In cooperation with prefer-lehramt.de, an initiative of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, I regularly provide information at my Instagram channel About the teacher education program, its prerequisites, conditions, and components. So far, the blog has been more about teacher training, digital learning and teaching. This article aims to broaden the scope of the topic: It is about why I decided to study teaching and never regretted it. And what you should bring with you when you become a teacher in the 21st century.
A special wealth of experience
Maybe articles usually start by describing how wonderful teaching is and how much you like working with young people. Maybe it would say that you have to be able to deal with people. Or that you should quickly choose a subject that you will then study. This article is a little different. I make the claim: Whether you want to become a teacher cannot be decided within a few weeks. After 12 years of school that is a very short time. Of course, there are a few quick ones who may not have regretted their quick decision either, but I plead to leave. All the way.
There are several reasons for this: When you come straight out of school, you assume that the world is as you’ve come to know it. That is not wild either. But teachers later need an eye for the differences between people. For the quiet ones, the crazy ones, the special ones, the wild ones. But how is a young person supposed to become a person who not only endures these differences, but also appreciates them? That’s why you should go away. Somewhere that is not home. Somewhere where you experience the stories you can tell afterwards in the very special lessons in the classroom. Somewhere to experience the stories that you can’t tell even in special lessons in the classroom.
Everyone who studies to be a teacher should have a very special wealth of experience. That doesn’t mean traveling far and spending a lot of money, by the way. A person from Baden-Wuerttemberg will already receive healing culture shocks in the Ruhr area, which will help him or her for the years as a teacher.
My path: Beginnings
I didn’t know I was going to be a teacher. And above all, not a net teacher. When I graduated from high school the internet was a place full of forums and you searched for your favorite bands with Alta Vista via Netscape and were happy if you could actually find one.
But I wanted to get away and I got away. Australia. Many stories I can tell in special hours. And those that I cannot tell. And the first three semesters of my studies were characterized by campfires, pubs and places in the city where people met, drank, talked and sang. It wasn’t until my second semester that I switched to German Studies, and it wasn’t until shortly after my intermediate exam (which is roughly equivalent to a bachelor’s degree) that I switched to teaching. Speaking of which: There was a stereotype back then: masters were the good students, bachelors the bad, and teaching fellows in between. I heard that this was different now. Not only that there are of course only bachelor students left. The teachers are the ones who are ridiculed. Is that so? If that is the case, then make sure that this cliche disappears again.
My path: fractures
I don’t know if it was late or early when my path in teaching changed fundamentally. A crucial impulse was a term paper on a story by Kafka ("The Care of the Father of the House"). I loved writing about it. In general, I loved being able to pursue and answer my own questions in term papers. It was often a lot of work. And sometimes it was annoying. But later I realized how important it is to this profession to have your own questions. And being able to allow students to develop their questions as well. Because for a long time we have not been in a time where we could pretend there were easy answers on solution sheets.
This term paper ensured that I was summoned to my lecturer’s office. I was honored. And I was told that I should join a small group of students. A kind of student working group, which included Sebastian Treyz, the student friend with whom I now make videos about Faust. Getting to know these people gave me a whole new lease of life. Most of the time, studying was a joy for me anyway, because I could choose so many things that interested me. But such a lively exchange as in the group around Sebastian I never knew before. The group met in the evening for cheese and wine and continued to philosophize about those seminars in which we sat. There was a joy in the thing that impressed me. Therefore it was ok that I was probably the smallest light there in the first time. I wanted to learn.
Another break was my first internship. I was energetic, enthusiastic, and quite possibly annoying. I wanted to do everything, to be able to do everything, and I wanted to do it now. Soak up everything. And when my internship was over, I wanted to be a teacher directly. Also a form of overestimating oneself.
My path: Objectives
But now I knew why I had switched to teaching in the first place. And that carried me through the exam phase, which demanded everything of me in the three subjects English, German and History. On the reading list for German (only modern German literature) there were 60 primary works at that time, not counting the secondary literature. And I had let myself be talked into taking the exam with a Germanist feared by some. It succeeded.
Of course, the long-lasting joy of passing the exams belied the fact that another hurdle was waiting for me in the form of the traineeship, which was not easy to overcome. But this joy: Waking up in pure bliss! What a time!
No, I have never regretted having studied teaching. But the perspectives on it have changed, sharpened. That led to that thesis of the importance of the wealth of experience. And to others that one or the other can and will rub up against. But again: The time of certainties is over. We no longer live in a time when everyone can claim that’s the teacher, that’s the teacher. So, before I give a few theses about the teaching profession, here is the most important hint: Future teachers should be able to endure contradictions. Don’t assume that it will come to that your word is a law obtained by coercion. But strive to endure opinions and instead work to have the good arguments.
By the way, good arguments include, in the first place, being able to answer the question of why the subject you have chosen is so important, so relevant, so fundamental to understanding the world and participating in it. If you can’t do it, maybe you don’t know it yourself. And if you don’t know it, you can’t expect your students to learn it. If the answer to the question why you study teaching is that you want a secure job or that you couldn’t think of anything else, then you should reconsider your choice of degree program. Students need in this difficult time, and this does not mean Corona, but the 21st century. We need teachers of the twenty-first century, people who have a desire to learn and to continue learning, and who at least have personal answers to the "why".
And this is only possible if one deals intensively with the what. But more about this in a few theses, which, as I said, will not make everyone cheer.
Who should become a teacher
- The love of theory and the subject
You hear over and over again that the teacher training program lacks practice. It is a commonplace that I understand. Many want to get started right away, you can’t blame them. The theory and the subject they judge about whether you can use it in school. But that’s a mistake: the relevance of many theories only becomes clear much later (and that’s hard to accept when you’re young). But more to the point, it’s much less about whether you need the content, and more about what you learn when you work through it: systematizing, abstracting, categorizing, reducing. You need all this every day as a teacher, if you don’t want to be one of those who just throw prefabricated material into the classroom. So: Choose a subject you are interested in. Pure, unadulterated, joyful interest. For you will deal with it for a long time.
2. The interest in further learning
In the past, teachers may have been educated when they were educated. That is no longer the case. The accelerated pace of change in digitization means that anyone who doesn’t keep learning will be left behind. This is not only true for teachers. And being disconnected leads to anger. And anger leads to the dark side of power, that is, to an attitude of denial. We can’t afford that anymore. Those who study teaching should want to continue learning and have an interest in the world that surrounds him or her.
3. The joy of networking
And because we can’t learn everything, we need networks. The time for teachers to close their doors is coming to an end. We need not only open-minded teachers, but teachers who are open to the world. If I were to study teaching again today, I would be much more likely to network. Forms bonds!
4. The main thing is something with people
And of course, now that we are almost at the end, here comes the obvious. Teachers also need talent. And that talent is a strong sense of social authenticity. We don’t all have to be the same, on the contrary. How bad would a school full of sneaker-wearing young savages with a start-up mentality be. But either way: An interest in people and their development remains a cornerstone of the profession. How to check if this is a talent? Walk the walk! As I said, it’s the stories and the wealth of experience that make you decide whether you want to keep working with people.
And if any young person who wants to be a teacher wants to contradict all of this because their perspective on education is different, that’s a good sign too. Because no matter what beliefs you have as a teacher: The main thing is to have one. And indifference is the last thing that helps. We need teachers who are interested in learning, education and all its changes.
It’s a fantastic profession. A vocation. But one to consider carefully.
Here are a few more anecdotes and students who report on teaching with me: