or insult the students. On the other hand, international comparisons confirm every day that students that are or have been part of the American schools compare ridiculously poorly with their counterparts from all these “authoritarian” school systems, such as in most of Western Europe (Eastern as well, by the way), Japan, South Korea. There are those who attribute job loss in the US to an increasingly unfit skill level of the US labor force. On the other hand, it is so much more fun for both students and professors to interact in an American liberal arts college than in a German University! Where lies the happy medium?

  • poison says:

    I feel like this article is stereotyping.

    Also, since many countries around the world beat U.S. schools, I’m fine with reevaluating our methods and letting teachers be a bit more harsh here too.

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