Germany’s schools lack teachers. At present, career changers in particular have the best chances of obtaining civil servant status and long vacations. But nothing is given to them at the desk either.
Susanne Wurm decided against a career in science and for school Photo: © Quirin Leppert
I lead a dynamic team for the future. My tasks include organization, jurisprudence and motivation," says the young woman. "Oh, a junior manager," the viewer immediately thinks. But then happy schoolchildren scurry through the picture. Wrong guess: The likeable blonde is a teacher.
The private school chain Phorms advertises the "most important profession in the world" on YouTube with the image video "Shaper of the Future. Human Resources Manager Ulrike Senff hopes this will inspire more young people to pursue a career in school: "The teaching profession should be given a better image. Teachers convey knowledge and values and make a key contribution to the future of society," says Senff. Before moving to Phorms, the 35-year-old spent six years recruiting junior executives at the Boston Consulting Group. She takes a correspondingly professional approach to the search for teachers for seven Phorms schools nationwide at international career fairs; she plans to hire a total of 40 in 2009. "Natural scientists with initial teaching experience – for example as a lecturer at university – are also welcome to apply," she says.
Teachers are in short supply
Volker Lieb would also hire them immediately. The only problem is: "The market has dried up, no one applied to our last job posting," says the head of the Berufskolleg am Haspel vocational college in Wuppertal. His students, for example, are studying for their secondary school leaving certificate, for a technical vocational training course or for the technical baccalaureate. Lieb has been looking for a teacher of electrical engineering for months now.
More than one in ten students is now studying to become a teacher. The number of graduates has recently risen to almost 29,000 in the 2007 examination year. The lion’s share, however, wants to teach subjects such as German, English, physical education or social studies later on. Only one in five young teachers is interested in the so-called MINT subjects of mathematics, computer science, technology and natural sciences. And those who have mastered math or physics usually aim for a more lucrative career as an engineer, IT professional or financial mathematician.
There is a shortage of qualified personnel, especially at grammar schools and technically oriented vocational schools. Germany’s largest teachers’ union, the German Philologists’ Association (DPhV) in Berlin, estimates that 20 percent of lessons in math and science are no longer taught by professionally trained staff, but by teachers from other disciplines and lateral entrants without pedagogical studies.
Demand for teachers is rising steadily
In the coming years, the shortage will become even worse, because Germany’s teaching force is outdated. Every second of the 800 or so.000 teachers are older than 50. With an average retirement age of 62.5, there are likely to be around 200 new teachers in the next five years alone.000 teachers retire. That’s significantly more than graduates grow back at the university. Poor Pisa results and the demand for more all-day schools fuel the need even further. Many countries not only want to replace teachers who are ready to retire, but also to create additional positions.
Among Kobke’s 3,300 teachers willing to be placed are many career changers who can fill in for a limited period of time if needed. For engineers or scientists willing to change jobs, a substitute position is a good test platform. If you want your old job back after two or three months at school, you still have a chance on the job market – but after two years of teacher training or even a second degree, you’re out of luck.
Teachers need a good voice and strong nerves
Esther Rauhut, for example, spent six months in 2005 teaching math, physics and technology at a Dusseldorf secondary school as a substitute, in order to try out life as a teacher. "The first day was already extreme," says the 33-year-old civil engineer, who worked for a large engineering firm for two and a half years after earning her degree. Calculating the statics for a prestigious building on the Ko yesterday, then explaining light bulbs and pulleys to teenagers the next day – that was an enormous adjustment for the RWTH Aachen graduate: "After an hour, I was completely hoarse and asked myself what I was actually doing here."
But when students flew into her arms crying as she left, it was clear to the up-and-coming teacher that she had made the right decision. "Everyday school life is often tough, but nowhere near as tough as on a large construction site," says Rauhut.
As a structural engineer, she calculated projects worth millions. She often sat up late at night at the computer to work through last-minute change requests. On the construction site, she had to be yelled at for problems she didn’t even cause – and all that for a net monthly wage of around 1,600 euros.
Earning a secure salary as a teacher
When the promised salary increase failed to materialize despite good performance, she began looking for alternatives. Encouraged by her mother, also a teacher, she decided to go into teaching. The first substitute position was followed by a second one at a high school before she was able to start her traineeship in February 2006. This two-year preparatory service is mandatory for prospective teachers, even if they are career changers who already have a university degree and initial professional experience.
While many states recognize a professionally appropriate diploma as an alternative to a student teacher’s first state exam. However, career changers are not spared the practical training at a school combined with pedagogical seminars, nor are they spared the demanding second state examination. "At 30, suddenly being dependent on examiners again and sitting in the lecture hall with much younger students took some getting used to," says Esther Rauhut. But without the state exam, teachers can’t enter higher service at school.
Civil servant teachers earn better
Financially, however, the switch to teaching only makes sense with civil servant status. In contrast to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, civil servants’ salaries also take age into account. So career changers with initial work experience start at a higher level than university freshmen. A 30-year-old ex-engineer can expect to earn up to 3,250 euros gross per month as a student advisor, but as an employee he starts with a maximum of 3,000 euros. In addition, civil servants may receive family allowances and, sooner or later, promotion to the position of senior teacher.
Unlike salaried employees, civil servants also have no deductions for statutory pension, health and unemployment insurance, which for salaried employees gobbles up around 20 percent of gross wages. Nevertheless, there is a catch: In most federal states, civil service is only possible up to the 35th birthday. Birthday possible. The exceptions are Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, where students are trained up to the age of 45. 2 per month, in Hesse recently even up to the 50th percentile. Birthday.
Those who think only wimps switch to teaching are wrong. Volker Lieb debunks the fairy tale of the lukewarm civil service job right away in the job interview: "You have to work hard to change jobs," says the head of the Wuppertal vocational college. As a teacher, you have to make a complete role change from solution-oriented specialist to patient facilitator of learning processes, says Lieb.
Reality is often tough for teachers
If you think this is a piece of cake, you should not only watch the cute Phorms promotional video on YouTube, but also a few films with titles like Teacher Freaks Out, Teacher Goes Crazy or Student Pukes in Teacher’s Bag. In contrast, comparatively long vacations, family-friendly working hours and – at least for civil servants – a lifelong job guarantee – are among the job’s plus points.
The low number of hours – on average, a full-time teacher teaches about 22 hours per week – should not blind those who are willing to change jobs. Newcomers to the profession in particular usually need a lot of time to prepare their lessons. In addition, there are conferences, parent meetings, correction work, excursions, projects and the awarding of report marks.
Working hours often above the agreed rates
Civil engineer Esther Rauhut estimates her actual workload at two to three times the agreed 25.5 hours. Since February 2008, she has been teaching at the Catholic Girls’ High School in Neckargemund. Adelheid in Bonn teaches math and physics and is completely satisfied. "The children give you spontaneous and honest feedback – buildings are mute," she says. However, the engineering graduate has not completely given up building houses: She has just introduced a technology course for her girls, where each of them builds her own model house with a saw, soldering iron and electric screwdriver – including lighting and alarm system.
A monthly salary of 2.Daniel Wild thought 500 euros was too little for a civil engineer. But that’s all anyone wanted to pay the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences graduate at the beginning of 2004. Wild had invested a lot of energy in what was once his dream job. After training as a technical draftsman, he went on to obtain his advanced technical college entrance qualification and completed his UAS studies.
Wild’s Plan B: Become a teacher. They earn a little better and have more family-friendly working hours, he calculates. In 2004, however, trainee teachers were only available with a university degree. The then 24-year-old decided to take an additional course of study in engineering education at the University of Karlsruhe. Wild completed the then nine-semester course in four semesters. With his diploma, he seamlessly went into teacher training and shortened it again – from 24 to 18 months. But disillusionment soon set in: "Every school wanted my combination of physics and technology – but only for a maximum of ten hours a week."
Finally, a colleague recommended him to the private Stephen Hawking School of the SRH education group. Pupils with and without physical disabilities learn in Neckargemund. Daniel Wild now teaches math, physics and technical drawing to secondary and vocational school students. The 30-year-old counts the technical equipment, the small classes and its budget among the school’s advantages: "So far, I have been granted every textbook and every advanced training course."Although Wild estimates his workload at around 50 hours a week, his salary is finally right.
Just eight years ago, Susanne Wurm graduated from the Fachoberschule/Berufsoberschule (FOS/BOS) in the Bavarian town of Traunstein. Today she teaches math and computer science here herself. "I was always socially engaged and found the teaching profession appealing, but without a high school diploma it was not possible to study to be a teacher," says the 27-year-old trainee teacher.
Instead, she enrolled in mathematics at the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences in 2001 and completed internships at an IT company. But the spark didn’t fly during programming. She wrote her diploma thesis in 2006 at a medical technology company. "I thought here I could use my knowledge to help people," she says. But misconception: "Scientific work on the computer makes lonely."
So Wurm decided to sound out her chances as a teacher again. To qualify for the Bavarian trainee program for career changers, the UAS graduate added a master’s degree in math and computer science at the Technical University in Munich. The degree was worth it: Instead of the usual meager salaries, the Bavarian teacher trainees receive 3225 euros gross monthly salary with twelve teaching hours per week in the first and 18 in the second year of teacher training. Seminars in pedagogy, psychology and school law are also on the agenda. Participants must pass three oral exams and teaching tests each.
As of fall 2010, Susanne Wurm will then work as a teacher at the FOS/BOS around 3.Receive 300 euros and appointed as an official for life after three years. From their point of view the job is perfect. "The only thing is that when I go out, I meet my 20- to 22-year-old students, which takes some getting used to."